Yellow Tang fish care

yellow tang fish info and care

The yellow tang is one of the most popular fish in a saltwater aquarium.

Yellow Tang saltwater fish are harder to find in stores than in previous years and have an average cost of $80 – $150.

Yellow Tang saltwater fish are bright yellow, which is very attractive, adding color to your saltwater aquarium. Yellow tang saltwater fish stand out from most saltwater fish in color and body shape.

Yellow Tang fish, along with the rest of the Tang family, are herbivores, meaning they are non-meat eaters.

Most yellow tangs graze on the rocks in a saltwater aquarium, picking off algae for food saltwater tanks.

Yellow Tang Quick Stats 

OriginCentral and South Pacific
Scientific NameZebrasoma flavescens
Full Grown SizeUp to 8 inches
Life Expectancy30 years in the wild, 10 years in captivity
Price$80 average
Minimum Tank Size75 gallons
DietDried and frozen herbivore food
Care LevelEasy to moderate
Color Yellow
Temperature72 to 82 F
Salinity1.018 – 1.024
Yellow Tang fish quick stats

Yellow Tang Origin 

The yellow tang fish is found mainly in Hawaiian waters and westward through Guam and other Marianas.

Yellow tangs are not as available as they used to be due to governments cracking down on organizations for the way they capture yellow tang fish from the wild.

Some methods used to capture yellow tang fish have included explosives in the water to disorient the tang fish population for capture, and sedatives.

The habitat of the yellow tang fish is from inside the reef out to depths of 100 feet or more. In the wild, adult tang fish like to stay in shallow ocean waters near the reef, while juveniles prefer the deeper waters.

Yellow Tang

Yellow tang fish stay with other tang fish in the wild, staying around 50 feet under the surface of ocean water where areas of algae can be found. Tang fish are herbivores and eat green algae off rocks of the ocean floor and reef.

Feeing yellow tangs in your saltwater tank should consist of leafy greens. I buy collard greens from the grocery store for my tang fish.

Colors and Markings 

Yellow tangs have a narrow circle-shaped, bright yellow body. They have longer snouts and seven fins including their spiny dorsal and anal fins. They also have a sharp white spine on both sides of their tails which they can use to fight or defend themselves.

When threatened, tang fish can be found quickly lunging backwards to stab their predator with their pointed spine that comes out when needed.

I have been stabbed accidentally when trying to gently handle a yellow tang that got stuck in rock work. It feels like a pin prick to us, but can be damaging or deadly to other fish.

During the daylight hours, yellow tangs are bright yellow except along their spines. At night, yellow tangs change their color to a dark drab yellow with a light grey thin stripe along the side of their body. 

The yellow tang is covered in a slimy mucus, like most saltwater fish, which protects their skin. This slimy mucus helps provide protection from minor parasites and bacteria.


In general, yellow tangs get along well with other saltwater aquarium fish, but can be aggressive towards other yellow tangs and surgeonfish if they are not introduced into the aquarium at the same time.

A great saltwater fish to add with a yellow tang is the clown fish (aka Nemo fish.)

You can have up to 3 yellow tangs with a 256 gallon saltwater tank (minimum for a few yellow tangs.)

You will be entertained by their “follow the leader” patterns in and through live rock arrangements.

As a rule, Yellow tangs can be aggressive, and may attack other saltwater fish you add to your saltwater fish family.

Yellow Tang fish can be very territorial, and for this reason, it is best to add a yellow tang last.

I have had aggressive yellow tang fish and non aggressive tang fish. Although tang fish are known to be aggressive, it does depend on the fish.

If you cannot add a yellow tang last, this can be done with caution.

A trick to making a yellow tang less aggressive is to change the rock structure in your saltwater aquarium a bit, to make it seem like a new environment to your fish; this helps relax aggression between territorial saltwater fish.

Another thing you can do to prevent a yellow tang from being territorial is to remove it from your main saltwater aquarium and place it in a separate saltwater tank for a month or two.

By keeping the aggressive yellow tang separate, your new saltwater fish will not be attacked, allowing them to ease into their new home.

While your yellow tang is separated from the other saltwater fish, arrange the rock work in your saltwater aquarium a bit to create the illusion of a different environment. After your yellow tang is introduced back into your saltwater aquarium, you should see a difference in aggression.

Yellow tangs can be included in a marine reef tank (saltwater aquarium) setup, but keep a close eye on them. While they do graze on algae (which can help keep your rocks and coral clean), they may also damage some species of coral.

Yellow tangs don’t usually damage coral intentionally but it’s something to be aware of as they graze around coral or near it.

Yellow Tang Habitat and Care 

Yellow tang fish need plenty of space (saltwater tanks should be over 75 gallons per yellow tang.)

Yellow tangs are hardy strong fish and fairly easy to care for. Some say the yellow tang, or any tang, are prone to the ich parasite. This is completely ridiculous, as all saltwater fish are vulnerable to the ich parasite.

You need to know how to remove ich parasites from your saltwater aquarium forever and never allow them in your saltwater aquarium again!

Yellow Tang Diet 

Tang fish are herbivores for the most part, grazing on algae and other plant life. It is best kept in a saltwater aquarium that has good algae growth or greens to graze on.

All saltwater fish have a job in keeping your saltwater aquarium health. Yellow tang fish help to keep green algae out of your tank by eating it.

You can feed your Tang fish nori (dried or roasted seaweed), other green vegetable matter and vitamin-enriched flakes, but may nibble at dried shrimp and other meaty fares as well.

I drop in leafy greens such as collard greens from the grocery store for my tang fish once every few days. It is very inexpensive and they love it.

Sexual Differences 

Male and female yellow tangs look very similar (though the female is often larger than the male). When mating, however, males change color and have a “shimmering” behavior which makes them identifiable.

Breeding of the Yellow Tang 

In the wild, yellow tangs travel alone or in loose schools and spawn around the time of the full moon. It is extremely difficult to breed tang fish in captivity. Only since 2015 have researchers managed to keep a group of juvenile yellow tang alive past the larval stage. This achievement has significant potential for increasing the availability of pet yellow tang. 

A yellow tang will not only add color to your saltwater aquarium, but will help in keeping your rock work free of algae. Algae is a food source for yellow tangs, so it’s a win win.

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