The black shoulder tang is an Indo-Pacific species that inhabits lagoons and sandy areas on seaward reefs. Unlike many members of the genus, this tang is more often found over sandy bottoms at depths up to 30 meters. The adult black shoulder tang may grow to a full 40 cm (almost 16 inches), and the horizontal band behind the upper gill opening is only present on adults. The aquarist will notice that the black shoulder tang will rapidly change color based on environmental stimuli.
In captivity, the black shoulder tang needs a large aquarium with plenty of swimming room. The filtration should be superb, and this fish will appreciate brisk water movement. While juveniles of this species will shoal in the wild, it is recommended that this fish be kept singly in the aquarium.