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 flavescens
Zebrasoma flavescens
(yellow tang)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Zebrasoma flavescens (Bennett, 1828)

Common name: yellow tang

Synonyms and Other Names: lemon sailfish, somber surgeonfish, yellow sailfin tang

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Deep body with a slightly protruding snout and large dorsal and anal fins toward the posterior.   Bright yellow in color with white caudal spine (scalpel) (Allen et al. 2003).  White stripe along the lateral line in some specimens.  Dorsal fin V (23-26), anal fin III (19-22).  From Lieske and Myers (1994).

Similar species:  Juvenile blue tang (Acanthurus coeruleus) has a yellow scalpel and less-protruding mouth.

Native Range: The yellow tang is found in the Northwest and Central Pacific ocean from southwest Japan to Marianna Islands, Marshall Islands, Marcus Island, Wake Island and Hawai’i. From Allen et al. (2003). 

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The species was observed eight times off Boca Raton between 2001 and 2005.  Seven of these sightings were of single fish, and one sighting was of two fish.  It has also been seen off Pompano Beach (2 fish in 2004, one individual in 2011), Delray Beach (3 fish in 2005), and Marathon (2011).The species has also been introduced to the Mediterranean Sea, likely from aquarium releases (Weitzmann et al. 2015). One individual was removed alive from Dry Rocks, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, in August 2018 by REEF personnel. 

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 flavescens are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200120182Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian

Table last updated 7/12/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology:  The yellow tang is found in lagoonal and seaward reefs (Lieske and Myers 1994).  It is diurnally active, exhibiting a wide variety of social organization.  The species can be found in social groups ranging from solitary to hundreds of individuals while feeding during the day, but can also be found solitary in shelter sites during the night (Atkins 1981).  The yellow tang is the most frequently-collected aquarium fish in Hawai‘i (Tissot et al. 2004).  It has been observed to spawn seasonally, timing its reproduction to periods when the oceanographic currents are favorable for local recruitment to island populations (Lobel 1989).  The caudal spine is erectable as a defense mechanism (Winterbottom 1971).

Means of Introduction: Aquarium release.

Status: Reported in 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.

Atkins, P.  1981.  Behavioral determinants of the nocturnal spacing pattern of the yellow tang Zebrasoma flavescens (Acanthuridae).  Pacific Science 35: 263-264.

Lieske, E. and R. Myers.  1994.  Collins Pocket Guide. Coral reef fishes. Indo-Pacific & Caribbean including the Red Sea. Haper Collins Publishers.

Lobel, P.  1989.  Ocean current variability and the spawning season of Hawaiian reef fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 24: 161-171.

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.

Tissot, B. N., W. J. Walsh and L. E. Hallacher.  2004.  Evaluating effectiveness of a marine protected area network in west Hawai`i to increase productivity of an aquarium fishery.  Pacific Science 58: 175-188.

Weitzmann, B, L Mercader and E Azzurro.  2015.  First sighting of Zebrasoma flavescens (Teleostei: Acanthurida) and Balistoides conspicillum (Teleostei: Balistidae) in the Mediterranean Sea: two likely aquarium releases.  Mediterranean Marine Science 16: 147-150.

Winterbottom, R.  1971.  Movement of the caudal spine of some surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae, Perciformes).  Copeia. 1971: 562-566.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Morris, Jr., James A., and Pamela J. Schofield

Revision Date: 3/18/2021

Peer Review Date: 9/25/2011

Citation Information:
Morris, Jr., James A., and Pamela J. Schofield, 2024, Zebrasoma flavescens (Bennett, 1828): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2304, Revision Date: 3/18/2021, Peer Review Date: 9/25/2011, Access Date: 7/12/2024

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 [7/12/2024].

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