What Kind of Fish Is Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’?

clownfish and blue tang swimming
© Tatiana Gordievskaia/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kellianne Matthews

Published: May 2, 2023

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Disney’s film Finding Nemo was released in the United States on May 30, 2003, and immediately made a giant splash in the media world. Finding Nemo became the highest-grossing animated movie at the time and was the second-biggest film of the year! The movie was also nominated for three Academy Awards and even won the prize for Best Animated Feature. Both viewers and critics went wild for the film’s stunning visuals, touching story, and especially the hilarious cast of characters. However, fans especially loved Dory, a little blue fish who suffers from memory loss. But what kind of fish is Dory from Finding Nemo? Let’s dive in and find out!

Who is Dory from Finding Nemo?

Closeup view of a palette surgeonfish- what kind of fish is Dory?

The movie

Finding Nemo

had audiences falling in love with the character Dory.

©Henner Damke/Shutterstock.com

When Finding Nemo was released, it became a cultural phenomenon. In fact, the movie even snagged a spot on the American Film Institute’s 10 Top 10 lists. One of the things that made this film such a hit with audiences across the world was Dory, one of the most endearing and beloved characters in the film. Dory’s bubbly personality and memory problems made her an instant fan favorite. She is optimistic and has a kind heart. Her constant positivity helps to keep everyone else afloat, whether she is trying to speak whale or providing sympathy and comfort to her friends. 

Dory is friendly yet determined, even when she gets into sticky situations (which she does frequently). Although she suffers from memory problems and forgets things easily, Dory’s perseverance remains strong as she reminds everyone to “just keep swimming”. In fact, one of the best things about Dory’s character is that her memory loss isn’t portrayed as something to overcome, but rather as an endearing part of her character. 

Her outgoing and goofy personality makes Dory fun to watch. However, she also has a deep loyalty to her friends and family, making her a very endearing character. In fact, Dory was so popular that she starred in her very own sequel in 2016. Her movie, Finding Dory, was another Disney film that set new records and received many accolades

What Kind of Fish Is Dory from Finding Nemo?

Blue Animals - Royal Blue Tang

Dory from

Finding Nemo

is a blue tang fish.

©Charlotte Bleijenberg/Shutterstock.com

Dory is a blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus). Although commonly referred to as a blue tang, this fish goes by many names, including regal blue tang, blue hippo tang, royal blue tang, common surgeon, pallet surgeonfish, blue surgeonfish, flagtail surgeonfish, and doctorfish.

Blue tangs are flat with a rounded shape and are mainly a vibrant and rich royal blue color. In addition to their beautiful blue coloring, blue tangs also have bold black markings on their bodies and bright yellow tails. They grow between 10 and 12 inches and typically weigh about 1 pound. When blue tangs are younger, they are typically much brighter, especially their yellow coloring. As they mature, they begin to exhibit much deeper shades of blue. When they are stressed out, their bodies can take on more violet coloring. Blue tangs live up to 20 years.

Although Dory is a friendly and harmless fish in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, blue tangs in the real world actually have their own hidden weapon: a peculiar toxin known as ciguatera. This toxin is found in a pair of venomous spines on either side of a blue tang’s tail. These spines are razor-sharp and can easily cut through human skin (which is why blue tangs are sometimes called surgeonfish and doctorfish).

When it is in danger, a blue tang will raise its sharp, toxin-tipped spines and thrash to intimidate predators. The ciguatera toxin typically causes nothing more than a bout of vomiting and diarrhea in humans, but it can also trigger unpleasant symptoms like throbbing headaches and body aches. For some people, it can even lead to hallucinations and complications with their heart and breathing.  

Where Do Blue Tangs Live?

Blue tangs are native to the warm, shallow waters in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They live amid the reefs of Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the Phillippines, New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, and East Africa. Blue tangs live and travel together in schools of 8 to 14 other fish. Some also live together in pairs. 

Blue tangs are extremely important to the ecosystems where they live due to their penchant for algae. They are omnivores and eat algae and tiny sea creatures like plankton. However, algae make up most of their diet, and their small, sharp teeth are perfect for nipping and scraping it off the coral reef. As they chomp away, blue tangs perform vital algae-cleaning services for the ecosystem. Without these delightful little fish, the algae would run rampant and suffocate the coral — which would disrupt and damage the entire ecosystem and food chain!

Baby blue tangs hatch from their tiny eggs (measuring only about 0.8 millimeters in diameter!) after just 24 hours, revealing translucent bodies with silver bellies and tiny, rudimentary spines. These tiny creatures are born without any pigments, mouths, or eyes. They are completely helpless at first, and don’t even have a heartbeat! For the first few hours of their new life, they drift aimlessly on the ocean’s currents. However, within nine to 12 months, the once tiny baby blue tangs will have matured into fully formed adults!

Can You Keep a Blue Tang as a Pet?

The answer to this question is a bit complicated. Yes, you can technically keep a blue tang as a pet, but you probably shouldn’t. You see, blue tangs may be charming fish, but they are anything but happy in captivity and do not do well in aquariums. Since they feed mostly on algae, they cannot survive on typical fish food. 

In addition, blue tangs are extremely difficult to breed in captivity and their spawn rarely survive. In fact, only about one percent of blue tangs available in pet stores and aquariums are bred in captivity — that means at least 99% of blue tangs you see at a pet store or in captivity were captured from their natural home in the ocean! Sadly, many fishermen use cyanide to stun blue tangs in order to capture them in the ocean. This method not only puts pressure on their wild populations, but it also kills many of the blue tangs in the process and it also damages the coral reefs where they live.

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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