The yellowfin surgeonfish is a beautiful fish that gradually changes colour as it matures. This colour change is so intense, that juveniles and adults were, until recently, classified as different species.

The adult yellowfin surgeon is purple-grey in colour with a yellow patch behind each eye and fins that grade from purple, through yellow to transparent. It has small caudal spines.

The juvenile has proportionately longer dorsal and anal fins, as well as vivid blue scribbled stripes across its flanks and fins.

The yellowfin surgeon is a scavenger that sifts through sand and gravel in the sandy outer areas of reefs. It feeds on food and waste left behind by other fish species.

This fish does not choose a mate. Instead, on full moon nights during warm seasons the males will take on different colouration and attract females to large spawning groups.

The yellowfin surgeon is common throughout the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific, extending along the east African coast to South Africa. It generally prefers sheltered bays and lagoons to open ocean.

Its IUCN status Least Concern, and its population is regarded as stable.


Species Facts

  • Also known as Cuvier’s surgeonfish, purple surgeon, yellow-masked surgeon and ring-tailed surgeonfish.
  • Grows to 70cm .
  • Can live up to 34 years.