Scopas Tang: Species Profile & Care Tips

| Updated: June 12, 2023
Scopas tang side profile

If you are looking for a hardy, attractive, and algae-eating fish for your reef aquarium, you might want to consider the scopas tang. This fish, also known as the brown sailfin tang, the brushtail tang, or the tricolor tang, is a member of the zebrasoma genus, which includes other popular tangs such as the yellow tang and the purple tang. This article will give you a comprehensive overview of the scopas tang, including its appearance, behavior, diet, tank requirements, compatibility, and more.


The scopas tang has a typical zebrasoma body shape, with a round and laterally compressed body and a pointed snout. It has a single dorsal fin that runs along the length of its back and a matching anal fin on its belly. It also has a pair of pectoral fins that help it maneuver and a forked caudal fin that propels it forward. Like all tangs, it has a sharp spine on each side of its tail base, which it uses for defense.

The coloration of the scopas tang is highly variable, ranging from tan to brown to yellow to black. Some specimens have solid colors, while others have intricate spots, stripes, or blotch patterns. The body color often fades or darkens depending on the mood or environment of the fish. The tail is usually solid brown or black, but some individuals have yellow or white edges. The eyes are also yellow or white.

The scopas tang can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length, but most specimens in captivity are smaller. The males tend to be larger than the females and have a patch of short bristles on their tail base. There are no other visible differences between the sexes.

Species Overview

Scientific Name
Zebrasoma scopas
Common Names
Scopas tang, brown sailfin tang, brushtail tang, tricolor tang
Indo-Pacific region
Adult Size
Up to 12 inches
Life Expectancy
10-15 years
Minimum Tank Size
75 gallons
Captive Breedable

Scopas Tang Native Regions

The scopas tang is a widely distributed fish that can be found in the Indo-Pacific region, from East Africa to Japan. It inhabits various parts of lagoons and seaward reefs, where it grazes on filamentous algae that grow on the rocks and corals.

The scopas tang prefers warm and clear water, and can be found at depths ranging from 1 to 60 meters (3 to 200 feet). It is most common in areas with abundant algae growth, such as reef slopes, drop-offs, and channels.

The scopas tang has a large geographical range, and its coloration and pattern can vary depending on its origin, age, and mood. Some of the regions where the scopas tang can be found are:

  • East Africa: The scopas tang is found along the coast of East Africa, from Somalia to South Africa, including the Mascarene Islands. It is usually brown or tan with pale blue-green lines and dots.
  • Red Sea: The scopas tang is also present in the Red Sea, where it is darker in color and has more prominent yellow or white spots on its body and tail.
  • Indian Ocean: The scopas tang can be seen in the Indian Ocean, from the Maldives to Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia. It is similar in color to the East African variety, but sometimes has yellow or white edges on its tail.
  • Southeast Asia: The scopas tang is common in Southeast Asia, from Thailand to Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Vietnam. It is usually yellow or tan with brown spots and stripes.
  • Australia: The scopas tang is found in Australia, from the Great Barrier Reef to Lord Howe Island. It is often yellow or tan with brown spots and stripes, but some specimens have solid black bodies with white spots or patches. These are known as the black koi scopas tangs or aberrant scopas tangs.
  • Pacific Ocean: The scopas tang is widespread in the Pacific Ocean, from Micronesia to Polynesia, Hawaii, and Japan. It is usually brown or tan with pale blue-green lines and dots, but some specimens have solid black bodies with no markings. These are known as the black scopas tangs or melanistic scopas tangs.

Behavior and Temperament

The scopas tang is a semi-aggressive fish that can be territorial towards its own species or other tangs. It is best to keep only one scopas tang per tank, unless you have a very large aquarium with plenty of hiding places and algae growth. If you want to keep more than one scopas tang, you should introduce them simultaneously and ensure they are similar in size.

The scopas tang is also active and curious, and likes to swim around the tank and explore its surroundings. It can be shy or skittish when first introduced to a new tank, but will soon become more confident and bold. It can also be playful and interact with other fish or invertebrates in the tank.

The scopas tang is mostly herbivorous and feeds mainly on plant matter. In the wild, it grazes on filamentous algae that grow on the rocks and corals of the reef. In captivity, it needs a diet that is rich in algae and vegetable matter to keep it healthy and happy. You can offer it dried seaweed sheets, spirulina flakes or pellets, frozen or fresh vegetables, and occasional meaty foods such as mysis shrimp or brine shrimp.

