Acanthurus pyroferus (Mimic surgeonfish)

Acanthurus pyroferus - chocolate surgeonfish

Last updated on June 27th, 2022 at 10:11 pm

Acanthurus pyroferus, commonly known as the mimic surgeonfish or chocolate surgeonfish, is a member of the Acanthuridae family and can be found in the Indo-Pacific region. The name mimic refers to this fish’s ability to alter its appearance to match its surroundings and predators, which makes it extremely difficult to identify based on appearance alone.

Acanthurus pyroferus is not actually a type of surgeonfish, but it has earned the name chocolate surgeonfish or mimic surgeonfish due to its coloration and body shape that resembles that of Acanthurus nigricans and Acanthurus marmoratus, two species of surgeonfish native to the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. This species was first described by Peter Forsskål in 1775 as Labrus albidus based on observations of the species in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in Somalia.

The chocolate surgeonfish or mimic surgeonfish (Acanthurus pyroferus) is a species of fish that can be found in the Western Pacific Ocean and Indo-Pacific, as well as areas around Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, and Indonesia. These fish get their name from their bright coloration which mimics other species, such as poisonous lionfish and sea snakes. The chocolate surgeonfish can grow to about 25 cm long, with males being larger than females and having longer dorsal fins.

Origin and description

Acanthurus pyroferus - chocolate surgeonfish

The Acanthurus pyroferus or chocolate surgeonfish is a colorful marine fish found in tropical reefs across many oceans. The fish, which usually live in pairs of males and females, gets its name from its body color, which resembles that of another type of surgeonfish, Acanthurus nigricans. Acanthurus pyroferus is typically about 23 cm long and has 10 spines on their dorsal fins.

However, like other mimicry species, such as flounders, pufferfishes, and octopuses, they are able to change color depending on their surroundings. In some areas, they can be brownish-grey to match rocks; in others, they can be greenish with yellow stripes to match seaweed. This gives them an advantage when hiding from predators because it makes them more difficult to detect.

All About Tenualosa Ilisha (Hilsa Fish)

Species profile

Acanthurus pyroferus - chocolate surgeonfish

The mimic surgeonfish, Acanthurus pyroferus, is a member of Order Perciformes and Family Acanthuridae. The species is native to Pacific waters ranging from New Guinea to Fiji and Tonga. They are found at depths of 1 – 50 meters in clear ocean habitats with rocky bottoms and plenty of hiding places.

The fish can reach an average size of 12 inches long in its wild habitat but have been known to grow up to 18 inches when raised in captivity. There are no recognized threats to Acanthurus pyroferus population numbers and they are believed to be widespread throughout their range; however, they may be vulnerable due to collection for public aquariums by tropical aquarists.


The mimic surgeonfish can be found in pairs or small groups. They are usually seen in coral or rubble areas of shallow, protected, and exposed reefs, at depths of up to 30 feet. While their favored habitat is coral reefs, they have also been found in rocky areas and seaward ledges.

The diet of Acanthurus pyroferus consists mostly of algae and invertebrates. They feed primarily on algae but will supplement their diet with zooplankton and other organic matter when available. Their typical prey includes copepods, mysids, gastropods, amphipods, and polychaetes.

Acanthurus pyroferus size

The mimic surgeonfish can reach a maximum length of 25 centimeters (10 in).

Acanthurus pyroferus tank size

In order to keep your Acanthurus pyroferus happy and healthy, there are a few things that you need to make sure of when setting up your tank. Like other members of their genus, they’re tropical fish, meaning that they do best in water between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

A temperature drop of less than 10 degrees can be dangerous for them; don’t go above 85 or 90. They require an aquarium that has plenty of places to hide and rest, so these fish should not be kept in large tanks with more boisterous types. It’s also important to remember that Acanthurus pyroferus is a schooling species: five is generally considered to be the minimum number for keeping these fish together, but groups of 15 or 20 are preferred.

Nandopsis tetracanthus (Cuban Cichlid)

The tank should be well-filtered and have plenty of space for swimming. A tank with lots of live rock is best because it will provide hiding places for your fish. Lighting should be fairly dim, as these fish come from darker waters. They are nocturnal and hide during daylight hours if not provided with appropriate cover.

