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Some tangs aren't very good at eating algae

By Leonard Ho - Posted Apr 13, 2017 09:00 AM
Most marine aquarists think of all tangs as herbivores, so they add any tang they prefer to their aquariums to control algae. And while it is true that the vast majority of tangs are algae-eaters, a new study finds that some tangs (in the case of the study, Ctenochaetus striatus) are really detrivores.
Some tangs aren't very good at eating algae

Ctenochaetus striatus in the Red Sea. Photo by Derek Keats (c.c.)

In a new paper published in Coral Reefs, Researchers wanted to compare the algae-eating abilities of two tangs: Acanthurus nigrofuscus vs. Ctenochaetus striatus.  In experimental aquariums, A. nigrofuscus was able to reduce turf algae length by 51% and the area covered by turfing algae by 15%.  However, the bristletooth/striated tang, C. striatus, had virtually no impact on turf algae whatsoever (length or coverage).  The researchers studied the guts of these Ctenochaetus tangs and discovered 99%+ detritus and sediment, not algae.

While removing detritus can certainly help to control algae in the long run and thus serves a useful purpose, this study demonstrates that some tangs are essentially useless as direct algae grazers.

I do wonder, however, whether the researchers may have mistaken diatoms for detritus.  Ctenochaetus tangs are not known to eat turf algae in aquariums, but they seem to consume diatoms in spades.

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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