The scopas tang is not a difficult fish to feed, as it will readily accept most foods offered to it. However, you should make sure that it gets enough algae in its diet, as this will help prevent nutritional deficiencies and diseases. You should also feed it several times a day in small portions, as this will mimic its natural grazing behavior.

Tank Requirements

The scopas tang is not a suitable fish for small or nano tanks, as it needs plenty of space to swim and grow. It also produces a lot of waste, which can pollute the water quality in a small tank. The minimum tank size for a single scopas tang is 75 gallons, but 125 gallons or larger is recommended.

The tank should have a strong water flow and filtration system to keep the water clean and oxygenated. The water parameters should be within the following ranges:

  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm

The tank should also have plenty of live rock and sand substrate to provide hiding places and grazing areas for the scopas tang. You can also add some corals and other invertebrates to create a natural reef environment for your fish. Make sure there is enough space to swim around any stinging corals or anemones, as they can harm its delicate skin.

Compatible Tank Mates

The scopas tang can be kept with most peaceful or semi-aggressive fish that are not similar in shape or color to itself. Some good tank mates for the scopas tang are:

  • Clownfish
  • Angelfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Wrasses
  • Blennies
  • Gobies
  • Chromis
  • Damsels
  • Cardinalfish
  • Hawkfish
  • Dottybacks
  • Anthias
  • Fairy basslets
  • And tangs of different genera

You should avoid keeping the scopas tang with other zebrasoma tangs, such as the yellow tang, the purple tang, or the sailfin tang, as they can be very aggressive and territorial towards each other. You should also avoid keeping the scopas tang with large or predatory fish, such as lionfish, groupers, triggers, or eels, as they can harm or eat the scopas tang.

Scopas tangs are reef-safe and can coexist with most reef-safe invertebrates, such as shrimps, crabs, snails, starfish, clams, and corals. However, some scopas tangs may nip at some soft corals or polyps, especially if they are hungry or bored. You should monitor your scopas tang’s behavior and provide enough algae and vegetable matter to prevent this from happening.

Special Varieties of Scopas Tangs

The scopas tang is a highly variable fish that can have different colors and patterns depending on its geographical origin, age, and mood. Some of the most notable varieties of the scopas tang are:

  • The black koi scopas tang is a rare and sought-after variety that has a solid black body with white spots or patches. It is also known as the black koi tang or the aberrant scopas tang. It is believed to be a genetic mutation or a hybrid of the scopas tang and another zebrasoma species.
  • The black scopas tang is a variety that has a solid black body with no markings. It is also known as the solid black scopas tang or the melanistic scopas tang. It is more common than the black koi scopas tang, but still rare and expensive. It is found in some parts of East Africa and the Mascarene Islands.
  • While not a variety, a juvenile scopas tang has different coloration than adults. They have a yellow body with brown spots and stripes and a yellow tail with a white edge. They will change color as they mature.

Care for a Scopas Tang

The scopas tang is a relatively easy fish to care for as long as you provide it with a large and well-maintained tank, a varied and nutritious diet, and compatible tank mates. Here are some tips to help you keep your scopas tang healthy and happy:

  • Acclimate your scopas tang slowly and carefully to your tank, as it can be sensitive to water parameters and temperature changes. Use a drip acclimation method or a quarantine tank to avoid stressing your fish.
  • Provide your scopas tang with plenty of hiding places and open swimming space in your tank. Use live rock, caves, overhangs, or PVC pipes to create shelters for your fish.
  • Feed your scopas tang several times a day in small portions. Offer it various foods rich in algae and vegetable matter, such as dried seaweed sheets, spirulina flakes or pellets, frozen or fresh vegetables, and occasional meaty foods.
  • Monitor your water quality regularly and perform frequent water changes to keep your tank clean and stable. Test your water parameters for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, temperature, and specific gravity at least once a week.
  • Watch out for signs of disease or stress in your scopas tang, such as loss of appetite, lethargy, rapid breathing, clamped fins, white spots, red sores, or abnormal behavior. If you notice any of these symptoms, isolate your fish in a quarantine tank and treat it accordingly.
  • Avoid overstocking your tank or adding new fish without proper quarantine. This will help prevent overcrowding, aggression, and disease outbreaks in your tank.


The scopas tang is a beautiful and interesting fish that can be a great addition to your reef aquarium. Especially when the different varieties are accounted for, they can make for some really unique reef-safe fish for your prized reef.

We hope you enjoyed this article about the scopas tang. If you have any questions or comments about this fish, feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you!

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