The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Paracanthurus hepatus
Paracanthurus hepatus
(palette surgeonfish)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Paracanthurus hepatus Linnaeus, 1766

Common name: palette surgeonfish

Synonyms and Other Names: hippo tang, Pacific blue tang, regal tang

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Randall (2002) describes the palette surgeonfish as having an elongate body with a truncate caudal fin. It is a striking blue color with a black band curving upward from the eye, broadening on the body, continuing to the full width of the caudal peduncle. The body contains a large elliptical blue area centered above the tip of the pectoral fin. The caudal fin is yellow with broad black upper and lower margins. The yellow extends forward to enclose the single folding spine on the caudal peduncle.

Size: This species can reach a total length of 31 cm (Myers 1999).

Native Range: Palette surgeon fish are native to the Pacific and Indian oceans from East Africa to Indonesia, Micronesia, Samoa, New Caledonia and Line Islands and from southwest Japan to the Great Barrier Reef (Allen et al 2003).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: One fish was seen several times at Phil Foster Park, Palm Beach County, Florida in February 2020.

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Paracanthurus hepatus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL202020201Florida Southeast Coast

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The palette surgeonfish is found in loose aggregations on the exposed edges of outer reefs in flowing current 2 to 40 m deep (Myer 1999, Randall 2002). When frightened individuals may wedge themselves among coral branches for shelter (Myers 1999). The species feeds on zooplankton and benthic algae (Randall 2002). Surgeonfishes get their common name from their ability to slash other fishes with their sharp caudal spine. In addition to the sharp caudal spine, the palette surgeon fish has venomous dorsal, anal, and pelvic spines (Randall et al. 1990).

Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.

Status: Unknown

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

References: (click for full references)

Allen, G.R., Steene, R., Humann, P. and Deloach, N. 2003. Reef fish identification: Tropical Pacific. New World Publications, Florida.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian reef fishes: A field guide for divers and aquarists. Coral Graphics, Guam.

Randall, J.E. 2002. Surgeonfishes of the world. Bishop Museum Press, Hawaii.

Randall, J.E., Allen G.R., and Steene, R.C..1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Other Resources:

Author: Brown, M.E. and Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 3/4/2021

Peer Review Date: 2/21/2020

Citation Information:
Brown, M.E. and Schofield, P.J., 2024, Paracanthurus hepatus Linnaeus, 1766: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=3339, Revision Date: 3/4/2021, Peer Review Date: 2/21/2020, Access Date: 7/17/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/17/2024].

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