Acanthurus pyroferus tank mates

Acanthurus pyroferus is best kept in an aquarium of at least 75 gallons with plenty of hiding spaces and room to swim. The chocolate surgeonfish is a bold species that may bully or harass smaller tankmates. This aggressive species can be kept with other surgeonfishes, butterflyfishes, damselfishes, triggers, wrasses, and cardinals.

The more suitable tank mates for them would be butterflyfish, angels, cardinals, and similar mid-sized non-aggressive fish.


Acanthurus pyroferus - chocolate surgeonfish

The mimic surgeonfish is a protogynous hermaphrodite, meaning individuals start life as females and may change sex to male if there are no female counterparts present. The changing of sex is genetically determined and will occur whenever male reproductive success can be increased by doing so. They live for about 5 years in total with 3 to 4 years spent as juveniles and 1 to 2 years spent as adults.

Are Acanthurus pyroferus aggressive or peaceful?

The chocolate surgeonfish or Acanthurus pyroferus is a very peaceful fish when they are still at the juvenile stage. They can be kept with some of their own kind in an aquarium, but are best kept with just one or two other small to medium-sized surgeonfish. They get territorial and become aggressive when they get older and bigger.

Acanthurus pyroferus care

Acanthurus pyroferus - chocolate surgeonfish

Acanthurus pyroferus (The mimic surgeonfish or chocolate surgeonfish) require proper care in an aquarium environment but make excellent pets when kept correctly and are usually quite healthy if kept properly. They need ample space for swimming, as well as plenty of rocks and caves for them to hide in.

Toadfish: The Aquatic Lightweight Winner

Being extremely active fish that spend most of their time swimming, they need much more room than many other fish which tend to be stationary or are mostly only used to swim up and down within their aquarium home.

What do Acanthurus pyroferus eat?

As an Omnivore, Acanthurus pyroferus eats meaty foods that are small enough to swallow, including plankton, seaweed, and crustaceans. They will also eat many types of sponges (in fact, Acanthurus pyroferus has been observed eating live Crambidae sponges). Larger surgeonfish species have even been seen trying to eat seagrass in captivity!

This can have disastrous effects on their health, as they’re unable to digest plant matter properly. It is for these reasons that we suggest not keeping Acanthurus pyroferus with any corals or corallimorphs; there is a distinct possibility of your fish mistaking them for edible items!

Water parameters

Acanthurus pyroferus - chocolate surgeonfish

A can’t-miss for Acanthurus pyroferus is its love of ‘clean’ water. The term clean is used quite liberally here since these fish are relatively hardy and adaptable to most types of marine water, but if you want your Acanthurus pyroferus to thrive, it needs good aeration at least. While they might tolerate murky conditions better than many other species of fish, that doesn’t mean they should be kept in them!

An ideal water parameter should have a pH of 8, a water hardness of 12 DH, a temperature of around 25°C (77°F), salinity of 35ppt and dissolved oxygen of 7mg/l. In captivity, these fish should be kept in pairs or in a small group (1 male to 2-3 females) in well-established aquaria containing live rock which can be arranged so that there are crevices and caves for them to retreat into when frightened.

Acanthurus pyroferus lifespan

These fish can live up to 10 years, but their average lifespan is between 3 and 7 years. Many fish in captivity have been shown to live longer than their wild counterparts due to advances in care, nutrition, and housing conditions. Acanthurus pyroferus are a schooling species, meaning they spend most of their time in groups with other members of their species.

25 Most Popular Types Of Barb Fish

Parasites and diseases

Acanthurus pyroferus can be infected by Isopora palifera, which is an ichthyodorulosis parasite that attacks their kidneys, possibly causing kidney failure in fish hosts with weakened immune systems. Wounds created from fight wounds inflicted by other mimic surgeonfish may become infected if not treated properly; poor water quality can also exacerbate existing infections and cause new ones to arise.


These fish are eaten by large, carnivorous fish such as lionfish and eels, due to their slower speed. When chased by predators, these fish have been seen to use their tails for protection by wiggling them violently in front of oncoming pursuers; however, it has been shown that certain predators, such as moray eels may attack regardless if they see movement or not. The technique is believed to be used as a means of confusing a predator and giving time for an escape.

Do Acanthurus pyroferus make good pets?

Acanthurus pyroferus is not recommended for beginners as it requires special care due to its aggressive nature and large size. It’s best if you want to keep them in your fish tank with other tough species of fish such as tiger barbs and rainbow sharks so that they can thrive together in the same environment.