Acanthurus bahianus – Barber Surgeonfish

With a maximum length of 38 centimeters, Acanthurus bahianus becomes a large fish. The color can vary from brown to beige and blue.

Acanthurus bahianus – Barber Surgeonfish

Acanthurus bahianus or Barber Surgeonfish was first described in 1855 by Castelnau. 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.

Synonym: Teuthis bahianus.


With a maximum length of 38 centimeters, Acanthurus bahianus becomes a large fish. The color can vary from brown to beige and blue. The eyes are black but are surrounded by a yellow / orange color. Often some bluish stripes run over the head. The difference between males and females is not visible.

You can occasionally find this species on the market as food. More often they are used as bait or caught for the aquarium trade.


The natural habitat of the Barber Surgeonfish includes the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Ocean reefs of the United States (Massachusets) down to Brazil. They live among the coral reefs in search of small food particles at a depth of 2 to 30 meters. Young specimens usually live in larger schools.


The Barber Surgeonfishes diet consists mainly of algae and plants. They rummage through the reefs all day looking for small algae and plants. In the aquarium they actually need small amounts of food all day long. Make sure that when you purchase this fish you only place it in a matured aquarium where they can find something to eat. You can also feed them with flake food, green vegetables, algae, brine shrimp and mysis. An automatic feeding system that regularly gives them some herbivore food is also an option.

The Aquarium

It will be clear that a large aquarium is needed for this fish, think of a minimum capacity of about 1500 liters. With their maximum length of 38 centimeters, they not only need the space to swim but also to feed. Decorate the aquarium with enough rocks and make sure that there are always some algae that Acanthurus bahianus can feed on. They are average difficult to keep.

You can keep this species as a couple or solitary. Males show aggression towards other males. They usually leave other species alone, provided they do not have the same color and shape.


Like all other Surgeonfish, Acanthurus bahianus have a retractable scalpel on both sides of their caudal peduncle. This is a defense mechanism that the fish can use to defend themselves. One of the scales has become a strong and razor-sharp retractable knife. In the event of an emergency, the doctor’s fish can open the knife and slash out with its tail. So be careful when catching surgeonfish!

Breeding Acanthurus bahianus – Barber Surgeonfish

I have found no information about successful breeding of this species in captivity.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Kevin BryantCC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Additional information





First described by

Francois-Louis Laporte, Count of Castelnau


Social behaviour





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Minimum length


Length maximum


Temperature minimum
Temperature maximum



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