Yellow tang

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Yellow Tang
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Acanthuroidei
Family: Acanthuridae
Genus: Zebrasoma
Species: Z. flavescens
Binomial name
Zebrasoma flavescens
(E. T. Bennett, 1828)

The yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is a saltwater fish species of the family Acanthuridae. It is one of the most popular aquarium fish.


Yellow tang are in the surgeonfish family. Adult fish can grow to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length, and 1–2 centimetres (0.39–0.79 in) in thickness. Adult males tend to be larger than females. Yellow tang are bright yellow in color. At night, the yellow coloring fades slightly and a prominent brownish patch develops in the middle with a horizontal white band. They rapidly resume their bright yellow color with daylight.

They have an arrow-like shape due to their dorsal and ventral fins being almost an extension to their bodies, and a long snout-like mouth used (as with other tangs) to eat algae and seaweeds that suffocate corals. They also have a sharp spine located near their tail. They have become a popular fish for marine aquarists of all skill levels, as the fish tends to be active, hardy, and nonaggressive when kept with dissimilar species.


In the wild, yellow tang feed on benthic turf algae and other marine plant material. In captivity they are commonly fed meat/fish based aquarium food, but the long term health effects of this diet are questionable.[citation needed] In the wild, yellow tang provide cleaner services to marine turtles, by removing algal growth from their shells.

Distribution and habitats[edit]

Photo of two fish with rock in background
Yellow tangs in their natural habitat in Kona

It is commonly found in shallow reefs, from 2–46 metres (6.6–150.9 ft) deep, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, west of Hawaii and east of Japan. Hawaii is the most common place for aquarium harvesting, where up to 70% of the yellow tangs for the aquarium industry are sourced from.

In the Aquarium[edit]

Photo of fish
In a zoo aquarium

The yellow tang is a very commonly kept as a saltwater aquarium fish. They can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm), in the wild, but are introduced to aquariums in the 2" to 4" range. Life expectancy in the wild exceeds 30 years.[1] Captive lifespan is typically a few months.[2] They require an aquarium of at least 75 gallons,[3] while 100 gallons is preferred. Like all Tangs, are quite susceptible to Cryptocaryon irritans (a parasite resembling Freshwater "Ich") and other common saltwater diseases. They are semi-aggressive. They normally successfully cohabit with other semi-aggressive fish close to their own size. Tangs can thrive with others in pairs or in a group in large tanks (150+ gallons). Possible other tankmates include fish such as cardinalfish, large clownfish, lionfish, eels. They are reef-safe,[4] and can be kept with any invertebrates in a reef aquarium.



  1. ^ Claisse, J., McTee, S., & Parrish, J. (2008). Effects of age, size, and density on natural survival for an important coral reef fishery species, yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens. Coral Reefs, 28, 95-105.
  2. ^ "Most are however likely 'killed off' in the first month of care (from hobbyist mistakes, inappropriate tankmates, starvation...)" Retrieved from Jan. 2014
  3. ^
  4. ^ One fishkeeper had a Gorgonian devoured by a newly acquired Yellow Tang. The type of Gorgonian is unknown because it was new also. Only 2-3 inches long.

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