It’s no secret that the scissortail sergeant, also known as Abudefduf sexfasciatus or striptailed damselfish, is one of the most striking and beautiful fish in the aquarium hobby. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about juveniles or adults – this fish will have you mesmerized with its colors and patterning.
But there’s more to it than its eye-catching appearance; scissortail sergeants are some of the hardiest fish available to the hobbyist, making them well worth the expense of getting them started off right.
Scissortail sergeant or simply scissor tail are members of the genus Abudefduf which includes several species of marine fish commonly referred to as sergeant majors, soldierfish, and halfmoons. These fish are also known by their scientific name Abudefduf sexfasciatus.
Origin and description
Abudefduf sexfasciatus, better known as Scissortail sergeant, is a marine fish that comes from warm tropical waters. They’re part of an enormous family of fishes commonly known as damselfish (Pomacentridae). There are hundreds of species within its large classification, but in home aquariums, there are five main subspecies that we frequently see on store shelves: Abudefduf sexfasciatus sexfasciatus, Abudefduf sexfasciatus flavoguttatus, Abudefduf sexfasciatus melanurus, Abudefduf sexfasciatus rubripinna, and many others that we don’t often encounter in aquarium trade centers.
The Scissortail Sergeant is among one of my favorite damselfish because they make such beautiful additions to any reef tank. Their vibrant colors really pop against dark-colored rocks and corals and their long flowing fins give them a distinctive look compared to other varieties. In addition, it’s one of few damselfish with elongated dorsal fin filaments that gracefully flow behind their body as if they were tresses of hair.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus, commonly known as Scissortail sergeant, is a marine fish native to saltwater environments around Hawaii. It can also be found in locations such as Buton Island, Solomon Islands, and Australia. They have been observed in a marine environment within a depth range of 0 – 20 m.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus has an olive green color with multiple white vertical lines on its body that make it easily identifiable among other species. Juveniles are distinguished by a yellow tail fin that turns red as they mature. These types of sergeants grow up to 3 inches long and live approximately 8 years on average. The diet for abudefduf sexfasciatus consists mainly of zooplankton and occasionally brine shrimp or algae supplements depending on their size.
The Scissortail sergeant inhabits shallow tropical waters in both hemispheres. They are most often found in habitats with thick seagrass meadows and sandy or muddy bottoms but have also been spotted in mangrove forests, coral reefs, and rocky areas.
These fish prefer areas of high water movement and moderate current. Ideal temperatures for scissortail sergeants fall between 75 – 85 degrees F; a temperature range too cool can cause these fish to become sluggish and may inhibit their ability to reproduce.
In an aquarium setting, juvenile scissortails tend to prefer warmer water while adults do best at cooler temperatures. This species is also one of few angelfish that will readily adapt to tanks without live rock if they’re provided enough hiding places so be sure to offer plenty of décor.
Sergeant major size
The average adult fish is usually around 6.3 to 11 inches in length. You will also want to make sure you have a proper-sized aquarium for your scissortail sergeant because they need a lot of swimming room.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus tank size
The ideal tank size is 75 gallons or larger. Because of their size, these fish may compete with other large species. A juvenile specimen can easily fit in a 75-gallon tank; however, an adult will require more space to swim and move about comfortably. A 125-gallon tank is a good size for two adults or one adult with several juveniles.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus tank set up
Scissortail sergeants require a large aquarium with plenty of places to hide and plenty of room for swimming. It’s suggested that you keep these fish in at least a 65 – 75 gallon aquarium. They will eat smaller fish and invertebrates, so keep them with only other semi-aggressive or larger tropical fish species.
They can be kept in a community tank but are generally peaceful when cared for properly. The ideal water temperature is between 72 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Bright lighting is recommended as well. A protein skimmer should also be used if you have one; these will remove some waste from your aquarium.
Aquarium salt should also be added regularly. Keep an eye on your pH level with a quality test kit, but it should stay around 8.2 – 8.4 on average; monitor nitrates carefully to ensure they don’t get too high, which can lead to death for both you and your fish over time.
Sergeant major tank mates
Peaceful, non-aggressive fish will do fine in an aquarium with Scissortail Sergeant. These fish are typically found with Neon Tetras, Black Phantom Tetras, Zebra Danios, and more. Smaller Gouramis, Plecostomus, and freshwater catfish can be peaceful tank mates as well. Avoid housing Scissortail Sergeants with Cichlids or Loaches; they may see them as a food source or a threat to their territory.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus breeding
Scissortail sergeants are reef safe but can be aggressive to other invertebrates, so they should not be housed with them. They will spawn all year if conditions are right. The female may lay up to 100 eggs per spawning period, usually in batches of 25 – 50. The eggs will hatch after a couple of days depending on water temperature.
Both parents will guard and care for their young until they are free-swimming around two weeks later. Newborn scissortails have blue stripes or blotches which fade as they mature. Pairs have been known to successfully rear multiple broods a year. This species is highly recommended for advanced aquarists only.
Newly acquired fish should be quarantined first, even though it is unlikely that any issues exist.
Is sergeant major aggressive or peaceful?
Abudefduf sexfasciatus can be quite aggressive when it comes to defending their territory, even if they are not breeding or courting. During these times, they will often be seen chasing after other fish and making attempts to steal food from them. They may also swim up to a visitor of their tank and try to bite them.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus care
Scissortail Sergeants are sensitive to high levels of nitrates, so avoid overfeeding and regular water changes. They also require more specific water conditions than many fish species. These aren’t beginner fish! Scissortails enjoy having plenty of places to hide, such as rocks and live or fake plants.
However, they shouldn’t be kept with plant-eating fish since they may eat from them.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus diet
Scissortail sergeants are omnivores, so they eat a variety of foods. They generally consume a diet that consists of algae, sponges, and crustaceans like crabs and shrimp. Scissortail sergeants are also known to occasionally take in small fish such as minnows. Because of their diverse diet, it is important to provide them with a well-rounded supply of fish food so they can always find something to eat.
Ideal water temperature for abudefduf sexfasciatus should be between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit; pH of 8.1 to 8.4; salinity of 1.020 to 1.025, specific gravity (SG) of 1,020 and 1,025 is optimal for these fish.
Abudefduf sexfasciatus lifespan
The average lifespan of an Abudefduf sexfasciatus is 5 to 8 years. Many factors can affect their lifespan. If kept healthy and maintained properly, it’s possible for them to live longer. They usually outlive goldfish and small freshwater fish with ease.
Parasites and diseases
These fish are very resilient to diseases and parasites due to their high tolerance for poor water conditions. Fish with symptoms of the disease should be separated from other scissortails immediately. Freshwater ich, marine velvet, and anchor worms can be treated by a variety of medications available at pet stores.
Never use medication without consulting your veterinarian or an experienced hobbyist who knows proper treatment methods. Use enough medication to treat all your fish at once. This will prevent reinfection from surviving organisms in your tank after treatment is complete.
Although young specimens are vulnerable to a variety of predators, Scissortail Sergeants are large enough to defend themselves from most when they reach two years of age. Serious predators include lionfish, humans, and large barracuda.
As an adult, your sergeant will be able to fend off most potential threats. However, a wary eye is always advised when it comes to underwater life, especially around coral reefs!
Do Abudefduf sexfasciatus make good pets?
The scissortail sergeant is a great fish for beginners, especially if you’re just looking to add some color to your aquarium. They are also a popular option for large fish tanks because of their vibrant colors and active nature.
However, they require plenty of room, so make sure you have at least 200 gallons or more before adding them to your tank. Make sure you have plenty of rocks or coral reefs in which they can hide when they feel threatened, as these fish may nip at other small fish.