Naso Tang or Naso lituratus Profile

Naso Tang (Naso lituratus) (Lipstick Tang) Fish Information

Art Whitkanack

Scientific Name:

Naso lituratus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

Other Common Names:

Clown Surgeonfish, Liturate Surgeonfish, Lipstick Tang, Orangespine Unicornfish.


The distribution of this species extends from Hawai'i southward to central Polynesia, westward through Micronesia and Melanesia, through the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa and the Red Sea.


The body of this fish is light to dark gray.

It has a patch of bright yellow on the forehead with an yellow accented line that extends from below the eye down to behind the mouth. Its lips are orange. The dorsal fin is blue at the base, then black, and then ends with a white band along the outer margin. The anal fin is brownish orange at the base, turning to a brighter orange, with the outer margin trimmed in white. The tail has a crescent shaped border that is white inside, changing to a pale yellow color on the outside edge. The male has long, streamer pennants that extend off the top and bottom tips of the tail.

Maximum Size:

To 18".

Characteristics & Compatibility:

This is a fish that once adjusted to aquarium life has great personality. It can be trained to eat food right out of your hands. It is one of the more aggressive Surgeonfish species when it comes to territorial disputes with other Surgeonfishes, especially of its own kind, but generally will get along with other fish tank mates and invertebrates.

It is an interesting trait that they will attack each other, considering that they do congregate in small groups or schools in the wild.

Diet & Feeding:

This fish is a herbivore, with a diet preference for brown macroalgae. Some specimens may be reluctant to eat anything else, but for the most part this species will usually accept the basic tank fed diet for Tangs & Surgeonfishes.

On rare occasions an individual may pick at large-polyped corals. The Naso Tang will also eat Mysis Shrimp and other meaty fare if it is offered to it, particularly if it sees other fish eating it.

Minimum Tank Size:

55 gallon for smaller specimens to 135 gallons for full grown adults.

Reef Tank Suitable?:


Guide Notes:

We give the Naso Tang a ** Fish Care Rating Level, as long as it is a specimen that is already eating well when you buy it, you give it plenty of room, and provide it with ample macroalgae growth for grazing on, preferably brown types. This fish is very majestic looking and definitely has personality, plus!

Years ago, we collected and shipped marine tropical fish from the island of Moloka'i in Hawaii. One of the most popular fish for our customers was the Naso Tang. The Naso Tang could only be found in certain areas outside of the reef where we collected. We found that the smaller Naso's seem to like the areas where there was shallow corals, but near areas of open bottom where they could forage for algae to eat. The smaller (3' to 5") were usually found in small schools of 5 10 10 fish and were fairly easy to heard along the bottom into the fence net as long as you moved them slowly and didn't spook them.

Once they were scared, they would all dart into a nearby gap in the rocks or into the coral and be tough to get out, again.

The larger (5" to 10")  Naso Tangs could be found more in the open just above the bottom, but still close to corals or rocks where they could hide if they got spooked. The were usually found in small schools of 5 or so fish and would have a tendency to stay together unless they got spooked, then they would scatter and disappear.

The large to show size Naso's would be seen in singles or doubles four to six feet off the bottom and just cruising around. Occasionally we would see the super sized Naso's (18") traveling in large packs of 30 or more cruising about 5 feet off the bottom. These monsters were very impressive to see and they didn't seem to be afraid of anything. If we had the net stretched out, we would quickly pull the top down so they would hit it.

If they did get into the net, they would twist around and tangle their "spurs" in net. Their sharp spurs would rip they fragile net up, leaving gaping holes in it. We didn't have any tanks on the boat which were big enough to hold fish of this size and they were extremely difficult to ship, so we never caught any fish of this size.

Another note, here: Some of the Naso Tangs have double spurs at the base of the tail, which is somewhat unusual. After we had caught the naso's and had them on the boat, we would trim the sharp tips off of the spurs to make them safe to handle and so they wouldn't cut the other fish in the collection  holding system. Those sharp spurs can and have caused very deep wounds,