Yellow Tang: Lifespan, Behavior, Care, & Breeding

The yellow tang in nature is found in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific between Hawaii and Japan. They are mainly found and cultivated around Hawaii, but they are also near the Ryukyu Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Marshall Islands.  In these areas, tangs gather in small groups in coral reefs at a depth of 6-150 ft. (2-46m)

This species is more tolerant to fluctuations in water temperature and relatively disease resistant compared to other tangs. Because of this, as well as their beautiful color, yellow tangs are a popular choice for beginner aquarists.

Yellow Tang Lifespan & Size

This is a medium size fish, with an adult growing to a length of 6-8″(15-20cm). When properly cared for yellow tangs will reach an age up to 10 years in captivity

Yellow Tang Characteristics

Yellow tangs, as the name implies, have a bright yellow color throughout their entire body. During periods of inactivity, the night, or increasing stress the yellow color fades slightly, giving a brownish camouflage color with white horizontal stripes along the middle of the body.

Yellow Tang Source

The body of the yellow tang, as with most tangs is flattened, with a pointed snout and a high back and anterior fin. There is not much difference between the males and females besides the males can be slightly brighter and they are usually larger.


Yellow tangs have a small retractable spine (highlighted below) at the base of its tail as its natural defense. They can cause deep flesh wounds that can lead to infections.

Yellow Tang Spine Source

Interesting fact:

The yellow tang eyes will change color based on their mood. When not stressed eyes are brightly colored. During stress or exhibiting aggressive behavior, the eyes will have a distinctly darker color compared to their body.


Yellow Tang Foraging Source

Yellow tangs are very lively, active fish that like to swim through coral and explore the entire aquarium. As with all tangs, they need a lot of space to swim around at least a tank 55 gallon (200L) (for a single tang).

Yellow tangs are semi-aggressive species that are known to bully other fish. However, when paired with compatible fish they tend to do well, and bullying is not an issue. These tangs can be kept in groups as long as they are introduced into a new environment simultaneously.

This is to ensure they cannot form a territory before they encounter another tang. They are also known to show aggressive behavior to other tang species, this can be overcome by having a large tank at least 100 Gallon (350L), so they can have their own territories.


Many aquarists often mistake yellow tangs as a herbivore, which simply is not true yellow tangs are opportunistic omnivores and will eat a wide variety of food. In the wild, they mainly eat algae growth on rocks, and it is a staple in their diet. If you have an algae problem in your aquarium, the yellow tang can be a great at keeping your tank clean. In addition to algae, yellow tangs thrive on a mixed, balanced diet including seaweed, Mysis, small krill and brine shrimp. Providing all of these foods will help create a more rounded diet and improve the overall health of your fish.

Yellow Tang Health

You may be asking yourself, does my yellow tang have ich?

Here are some ich signs to look for:

  • 1/32” (1 mm) white spots evenly distributed on the body and gills
  • Reduction in appetite
  • Cowering at the bottom or at the tank surface
  • Scratching against substrate/rocks
  • Breathing changes (short, sharp gill movements)
Fish Covered With Ich Source

Ich prevention:

When considering a yellow tang, you must be aware that they are susceptible to ich. They must be quarantined for at least a month. This may sound excessive but if your fish is infected you run the risk of killing the entire tank. The quarantine tank can be as simple as a small tank with an air stone in it. Once in the tank, you are going to want to do lots of water changes throughout the month and monitor the fish for parasites. When the month has passed, it should be safe to introduce your new fish into the aquarium.

Yellow Tang Care

Yellow Tangs require a few specific requirements, but once known this fish is relatively easy to care for, as with all tangs, the yellow tang needs a lot of room to swim around. They also require lots of hiding spots. A tank of at least 55 Gallon (200L) for a single tang, or 100 Gallon (350L) for multiple tangs is recommended.

Tangs are a semi-aggressive fish, attacking anything they look like them in appearance or size. Therefore, caution should be used when introducing such fish as foxfaces and other tang species.

Yellow Tang Breeding

The yellow tang is defined as a pelagic spawner, meaning that they release free-floating sperm and eggs into the water to be taken away with the current. Because of this and the particular requirements for spawning, breeding in captivity is generally not done.