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Pacific Blue Tang
(Paracanthurus hepatus)

regal pacific blue tang, Paracanthurus hepatus

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The Pacific blue or regal tang’s scientific name is Paracanthurus hepatus. This species is the sole member of the genus Paracanthurus. It belongs to the family Acanthuridae. This species can be found from Japan, throughout the Indian Ocean down the east coast of Africa and south to the Great Barrier Reef. Populations also exist from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands. Tangs are part of a larger grouping of fish commonly referred to as surgeonfish. These species have razor sharp spurs on their bodies near the base of their tail that will lacerate skin just like a surgeon’s scalpel.

This is a relatively large fish that will range from 8-12 inches as an adult. Its body is oval in shape, a characteristic common to many tangs. Primary coloration is a beautiful royal blue with a bright yellow triangular marking that begins on the anterior of its body region and extends to the tip of its caudal fin. The most distinguishing feature of this species is the black patterning on its body. This bold patterning begins below the fish’s eye, loops around the entire length of its back and then circles back around its mid-body section forming a distinctive blue oval just behind the head. The flow of this patterning combined with the hole in the middle bears a striking resemblance to a painter’s palette. Aside from its two most common names, the regal tang is also marketed as the palette surgeonfish, Hepatus tang, blue hippo tang, yellow-tail blue tang, and the yellow-belly blue tang. The members of this species endemic to the west-central Indian Ocean typically have yellow bellies. 

Pacific blues are considered a peaceful species. They make wonderful additions to a multi-species tank provided their tank mates are equally docile. This fish is tolerant of other tangs but may demonstrate territorial behavior toward conspefics (members of its own species). They are rated reef safe. A minimum tank size of 75 gallon is recommended. 100+ is considered ideal. 

These fish are easy to maintain and can be kept by novice aquarists. They are, however, more susceptible to fin erosion, lateral line disease, ich and other skin parasites than many marine species. Maintaining ideal water conditions will help to avoid such complications. Caution is advised when handling these fish or any other surgeonfish. When threatened they will thrash wildly from side to side in hopes of slashing open their would be predators. They are perfectly capable of inflicting deep wounds that often result in swelling and discoloration and pose a significant risk of infection.

These are omnivorous creatures. Juveniles feed primarily on zooplankton. Adults lean much more toward herbivore dietary habits. Seaweed and algae provide their main sustenance in life. This species is extremely beneficial in home aquariums. They are excellent at keeping algae in check and will keep your living rock freshly mowed and your corals nice and clean.

In captivity this fish will eat mysis and vitamin enriched brine shrimp. They will also nibble at flake and pellets that may be intended for other member of the community. This is to be expected. Make sure to adequately address their nutritional needs for plant matter. A well established collection of living rock is mandatory. Fish food formulated for herbivores can be supplemented with dried algae sheets. With proper diet and living conditions these fish may live to 20 years of age.

Most tangs are protogynous hermaphrodites. If two juvenile are introduced into an aquarium together the largest most dominant of the two will transform into a male. A male and female may be successfully housed together. These fish rarely breed in captivity.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8.4 1.020-1.025

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