Powder Blue Tang: Complete Guide to Care, Breeding, Tank Size and Disease

Powder Blue Tang: Overview

When looking for a colorful addition to the home aquarium, look no further than the Powder Blue Tang. It is known to spruce up a tank, adding plenty of beauty to it. However, do not forget that with beauty comes lots of care for its survival.

A fish swimming in the water

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Also referred to as the Powder Blue Surgeonfish, this eye-catching beauty costs the earth. Apart from the exorbitant price, a hobbyist must provide extremely good care for it to remain healthy. Remember, without the right tank conditions and required feeding, it may not be as pleasant to look at as it ought to be.

Information ChartPowder Blue Tang
Scientific Name: Acanthurus Leucosternon
Family: Acanthuridae
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful(aggressive with own kind)
Color: Blue, Yellow
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Size: 9-10 inches
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum Tank Size: 100-120 gallons
Temperature: 74 to 80˚F
Water: 8-12 dKH
Tank Mate Compatibility: Other Peaceful Fish, Snail

Powder Blue Tang Appearance

It is scientifically known as Acanthurus Leucosternon, and this remarkably beautiful fish has a few other colors apart from the dominant sky blue that is the first to be spotted. A bigger part of the oval-shaped body is light blue colored. The pectoral and dorsal fins have a bright yellow stripe on the tail. At the end of the fin is another blue stripe. 

Powder Blue Surgeonfish is a popular fish that can be a great addition to your aquarium. That is mostly because of its captivating looks.

It showcases a remarkable blend of bright colors that can grab anybody’s attention. So, adding them to your home tanks can be a great attractive feature. However, it would help if you did not get carried away with its enticing looks alone. The looks are not the exclusive characteristic of this fish. This fish depicts a personality that comes along with a confident presence. So, if you take care of this fish properly, it will enhance the beauty of your tank. 

A blue and yellow fish

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The Powder Blue Tang or the powder blue surgeonfish has always been correlated with reefs. Therefore, adding the natural elements that provide a similar environment will improve their comfortable accommodation. You can add rocks, corals, algae, etc., to make your tank look like a tropical water body.

They have an oval shape throughout their body when it comes to their appearance. We can also see their body as laterally compressed. It shows a lot of similarities with other surgeonfishes. Hence, like others, the powder blue surgeonfish also swims with its pectoral fins. It also has a caudal fin that is crescent in shape. Also, one must note that it takes the name of surgeonfish because it has an organ that looks like a surgeon’s scalpel. It is an erected part of the spine. We can see that located at the tail’s base.

The mouth of the powder blue tang is small in size. Also, it appears pointed in a beak-like fashion that includes small and sharp teeth. Such a teeth structure helps the powder blue surgeonfish reach even the narrow food spaces. 

As mentioned before and like the name suggests, the powder blue tang has its side in blue color. However, it blends in a tinge of yellow onto its body. We can see its dorsal fin and the caudal fin’s base as yellow. But, the blue and yellow combination does not cover its entire body altogether. Its head is black, whereas you can see its throat in white. The powder blue tang also possesses anal and pelvic fins that are white. At the same time, the pectoral fins appear transparent and include yellow reflections.

When your powder blue tang is healthy and free from any ailment, you can see this fish showing off its blue color with a higher intensity. 

One of the peculiar characteristics that this particular surgeonfish possesses is that it does not undergo any color changes. Therefore, it differs from certain other species of tangs and unicornfish that undergo a color change as they attain maturity. 

In addition to the beautiful appearance and round body type, the fish also shows a decent size distribution compared to other aquarium fishes. The eyes are fairly large and at the base of its lovely tail fin is a quite sharp scalpel. It uses this for protection and to survive among other saltwater contemporaries. 

Though the appearance of this fish is enticing and may attract anybody’s eyes, it can also show its aggressive side. The powder blue tang is highly aggressive when compared with other surgeonfish. 

So as a wise hobbyist, it would be best to keep only one powder blue surgeonfish in one tank. However, that will also depend on the tank size, and you can also keep both surgeonfish simultaneously if you wish to. But their coexistence is a matter of chance, and we cannot assure the same.

Lifespan of Powder Blue Tang

The lifespan of a powder blue tang is 10 years. 

So, we can infer that the powder blue tang offers a decent life expectancy compared with other types of tangs or surgeonfish. Even if the tank parameters do not favor your tang fish, it can still survive for 8-10 years. That is a remarkable lifespan for a fish of this size. 

