A Guide to the Blue Tang (Paracanthurus Hepatus)

The Blue Tang (Paracanthurus Hepatus) enjoys the distinction of being one of the five most recognizable maine fishes along with the percula clown-fish, flame angel, yellow tang and the royal gramma . It remains the sole species under the genus Paracanthurus. Its body is a stunning bright blue while it has thick black markings that stretch out from its eyes to its tail.

It was also featured in the hit animated film, Finding Nemo.

Its common names include the Regal Tang, Palette Surgeon-fish and the Royal Blue Tang. Along with the yellow tang, this fish is the most popular surgeon-fish in the hobby. One of the most heavily collected fishes from the Indo-Pacific, they are very affordable. Juveniles retail for around $25 while adults can fetch up to $80 per specimen.

The blue tang, like all surgeon-fish is susceptible to lateral line erosion and marine parasites so pick your specimens with care.

The blue tang is a relatively peaceful fish towards other species outside the tang family. Which is why (besides its beauty) it enjoys such popularity in the marine aquarium hobby. They can be hostile towards other surgeon-fish, especially blue tangs so the general rule should be one blue tank per aquarium.

In they wild they are a shoaling fish. If many are kept together in a large tank they can often be seen swimming together. When housing more than one blue tang, they should always be introduced at the same time. Putting another blue tang into a tank with an established one will certainly bring about hostilities between the two.

Blue tangs reach a maximum length of 12 inches. As such they should be housed only in larger tanks upwards of 100 gallons. Because this fish is heavily collected, there will be many small specimens no bigger than an inch. At that size they will grow very very fast so don’t be fooled into putting them in a 30 gallon tank.

Large amounts of room are required by this fish so the aquarium scape should be setup up accordingly. They also require a few niches/caves to bed down in every night.

In the wild, blue tangs are primarily herbivores. They form large shoals and will graze on algae for most of the day. As herbivores, they require large amounts of algae based foods in captivity. Unlike marine angelfish, they are completely reef safe and do not bother corals, making them hugely popular fish for large marine reef aquariums.

Nori/seaweed sheets are a favorite offering among hobbyists. You can buy either branded seaweed (Julian Sprung)or you can run down to your local supermarket and get some cheap nori there. Buy unflavored, plain nori. Avoid those that are come spiced. Attach your seaweed to a nori clip and attach it to the side of the tank.

Blue tangs will normally consume anything offered in captivity despite the fact that they are mainly vegetarians in the wild. A small percentage of their diet should come from meaty foods. Formula one and formula two food mixes are a good choice as well as krill, mysis shrimp and a high quality pellet. A highly reputable food for all marine fishes are those that are produced by New Life Spectrum.

You may see lettuce being fed to surgeon-fish at pet stores. Both romaine and iceberg lettuce don’t offer much nutritionally so you want to avoid lettuce altogether.