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.

Zebrasoma velifer
Zebrasoma velifer
(sailfin tang)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Zebrasoma velifer (Bloch, 1795)

Common name: sailfin tang

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Deep body with slightly protruding snout.  Body and head mostly dark grey-brown with vertical yellow lines.  Coloration of adults can be darker.  Entire snout can be white or yellow.  Elevated dorsal fin (Randall 2005).  Caudal fin can be white, yellowish, or brown with no spots (Allen et al. 2003).  Overall, the species tends to be dully colored, but are capable of rapidly changing color and can lighten the pale bars or darken them until they merge with remaining body color (Robertson 1983).  Dorsal fin IV (29-33) anal fin III (23-26), pectoral fin (15-17; Randall 2005).

Similar species: No Atlantic surgeonfish has prominent white body bars.

Native Range: The sailfin tang is distributed in the western Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean from Indonesia, Micronesia, Hawai’i to French Polynesia.  It is also found from southwest Japan to Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia.  From Allen et al. (2003).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Florida, the species was observed seven times off Boynton Beach, twice in 2002 and once each in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2012.  Individuals were seen off Delray Beach in 2001 and 2003, off Boca Raton in 2011, at Miami Beach in 2017 and near North Key Largo in 2000.

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 Zebrasoma velifer are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200020192Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The sailfin tang inhabits lagoons and seaward reef areas out to 45 m (Allen et al. 2003).  The diet consists mainly of fleshy green and red algae (Robertson 1983).  Pairs of adult sailfin tangs will defend joint feeding territories (Robertson et al. 1979) with the more territorial fish becoming darker in color (Robertson 1983).  Sailfin tang reproduction has been documented in Palau (Micronesia) and Aldabra (Seychelles) where spawning occurs during ebb tides on the reef slope (10 m depth; Robertson 1983).  Detailed courtship and pair mating behaviors of sailfin tangs are provided in Robertson (1983). 

Means of Introduction: Aquarium release.

Status: Reported from Florida.

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, P. Humann and N. Deloach. 2003. Reef Fish Identification. Tropical Pacific. New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, California.

Randall, J. E. 2005. Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). 2008. Exotic species sighting programs and volunteer database. World wide web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download March 10, 2008.

Robertson, D. R. 1983. On the spawning behavior and spawning cycles of eight surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae) from the Indo-Pacific. Environmental Biology of Fishes 9:193-223.

Robertson, D. R., N. V. C. Polunin and K. Leighton. 1979. The behavioral ecology of three Indian Ocean surgeonfishes (Acanthurus lineatus, A. leucosternon and Zebrasoma scopas): their feeding strategies and social and mating systems. Environmental Biology of Fishes 4:125-170.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Morris, J.A., and Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 3/18/2021

Peer Review Date: 6/15/2009

Citation Information:
Morris, J.A., and Schofield, P.J., 2024, Zebrasoma velifer (Bloch, 1795): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=2300, Revision Date: 3/18/2021, Peer Review Date: 6/15/2009, 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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