White Tail Bristletooth Tang (Ctenochaetus flavicauda) – In The Spotlight

Adult Ctenochaetus flavicauda

White Tail Bristletooth Tang

(Ctenochaetus flavicauda)


The White Tail Bristletooth Tang (Ctenochaetus flavicauda) is also known as the Red-Spotted Tang and the White Tail Yellow Eye Tang. They are found in Tahiti and other areas of the South and Central Pacific. Though discovered in 1938 by Henry W. Fowler near Takaroa¹ , The White Tail Bristletooth Tang only recently began entering the aquarium trade in small numbers around 7 years ago. This is attributed to the fact that they are quite difficult to catch. As collectors enter the water, these Tangs quickly run away from the reef. This is unlike most fish that seek refuge in the rocks or coral. Though quick to avoid capture, once accustomed to aquarium life, The White Tail Bristletooth Tang has a wonderful and engaging personality.


The White Tail Bristletooth Tang is one of the many Tang species that go through quite dramatic changes in color throughout their lifetime. Juveniles are a striking bright yellow color, with a bright blue outline around their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. They also display a stunning blue coloring on their lips, usually extending to the upper belly. As the White Tail Bristletooth Tang matures, it begins to develop a vibrant red color and bright white tail. They further impress with a gorgeous pattern of lines down their sides, and spots on the face. With their adult coloration, their bright yellow eye from adolescence remains as a beautiful contrast to the deep red body. They reach a maximum length of 6 inches.


As its’ popularity has grown, White Tail Bristletooth Tangs have been found in various parts of the Central and South Pacific. Their range includes areas around The Cook Islands, Tahiti, Micronesia, and the Phoenix Islands. Though rare, The White Tail Bristletooth has also been found in the American Samoa National Park². They can be found at depths ranging from 10 meters (32 ft) to 30 meters (98 ft) and usually near the Outer Reef Slope³.


Like other Ctenochaetus species, in the wild The White Tail Bristletooth feeds on fine detritus such as diatoms, small bits of algae, organic material, and some inorganic sediment. They are capable of handling such a diverse diet due to the presence of a very thick wall in their stomachs⁴. In captivity, The White Tail Bristletooth will readily accept prepared foods such as frozen mixes, Mysis shrimp, and Nori. It will also supplement a captive diet with any detritus found in the tank.

Juvenile Ctenochaetus flavicauda



With The White Tail Bristletooth Tang sexes are visually indistinguishable. Both males and females display the same coloring and patterns from adolescence through adulthood. Courting in groups of 4 or more, some fish will darken or lighten their colors before releasing gametes right below the surface. Interestingly, it has also been documented in certain areas where The White Tail Bristletooth Tang spawns only in pairs⁵.

Conditioning and Acclimation

Like other Ctenochaetus, The White Tail Bristletooth Tang is a hardy specimen that adapts easily to aquarium life. Provided plenty of rock to graze on, these fish will quickly get comfortable and begin cleaning rock and other surfaces in the tank. The White Tail Bristletooth is one of the more mellow Ctenochaetus sub-species, however it is still best to add other Tangs with caution. As with all new additions, it is always recommended to turn off or dim the lights the first day to allow the fish to settle in its’ new environment.

[1] Randall and Clements 2001, [2]  National Park of Samoa Checklist of Fishes April 2010, [3]  Randall and Clements 2001, [4] Randall and Clements 2001, [5] Debelius and Baensch (1994)

A special thank you to ZSISPEO for the use of his photos.  If you have not checked out his extensive photo collection on flicker, please do it now.  You will not be disappointed.

All Photos Courtesy of zsispeo. https://www.flickr.com/people/zsispeo/

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