Powder blue tang is none less than a royal blue queen of your aquarium swimming in solitude in its small kingdom.

One uniquely designed fish that resembles the flavor of aggression and stubbornness is the powder blue tangs, commonly called surgeonfish.

With ample beauty & class of nature, the blue tang is listed over the top of the favoritism list for most fish lovers who wish to have them in their home aquarium.

These are mainly blue as the base color of the body, which is typically set in combination with other shades of white, yellow, purple, green, and many more.

There is a scalpel shape erection from the fish’s tail that works as a weapon for attacking & self-protection.

Here are some more interesting facts about the blue tang presented to you with a deep insight into meticulous preparations for breeding, lifespan, food habits, family, etc.

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Basic Fact Check

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Acanthurus Leucosternon
Other Common Names Powder Blue Tang, Surgeon Fish, PBT, Atlantic Yellow Tang
Family Acanthundae
Origin Indian Ocean (Reef Plants)
Lifespan 5 to 10 years
Size 7 to 10 inches (sometimes up to 20 inches in the wild)
Type Saltwater

Origination of the Fish And its Habitats

The powder blue tangs originally come from the coastal regions around the Indian Ocean. They prefer to dwell over the flat coral reefs around the slopes towards waters and are found from South East of Africa to Indonesia.

These blue tang fishes are tropical marine types, and about 75 species of them are being recognized distinguished according to the color combinations and shapes of pectoral fins or tails.

The fish is claimed to be discovered around the 1830s to 1840s in the shallow waters around the coasts. However, there are contradictions to this claim.

As these fishes are coral lovers, the deep sea divers can quickly locate them in the reefs of the Indian Ocean, all over from Madagascar to Great Barrier Reef.

Being a saltwater category, the tang fish varieties are seen in almost all the tropical oceans and seas, although they are yet to be discovered in the Mediterranean region. 

Powder Blue Surgeonfish Care Guide
Powder Blue Surgeonfish Care Guide

How Big do the Blue Tang Fish Grow

In general, the blue surgeonfish from the Indo-pacific region grows to an average length of 8 to 12 inches.

However, some of them may reach up to 20 inches, which is quite rare. The blue tang max size may differ slightly depending on their variants and the coasts from where they are picked up.

A few variants of the surgeonfish are wild in characteristics as they gather a size of almost 40 inches. Specifically, species from the genus of Naso, Prionurus, and Acanthurus are from the same family that project themselves as the largest of the family

Physical Appearance

The powder blue tangs are close to oval with a flattened stomach portion. These medium-sized aqua-marines, nearly 9 inches, pose a dark face over a bright bluish body.

The dorsal fins are small and yellow, while the anal fins & pelvic fins display a white shade.

The pectoral fins help them swim and are usually transparent to yellowish color, while the caudal fins or tail has a moon-like semi-circular shape, which is too sharp to handle.

It isn’t proven scientifically, but some tang experts observe that the blue tang’s body color starts to fade during its ill-health.

Author Note: Unlike other tangs in your tank, you will not observe a color change in surgeonfish as it matures. “

The mouth of the fish is small and seems ejected out with sharp teeth on the single front row that helps it find and eat algae. This fish rarely shows a friendly sign to its co-fishes in the water and is ever ready to fight for its food.

How Long Does It Live

The powder blue tangs are typical territorial fishes that comfortably survive with good health in the reefs around the coast. The wild fishes living in the seas & oceans enjoy a lifespan of hood health with up to 40 to 45 years or even more.

However, the blue pets we get for our home do not stay too long, and life in aquariums drastically decreases to 5 years.

The experienced fishkeepers are well aware of the basic requirements that can enhance their lifespan and are thus able to keep the surgeonfish alive for 10 to 12 years.

There are no specific reasons why the average lifespan of blue tang decreases to more than half of what they survive in oceans. Still, it is usually found that slight neglect regarding the food quality or living space may lead to bad health of the fish.

Is Your Fish Male/ Female?

It is pretty obvious to be curious about knowing if the fish in your tank is male or female.

It is going to be tricky in the case of our surgeonfish. It shows no sign of gender differences in the body.

The males and females co-exist and mate during the breeding season to lay eggs. That is the time when you can deduce the gender of the fish.