However, if you take care of the fish properly and provide a similar environment resembling its natural habitat, you can expect it to survive longer. So, you can expect an attractive home tank for almost a decade if you follow the required parameters.

Powder Blue Tang Size

The typical powder blue tang grows up to 9 inches on the lower end and 10 inches for larger specimens. In other words, it can grow up to 22-25cm in its size. Therefore, in addition to the captivating looks, it can add a big presence of natural beauty to your home decor.

Natural Habitat And Origin

The Powder Blue Tang or surgeonfish comes under the Acanthuridae family. The term, in turn, derives from the Greek word Akantha. That essentially signifies thorn and oura, which means tail. Since the tail is the most distinctive feature of powder blue tang, the name justifies it.

However, because of its name and similar appearance, the powder blue tang often gets mistaken for another blue tang species. But, they both are separate species with different characteristics. So, as a hobbyist, you must not get confused as they may both require separate parameters for the tank care and feeding, etc.

The powder blue surgeonfish’s scientific name is Acanthurus Leucosternon. You can find it in several different names in various languages. The powder blue tang is a unique and popular aquarium fish marketed as an edible fresh fish. Such a practice may also be prevalent because the IUCN has not considered Acanthurus Leucosternon for its evaluation.

Now that we have looked into the origin of this fish let us discuss its habitat. Originally, this fish was from the African Indian Ocean and Indonesia. We can find the powder blue tang naturally in reef flats occurring there. We can also find them in seaward reef slopes, particularly in the Indian Ocean. Its presence can be seen from the entire African east coast to Indonesia. However, that does not mean their availability is restricted to those areas alone. Various reports suggest that this fish has also shown its presence in the Western Pacific. Therefore, it suggests that it has a broad distribution.

It is also interesting to note that the range extends to the Andaman Sea, Christmas Island, and even Bali in Indonesia. They mostly inhabit shallow, clear coastal, and island coral reefs there. They can go as deep as 0-25 meters / 0-82 feet.

If one encounters these fish in their natural habitat, you can see them living alone or forming big aggregations. Also, if they are found in big aggregations, they prefer to feed together rather than search alone for food.

Powder Blue Tang: Care & Tank Set-Up

Getting the fish from the purchase place to the home tank can be a real pain for a first-time hobbyist. It is notorious for getting Cryptocaryon or itch as they do not transport well. However, they can acclimatize and do well once set into an aquarium with the right conditions.

For safekeeping of the fish, one needs to take plenty of days to observe how they feed in the dealer’s tank. Also, knowing how to handle it when it gets low can be helpful.

The following tank conditions should be met when prepared to keep the fish. At least a tank that can accommodate between 100 and 120 gallons should be sufficient. Remember, the fish is a wide swimmer, and a smaller tank may not meet its demands.

Powder Blue Tang: Tank Size And Specifications

Optimum Tank Size for Powder Blue Tang

The recommended tank size for powder blue tang is 100-120 gallons. It is a large fish that can cross 9 inches while growing. Also, since it is a species that can get aggressive towards itself, you must choose the tank’s size accordingly. A 100-120 gallon tank would easily accommodate even 2 individual tangs. However, their coexistence is subject to their behavior.

Tank Shape For Powder Blue Tang

Since the powder blue tang is a significantly large fish, if you do not choose a proper tank shape, it might cause discomfort. The tank shape must allow unrestricted movement of the tang; hence it is best to choose a cubical tank. It will allow more length for the free movement of the fish, and it would avoid any chance of cramming.

Filter Type

The best way to create an aquarium that fulfills the needs of a Powder blue is to provide it with a living rock-based system. Instead of an artificial filter that needs regulation and maintenance, you can install a biological one. It would mean that there is a presence of bacteria within the rock. 

The bacteria would provide biological filtration by consuming the nitrates and the ammonia present in the water. You must control nitrates as they can prove fatal for the fish. So, these rock-based bacteria can help control the nitrate levels up to a significant level.

However, you can enhance their filtration capability by carbon dosing as well. Achieving it is simple with the help of either alcohol-based products or with the help of bio-pellet reactors. You must have a decent-sized efficient protein skimmer while you employ carbon dosing. 

There is another benefit of using biological filters such as rock-based or coral-based ones. The species of the coral can determine the intensity of water currents. However, it would mostly depend on the amount you stock.

