Purple Tang


Purple Tang, Zebrasoma xanthurum

  • Purple tang
  • Zebrasoma xanthurum
  • Care: Intermediate
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Group Size: Alone or mixed tang group
  • Place of origin: Red sea
  • Coral Safe: Generally yes
  • Critter Safe: Generally yes
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Purple Tangs, Zebrasoma xanthurum, are an excellent choice. They also go by the name yellowtail surgeonfish. Like all Zebrasoma, they are recognisable thanks to their disc shaped body and large sail like fins.

These Tangs are a type of ray finned fish that belong in the Acanthuridae family. This family also includes Sawtails and Unicornfish. The defining characteristic for the Acanthuridae family, is the presence of scalpels or spines on both sides of the caudal peduncle. These are used for defence and are usually brightly coloured to act as a deterrent.

Purple Tangs also belong to the subfamily Acanthurinae. Which means these fish have one spine on each side. These spines are set into a groove and erected by curving the tail. In contrast, the other two subfamilies own fixed spines. Unicornfish, or Nasos, have one or more hooked spine, while Sawtails develop a series of spines with age. Sometimes up to seven. Sawtails are made up of the genus Prionurus only and not seen in trade.

Origin of Zebrasoma xanthurum

Zebrasoma xanthurum is from  the Red Sea. Found in pairs or in shoals on rubble reefs. Juveniles are more secretive hiding amongst large coral heads.

On the reef, Purple Tangs graze on algae. Like many Tangs, these fish can be helpful for controlling algae growth. Left unchecked, algae could outcompete slower growing coral species for space and light. Their help can be more pronounced on shallower reefs that capture more sunlight.

Yellowtail Surgeonfish in the Aquarium

It is important to have plenty of nooks or crannies in order to imitate the natural environment. This will help your Purple Tang establish its own territory. Aquaroche and Aquaroche shelves can be helpful for this. Hobbyists should also think about using a jump guard to stop any loses.

Purple Tangs do best when fed a varied diet. They are accepting of all most any foods but do require algae in amongst a varied diet of pretty much anything really. Zebrasoma tangs Mysis, Jbl Maris flake and Ocean Nutrition Formula 2 pellets. Our Tangs are also offered ocean nutrition seaweed, that can be secured to the side of the tank with clips.

They will happily eat enriched frozen: mysis shrimp and brine shrimp and krill, in the case of the larger fish. We enrich all our frozen food with seachem garlic guard and Atvitol vitamins. These are imperative for keeping fish healthy by providing them with the nutrition otherwise lost in frozen food. In doing so, these additives support their immune systems and increase longevity. The garlic is also useful for helping to ward off white spot. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions about feeding your yellowtail surgeonfish.

In addition, Tangs will also eat live foods, such as copepods and amphipods, that can be cultivated in attached refugium. Our Tangs are adapted to aquarium life before being offered for sale. So they are eating dry food and/or frozen food when they leave us.

Tangs can live alone or in groups. If considering the latter, feel free to give us a call to discuss further. Hobbyists can keep multiple tangs together, although we encourage you seek advice if you are unsure or have questions.


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