Yellow Tang Care & Info | Zebrasoma Flavescens

Even if you’re brand new to the aquarium hobby, the yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is one fish species you’ve probably already heard of. Named for its bright neon yellow color, this species is a long-time aquarium favorite and a great addition to the larger saltwater tank.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about yellow tang care and keeping this beautiful fish in your own aquarium!

Name (Common, Scientific)Yellow tang, yellow surgeonfish, Zebrasoma flavescens
Minimum tank size90 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature72-82 °F
Difficulty levelEasy

Yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) description

It’s not difficult to see why the yellow tang has long been a staple in the aquarium hobby. It’s hard to top that bright yellow color! These fish grow to an adult length of about 8”, with males being larger than females.

Yellow tangs sport long snouts and a sharp protective spine on the side of their tails. Naturally found in the coastal waters off Japan and Hawaii, they’re members of the surgeonfish family (Acanthuridae).

Did you know? Yellow tangs’ bright coloration fades during the night, something that has spooked many an aquarist upon turning the aquarium lights on in the morning. No worries, your tang is fine and will be back to normal before you know it.

Yellow tang, a popular aquarium fish.

Yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) aquarium

Unfortunately for nano aquarium enthusiasts, yellow tangs need a bit of space to thrive due to their adult size and activity level. An aquarium of 90 gallons or up is a good idea. Don’t forget to provide plenty of swimming space so your tang can explore, forage and graze freely.

Make sure the tank is fully cycled, as although yellow tangs can be relatively hardy, they really don’t respond well to fluctuating water values. Water surface agitation is also important: hobbyists report their yellow tangs struggling or even dying due to lack of oxygen without good water flow.

Did you know? Despite their popularity, yellow tangs are probably not the most well-known member of the surgeonfish family. That would be the blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), which gained its fame with its appearances in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.

Yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) compatibility

The yellow tang is not considered the absolute most peaceful species in the aquarium hobby. It tends to squabble with other fish, although this should usually not be anything too serious. What is important to keep in mind is that they don’t always respond too well to the presence of other tangs and surgeonfish.

Don’t keep more than one tang unless you have a reasonable amount of swimming space to offer. Make sure you introduce the fish at the same time. This can help prevent territorial squabbles by ensuring no one has an established territory that it wants to defend from new additions. The last thing you want is your yellow tang slashing its tankmates with that tail spine!

Yellow tangs are generally considered tentatively reef safe. They’re herbivores that don’t eat corals, although they can sometimes cause issues by using corals as their algae grazing grounds. Depending on the coral, they might not appreciate being pecked at constantly, causing them to close up or even wither away in extreme cases.

Did you know? For a long time, researchers were unable to breed yellow tangs in captivity, meaning they were all live caught. After a breakthrough, though, aquaculture of yellow tangs on a commercial scale is now becoming a reality.

Yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) diet

As mentioned above, the yellow tang is naturally a herbivore, mostly an algae eater. In the wild, groups of this species scour the reef for suitable grazing patches and even provide cleaning services to marine turtles.

In the aquarium, feed your yellow tang plenty of plant-based foods. Dried seaweed (nori), algae tablets, blanched veggies and spirulina flakes are all great options. You can supplement these with some meaty foods; frozen food options like mysis will be happily gobbled up.

Lastly, take it easy on the cleaning. Us humans might prefer a sparkling aquarium, but your yellow tang will greatly appreciate it if you leave some algae patches for it to graze on.


For many of our clients, a reef isn’t a reef without the ubiquitous yellow tang. We have to say we’re somewhat inclined to agree! If you’re dreaming of your own saltwater aquarium (with or without a tang), shoot us a message here and we can help make it happen.