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Blue Tang Care Guide and Requirements

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PirateFX is fascinated by the beauty of the blue tang and enjoys sharing information about this beautiful fish.

Blue tang diet and care.

Blue tang diet and care.

Overview of a Blue Tang

  • Scientific name: Paracanthurus Hepatus
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Minimum tank size: 100 gallons
  • Temperature: 72 - 82°F
  • Reef safe: Yes
  • Maximum size: 12 Inches
  • Diet: Mainly herbivorous in the wild

The blue tang is the poster child for the surgeonfish family, along with the yellow tang, of course. These two are one of five very popular fish in the saltwater aquarium hobby. The other three are the flame angel, the royal gramma, and the most popular one, the ocellaris clownfish.

It is the sole member of the genus Paracanthurus. Brilliantly colored, its entire body is a rich royal blue while black markings stretching from its eyes to its tail. Its pectoral and caudal fins are both yellow.

School of blue tang.

School of blue tang.

  • Along with the percula clownfish, it gained recognition as one of the stars of the hit animated film Finding Nemo (as Dory).
  • They have a number of common names, including the blue hippo tang, regal tang, royal blue tang, and the palette surgeonfish.
  • There is also a rarely collected variant of the blue tang. These fish have yellow chests and bellies. These colors are only apparent in larger adults, as it is very faint on juveniles.
  • Since these fish are heavily collected from all throughout the Indo-Pacific, they are very affordable. Expect to pay about $25 for smaller specimens. The adults are usually priced from $70 to $80 per fish.
  • All tangs tend to be susceptible to marine parasites (ich) and lateral line erosion. Choose your specimens with care.


  • These fish are not known to be overly aggressive—this makes them a great choice for community tanks. They normally get along with a wide variety of fish, except for other members of the surgeonfish family.
  • They can be very hostile towards other blue tangs, so expect some fighting to take place. As shoaling fish in the wild, such behavior can be seen in large aquariums. Should you decide to have multiple, then you need a large enough tank for them all. Always introduce multiple blue tangs at the same time. This limits aggression, as none of them have established territories yet, and most fights stem from territorial issues.

Tank Size

  • They reach up to 12 inches in the wild, and they are among the larger fishes available for sale on the market. Because of this, nothing smaller than a 100-gallon tank should be used to keep the blue tang. Bigger aquariums are always better, so a 200-gallon tank would be ideal.
  • Ensure that they are given enough swimming space, as they're "open" swimmers. The tank scape should reflect this.
  • Due to the blue tang being heavily collected from the wild, you are bound to come across very small 1-inch (yes, an inch) specimens. But keep in mind that these juveniles quickly outgrow smaller tanks within months.

Blue Tang Diet

The blue tang is a schooling fish. They form large schools in the wild as they scan the reef for algae to graze, so these fishes are completely reef-safe. Once acclimated, they eat a variety of foods other than algae. Krill, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp- they're not picky. Since they are grazers, blue tangs eat a lot.


Ensure that a large part of their diet is algae-based since they eat so much of it in the wild.

  • Nori is a good form of algae to feed. The price will vary, depending on the brand you choose. Some people may find Julian Sprung's Sea Veggies to cost too much. They produce good algae sheets, though. They're also available as flakes, which is very convenient since there's very little work involved during feeding. Thankfully there are many other brands that produce nori primarily for human consumption. Prices vary here as well.
  • You will need a clip of some sort to secure the nori sheet. You can buy a commercial type or fashion one up yourself. The sheets are sometimes rolled up and cut beforehand; most, however, feed it as is. Once the nori is secured, stick the clip to the side of the tank, sit back, and enjoy the show.
  • Formula Two is a good-quality, algae-based mix for herbivores. It has an extra amount of algae in it, along with a good mix of seafood, trace minerals, vitamins, and more. It is available as flake food, pellet, or frozen cubes.

Flake Food

  • The best flake food for yellow tang would be Sea Veggie mixed flakes, followed by Formula Two flakes.
  • If you're looking for a great all-rounder with balanced ingredients, then you can't go wrong with New Life Spectrum pellets.
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Read More From Pethelpful

No Lettuce

  • Never feed your tangs lettuce! I see this happening mainly in pet stores, probably because they're trying to save a buck or two. Nutritionally, lettuce offers very little and should not have a place in this fish's diet.

Any questions or comments? Feel free to drop me a line below!

© 2009 PirateFX


norman on February 06, 2019:

Info is very helpful and informative. Very good information.

