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.

Acanthurus sohal
Acanthurus sohal
(Red Sea surgeonfish)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Acanthurus sohal (Forsskål, 1775)

Common name: Red Sea surgeonfish

Synonyms and Other Names: Sohal surgeonfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Slightly compressed body shape with well-defined lunate caudal fin.  Pale grey in body color gradually turning whitish ventrally.  Narrow blackish stripes on head above the eye.  Orange patch beneath pectoral fins and around the sheath and socket of caudal spine.  Pelvic and median fins are blackish with blue outline.  Dorsal fin IX (30-31), anal fin III (28-29), pectoral fin (17).  From Randall (1983).

Similar species:  No Atlantic surgeonfish is known to have stripes on the body.  However, faint body lines can be seen on the blue tang (Acanthurus coeruleus), which has a solid blue body and yellow scalpel.

Native Range: Western Indian Ocean including the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf (Randall 1983). 

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Florida, a single individual was observed off Pompano Beach in 2002 (REEF 2008). One individual was captured in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece in 2017 (Giovos et al. 2018).

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 Acanthurus sohal are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200220021Florida Southeast Coast

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The preferred habitat of the Sohal surgeonfish is the outer edge of reef flats that are exposed to surge (Randall 1983).  The species grazes on Sargassum and filamentous green algae (Vine 1974; Lieske and Myers 1994).  It is known to be a very aggressive territorial species (Alwany et al. 2005).

Means of Introduction: Probable 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)

Alwany, M., E. Thaler, and M. Stachowitsch.  2005.  Territorial behaviour of Acanthurus sohal and Plectroglyphidodon leucozona on the fringing Egyptian Red Sea reefs.  Environmental Biology of Fishes 72: 321-334.

Giovos, I., G. Bernardi, G. Romanidis-Kyriakidis, D. Marmara and P. Kleitou. 2018. First records of the fish Abudefduf sexfasciatus (Lacepède, 1801) and Acanthurus sohal (Forsskål, 1775) in the Mediterranean Sea. BioInvasion Records 7: 205-210.

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

Randall, J. E.  1983.  Red Sea Fishes.  IMMEL Publishing, London.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).  2008.  Exotic species sighting program and volunteer database. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download 10. Mar. 08.

Vine, P. J.  1974.  Effects of algal grazing and aggressive behaviour of the fishes Pomacentrus lividus and Acanthurus sohal on coral-reef ecology.  Marine Biology 24: 131-136

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

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

Revision Date: 9/17/2020

Peer Review Date: 6/15/2009

Citation Information:
James A. Morris, Jr., and Pamela J. Schofield, 2024, Acanthurus sohal (Forsskål, 1775): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2554, Revision Date: 9/17/2020, 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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