A Blue Tang and a Yellow Tang fish swimming together.

A Deeper Look at Tang Fish

One of the best parts about having a larger saltwater aquarium is being able to have larger fish. In a smaller aquarium, you are limited to the amount of fish you get and the size of the fish you add. A large aquarium will allow you to have a variety of different fish of different sizes. This includes beautiful Tang fishes. There are many different kinds of Tangs, but the ones I will mainly discuss include the Yellow Tang, Blue Tang, Kole Tang, and the Powder Blue Tang. There are also a few variants within these subspecies. If you have ever wondered about getting a Tang for your reef tank or getting an additional Tang, now is your chance to learn.


Yellow Tang Fish

The Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) may be one of the most popular Tang to reef hobbyists. It is completely yellow as its name would suggest. It has large a fan-like dorsal and anal fin. This gives it a desirable flashy appearance.

These fish come from the coral reefs in Hawaii, but they are also being captive-bred. The captive-bred specimens are better adapted to aquarium life.

A Yellow Tang and a Powder Blue Tang Fish

Yellow Tangs are a type of Zebrasoma Tang. There are a few different types of Zebrasoma Tangs, but they all share a similar shape. The color is where they differ. There are Purple Tangs, Gemmatum Tangs, Scopas Tangs, and Sailfin Tang. Their size varies; the Scopas Tang can reach one-foot and the Sailfin Tang can reach one-foot and three inches, while Yellow Tangs only grow to eight inches. Note that it can be difficult to get these Tangs to live peaceful together because they are so similar in shape. It is best to stick to just one Zebrasoma Tang. The Yellow Tang would be a great choice.

Yellow Tangs will eat frozen food and dry food, but they should have some sort of seaweed or algae. The algae in your tank may not suffice, so feed dry seaweed as well.

You will need at least a 100-gallon tank. Be sure to have plenty of rock, while also allowing for ample open swimming space. Yellow Tangs are completely reef safe. They get along with most other fish as well.


Blue Tang

People in the hobby refer to this fish as the Blue Tang or Regal Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), but others may know it as the iconic character, Dory, from Finding Nemo (2003). This has attracted many people to the hobby. It is not for newer hobbyists though.

Blue Tangs need a lot of room to swim, as they are very active fish. They require at least a six-foot 180-gallon tank. Be sure to have enough rock as well.

The Blue Tang comes from reefs all across the Indo-Pacific. Captive-bed specimens are available at AlgaeBarn. Like any other captive-bred fish, they are much more hardy than wild-caught ones. They have identical colors as well.

These are one of the most beautiful fish of all the Tang Fishes. They have an unmistakable bright blue body and a unique black marking that runs from the eyes to the tail fin. It also has a bright yellow tail as well. They grow to a maximum length of one foot.

The Blue Tang is much more susceptible to diseases than other tangs, so make sure it is fed a variety of high-quality foods, including seaweed. The water in the tank should be as pristine as possible too.


Kole Tang

The Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus)  is a smaller sized Tang, growing no larger than seven inches. This means they can be put in aquariums as small as 70-gallons.

Kole Tangs have a brown-tan body with a subtle gray maze pattern. They also have a bright yellow circular spot around their eyes.

They are great algae eaters, but this means they will need to be fed seaweed often as well. If you haven’t caught the pattern yet, Tangs, in general, need to be fed seaweed or some other form of algae. They can be fed meaty food such as Brine shrimp and Mysis shrimp as well.

Kole Tangs are a type of Tang called Ctenochaetus Tangs. There a few variants of this Tang, but like any other fish, it is best to stick to one per tank. Kole Tangs are a semi-aggressive fish. They are generally peaceful towards other fish but may pick some newer fish. It may be particularly aggressive to certain types of fish, but it depends on the individual fish. Making sure the fish is well fed is one way to try to reduce aggression. If you plan to have other Tangs with it or other semi-aggressive fish, add them at the same time.


Powder Blue Tang

The Powder Blue Tang (Acanthurus leucosternon) is own of the more aggressive Tangs. It will be very aggressive towards other Tangs, especially ones of its own kind. If you plan to have other Tangs with it, make sure you add them at the same time. It requires a 125-gallon tank or larger. Like the other Tangs, it needs both sufficient of rock and open swimming space.

It has a light blue body with many other shades of blue accented around it. It has a yellow dorsal fin with bright blue around the edges. The area around its eyes and mouth is black and there are some spots of white below that.

The Powder Blue Tang is very elegant in appearance, but its personality can be rather feisty.


Tang Fish Diseases

Tang Fishes are known for getting diseases such as ich and marine velvet. There are many other diseases a Tang can get, but ich and marine velvet are the most common. If you add an infected Ich is a horrible fish disease!Tang to your aquarium, the whole aquarium may get sick and it could result in most, if not all your fish dying. There are a few ways you can avoid this.

The first way is to make sure that you are buying from a trustworthy source. If you have gotten a diseased fish from a fish store multiple times, it may not be that trustworthy.

Also, buy captive bred Tang or any fish in general whenever possible. This will ensure that the fish is more adapted to aquarium life, which means less stress on the fish and less chance of parasites or diseases.

