The iconic and lovable Dory is based on a real species of fish known as the Blue Tang. Though real-life Blue Tangs can’t talk, they’re still quite charming and make a fun and beautiful addition to your tank. However, due to their care needs, they’re often recommended for experienced aquarists. Here’s everything you need to know about Blue Tangs before deciding on adding them to your aquarium.
What Is a Blue Tang?
The Blue Tang, or Paracanthurus hepatus, is native to the Indo-Pacific Oceans. In the wild, they’re coral reef dwellers and can be found at depths between 6 to 131 feet. Their natural diet consists of algae and plankton.
Blue Tangs have beautiful royal blue scales and yellow tails. They also have a black palette shape that runs along the top of their bodies. They can grow up to 12 inches long, and males are typically larger than females. These fish usually live in schools, and they don’t live exclusively with their own kind. They’re known to be quite shy and peaceful, but they’re also pretty active and require a lot of space to swim and dart around.
Blue Tang Basic Care
Blue Tangs aren’t the hardiest type of aquarium fish, so it’s important to regularly monitor their tank to ensure everything is within their tolerance levels.
Blue Tangs are often mistaken as small fish because they’re often sold as juveniles that are just a couple of inches long. However, they can grow to become 7 to 8 inches long within their first 4 to 5 years of life and can reach 12 inches long once they’ve reached adulthood. Therefore, Blue Tangs need to be in larger tanks that hold at least 150 gallons.
Blue Tangs naturally live in waters with strong currents and high oxygen flow. They often prefer swimming against currents, so they require a tank setup that has a powerhead or other current generators. They’re also very sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, so it’s important to stay on top of keeping tanks clean and temperate
Another important part of your tank setup is hiding places. Blue Tangs prefer to run away from threats rather than confront them. They’ll prefer hiding in crevices between live rocks. It’s essential for them to live in live reef aquariums so that they have plenty of hiding spots.
Since Blue Tangs mainly eat algae in the wild, it’s best to feed them algae-based fish flakes. They can eat some krill and plankton, but the majority of their diet must be algae. Blue Tangs are grazers that like to eat throughout the day, so it’s best to stick to a feeding schedule that gives them opportunities to eat multiple times a day without overfeeding them.
Tank Mates: Can Blue Tangs Live With Clownfish?
As relatively peaceful fish, Blue Tangs can get along with many different types of fish. Blue Tangs are also social fish, so they’ll prefer being in a tank with other fish. Since they have similar tank preferences as Clownfish, it’s possible for both fish to live in the same tank.
What’s most important is your tank size. Though much smaller than Blue Tangs, Clownfish can show more aggression and will chase around a Blue Tang if they must resort to competing for space. Therefore, you must have a tank that’s large enough for both fish. The tank must also have hiding spots and territories that each fish can claim for their own so that they don’t feel threatened and have turf wars.
Blue Tangs can get along with many other types of fish. They often do well with gobies, blennies, Cardinalfish, and Blue Green Chromis.
Just like Dory, real Blue Tangs are amicable and social fish. However, they aren’t as adventurous as in Finding Nemo and can be extremely shy. Some important things to consider when caring for Blue Tangs are tank size, water quality, and providing ample hiding spaces. Because they’re not hardy fish, they’re recommended for more experienced aquarists who can consistently maintain their tank setup and respond appropriately to common issues that come up with tank keeping.
Featured Image Credit: Mirek Kijewski, Shutterstock