PineApple_QUEEN on April 22, 2018:

I think we’re about to get a blue tang and I’m excited

Dory nj on December 09, 2016:

Just got a blue tang dory Fish seemed to adjust good with my 2 clown Fish yellow tang and scorpion Fish woke and and saw that the dory Fish did not make it I have a 40 gal tank all reading perfect any ideas

kinsadie kitten lover on June 18, 2016:

that might help me :)

Janet on June 12, 2016:

Can you keep a blue tang as a pet???

Bobby on June 01, 2016:

Sounds like a lot of people commenting aren't ready for blue tangs. Its really not a good beginner fish and quarantine is a must because even if your current fish aren't showing signs of ich it can still be in your aquarium. Ive been in the hobby for over 15 years and I've never had ich or any other diseases and my yellow tang is over 15 years old he was 3rd fish i got.

lkes on March 28, 2016:

I got a blue Tang and a Clown fish and they never got along. My Tang fish would always fight the clown fish and never leave him alone. One day we found the clown fish dead. I like to believe I wasn't the one who killed him, but is it possible the the Tang fish killed him? Also, i was told by a professional tropical fish place to feed him lettuce. I noticed there were many types of pellets to purchase. Which exact ones would you purchase? Also, after the clown fish died, the tang only sits at the bottom of the tank and never swims around. I'm afraid he isn't eating. Any Advise?

The rocker on February 20, 2016:

I want a blue tang for a fish tank im bulding they ate cool can I mix them with lion fish

holstergun on December 20, 2013:

My Blue Tang is not so blue anymore. Yesterday she was very blue and today she is almost yellow. Is this a sign that the fish is ill? What do I do?

lynn on September 01, 2013:

my boyfriend has a blue tang he introduced to tank 2 days ago, it wont eat or come out of rocks, should we be concerned, there is a yellow tang introduced at same time that is doing fine

Mike on January 04, 2013:

Are there known problems with blue tangs wedging themselves into tight spots and getting stuck?

I just introduced a new small blue tang to my tank. Within two days it wedged itself into a piece of live rock and got stuck. I let it sit for about an hour and a half seeing if it could work its way out but to no avail. Then I tried gently moving the rock to confirm it was definitely stuck. I let it sit a little bit longer then decided to move the rock slowly to a point where I could grab the opposite part of the live rock and broke it off pulling away from the fish. The fish swam free then darted around the tank and then Unfortunately immediately died. I'm pretty sure i did not touch the fish....heart attack? Before I get another fish do I remove all my old live rock?


Mark on May 12, 2012:

Hello I would just like to say @ Nessa I also have several Tangs Imo a good diet such as garlic soaked Nori will build its immune this works for me never had a breakout touch wood!! Ich is a primary infection which stress can bring on at any time, qt the fish and it is possible you could be contributing to stress. Good healthy diet try keep stress levels down and there is every chance your fish will be fine this isn't an argument against quarantine, I use qt as last resort a happy fish is a healthy fish.

Shaddie from Washington state on April 22, 2012:

Nice info.

james on March 09, 2012:

how much is a blue tang?I live here in the philippines.How big thei'r acguarium is?

Janis on February 26, 2012:

I've had a Blue Hippo for about a year. Occasionally it gets these little bumps all over eyes and all. I got a cleaner shrimp to see if it could help but they remain. Any ideas?

PirateFX (author) on December 26, 2011:

Ashley - Theres a good chance its some form of parasite. Probably Ich.

Ashley on December 22, 2011:

My blue tang has always been healthy and her skin has always been flawless. However, just recently she has tiny little bumps all over her body. Do u know what this could be?

bill on December 11, 2011:

anyone successfully mixed the blue tang with a powder blue tang any comments--thanks

PirateFX (author) on October 17, 2011:

@Ratchman5000 - Now that is interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

ratchman5000 on October 16, 2011:

Good Hub. Very Informative. I've kept saltwater fish and coral for around ten years now. For the majority of aquarists that believe you shouldn't feed tangs regular run of the mill lettuce, here's a good story. I took my family to the National Aquarium in Baltimor MD a few months back which turned out to be very amazing and informative. When we got to the spiral walkway with a wide array of community fish, we noticed a diver in the massive tank that surrounded us. One guess what he was feeding the tangs,...Yup, Lettuce. A whole head of it! Kinda makes you wonder. I mean, this is no mom n' pop pet store here folks, we're talkin about the National Aquarium. An establishment that keeps a team top of marine biologists employed year round. Who knows though, maybe their funding got cut?

