Advanced Aquarium Consultancy has successfully imported no fewer than ten Zebra tangs, Acanthurus polyzona, into the UK. A holy grail amongst surgeonfish, Zebra tangs look superficially similar to Convict tangs, Acanthurus triostegus, but Zebras only come from Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Réunion islands, whereas Convicts are widespread across the Indo-Pacific. AAC’s fish were collected from Mauritius and owner Paul Hughes has shared that the fish were collected in tidal, turbid water with variable temperatures and interestingly, variable salinity.
Zebra tangs can be found alongside Convict tangs where both species scrape algae off rocks and rubble. As juveniles, they can be found in shallow lagoons but as adults, they favor high-energy habitats and coastal reefs where algae growth is at its fastest.
With the two species looking like each other and congregating together in the wild the obvious question is if they are actually two distinct species or if the Zebra is a color morph or hybrid. Acanthurus polyzona was described as long ago as 1868 and is a distinct species from A.triostegus. It is also a much rarer import, with Convict tangs being widely available and cheap in the hobby, whereas up until now we could count the imports of A.polyzona on one hand, and it carries a much more premium price, at some thirty times the retail value or more.
We love Convict tangs for their smart pinstripe pattern and their suitability for high-flow reef aquariums but the Zebra tang is next level in terms of rarity in the hobby, desirability, and collectability. AAC’s fish have been held and quarantined since August, they are looking chunky, and we think they are being offered at just the right size, 8-10cm.