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Tang (Acanthuridae)A Tang (Acanthuridae) at Colchester Zoo, UK.Tang (Acanthuridae)Tang (Acanthuridae)A Tang (Acanthuridae) at Colchester Zoo, UK.
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Tang Facts

Five groups that classify all living things
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
A group of animals within a pylum
A group of animals within a class
A group of animals within an order
A group of animals within a family
Common Name:
Most widely used name for this species
Scientific Name:
The name of the animal in science
The area where the animal first came from
Indian, Pacific Oceans
What kind of foods the animal eats
Size (L):
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
15cm - 40cm (6in - 16in)
Water Type:
Either freshwater, brakish or salt
Optimum pH Level:
The perfect acidity conditions for the animal
8.0 - 8.5
How long the animal lives for
8 - 12 years
Conservation Status:
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
Black, Yellow, Red, Blue, Silver
Skin Type:
The protective layer of the animal
Favourite Food:
The preferred food of this animal
The specific area where the animal lives
Shallow tropical coral reefs
Average Clutch Size:
The average number of eggs laid at once
Main Prey:
The food that the animal gains energy from
Algae, Fish, Plankton
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
Fish, Eels, Crustaceans
Distinctive Features:
Characteristics unique to this animal
Pointed snout and razor-sharp scalpel at the base of their tail

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Tang Location

Map of Tang Locations


The tang is a small to medium sized fish that is found in the warmer coastal waters of the tropics. Tangs are well known for their bright colours and are closely related to surgeon fish and unicorn fish.

There are 80 known species of tang, that inhabit the tropical waters of the southern hemisphere, including the largest species of the tang group, the white margin unicorn fish that has been known to grow over a meter long.

Tang are found around shallow coral reefs where there is an abundance of food and plenty of places to hide from approaching predators. The tang is named after the razor-sharp scalpel (also known as tang) at the base of their tails. When the tang feels threatened, it hides in a crevice in the coral or rocks and anchors itself in using this scalpel. The scalpel at the base of the tang's tail can also be used to defend itself if it is caught.

Although the tang is an omnivorous animal, it has a predominantly vegetarian diet. Tang mainly feed on algae and other plants around the coral reefs as well as picking the larger food particles out of the plankton in the water. Later species of tang also feed on small invertebrates and fish. Due to the tang's love of algae, tang can often be seen with sea turtles as they swim along with them cleaning the algae off their shells.

Due to its small size, the tang has many predators in its shallow ocean environment including larger fish, eels, sharks, crustaceans and large invertebrates such as jellyfish. Tang are also preyed upon by human who mainly catch them to keep in artificial aquariums.

Tangs are known to breed all year round in the tropical regions, beginning with a male tang securing himself a temporary breeding territory that includes a pair or group of female tang. The female tang releases an average of 40,000 eggs into the water which are then fertilised by the male tang. The baby tang are known as fry and hatch in less than a week. Tangs however, are reported to breed as well when in captivity.

The tang is one of the most popular species of marine fish to be kept in tanks and aquariums around the world. People are charmed by the peaceful and gentle nature of the tang, along with its bright colours and the fact that tangs can live for a long time (average is between 12 and 15 years), especially compared to other species of marine fish of a similar size.

Tang are not recommended to be kept in small aquariums as tang have the potential to get pretty big. The most common type of tang kept in salt-water aquariums are the yellow tang and the bright blue regal tang but despite the fact that the tang is popular fish to keep they need to be well looked after and have specific water conditions maintained.

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First Published: 15th November 2008, Last Updated: 8th November 2019

1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 15 Nov 2008]
2. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2011]
3. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 15 Nov 2008]
4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2009]
5. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 15 Nov 2008]