How to Take Care of a Yellow Tang: Tank Size, Diet and More
When it comes to popularity, the marine hobby has roughly five fish that are at the top of the list. They are as follows:
- percula clownfish (both ocellaris and percula)
- yellow tang
- blue tang
- flame angelfish
- royal gramma
The yellow tang shares the title of "most popular surgeonfish" with the blue tang. Its image sees heavy use in advertisements within the marine trade. If I had to rank the five fish in order of popularity, I'd rank the yellow tang second, behind the percula clown.
A Tang Shoal off the Coast of Kona, Hawaii
Facts About the Yellow Tang
- Scientific Name: Zebrasoma Flavescens
- Origin: Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Pacific Ocean
- Difficulty of Care: Medium
- Minimum Size Tank: 100 gallons
- Temperature: 72–82°F
- Reef Safe: Yes
- Maximum Size: 8 Inches
- Diet: Herbivore
This tang possesses only a single color, but that color is enough to make it one of the most stunning tangs in the market today. It is fully covered from head to tail with a pastel-like bright yellow. It has no other markings other than a small white blade on its tail which is only used during fighting.
This fish is endemic to Hawaii and its surrounding islands, where they form huge shoals. They are a common fish and are usually witnessed by divers in the area with their schooling behavior.
While they can be hardy once past acclimation, they, like most surgeonfish, are susceptible to marine ich and lateral line erosion. This species is heavily collected for the trade. Since they are so common, they do not cost as much as some other tangs in the market like the sohal or the achilles.
Juveniles usually go for as little as $30, while adults range between $60 to $80 per specimen.
For a large fish, the yellow tang is quite peaceful with other species, making them ideal candidates for a wide range of tank setups. As usual, any hostility this fish may have is reserved for other members of the surgeonfish clan, especially when dealing with others of its own kind. However, a large enough aquarium can house multiple yellow tangs as long as there is enough breathing space for them all.
Their shoaling behavior in the wild can be witnessed in captivity as well. They like to play "follow the leader" where they all follow a designated fish to either ends of the tank.
If you're planning on keeping more than one, always make sure you introduce them at the same time. Putting one in with a more established member will always bring about aggression between the two.
A Yellow Tang in a Tank That Is Way Too Small (24 gallons)
Yellow tangs reach lengths of up to 8 inches, so they are a pretty big fish. They need a 100 gallon tank if you plan on keeping them until adulthood, but something like a 150 gallon or larger would be better.
As they are heavily collected, there will be times when tiny specimens as small as 2 inches are available. Resist the temptation to buy these juveniles if you have a tank smaller than the minimum requirement stated above. They will outgrow something like a 50 gallon with ease.
These fish aren't shy by any means, in fact they are an "open" swimming species that require a lot of swimming space. Every night they will find a spot to bed down in, so make sure there is enough live rock to provide such shelters.
This is a schooling fish, and in the wild they form large shoals where they cruise the reef grazing on algae along the way. This is great news for those with corals, that they are completely reef safe. Despite the fact that they're primarily herbivores in the wild, they are open to just about anything offered once acclimated. Krill, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, pellets—they take them all.
Algae-Based Foods: Nori and Mixes
Seeing as how algae makes up a large part of their diets in the wild, they should be getting large amounts of algae-based foods in our tanks as well. Nori is a good form of algae to feed tangs.
Price will vary depending on the brand you choose. Some people may find Julian Sprungs Sea Veggies cost a little too much, even though it is good quality stuff. They come in flake form, too, making feedings very convenient.
Thankfully, there are many other brands that produce nori primarily for human consumption. Some are cheap, though the really high quality sheets can be very expensive. You will need a clip of some sort to secure the nori sheet. You can buy a commercial type or fashion one up yourself. Some people fold the sheets before clipping while others just clip it as is. Use the suction cup to attach it to your aquarium and you're done. You can 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 a flake food, pellet or frozen cube.
The best flake food for the yellow tang would be Sea Veggie mixed flakes followed by Formula Two flakes. If you're looking for a great all-around mix with balanced ingredients, then you can't go wrong with New Life Spectrum pellets.
Never feed your tangs lettuce. I see this happening mainly in pet stores, where they are probably trying to save a buck or two. Lettuce doesn't have a place in this hobby since nutritionally it is rubbish.
Courtship in Captivity
The yellow tang is a pelagic spawner. The male and the female will release sperm and eggs into the water column after a courting ritual, much like angelfish.
They have not been bred in captivity to-date, and it's looking like a very difficult endeavor, even for large-scale breeding facilities.