Everything You Need To Know About The Yellow Tang

When it comes to saltwater aquariums, Yellow Tangs are by far one of the most popular fish to grace the hobby. They are brightly colored, beautiful, and extremely active fish. It is clear to see why they are so popular - not only are they attractive fish but they have a peaceful and somewhat shy personality too.

Yellow tangs are certainly a great fish to have in your saltwater aquarium, however, they aren't well-suited to all aquarium setups. Due to their active nature, they require large and open spaces to swim freely and happily.

Yellow tang guide

Yellow Tang Requirements and General Information

  • These fish have several names: Yellow Tang, Yellow Hawaiian Tang, and Yellow Surgeonfish.
  • Their scientific name is Zebrasoma Flavescens.
  • They will grow to a maximum of 8 inches (20 cm).
  • They will need to be kept in a 100 Gallon (454 liters)
  • Their temperament is peaceful and they are active swimmers.
  • Yellow Tangs, you might have guessed are bright yellow in color.
  • They are very easy to care for and are reef safe, suitable for beginners and experienced hobbyists.
  • Yellow Tangs will usually live between 5 to 20 years depending on the quality of care you provide.

Natural Habitat

Yellow tangs originate from the tropical pacific waters of Hawaii, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean. Typically, when in the wild you will see these tangs darting around reefs, grazing off the algae on rocks and coral all day. They feed primarily off algae, which is why they are fantastic at keeping your aquarium clean and top algae eaters.

Behavior and Personality

These fish have tremendous personalities and are incredibly active swimmers all through the day. They are calm and peaceful but somewhat timid, which is good but not if there are overly aggressive fish in your tank with them. It will take them a bit of time to settle in and feel comfortable, which is when their budding personalities begin to shine through.

They are not known for being aggressive towards other fish species, but they can be towards their own. Their bodies are oval-shaped with a large dorsal fin, which they will use to move rocks around. Although very peaceful fish, they do have a defense mechanism against aggressors, a sharp white spear that they will use to defend their territory or establish a new territory.

Food & Diet

Yellow tangs are omnivores, so most of their food comes in the form of grazing algae on aquarium rocks and other surfaces. They will spend hours upon hours cleaning your rocks and freeing your tank of unwanted algae. Algae appearing in your tank at one point or another is certainly an inevitability, and it can be a tiring process attempting to remove or control algae outbreaks.

The Yellow Tangs are brilliant at what they do and are certainly one of the best and most effective saltwater algae-eating fish out there. If you do not have enough alga residing in your tank to provide them with a substantial diet, clip some seaweed in the tank as well as other greens. Additionally, they will accept pellets, however, you need to be providing them with algae too for nutritional purposes as they will be at their healthiest with plenty of algae to consume.

Tank Setup

Tank setup is probably the most important aspect of fishkeeping. If you do not set up your fish tank correctly, you cannot expect the inhabitants to live healthily and happily. 100 Gallons (454 Liters) is the minimum tank size for the Yellow tang. With these tangs, the bigger the tank, the better. They are active swimmers and need large spaces to do so, they also do enjoy residing underneath cover at nighttime to sleep comfortably and safely.

Yellow tang guide

These fish are incredibly hardy and will thrive in tanks that are between 72 to 78°F (22-25°C), have a pH level of 8.1 to 8.4, and a specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.026. They will need a good amount of water flow and can be added to any reef tank as long as it is big enough.

Yellow Tang Tank Mates

Yellow tangs are model citizens, getting along well with other fish species, which makes them a great addition to most tanks. You shouldn't really have two of the same tang species residing in the same tank. However, they are schooling fish, so if you really do want to keep more than 1 you should add 3 to spread out the aggressiveness and hopefully level it out - keep a close eye on them to see if they are playing nicely with one another.

These tangs will thrive living with pretty much any other fish species, corals and invertebrates make for excellent tank mates too. To maintain the peace and keep Yellow tangs happy, you will want to keep them away from large and aggressive fish such as Lionfish, Groupers, and Sharks.


Much the same for all fish, Yellow tangs are susceptible to many different diseases. When you purchase your Yellow tang, you should look for a plump, healthy, bright, and well-nourished tang.

The fins and body should be in good condition, and their breathing should be visibly steady whilst they are swimming. Ich and marine velvet are some classic diseases these tangs have been known to pick up, so look out for them.

It is always good to quarantine any saltwater fish, or any aquarium fish for that matter before you add them to your tank. This will help reduce the chance of infecting your healthy fish community.


Yellow tangs do not breed in home aquariums. However, it is in the works. The Oceanic Institute at Hawaii Pacific University has made a recent breakthrough, they have successfully bred and raised the first aqua-cultured Yellow tangs! Soon enough you will be able to purchase aqua-cultured Yellow tangs at your local fish store.

Yellow tang guide

The great thing with captive-bred tangs is that they are far less likely to catch, carry, and pass on diseases, and they are typically a lot smaller than when wild-caught, which means you can get away with using a slightly smaller aquarium.

There are not too many differences between males and females, both tangs look very similar. The females tend to be a little larger, and you might not be able to tell the difference very easily when in your aquarium.

Closing Thoughts

These fish are one of the most beautiful and peaceful species of reef fish that you could acquire for your saltwater aquarium. Not only do Yellow Tangs play well with other fish but they are easy to care for, and are a fantastic member of the saltwater clean-up crew!