Powder Brown Tang Profile

Powder Brown Tang Care Information

Powder Brown Tang
Powder Brown Tang. Justin Henry/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name

Acanthurus japonicus (Fowler, 1946).

Other Common Names

Powder Brown Surgeonfish.


Western Pacific.

Average Size

8.3 inches (21 cm).

Characteristics and Compatibility

A popular fish, but one that requires much attention, the Powder Brown Tang is known to be delicate to care for and can be difficult to acclimate to a new aquarium. It is highly susceptible to contracting Marine Ich and can have problems with HLLE.

It can be aggressive towards other surgeonfishes, particularly those of the same shape and color. It is best housed as the only tang present in an aquarium, with the possible exception of a larger system with plenty of potential "houses" or places to duck into when it feels threatened. Although the similar Goldrim or Whitecheek Tang (Acanthurus nigricans) is also delicate, it is somewhat more durable.

The "sword", "spur" or "scalpel" at the base of the tail of the Powder Brown Tang is not as large or dangerous as it is with some other Surgeonfish, such as the Naso Tang (Naso lituratus) or the Achilles Tang (Acanthurus achilles) however they are still large enough and sharp enough to inflict a serious wound so be cautious when handling this fish.

Unlike some of the sturdier Surgeonfish such as the Naso Tang, the Powder Brown is susceptible gill and fin ammonia burns. Usually caused by excess ammonia accumulation during collection from the ocean or during shipping, "ammonia burns" to the gills can be quite serious and eventually fatal in the more serious cases.

When purchasing a Powder Brown Tang, have the seller show you that the fish is indeed eating (the first sign of problems with a fish is lack of appetite) and what it is eating.

Diet and Feeding

Primarily a herbivore that will graze on filamentous micro and some types of smaller fleshy macroalgae, the Powder Brown should be fed a diet of frozen and dried fares suitable for herbivores that contain marine algae and Spirulina (blue-green algae).

Zucchini, broccoli, leaf lettuce, and nori (dried seaweed) can be offered to supplement its diet. Should be fed at least 3 times a day. Meaty fare should be offered several times per week to help provide extra protein. A veggie clip with dried seaweed hung from the side of the tank makes it easier to keep a good supply of macro algae available to the Powder Brown Tang.


A somewhat shy fish, the Powder Brown Tang should be provided with ample room to move around and lots of places to hide. It does best in a well-established aquarium with an ample growth of algae present to graze on at its leisure.

Suggested Minimum Tank Size

75 gallons (284 L).

Reef Tank Suitability

Considered safe, but an individual may pick at large polyped stony corals if not well fed.

Guide Notes

It sounds silly, but this a fish that seems to break out with ich if you even look at it the wrong way. Often specimens we have kept have not readily accepted foods offered. For this reason, it is best to ask to see this fish eating before you buy one.