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Desjardini Tang | Housing, Care, Diet & More

We’ve all heard of the yellow tang, but did you know that there are more amazing tang species out there in the aquarium hobby? Let us introduce you to the colorful Desjardini tang (Zebrasoma desjardinii). Not the easiest fish to keep, but definitely an interesting addition whose amazing coloration makes it worth the hassle for some aquarists!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about the Desjardini tang and how to care for one in your aquarium.

Name (Common, Scientific)Desjardini tang, Red Sea sailfin tang, Indian sailfin surgeonfish, Zebrasoma desjardinii
Minimum tank size180 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature75-82 °F
Difficulty levelModerate

Desjardini tang range & natural habitat


This species has a pretty wide range in the wild. It’s found in the Indian Ocean, both on the western (African) and eastern (India) side. It’s a common sight in the Red Sea.

Natural habitat

The Desjardini tang is a reef fish. As with many reef species, younger tangs are mostly found in sheltered areas like lagoons. The adults inhabit deeper reef slopes, sometimes at 100ft or more, usually living in pairs and spending most of their day grazing for algae.

Although it notes that reefs in general are on the decline, threatening all creatures that inhabit them, the IUCN Red List currently considers Zebrasoma desjardinii to be a species of Least Concern.

Desjardini tang description

The Desjardini tang grows to a pretty impressive size: the males can reach around 16” in length. That’s well past the average dinner plate! They possess an oval body shape and sport large, sail-like dorsal and anal fins.

These tangs are much appreciated in the aquarium hobby for their beautiful color and patterns. The body is a deep blue with yellowish-orange horizontal stripes, as well as dots in this color. White polka dots mottle the face.

The genus Zebrasoma forms part of the Acanthuridae, better known as the surgeonfish family. This means they do possess the typical “surgeonfish scalpel”. Located at the base of the tail, this spike is nearly invisible when it lays flat, but it’s razor sharp! Aquarists beware.

Another characteristic Desjardini tangs have in common with their other surgeonfish cousins is that they can change color in a matter of minutes. This may happen as a result of stress, but it’s also common for males to do it when trying to woo a female.

Note: Desjardini tangs can look quite similar to the sailfin tang (Zebrasoma veliferum) as a juvenile. In fact, scientists long considered them to be one and the same! The tail gives it away: it’s dark and spotted in Z. desjardinii and more yellowish in Z. veliferum.

Desjardini tang (Zebrasoma desjardinii) aquarium fish

Desjardini tang aquarium

If you’d like to keep a Desjardini tang in your aquarium, keep in mind that these are not suitable fish for beginning aquarists. Due to their rather immense adult size, they’re also not meant for smaller aquariums: you’ll have to be able to offer at least around 180 gallons. These are active swimmers!

Desjardini tangs aren’t too picky about their environment (as long as the water quality is high) and are actually considered pretty hardy by many aquarists. The thing is that they do need plenty of algae to pick at, as they’re naturally mainly herbivores. It’s probably a good idea to have a good amount of live rock in your aquarium for this fish to graze on if you’re planning on keeping one.

It’s also generally recommended to make sure the aquarium water is well-oxygenated in order to keep tangs healthy. Good water flow levels help. And remember: a huge fish means a huge bioload, so you need a robust filtration system to prevent your Desjardini tang from overloading your aquarium’s nitrogen cycle.

Tip: Tangs are known for being sensitive to skin diseases like the marine ich parasite. It may be a good idea to give yours a nice and long quarantine period before placing it in your main aquarium.

Desjardini tang compatibility

Desjardini tang compatibility is known to depend strongly on the individual. It’s usually recommended to introduce them into community aquariums when they’re still young. This usually helps prevent aggression towards the tang’s tankmates. Do remember to only combine this species with other peaceful fish.

One thing to keep in mind is that, like many fish species, Zebrasoma tangs can be highly territorial and aggressive towards fish that are similar to them. Don’t keep multiple sailfin tangs together or things can end in disaster!

This tang is considered reef-safe, although as is common with aquarium fish, it can turn to nipping at if it’s malnourished.

Desjardini tang (Zebrasoma desjardinii) aquarium fish close-up

Desjardini tang diet

Like many other tangs, this one is mainly a herbivore. In the wild, depending on where the specific fish is found, it feeds on things like microalgae, macroalgae (seaweed), and sometimes jellyfish or comb jellies.

A Desjardini tang usually won’t be too picky when it comes to food, accepting the normal combination of flake/frozen/live foods just fine. What it likes more than anything, though, is graze on algae. The species is known for having a rare taste for nuisance algae types like bubble algae, although of course, you should never rely on a fish to get rid of an infestation—there’s no guarantee it’ll work.

Our tanks are usually too clean to sustain a large fish like the Desjardini tang without supplemental feedings. You should offer plenty of plant-based foods like algae tablets, nori (seaweed) sheets, and blanched vegetables. Having a sump can be helpful, as it allows you to grow the macroalgae these fish love to eat. You can also offer occasional portions of meaty foods.

Be sure to feed your Desjardini tang multiple times a day to keep it healthy. After all, they naturally spend much of their days grazing at their leisure.

Note: This is where we usually include some information about breeding a species. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do it, and nor (to our knowledge) has anyone else. As huge proponents of captive-bred fish, we hope it happens soon.


Large reef fish like the Desjardini tang are truly a sight to see, but keeping them happy and healthy does require some specialized knowledge and care. That’s where we come in: FantaSEA Aquariums can design, build and maintain your aquarium for you.

Save the hassle and just enjoy an aquarium in your home or office! You can contact us here with your ideas.


Alwany, M. (2008). Species diversity and quantitative distribution of the surgeon fishes (Family: Acanthuridae) along Aqaba Gulf, Red Sea, Egypt. Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, 12(2), 93-107.

Bos, A. R., Cruz-Rivera, E., & Sanad, A. M. (2017). Herbivorous fishes Siganus rivulatus (Siganidae) and Zebrasoma desjardinii (Acanthuridae) feed on Ctenophora and Scyphozoa in the Red Sea. Marine Biodiversity, 47, 243-246.

Lieske, E., & Myers, R. (1994). Coral Reef Fishes; Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. Collins Pocket Guide. Princeton University: Princeton, NJ, USA, 1-110.

Photo of author

Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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