Acanthurus thompsoni – Thompson’s Surgeonfish

Acanthurus thompsoni or Thompson’s Surgeonfish can reach a total length of around 27 centimetres. They are brown with a white or dark tail.

Acanthurus thompsoni – Thompson’s Surgeonfish

Acanthurus thompsoni was described by Fowler in 1923. The family name Acanthurus is made up of two ancient Greek words. Akantha means thorn and Ura means tail. A reference to the scalpel on the caudal peduncle of the surgeonfish.


The color of Acanthurus thompsoni is dark brown. There is a small black spot at the base of the dorsal fin just above the caudal peduncle. This spot is most visible when the fish has a lighter color, for example when they let themselves be cleaned by cleaner shrimp.

Acanthurus thompsoni has two varieties. The specimen from Hawaii have a white tail where as other locations have a dark tail. They used to be described as separate species but the only difference was the color of their tails, so they have been merged into one species.

They can reach a total length of around 27 centimetres.


Like all Surgeonfish, they have a scalpel on their caudal peduncle. This is an adapted scale which can be folded outwards. This scalpel is razor sharp. Acanthurus thompsoni uses it as a defense weapon. So be careful when catching Surgeonfish!


The habitat of Acanthurus thompsoni is enormous. You can find them from the east coast of Africa, along India, the south of Japan to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. They inhabit the steeply sloping reefs at a depth of 4 to 120 meters but are often found between 5 and 50 meters. They usually live solitary but can sometimes be seen in a school.


In the wild, Acanthurus thompsoni feeds on plankton in the water column. In the aquarium you can offer him a varied diet from an omnivore. Think of artemia, flakes, krill, mysis, but also green food such as Nori and spirulina.

The aquarium

This species needs an aquarium with plenty of swimming space. Think of an aquarium from 1,000, but preferably at least 1,200 liters or even larger. Usually this species is Reef safe. Acanthurus thompsoni can therefore be kept in a fish only tank or a reef tank.

Acanthurus thompsoni can be aggressive towards other surgeonfish. Preferably keep them with other peaceful species and not similar looking fish.


John de Lange

Copyright images

Francois Libert (Zsispeo) – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Last Updated on 19 October 2021 by John

Additional information






Acanthurus philippinus, Hepatus philippinus, Hepatus thompsoni, Teuthis thompsoni


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