Blue Tang

Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) as seen in our Sea & Me exhibit.

If this fish looks familiar, you probably saw it in the 2003 Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo. (Remember, Dory?) Although popularized through the movies, the Blue Tang has been a favorite with amateur aquarists for years. Recognized for its vibrant coloring, most of the tang’s body is a deep royal blue. It has a yellow tail and a black design reminiscent of a painter’s palette along the top of the body. These colors will often fade as the fish ages. The fins are relatively small, but the tang does come equipped with numerous venomous spines that cover the back and the tail. When caught by a predator, the fish will unfold these spines and thrash violently. The results are usually deep, painful wounds. One of the fish’s other defensive adaptations is the ability to make itself semi- transparent when threatened, thereby blending in with its surroundings.

The tang is omnivorous, meaning it eats both plants and animals. Younger tangs feed almost exclusively on plankton, but their diet will diversify as they age to include algae and invertebrates.

This fish is sometimes called a Regal Tang or a Royal Blue Tang.

Range & Habitat

The Blue Tang can be found throughout the warmer areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, although rarely in large numbers in one place. They are usually spotted in mated pairs around reefs where hiding spots are plentiful.

Conservation Status:

Common. The Blue Tang is of little interest to most people except as an aquarium fish. Although sometimes used as bait to hook other species, the tang has an unpleasant odor and taste and is generally not consumed by humans.