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Author: Leslie Tsen (B.S.) Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources. Wildlife Conservation
The Blue Pacific Tang is a very common fish in the marine fishkeeping hobby. Also known by many common names such as Palette surgeonfish, Blue Surgeon, Regal Blue Tang, and even “Dory” from the popular Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, Paracanthurus hepatus is found most abundantly in the coastal reef region of the tropics. In the wild, the natural distribution of this species is very widespread. It ranges from the Eastern Indian ocean to the Western Pacific, and is most commonly found in the intersections of the Indo-Pacific. An adult Pacific Blue Tang is capable of growing up to 25cm long, weighing at least half a kilogram (>500g). In the wild, both adults and youngsters of this particular species have been observed to dwell in small groups of about 10 individuals or in pair. Paracanthurus hepatus dwells in parts of the ocean with moderate to strong water current. In captivity, a similar living environment can be mimicked by installing a wavemaker to generate water movement. The life expectancy of this particular species ranges widely from 5 to 20+ years depending on many environmental and physiological factors such as food availability and water quality, though it is reasonable to expect a life expectancy of at least 10-15 years under excellent care.
Paracanthurus hepatus is a beautiful fish to keep. Its body exhibits shades of dark blue with a notable variation ranging from light to dark depending on its life stages and stress level. Juveniles and stressed individuals have a paler tone while relaxed adults are usually darker. In most cases, the entire caudal (tail) and the tip of the pectoral fins are yellow while a dark band can be seen forming several centimetres behind the pectoral fins that extends all the way up to the eye in an arc. In adult specimens, this band forms an oval in the upper middle quadrant of their body, one on each side. As indicated by some of its common names, the Blue Pacific Tang possesses two unique spines that are shaped like a surgeon’s scalpel and can be retracted along the base of its tail on both sides.
Both scalpels are sharp enough to inflict serious damages when a threatened tang protrudes its scalpels and begins to flail. When the fish is finally calm, its scalpels will be retracted horizontally like a Swiss army knife. You can tell a Blue Pacific Tang’s emotion just by looking at its fins. When it is excited or startled, the dorsal and ventral fins will fan out as if to make it looks bigger. Males and females do not exhibit significant sexual dimorphism, though in most cases males tend to be slightly larger than females of the same age.
This is an egg-laying species. During the mating season (February to March in the Western Pacific), adults congregate in breeding grounds (coral reef) to join with other males and females to breed. External fertilization occurs when females release their eggs to the water column while male ejaculate their sperms. There is no parental care involved from either side of the parents as the fertilized eggs are left to drift freely until they finally hatched in a little bit more than a day (24-26 hours).
Being an omnivorous opportunistic grazer, Paracanthurus hepatus feeds primarily on the surface algae growing on corals while secondarily feeding on any scavangeable protein materials which include planktons, mollusc, dead fish, worms, and so on. Fries and juvenile fish feed primarily on “marine snow”, the very planktonic soup which they are technically a part of until they finally outgrown these planktons. In household aquaria, fish food that are formulated primarily with Spirulina, seaweed, algae, and other vegetative materials are recommended for Pacific Blue Tang as staple foods. It will be beneficial to feed your fish occasionally with foods formulated with fish, mollusc, and crustacean proteins as these are more easily digestible.
Fries and juvenile should ideally be fed 3 times a day in smaller quantity while adults should ideally be fed once or twice a day in larger portions that they can finish in 3-6 minutes. You can consider fasting your fish once a week to clear out their intestines. Remove any leftover foods 15 - 30 minutes after feeding to avoid damaging your water quality in the long run.
The Blue Pacific Tang is a relatively peaceful fish that will tolerate the presence of other tankmates. However, certain individuals can act aggressively towards members of the same species when resources such as space and food are limited. Therefore, it is highly advised to house multiple individuals only in a reasonably large tank at about 200L-300L. In the wild, Blue Pacific Tang is a mid-level, diurnal swimmer that roams around freely during the day. Feeding is best done when the light is on as this will guide your tangs to see their food better. Adequate roaming space is also very important as this will determine the physical and mental health of your fish, which is why we often recommend tang keepers to invest in larger tanks. We also recommend housing your tangs in a coral reef setup as opposed to a bare tank setup as their natural living environment constitutes of coral reef. Some suitable tankmates include clownfish, gobies, small territorial cichlids, marine hermit crabs, and cardinalfish. Live rocks can be provided to enhance their living environment while in the mean time to provide a surface for growing algae so that your fish can later graze on them. The ideal water salinity for this particular species is 33-35ppt with a water specific gravity of 1.021-1.025, water pH 8.1-8.3, and a water temperature of 25-28°C.
Disclaimer: This article contains materials referred from published scientific journals and is strictly meant for educational purposes only. It must NOT be substituted for any forms of medical care, treatment, and consultation from veterinarians, aquatic experts or other licensed professionals. NO compensation shall be reimbursed by Harvest Fish & Pet for the direct or indirect loss, damage, injury, or death of both living (user included) and non-living beings caused by the application of information from this article either in full or in part.