Yellow Tang: A Profile of a Fish

Yellow tang tropical fish with coral backdrop

One of the most well-liked fish in a is the yellow tang. Additionally, they are simple to locate and reasonably priced. Because of their eye-catching brilliant yellow hue, many novice aquarium enthusiasts like watching them feed on algae in sizable saltwater tanks. However, it's crucial to be aware that yellow tang can be aggressive, are susceptible to the fish illness known as "ich," and may harm coral in your reef tank.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Yellow surgeonfish, yellow Hawaiian tang

Scientific Name: Zebrasoma flavescens 

Adult Size: Up to 8 inches

Life Expectancy: 30 years in the wild, 10 in captivity


Family Acanthuridae
Origin Central and South Pacific
Minimum Tank Size 55 gallons
Diet Dried and frozen herbivore food
Breeding Group spawner
Care Easy to moderate
pH 8.1 to 8.4
Temperature 72 to 82 F

Origin and Distribution

Although the yellow tang is thought to be unique to Hawaiian waters, its range really includes Johnston Island and extends from Hawaii westward to the northern Marshall Islands to Wake, Marcus, Guam, and other Marianas Islands.

This fish may be found in the reef's interior and out to depths of at least 100 feet. While the juveniles often choose the deeper areas where are found, the larger individuals appear to remain in the shallow waters close to the reef.

The Kona (west) Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii provides the majority of the yellow tang fish gathered for aquarium usage. This pelagic fish thrives in the nutrient-rich depths of the Pacific Ocean, where easterly currents that move up the west side of the Big Island originate.

This fish can really be herded like sheep under the correct circumstances and likes the companionship of other yellow tang during its early years. It also tends to follow other yellow tang. They prefer to stay in Staghorn Coral fields at depths more than 50 feet, where they have easy access to green algae, their favorite diet, and easy protection from predators.

Colors and Markings

Before forming their unique slender, oval-shaped, brilliant yellow body, yellow tang begin life as transparent larvae. They have seven fins, including spiny dorsal and anal fins, and long snouts. They may fight or protect themselves using the white spines that are sharp and protrude from both sides of their tails.

Unexpectedly, yellow tang really undergoes color shift during the day. Yellow tang are completely brilliant yellow during the day, with the exception of their spines. They become a dark, grayish-yellow tint with a white lateral line at night (sometimes called a "nocturnal stripe").

The mucus that the yellow tang secretes from its skin is all over it. The mucus creates a barrier that keeps germs and parasites out. The yellow tang can swim more quickly since its body is less water resistive due to the mucus.


In general, this fish gets along well with other fish in an aquarium, but if additional yellow tang and surgeonfish are not brought into the tank at the same time, it may become hostile toward them. You will enjoy watching these fish's sluggish "follow the leader" movements in and through if your allows you to keep many of them.

Keep a watchful check on them, but yellow tang may be incorporated in a marine reef tank layout. They do feed on algae, which can aid in keeping the coral clean, but they could also harm some types of coral. An problem might arise from aggressive behavior.

Yellow Tang Habitat and Care

Yellow tang require a lot of room (tanks should be larger than 50 gallons) and the freedom to explore the entire tank. It is a durable, powerful fish that requires little maintenance. However, it is a fish that is susceptible to HLLE and the whitespot and types of saltwater ich illnesses (head and lateral line erosion). Because stress is so closely associated to these ailments, the ich factor makes it a less than ideal option for a newbie just starting or cycling a tank. When handling this fish, exercise caution since the white razor spur around the tail region is extremely sharp and can result in cuts or other injuries.

Yellow Tang Diet

An herbivore, this fish grazes on algae and other types of vegetation. It is best kept in an aquarium with healthy algae development, where they may support themselves by aiding in cropping the algae. It will consume (dried or roasted seaweed), other green plant material, and vitamin-rich flakes, although it may also eat dried shrimp and other meaty foods. Put the behind a rock or piece of coral, or use a lettuce clip. This imitates how it normally feeds. Its way of life in the wild consists of continuous cruising and grazing.

If you want to be sure the yellow tang maintains its beautiful color, avoid feeding it meat. You can, however, feed it vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, and lettuce.

Sexual Differences

Yellow tang males and females have similar appearances (though the female is often larger than the male). Males may be distinguished during mating because they change their color and exhibit a "shimmering" characteristic.

Breeding of the Yellow Tang

Yellow tang spawn during the time of the full moon and are known to roam alone or in loose schools in the wild. Although yellow tang are group spawners, it is quite challenging to raise these fish in captivity. Researchers have only been able to maintain a group of juvenile yellow tang alive through the larval stage since 2015. This accomplishment has the potential to significantly increase the supply of yellow tang pets.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in the yellow tang, you might also want to learn more about tang and surgeonfish. All can be added to a saltwater reef aquarium and each has its own special beauty.

Otherwise, check out all of our other .