The biggest thing you can do is quarantine your fish. You can read in-depth articles just on the quarantine process and dipping method on the AlgaeBarn blog. For now, I will give you a brief rundown. A quarantine tank is a separate aquarium from your main tank that is not connected in any way. It is a simple tank set up that includes some form of filtration, a light, and a heater. You can add anything you want to your quarantine as long as it still functions as a quarantine tank. Before you add a new fish to your saltwater aquarium you need to put it into this quarantine tank. Here it can live for a few weeks, isolated from your main tank. During this time you can dose copper medication and watch for parasites or strange behavior. After about two weeks of the fish living in the quarantine, you can then add it to your main tank. That’s if it does not have a disease. If it has a disease it will need to remain in the quarantine tank until it is completely free of disease. You can implement freshwater dipping to help kill off the disease.

Even if you quarantine your Tang before it enters your tank, it can still develop diseases if it is not properly cared for. Long term stress can cause diseases to develop. Avoid this by ensuring there is minimal aggression and the water quality is the best it can be. Malnutrition can also lead to disease. Tangs must have a balanced diet that largely consists of algae or seaweed. Do not assume your Tang does not need seaweed just because there is algae in your tank. It’s not too hard to do and it is well worth the health of your Tang.

Of course, there are many other Tang Fishes, but now you have a better insight on some of the more popular ones and how to care for them.

324 thoughts on “A Deeper Look at Tang Fish”

    1. I have a scopes and a salfin Do they get aggressive with eachother and can you have 2 of the same tangs? Like to salefins etc? Or best to only keep one of each diff types?

  1. It’s good to know the size tank that you SHOULD have for putting different types of tangs in. Looks like I may have to wait for a bigger tank 🤭🤭

    1. Bo Heath Kinsland

      Very informative. I love tangs and i have several. They are the most beautiful fish and i live mine. Thanms for the info.

  2. I currently have a Yellow Tang, Purple Tang and Whitetail Bristletooth Tang in QT. About another 1 week or so and they are ready for my display thank! Love tangs!

  3. I don’t quarantine fish – too stressful. Buy from a captive only system, dip and get them into a great environment.
    My tank is too small for the Tangs — mini Tang = Molly or Molly Miller Blenny. Hey Algae Barn! Check out sustainable Aquatics!

  4. Casey Whittington

    Super cool post on Tangs, which just SO happen to be my favorite saltwater fish of all, mainly the Yellow tang. Often people will get a Hippo Tang just from the Dory (Look) and be clueless on them.

  5. I think one of the biggest issues with tangs is tank size. No easier way to stress a fish out that like to swim than putting them in a smaller aquarium.

  6. I love my powder blue tang, but it is a brute. I have to
    Put up a mirror on one side of my tank for a week or two when introducing new fish to keep him occupied.

  7. Alejandro Rodriguez

    Tangs are one of the most beautiful saltwater fish. They have been recently be featured by a popular Fish Youtuber.

  8. samuelwalker1996

    I love tangs but they are very active and need a lot of room, so I probably won’t have one. Awesome article though.

  9. Good read, thank you
    I’ve held off on Tangs mostly due to reputation and always seeing them look so weak
    Will have to study this when I get a bigger tank

  10. Was super excited to see this article, as tangs are my favorite. Might I suggest reaching out to Elliott at Premium Aquatics; the man is a tang whisperer with some incredible insight for both QT and husbandry. =)

  11. Just added a yellow to my tank yesterday. Trying to figure out the best way to supplement algae. Not sure if a clip, or one of the bracket things is better.

  12. Im afraid to get a Tang when I finally get a tank again and try salt because my husband will call it Dory no matter what color and say phrases from the movie, lol.

  13. I’ve actually never seen one of these fish in real life believe it or not. Probably because they need such a big tank. Awesome read!! Happy 2020 everyone!!!

  14. Love the section on diseases. I hope to have a shoal of Yellow Tanks when my large tank is set up.
    Thank you!

  15. I was lucky enough to catch (see what I did there) an amazing deal. A local seafood restaurant was closing its doors and had a listing on Craigslist for “saltwater tanks and equipment for sale.” When I got there I was amazed to see a 160 tank with 8 yes 8 yellow tangs, a sailfin tang, and a clown that is way past his life expectancy. Their water quality was dismal at best. We had just purchased our LFS’s main display tank a few months prior (200 gallons). I doctored their water at the restaurant as I couldn’t take them for a couple more hours, they all perked right up!! I’m happy to report that all the fish from the restaurant and my orange spotted rabbit, and 13 chromis are very happy together. The fish from the restaurant tank were victims of a bad voltage leak at the restaurant. The sailfin no longer has his sail, but everyone is healthy and happy! GO TANGS!!!!

  16. I haven’t gotten the chance to find my right tang due to tank sizing but I’ve always been super interested in the mimic tangs and the yellow/ blue eyed kole tangs! Personally they seem to have the most personality I’ve ever seen!

  17. Austin Savage

    Yellow tang is the first fish I fell in love with. One of the only reasons I started salt water.

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