PirateFX (author) on September 28, 2011:

@Noval - Hmm there really isn't any particular coral that they like. Just live rock would be fine for them to sleep in once the lights go out.

@Nessa - It does sound like something is irritating its skin. Do you see any spots on it? If it is indeed parasites then the rest are at risk as well. For a sure way of getting rid of them, you will need to quarantine all of them and treat with copper for a month. Leave the main display tank devoid of any fish for a month as well. This will ensure the parasites die out.

Nessa on September 28, 2011:

Hi! I bought my blue tang less than a week ago and today I realized it likes to "scratch" or "hit" itself in the sand and decorations I have in my tank. I read your article and saw they're susceptible to parasites, is that one of the signs that it might have parasites? If so what can I do? I also have a sailfin tang, a clown fish, spotted sweetlips and a chocolate chip starfish does this mean they all might have it too?

noval on September 27, 2011:

I don't want fake stuff in my tank .I want it to be as close to natural habitat as possible. No fake plants or pipe. Was wondering if the like a certain coral like clowns with anenamies

PirateFX (author) on September 27, 2011:

@Noval - I'm not sure i understand the question. I don't know what you mean by "real". However, just about anything from pipes to rock will do for shelter.

noval on September 26, 2011:

What is something I can use that's real for my blue tang to hide in around?

PirateFX (author) on September 25, 2011:

Hi, what would you like to know?

lol i aint telling u on September 23, 2011:

my project is on blue tangs

lol i aint telling u on September 23, 2011:

man i cant type.well i am in 8th grade and have a project coming up can u help me

lol i aint telling u on September 23, 2011:

i need help on a project on hame a message fore me

PirateFX (author) on April 01, 2011:

@Paul - in hindsight, what i said was incorrect, you mentioned its black markings were turning yellow? I don't know what could cause that to be honest.

PirateFX (author) on March 31, 2011:

@Paul - Hold on to that fish. Its a yellow belly Regal tang, an uncommon variant.

paul on March 30, 2011:

why does my blue tangs black markings go yellow 'the tang is about 5inch in size

annie on February 17, 2011:

i really want one!! i have a science project and i am doingabout the coral reef and i am going to write about the Regal Tang. :D

PirateFX (author) on January 13, 2011:

@Dori - Well 3 months is too long, if you can get it running for about a month or so, you should be good to go. This is to ensure the aquarium has the bacteria population required to break down fish waste. Without it, your ammonia/nitrite levels will spike up to dangerous levels. And yes, Blue tangs are saltwater creatures.

Dori on January 13, 2011:

Hi my friend was going to buy me a fish but try said they are hard to take care of and that before u get one u have to have a running tank for 3 months is that true???? Also do they live in salt water?? Thank you

PirateFX (author) on January 09, 2011:

@Martin - I would keep trying. Small specimens like yours are usually easier to get on prepared foods, it just takes time. How long have you had it?

martin on January 09, 2011:

i have a 55 gal. i have a blu tang yellow tang clown fish, and a dog face ..all of them get along well but my blue tang wont eat anything but blood warms i leave sea weed on a clip or throw som formula 2 cubes and nothing. no mysis no brine shrims just blood warms. he is about 2 inches. what should i do.

Kevlin on November 01, 2010:

Very Nice Article

I like its

PirateFX (author) on October 09, 2010:

@Maddy Glad to be of some help.

maddy on October 08, 2010:

thanks for the info

sharpie on September 04, 2010:

Stu, are you insane?

If you even bothered to read pirates posting you would have seen that you should never keep more then one blue tang to a tank.

stu on August 03, 2010:

re beat up looking blue tangs 3 blue tangs in a hundred gallon tank. The other fish are a tomato clown, 3 green blue chromis, gobie, one yellow tang and one flame angel. Live rock and fish only tank

PirateFX (author) on July 11, 2010:

How many blue tangs? How big is the tank? Any harassment from other fish? How long have you had them?

Stu on July 11, 2010:

Blue tangs have a beat up look. I don't see ich or HLLE I feed them a combo of plankan and Nori. Any suggestions?

PirateFX (author) on June 10, 2010:

@Entourage - Thanks for the kind words. Will definitely check out your hub.

Stuart from Santa Barbara, CA on June 10, 2010:

Great hub, Very informative. This is one of the most beautiful fish in my opinion. Its too bad that they are hard to come by in my area. Pet stores dont carry them that often around my area. I just finished a hub on Red Tiger Oscars incase you share an interest in freshwater cichlids too.

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on February 25, 2010:

So glad to be your fan! Love your videos! Great Hub!

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