American Oceans
blue tang

Blue Tang

The blue tang, scientifically known as paracanthrus hepatus, is a small, brightly colored fish native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific Oceans.

The blue tang has a few common names including hippo tang, regal blue tang, palette surgeonfish, Pacific regal blue tang and blue surgeonfish.

Characteristics & Appearance

You may recognize blue tangs, thanks to the famous Disney character, Dory from “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory”. Blue tangs have a royal blue body, yellow tail, and black palette shape on their body (usually in the shape of the number 6). Adult blue tangs can grow up to 10-12 inches long and weigh around 1.3 lbs, males tend to be larger than females.

The fish is flat with an oval body shape, smaller scales, and a slightly pointed nose. Blue tangs are classified as surgeonfish because of their scalpel-like spines along the top and bottom of their body.blue tang swimming

Lifespan & Reproduction

The average lifespan of blue tang in the wild is 30 or more years. However, in captivity, blue tangs live for approximately 20 years.

Blue tangs reproduce through a behavior known as broadcast spawning. They congregate in groups; the females releasing eggs and males releasing sperm into the water column above the coral, all at the same time. Per session, approximately 40,000 eggs are released. The blue tang then swims off, never caring for their offspring.

According to MASNA, “The fertilized eggs are cast adrift and become part of the plankton ‘soup’, where they hatch and live until it is time to metamorphose into juveniles. At which point the post-larvae settle (drop from the water column into the reef) in a specific habitat, where they complete their metamorphosis.”royal blue tangsHabitat

Where do Blue Tangs live?

Blue tang live in coral reefs and inshore rocky areas in the Indo-Pacific Oceans. Often found at depths of 6 – 131 feet, they make homes in small crevices and holes in the reef to stay protected from predators.

They can be found in the reefs in Japan, Philipines, Indonesia, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, Sri Lanka, New Caledonia, Samoa and East Africa.

Food & Diet

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blue tang in the wild

Threats & Predators 

Blue tangs contain razor-sharp spines, comparable to a surgeon’s scalpel. If grabbed, these spines will jab predators or humans, oftentimes releasing venom. When threatened, blue tangs will also “play dead” by laying on their side, motionless, to deter predators.

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Fun Facts About Blue Tangs

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