Pencil Surgeonfish, Acanthurus dussumieri Valenciennes 1835

Other Names: Dussumieri Tang, Dussumier's Surgeonfish, Eyestripe Surgeonfish, Eyestriped surgeonfish, Hawaiian Surgeonfish, Ornate Surgeonfish, Pencilled Surgeon, Pencilled Surgeonfish, Whitespine Surgeon

A Pencil Surgeonfish, Acanthurus dussumieri, at North West Solitary Island, New South Wales. Source: Ian V. Shaw / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution


A blue to pale brown surgeonfish with a yellow to orange band through the eye and across the top of the head, broad wavy lines on the head, and a white erectile spine surrounded by a black margin on the tail base. Pencil Surgeonfish usually occur in schools along reef walls and on deeper seaward reef slopes.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2016, Acanthurus dussumieri in Fishes of Australia, accessed 27 Sep 2022,

Pencil Surgeonfish, Acanthurus dussumieri Valenciennes 1835

More Info


Widespread in Australia from Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia) and Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, to Shoal Bay (Northern Territory) and from the northern Great Barrier Reef (Queensland) and reefs in the Coral Sea, to about Sydney, with juveniles south to at least Narooma (New South Wales) in 1-130 m. Also at Lord Howe and Norfolk islands in the Tasman Sea, and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean.  Elsewhere, the species is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific from the Western Indian Ocean eastwards to the Hawaiian Islands and the Line Islands, north to southern Japan, south to New Caledonia.  A schooling species, usually found on deep seaward reef slopes and outer reef walls in depths below 10 m. Juveniles may occur on algal-covered rocky reefs.


Dorsal fin IX, 25-27; Anal fin III, 24-26; Gill rakers (first arch) 22-26.


To 54 cm TL


Overall pale brown with broad wavy blue lines on head and body, and an irregular yellow to orange band across the top of the head through each eye to the top of the gill cover. Each side of tail base with a single sharp forward-pointing erectile white spine surrounded by a black margin. The dorsal and anal fins are mostly yellow, and outlined above and below with a blue margin; caudal fin blue with large dark spots, and a yellow basal band.


Grazer/detrivore - grazes on fine green and blue-green algae, diatoms, and detritus.


The sexes are separate and fertilization is external. Pencil Surgeonfish spawn in pairs above the reef, and the eggs and larvae are pelagic.


Although of no interest to commercial fisheries in Australia, the species is heavily fished in parts of its range, and is also traded in the aquarium industry.
Pencil Surgeonfish are taken by recreational anglers in Queensland, with a catch limit of five per species and a minimum size limit of 25 cm (Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, accessed 8 August 2016).

Similar Species

Distinguished from other similar surgeonfishes by the yellow band through the eyes and the wavy blue lines on the head and body.

Species Citation

Acanthurus dussumieri Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1835, Histoire naturelle des poissons 10: 201. Type locality: Mauritius [as Îsle-de-France]


Bray, D.J. 2016


Australian Faunal Directory

Pencil Surgeonfish, Acanthurus dussumieri Valenciennes 1835


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine fishes of tropical Australia and south-east Asia. Western Australian Museum, Perth. 292 pp.  

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.  

Allen, G.R. & Steene, R.C. 1988. Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, 6798, Australia. 197 pp.  

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers.  Perth : Western Australian Museum, pp. 1–201 70 pls.  

Choat, J.H., McIlwain, J., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B. 2012. Acanthurus dussumieri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T177981A1510126. Downloaded on 07 August 2016.  

Choat, J.H., Robbins, W.D. and Clements, K.D. 2004. The trophic status of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. Marine Biology 145: 445-454.  

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170.  

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. & P.J. Kailola. 1984. Trawled fishes of southern Indonesia and northwestern Australia. Australian Development Assistance Bureau, Australia, Directorate General of Fishes, Indonesia, and German Agency for Technical Cooperation, Federal Republic of Germany. 407 pp.  

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2):.709-762.  

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia.  Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. figs.  

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. New Holland Publishers, Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia. I-xvii + 1-434.  

Kuiter, R.H. & H. Debelius. 2001. Surgeonfishes, rabbitfishes and their relatives. A comprehensive guide to Acanthuroidei. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK: 1-208.  

Randall, J.E. 2001. Acanthuridae. Surgeonfishes (tangs, unicornfishes). pp. 3653-3683. In K.E. Carpenter & V. Niem (eds) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vol. 6. Bony fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles. FAO, Rome.  

Randall, J.E. 2001. Surgeonfishes of Hawai'i and the world. Mutual Publishing and Bishop Museum Press, Hawai'i. 123 pp.  

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.  

Randall, J.E., G.R. Allen & R.C. Steene. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 506 pp.  

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press,  557 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37437008

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-130 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:54 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map