Multiple theories exist that claim to provide the exact answer to the question, one of which is that females are slightly bigger.

Author Note: The fact is that there are no experts in fishkeeping who can prove a way out in sexing the blue tang.

What is the Cost of Surgeonfish?

Blue tangs are globally recognized fishes, and fishkeepers are always full of enthusiasm in petting a pair of these in their home aquariums.

Though majorly found in the indo-pacific region, it has been exported worldwide for decades. The fish can easily survive in warm mid temperatures and hence is the preferred choice all over due to its beautiful colors.

The blue tang on sale from a private breeder can be low priced but has multiple risks, such as health conditions, while you might have to open the wallet wide if purchasing it from credible stores. These are priced around $100 to $125 in the international market.

Expert Advice: After buying a powder blue, you should first put them in a separate system that fulfills all the requirements. An unhealthy tang can trouble all other fishes in the tank kept in the same Aquarium. Monitor the fish for about a month to analyze how it moves and behaves.”

Hybrids of Powder Blue Tang

The powder blue tangs are popular for hybridizing with their species and produce tangs with traceable features. There are nearly 40 recorded species of the Acanthurus genus, of which Acanthurus Nigricans or the Whitecheek Surgeonfish are very close to the blue tang.

These two species religiously mate to produce colorful hybrids. Multiple specimens of these hybrids are analyzed to deduce the similarities with their parents.

Few of them show the deep blue body of tang, while fins and tail mirror white surgeon, stamped with a light yellow strip. In some other cases, fins and tail were marked similar to the tang, but collar and cheeks had low expressions.

They are found all around the Indo-Pacific belt, specifically around Cocos island & Christmas Island.

A rarely found hybrid was discovered by the accidental mating of powder blue tang and Black-Spot Surgeonfish or Acanthurus Bariene. It was seen around the South African ocean belt and had a unique combination of the blue body with white skin and fainted tail.

Hybrids of Powder Blue Tang
A hybrid of Powder Blue Tang & Whitecheek Surgeonfish
Image Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor

How to Look After Them: Complete Guide

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Medium to High
Socializing Prefers to stay alone
Temperament Aggressive
Food Habit Herbivore (at times eats meat)
Breeding Process Quite difficult

What Does a Blue Tang Fish Eat

There are few fishes in aquariums that require special attention while feeding them, and powder blue tang is one of them. These fishes are very picky in their eating habits.

They strictly follow the herbivore culture, and the best suitable food item for them is Benthic Algae. Acanthurus is the largest Algae consuming variant of blue tang.

The aquarists, though, suggest multiple food options. They advise the fish owners to keep giving other foods during the initial observation period, which could be from different vegetations available.

The Algae or vegetations you can feed the surgeonfish may range from the below list.

  • Omega One Seaweed
  • Benthic Algae
  • Macro Algae
  • Nori
  • Pellets (Spirulina Flakes)
  • Filamentous algae
  • Lettuces, Zucchini, Broccoli, and other green vegetables

Pro Tip: Nori is a high-calorie-rich food for fish. You can feed nori to your fish by sticking its sheet to a rock, which the fish can eat thrice a day.

Including these, you may also try to feed them with non-veg food in live or frozen condition, once a week, including blood worms, Mysis, shrimps.

Natural Behavior

The fundamental nature of powder blue tang declares it to be a non-friendly, lonely living fish. It never tries to adjust with other co-dwellers; instead prefers to stay and roam around lonely.

The wild fishes of its variants living in the seas usually hide under corals, but they start showing aggressive attitudes once they are brought into confined glass boundaries.

So, once they are introduced to other tank mates, there are high chances of the blue surgeonfish getting annoyed and creating grudges to kill them.

Consequently, while trying to behave in a kingly manner, the anguish creates a stressful situation specifically for the blue tang, severely affecting health conditions.

Hence, it is always advised to keep them alone and adjust to the surroundings.

Breeding Process

Tangs being undeniably beautiful, their owners are always willing to breed and have more of them in their tank. Still, the bitter truth is that it is hard to create a favorable environment in which this fish can reproduce.

