Aquarium Livestock Pet Care Guides

Tangs & Surgeonfish


Indo-Pacific, Atlantic

Tank Temperature




Specific Gravity



Omnivorous. Feed small amounts of meaty foods, commercial flakes and pellets as well as frozen formulas. Diet must also contain algae and plant matter. Vitamin supplements are recommended.


May become territorial. Generally will not tolerate other tangs of the same or a similar species (same genus, body shape or coloration) as well as some similar fish. Generally active, needs plenty of room to swim. Some species grow very large and need open water.


Community and Coral Safe; Invert Safe, with caution; Can be kept with most other community aquarium fish but may not tolerate other tangs or similar fish.

Species Overview

Tangs and Surgeonfish are some of the most popular saltwater fish for home aquariums. They can be found in many shapes, colors and patterns. The name "surgeonfish" comes from the tiny scalpel-like barbs at the base of the fish's tail. They use these spines as a means of defense if threatened. Always use caution when handling or netting a tang since the spines can become caught in mesh netting and can inflict painful cuts and punctures.

Tangs and Surgeonfish are omnivores, but a large part of their diet consists of algae and plant matter. Some tangs, especially the "Bristletooth Tangs" from the Ctenochaetus genus, can help control nuisance algae in the aquarium, and you will often see them browsing on rock and other surfaces for algae growing there. It is important to feed these fish a varied omnivore or herbivore diet to keep them healthy and looking their best. You may also choose to supplement food items with a multivitamin soak (A, D, E, B complex, and Iodine). Tangs that are fed high protein, meaty foods over a long period of time are more likely to suffer from head and lateral line erosion (HLLE). HLLE disease not initially fatal, but will lead to an eventual decline in the health of your fish if their dietary needs are not met.

Tangs and surgeons are territorial in aquariums and may show aggression to new tank mates. Their size is also a limiting factor, as many become too large for average home aquariums. We do not generally recommend placing more than one tang in most aquariums.

We always suggest that you do further research before adding a new pet to your tank. What we have provided for you are guidelines and suggestions. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our fish room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or

Recommended Items

Frozen Aquarium Food
Salt Mix
Live Rock
Algae Clips