On the other hand, if you prefer to install an artificial filter, you can use the stream-type pumps.


You can use a soft substrate such as fine dark sand. It will reduce the chances of the fish getting hurt as it tends to get aggressive.

How Many Powder Blue Tangs In 100-120 Gallon Tank

 The Powder Blue surgeonfish is a relatively big fish considering the fish available for aquariums. Though it may add to a benefit with its mesmerizing appearance, sometimes that may cause slight trouble. Since it can get aggressive with its kind, keeping two big tangs together in the same aquarium is not advisable. Therefore, you can consider keeping one fish in a 100-120 gallon tank.

Water Parameters For Powder Blue Tang

These tangs are avid swimmers and require oxygenated waters that resemble their home environment. The salt levels must contrast with the waters of the Indian Ocean for their better living. Let us now view the water parameters that these tangs require.

Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for powder blue tang is 74-80° F.

This temperature range would mimic the tropical atmosphere they receive in their natural habitat.

Water Flow Rate 

The water flow can be kept high as these species enjoy a vigorous flow.

pH Level

The perfect water pH level for powder blue tang is 8.1-8.5.

So we can infer that the powder blue surgeonfish needs a slightly basic pH level. Therefore, you must ensure that the water does not turn acidic or go beyond 8.5, as in either case, it may harm the fish.

Water Hardness

The water hardness should range between 8-12 dKH.

Powder Blue Tang Tank: Landscape

It needs plenty of live rock for better algae growth. The powder blue tang loves to nibble at algae. It will take 6 months to prepare the tank before the fish is introduced into it for a successful algae formation. You can keep temperatures at around 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Slightly less or more of that can still work for them. A pH of between 8.1-8.4 is recommended.

It requires sufficient oxygen. Equipping the tank with multiple powerheads can ensure enough oxygen supply. High water flow is another necessity since they enjoy high-speed waters.

When setting the tank, do not forget it swims all over the tank. If the rocks at the bottom of the tank are not properly laid, it can easily disturb them. Use reduced amounts of ammonia and nitrates. The fish is rather sensitive to waters with high amounts of organic chemicals.

Before introducing this fish to the home tank, ensure that all tank conditions are met. If possible, take plenty of time and do enough research before keeping it.

Best Plants For Powder Blue Tang Tanks

  • Java Fern
  • Java Moss
  • Water Sprite
  • Amazon Sword Plant

Worst Plants For Powder Blue Tang Tanks

  • Cordyline
  • Eichornia
  • Dracaena godseffiana

Decorations For Powder Blue Tang Tanks

Rocks having algae growing on them can be an excellent decoration choice. You can add sand, gravel, and more algae to make it similar to the environment of the African Indian Ocean.

Lighting for Powder Blue Tang Tanks

The powder blue tang is habitual to tropical waters. Therefore, it is important to ensure that it receives a sunlit environment in captivity. To do that, you must adjust the lighting of your tank to match the natural environment. You can achieve that by supplementing the tank lights with UV Finnex Planted+24/7 lights. You can also help the tang in treating diseases such as ich as the UV lights can prevent it.

Feeding Powder Blue Tang

Primarily herbivorous, the fish feeds on several kinds of seafood, even the meaty ones. Some feed to help keep it healthy are as under.

Best Diet for Powder Blue Tang

  • Dried seaweed or algae sea vegetables like spirulina and lettuce
  • Frozen brine and Mysis shrimp, and Live worms Foods enriched with vitamins. 
  • Flake foods that are algae-based when well-fed, the female tang tends to grow bigger than the male. Let the fish feed at least three times each day. Use the lettuce clip to give it its feeds.

 How Often Should You Feed Powder Blue Tang?

Blue Powder Tang should typically be fed every 3-4hours/ day. You can feed it every 3-4 hours a day to avoid overfeeding.

Powder Blue Tang: Behaviour and Temperament

The powder blue tang is considered an unfriendly fish. It urns aggressive when fish of its kind are introduced into the aquarium. It is important to introduce the tangs simultaneously to avoid these situations. In case of a later purchase, you can slightly alter the tank’s arrangement to create a feel of a new environment.

The aggressiveness towards the same tank-mates is often a result of fear that their kinds may invade their algae. They form schools meant to invade other territories when placed in the tank simultaneously. It is the best way to have them on friendly terms.