Mating Process

The mating phenomenon of the powder blue tangs is typical to handle in-home tanks because these fishes are challenging to care for and the specific formations that form naturally in the ocean water.

They form pairs freely in water and stay together to complete the mating process. The male fish changes body colors to attract females and swim to the surface in pairs.

Fertilization & Hatching

Once the gametes are released in water, surgeonfish pair leave the place, and the fertilized eggs covered in oil bubble floats in water. The hatched eggs from the kite-shaped larva stay for approximately 50 to 60 days.

After beating all the adverse situations of getting eaten up by predators, this larva turns into juvenile powder blue tangs and breaks the oil bubble to get released in water. The fish is ready to swim and find its food in the reefs.

How to Keep Them Healthy

Powder blue tangs are among those delicate fishes you are petting in your home environment. Fishkeerers find slight difficulty looking after these fishes as they are prone to multiple diseases.

The surgeonfish particularly feels comfortable in open waters, and a significantly proven fact is that their total lifespan in the ocean is almost double their average age in aquariums.

Pro Tip: We advise the buyers to analyze the specimen carefully before buying. Ensure that it swims comfortably and shows no sign of illness or injury. An unhealthy fish has negligible chances of staying alive in a new environment.

Reason for Catching Bad Health Conditions

They are sophisticated species and demand a high level of maintenance. The most basic reason the blue tangs get ill-health is negligence in care. Here are some of the common causes of illness.

  • Stale or unfiltered water in the tank.
  • Feeding with an unhealthy diet.
  • Annoyed due to other mates and chose to starve (sometimes when food of choice is not available).
  • Infection due to low oxygen level.
  • Injury through other mates
  • Temperature and environment not suitable

Common Diseases

White Spot Disease

White Spot or cryptocaryon is a type of Ich in fishes. Blue tangs are sensitive fishes and easily get affected with ciliates, a typical parasite that creates irritation in the body. This is a prevalent disease that is treatable through local care.

Powder Blue Tang Diseases Care
Image Credit: reef2reef.com

Marine Velvet

These are caused due to parasites, commonly dinoflagellate of the genus Amyloodinium ocellatum. The infected fish gets its color changed to dusty brown and, if left untreated, may kill the fish soon.

Lateral Line Disease

Line Disease Powder Blue Tang
Line Disease Powder Blue Tang

Also known as Hole-in-the-head disease, it can affect the lateral line organs of the fish around the face.

The above diseases can primarily be treated by properly cleaning the tank after removing the fishes from it. Self-cleaning tanks are a great choice here, as it removes the trouble of manual work of cleansing.
Now the tang should be put under solid observation until it recovers.

Basic Necessities in Tank

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 100+ Gallons per fish
Water Temperature 22 to 26 degrees Celsius
Water Hardness 9 to 12 dKH
Water Ph Level 8 to 8.5

What is the Right Tank Size

These territorial fishes are habitual of traveling distances around the reefs to search for food and seldom enjoy their freedom with solitude.

Powder Blue Tang Tank Parameters
Powder Blue Tang Tank Parameters

Hence, it is difficult to train them to live in a confined space for a long time. Exceptional guidance from experts is a must in case of blue tang while creating a tank set up, and all the details should be minutely observed before getting the fish in the tank.

The essential requirement is a tank or aquarium that should be 100 Gallons capacity per fish.

Expert Tip: Make sure you keep only one blue tang in your Aquarium during the initial weeks after buying. Once you are sure of them feeding comfortably and have adjusted to the new place, you can only try introducing other fishes but very carefully.

The tank should be properly sanitized before inducing the fish in it. A 6 to 7 feet long Aquarium is best to let the blue tang enjoy swimming and feel the freeness.

How to Setup an Aquarium Tank

The powder blue tangs are hostile fishes that do not quickly get accustomed to the changing environment. Keeping its arrogant nature, this fish tries to rule the area where it is dwelling.

If you wish to pet these fishes in your aquarium, you must keep a check on the following accessories which will let the fish adapt to the homely environment sooner & healthier.


Surgeonfish are pure herbivores and hence love to stay across natural greens. While setting up the tank for these fishes is best suited to implant natural plants and vegetation, specifically algae.

