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Tang and Surgeon Fish

Tang and Surgeon Fish

includes tang and surgeon fish species

Tangs are often called Surgeon Fish because of the scalpel-like spine at the base of their tail. The spine is used for self-defense and territorial battles. Tangs are often found in coral or rocky reefs. Recommended for intermediate to experienced marine aquarists.

Tang and Surgeon Fish

Tang and Surgeon Fish Facts

average adult size: 6 to 24+ inches long, depending on species
average life span: depends on species
diet: omnivore
minimum aquarium size: 50+ gallons, depending on species
water temperature: 72-82°F
salinity level: 1.020-1.026


A well-balanced Tang or Surgeon Fish diet consists of:

  • Commercial algae or algae sheets
  • Blanched lettuce or spinach
  • Marine flake or pelleted herbivore food
  • Bloodworms and brine shrimp (live or frozen)


Things to remember when feeding your Tang or Surgeon Fish:

  • Algae or algae sheets should always be present in the aquarium (attach to the side of the aquarium with a produce clip).
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding


  • Keep in an appropriate size aquarium; provide rock and decor for hiding places and plenty of room for movement.
  • Stable water quality, water temperature, and pH levels are critical to the health of the aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality or pH levels, Petco provides free water testing.


  • Usually solitary and territorial, may be aggressive to new aquarium inhabitants; defend themselves by swinging their tail toward their target.
  • Tend to inhabit all levels of the aquarium; can use their spine to wedge into a crevice.

Habitat Maintenance

  • Daily: check filter, water temperature and other equipment.
  • Weekly: check water quality at least once a week; check salinity levels at least twice a week.
  • Monthly: change 10-25% of the total volume of water every 2-4 weeks, or as needed.
  • Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually.


Compatible with dwarf and large angelfish, blennies, clownfish, eels, gobies, groupers, hawkfish, lionfish, pseudochromis, puffers and wrasse. Can be compatible with other Tang species of different shapes and sizes, or with similar Tang species in a larger aquarium.


signs of a healthy fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Eats vigorously
  • Active swimming
  • Fins completely intact and undamaged

Avoid overcrowded conditions; they are a major cause of stress and disease. Maintain good water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration.

Red Flags

  • loss of appetite
  • spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • listlessness
  • labored breathing

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Fin rot Symptoms or Causes Frayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested Action Improve water quality; consult your aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health Issue Marine ich Symptoms or Causes Cysts on fins, gills, and skin; labored breathing, excess skin mucus or pale skin. Suggested Action Treat entire aquarium with a commercial parasite remedy and improve water quality; freshwater dips can dislodge the parasites.


Ask a store partner about Petco’s selection of books on tarantulas and the variety of private brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All private brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5 and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing and/or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.

This Care Sheet can cover the care needs of other species.

Note: The information in this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please refer to the sources on the following page or contact your veterinarian as appropriate.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.