Tim's Tropical Fish - Saltwater

Saltwater Home

SW Galleries

SW Care

Our Site


Naso Tang or Lipstick Tang


Naso Tang, Naso lituratus

The Naso Tang originates in the Indo-Pacific, including Hawaii. The Naso Tang is also known as the Orangespine Unicornfish, the Lipstick Tang and the Lipstick Surgeonfish. Its scientific name is naso lituratus. Naso Tangs are sometimes inappropriately referred to as Nassau Tangs, a term which associates them with the wrong ocean altogether, since Nassau is in the Atlantic. Previously there was thought to be a blonde color variation of Naso lituartus in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, but this Blonde, Elegant or Red Sea Naso Tang is now classified as Naso elegans.  The Red Sea Naso Tang has an orange dorsal fin, while those from the Pacific have black dorsal fins. There are also differences in the numbers of rays on their fins and the numbers of teeth.

The Naso Tang is actually a unicornfish even though it doesn't have the typical unicorn snout. It does have the two anal spines, instead of three, and three pelvic rays, instead of five, that distinguish unicornfish from other surgeonfish. It has the sharp spines at the caudal peduncle which distinguish all surgeonfish. These can cause serious harm to human hands and easily become entangled in nets.

Juveniles Naso Tangs are grey and take on a more reddish tone as they mature. A black mask develops between the eyes and mouth and the "lips" are highlighted by orange. Juveniles tend to group together, while mature individuals are solitary.

Naso Tang, Lipstick Tang, Naso lituratus

In the wild Naso Tangs inhabit coral reefs to depths of 90 m. An aquarium of at least 135 gallons is recommended as this species grows to full size very quickly. It should have hiding spaces and open swimming areas. The Naso subsists mainly on brown algae and this should form the cornerstone of its diet in captivity. It can also be fed green algae, spirulina, dried seaweed, lettuce and brine shrimp. Naso Tangs do not harm corals and rarely bother cructaceans. Naso Tangs are compatible with most other species, but keeping adult Nasos in the same tank is not recommended. For tankmates, it may be best to avoid other tangs altogether and stick to fish such as wrasses, rabbitfish, angelfish and damsels.

Naso Tang, Naso lituratus

Larger males develop streamers at the tips of their tails. These can grow to 12 inches in length. Naso Tangs are not successfully bred in captivity. In the wild, they are thought to mate in groups and the eggs are left to drift with the tide.

Naso Tang, Lipstick Tang, Naso lituratus

Scientific Name: Naso lituratus
Family: Acanthuridae
Care: Normal
Temperature: 22 - 26 C; 72 - 78 F
pH: 8.1 - 8.4
dH: 8 - 12
Specific Gravity: 1.020 - 1.025
Size: 46 cm; 18 inches
Breeding: Egg Layer
Life Span: 20 years
Crustacean Safe: No
Coral Safe: Yes


Only one Naso Tang per tank is recommend.  They may act aggressively towards other species of tangs, so they are best kept as the only tang species in the tank as well.  Suitable tank mates include Angelfish, Damsels, Rabbitfish and Wrasses.