These fish behave calmly if the fishkeeper artificially creates a natural environment in the tank containing living plants instead of imitations.

A well-planned setup can have plenty of algae formations. Some keepers even manage to get them growing over the walls. Blue tang’s favorite pass time is to graze over the algae, which will help easy adaption to the Aquarium.

Tip: You must set up the tank for algae formation at least 5 to 6 months before buying the surgeonfish. In this period, algae will cover the whole surface successfully, and your fish will get a soothing environment.


The powder blue tangs have a unique habit of searching for food in the sea sand and blowing it.

So the home tanks should primarily have sand on the surface and pebble stones and live rocks, which will resemble a homely environment to the fish.


Fishes living in open water get exposed to sunlight, which is beneficial for good health. The common disease Ich also gets cured with the UV lights from Sun.

So any source of light in the fish tank is suitable for blue tang as it will protect from diseases.

Filtration & Oxygenation

Saltwater fishes are mannered to swim in moving waters and sometimes with high intensity. To create a suitable place for blue tangs, you can make a system that generates small waves or water movements in the aquarium.

These fishes are fast swimmers and are highly active during the daytime. This continuous movement in the tank decimates a lot of energy from their body. Hence the oxygen system must also be there.

Water Parameters

The surgeonfish belongs to the tropical region where the water temperature is slightly cold.

In-home aquariums are always advised to maintain a constant temperature of approximately 20 to 23 degrees Celsius. Temperature exceeding this limit tends to trouble the regular appetite.

Along with temperature, you must also ensure that the pH level stays between 8 to 8.4 and the hardness level between 9 to 12 dKH.

Living plants in the aquariums will easily control excess nitrogen and other harmful gasses, so be careful in choosing the right ones for your tank.

Tank Mates

Due to their aggressive nature, the blue tangs are ideally kept as a single fish in the tank for quite a long time.

It does not like to have another fish of their species in the tank as the fishes find the other one as their competitor in food. Eventually, both fishes will injure each other.

Surgeonfishes have a high temperament as they try to rule over the place and other fishes in the zone. Few fish that do not bother these blue tangs and peacefully accept their rule are listed below.

  • Brine Shrimp
  • Snail
  • Gobie
  • Angelfish
  • Skank Cleaner Shrimp
  • Wrasse

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the different types of saltwater tangs?

A. Some other types of saltwater tangs are

  • Achilles Tang
  • Fowleri Tang
  • Black Tang
  • Gem Tang
  • Royal Blue Tang
  • Yellow Eye Tang
  • Brown Tang
  • Sailfin Tang
  • Clown Tang
  • Purple Tang
Q. Which are the best tangs to keep together?

A. Fish experts do not always advise making tangs share the same space, but it is still possible with a few of its species if the room is big enough to handle them.

 You can keep more than one fish of the same species, but it is pretty risky, and you should have an alternate space in case the situation worsens.

Few tang species such as yellow tang, orange shoulder tang, and regal tang can be put together since they look different from each other and are lesser arrogant.

Q. Which tang is hardest to keep in Aquarium?

A. The Zebrasoma and Naso tangs are considered one of the most challenging tangs to keep in aquariums. These tangs have large growth, and providing larger space creates a lot of trouble for aquarists.

Q. How many tang fish varieties are there?

A. It is hard to define the total number of tangs available, but a study shows almost 80 different types of varieties available in this category.

Q. Which is the smallest tang species?

A.BristletoothTomini Tang is the smallest found powder blue that can only obtain the maximum size of 6 inches.

Q. Which is the rarest tang fish in the ocean?

A. The Gem Tang or Zebrasomagemmatum is a beautiful tang that is rarest of all fishes of this category. It is priced higher because of its unmatched beauty and rare availability.

Final Thoughts on Buying Powder Blue Tangs

As a fishkeeper, if you buy the surgeonfish for commercial purposes like breeding and selling the specimens, you may have to think twice.

These are almost impossible to breed locally, and for inexperienced keepers petting a blue tang may become a tedious task as they require regular monitoring for smooth survival.

Blue Tangs are one of the best choices if you are buying them to decorate your living space with some living beauty. The radiant colors moving in water soothe the mood while enhancing the standard of the place.

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to FishParenting.com. Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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