Powder Blue Tang: Tank Mates

When you introduce a tank mate with powder blue tang, you must be cautious. It has a particularly aggressive behavior towards its other surgeonfish. So, while introducing the mate, you must avoid any similar-looking fish.

Ideal Powder Blue Tang Tank Mates

  • Clownfish
  • Damselfish
  • Angelfish
  • Skank Cleaner Shrimp
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Dottybacks 
  • Wrasse
  • Gobie
  • Snail
  • Urchin

Bad Tank Mates For Powder Blue Tang

The bad tank mates include any fish that can make powder blue tang aggressive. It includes

  • Angelfish
  • Dottyback
  • Triggerfish

Breeding Powder Blue Tang

It is difficult to differentiate males from females, though naturally, females appear larger. So far, not much has been recorded about breeding the fish in a home tank. However, there is always room to try. Most professionals advise that various tangs can be purchased and placed in the same tank. Create a hospitable environment to keep the fish at the top of their form. When the conditions are just right, their breeding becomes better.

Powder Blue Tang Breeding Level


Powder Blue Tang Sexual Dimorphism?

To distinguish between male and female powder blue tangs, we must look at their shapes.

The females will appear larger than the males and show their dimorphism.

Powder Blue Tang Common Disease And Its Treatment

Marine Ich

The powder blue surgeonfish is a less resilient fish that may get ill if the tank conditions are altered even slightly. They are most susceptible to a common disease named marine ich. It is also known as white spot disease.

The main causative agent for this disease is a parasitic ciliate species called Cryptocaryon Irritans.

To identify whether your tang has contracted this disease, you can watch some common symptoms. These include loss of appetite, rapid breathing, and rapid scratching. Therefore, once you confirm that the fish is affected by the marine ich, you must consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Also, you must isolate the ill fish from other tank mates as it could affect them also. 

The treatment for marine ich includes UV light exposure, altered salinity of the water, etc. However, if the disease has taken its advanced form, you can use a copper sulfate-based medication after consulting your vet.

Facts About Powder Blue Tang

  • The powder blue tang is also known as the blue surgeonfish because it projects a scalpel-like structure. 
  • The Powder blue tang is generally peaceful, but they have a peculiarity that makes them aggressive to their kind.
  • Its primary food choice is benthic algae.
  • Powder blue tang is not expensive. A medium-sized powder blue tang would cost around $70-$80.
  • It has a relatively long life span and possesses a size that could go up to 10 inches.
  • These tang species also showcase a diurnal activity, rare among other fish.
  • It showcases a phenomenon called diurnal activity in scientific terms. 
  • The fish stays active and productive throughout the daytime. At the same time, when the night sets in, it takes rest or sleeps.

Are Powder Blue Tangs Right For You?

Powder blue tangs are visually attractive species. It is a great addition to the aquarium because of its vibrant colors and magnificent size. However, the only drawback with this type of surgeonfish is that it tends to get aggressive with a similar surgeonfish. Therefore we can say that it can be the right choice as long as you choose the tank mates carefully.


Are Powder Blue Tangs Safe?

The powder blue tangs are very safe when it comes to the safety of reefs. But, it would help if you did not ignore that they can get territorial after establishing their presence in the tank. It may involve various other conditions also, but it will be particularly visible with a new fish.

Are Powder Blue Tangs Aggressive?

Yes, the Powder Blue Tang can become threatening towards other surgeonfish. However, generally, they are peaceful. But, they can also get aggressive to other fish if the food supply gets low. 

How Long Can Powder Blue Tangs Live?

Powder Blue Tangs have a decent lifespan, and they should live approximately 8-10 years. But you can expect more if you keep them well.


Keeping the powder blue tang in the “usual tank” may lead to disastrous results. Over the years, some people have not been too lucky with it under normal circumstances. The fish eats quite fast. When it is kept with other fish, ensure they are well fed since powder blue tang may render them hungry if you are not careful.

Before purchasing the tang, one needs to do plenty of research. If possible, take enough time at the aquarium to observe water conditions, feed, and gather any other information that can be useful. When purchasing the fish, ensure it is healthy. A dull one should be a no!

If it shows signs of sickness, look for a vet as quickly as possible. Tangs are active species that love to swim around the tank actively. If the reverse happens, something must have been missed. Powder Blue Tang is a very beautiful fish. So as long as all conditions are met, it should do splendidly well.

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