Pacific Orange-Spine Unicornfish

Pacific Orange-Spine Unicornfish Naso lituratus

Type of Animal:

Shallow coral reefs, shallow areas over rocky bottoms, rock/coral areas in lagoons, rocks/coral remains in reefs, sheltered inshore reefs, rock/coral/rubble areas in seaward reefs, sheltered rocky shores, shallow rocky reefs, exposed outer reefs, found as deep as 295.276 ft

Indo-Pacific & Pacific ranging from Honshu in N to Great Barrier Reef/New Caledonia in S & as far E as Hawaii/Clipperton Island/Pitcairn/French Polynesia

Brownish gray to bluish gray fish w/ yellow nape & broad black band on continuous dorsal fin, orange lips, black face mask, yellowish gray to yellow ventral area, blackish gill rakers, blue tail fin w/ broad brownish yellow posterior border narrowing towards corners, breeding males have broad bluish white area on nape/anterior body area, 2 orange forward-hooked spines at tail base

Red/green/brown algae, seagrasses, vegetable matter, copepods, amphipods, mysis shrimp, plankton

Status in Wild:

Breeding in aquariums, aquaculture, & zoos. Captive breeding reducing demand for wild-caught fish.

Schools of 2-20, juveniles sometimes found in even larger schools & territories often defended by group

Additional Info:

Young: Acronurus
Group: School
Male: 8-9 oz
Female: 5-7 oz
1-2 days 

Life Span:
10-20 years in captivity, 20-40 years in wild

Body Length:
Male: 4.5-18 in
Female: 4.5-12 in

Important in keeping reefs healthy due to algae-eating diet. Without these fish, algal overgrowths can occur.
These fish spawn in pairs/groups w/ fish rising to surface to release eggs/sperm.
Eggs pelagic hatching 1-2 days after being released.
Juveniles reach maturity at around a year old.

Fun Fact(s):
Males coloration intensifies when courting females & sometimes changes. Males also change color when displaying to rival males. Both sexes change color at night.
These fish come w/ many names-Orange-Spine Unicornfish, Naso Tang, Clown Tang, Barcheek Unicornfish, Masked Unicornfish, Redlip Surgeonfish, Lipstick Tang, Lipstick Surgeonfish, Tricolor Tang, Painted Unicornfish, Smooth-Head Unicornfish, Orangespined Tang, Pacific Orange-Spine Unicorn, Striped Unicornfish, Poll Unicornfish, Orange-Spine Surgeonfish, Clown Surgeonfish, Black-Finned Unicornfish, & Striped-Faced Unicornfish.
Get surgeonfish name due to venomous scalpels at tail base used in defense. These scalpels can cause nasty painful wounds.
These fish known as kala in Hawaii & prized by Hawaiians as food fish & for tough skin used for drumheads. Someone skilled in self-defense known as “kala fish w/ a sharp tail” alluding to defensive tail scalpel.

3 thoughts on “Pacific Orange-Spine Unicornfish


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