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Finding Dory: How to Care for a Blue Tang in a Saltwater Aquarium

  • Jeff Johnston
  • Jun 2, 2016

All of us here at MD are getting pretty excited for new Disney-Pixar film Finding Dory.  With the original film Finding Nemo we saw a huge increase in demand for keeping Clownfish and Blue Tangs in an aquarium.  As responsible aquarists, we thought it would be a great idea to take you guys through a complete overview of how to properly care for these animals in a home aquarium.

In this video we will take a look specifically at the Regal Blue Tang which is the real life fish that inspired the quirky character Dory.

The Regal Blue Tang is a species of surgeonfish native to the Indo-Pacific region. Quite a few different common names are used to refer to this species including Regal or Royal Blue Tang, Hippo Tang, Pallete Surgeonfish and Pacific Blue Tang.  These fish are some of the most popular and iconic marine aquarium fish.  They grow to a maximum size of 12” long and can live up to 20 years in captivity.

It is important to understand that these fish need a tank that is plenty big enough to house them.  We generally recommend a tank that is a minimum of 48” long with plenty of open space to swim because we know Dory loves to “just keep swimming”.

It is likely you will see these fish available in various sizes at your local fish store.  I have seen them as small as 1” long all the way up to a full grown adult.  Please don’t let this fool you; the small 1” long Blue Tang will quickly outgrow a small aquarium and needs the proper tank size for a happy healthy life in captivity.  If getting a large tank is not something you can do; consider a similar looking fish that stays small such as a Yellow Tail Blue Chromis.

It is best to get a tang that is no less than three inches long, is not thin and shows no signs of parasites or disease. The truth is that these fish are highly susceptible to parasites as well as head and lateral line disease so a quarantine period can help to ensure your new fish is healthy before being introduced into your display tank.

Proper nutrition is key to the health of Royal Blue Tangs.  Naturally they are omnivorous feeding on zooplankton and grazing on algae. It is widely known that providing an herbivorous food source in addition to meaty foods is important to the survival of these fish in an aquarium.

We stock a variety of different seaweed that is great for Blue Tangs including the Julian Sprung SeaVeggies, Ocean Nutrition Seaweed Selects and V20 Aquarium Foods Seaweed.  All of these foods come in a flat sheet and it is best to anchor the sheet in your tank and let the tang naturally graze.  A seaweed clip comes in handy or you can also consider the Innovative Marine Gourmet Grazer and Two Little Fishies Pouch Feeder.  These clips and feeders make it much easier for the fish to graze on the seaweed, makes it easier for you to feed and prevents the seaweed from spreading around your tank.

It may take some time for new fish to become accustomed to feeding from a clip or grazer but rest assured, once the fish discover the tasty treat they will quickly learn to target the clip or feeder for food.

You can also considered using a prepared diet that is formulated specifically for herbivorous fish.  The Rod’s Food Seaweed Blend, New Life Spectrum AlgaeMaxx, and Ocean Nutrition Formula Two are all excellent options for feeding a Blue Tang.

As with most marine fish, keeping your water clean and properly oxygenated is important.  Be sure to employ a protein skimmer and maintain your tank regularly.  Regal Blue Tangs are naturally found in reef zones so strong flow is ideal. They naturally take cover in corals and rock crevices so a few good hiding spots will help them feel comfortable in your tank. They are generally compatible with most other marine aquarium fish but be careful when keeping more than one in your tank. Two regal tangs in the same tank can show aggression towards each other.

Following these specific guidelines will really help you to succeed in keeping your very own Dory and if you are looking to get a Royal Blue Tang or have questions, our trained team of aquarium experts are happy to help you out.  Be sure to tune in next week because we will are going to release another video all about keeping a clownfish or “Nemo” in your aquarium.

-Take Care and Happy Reefkeeping.

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