Purple Tang Care And Breeding Guide

The sea is rich with a variety of fauna. One of them is the purple tang with its beautiful arrangement of colors. Also known as Yellowtail Sailfin Tang, this fish is a great addition to an aquarium. With a purple body and light yellow tail, it is also disease resistant once it acclimatizes.

Origin of Fish

Previously, purple tang was unique to the Red Sea. However, it was later discovered to inhabit the waters off Sri Lanka, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden. When conditions at the aquarium are just right, it can survive within the home tank as well.

Within their natural environment, purple tang can go to depths of up to 65 feet. Of course there are times when they are somewhere almost at the top of water, 2 feet to be precise. But such moments are usually occasional.

They can swim singly or in groups of two. Sometimes they even form schools. They live in coral rich sections of the sea. Rubble reefs are also a favorite. Their young ones love solitary lives, and find their best positions within the corals for secretive moments.


Purple Tang

Similar to all surgeon fish, the purple tang has a disk-shaped body. Both the dorsal and anal fins are huge, giving the fish a balloon like shape. When these fins are fully extended, the height is almost equal to its length. Such rare moments in an aquarium are very exciting to observe.

Like most other sailfin tangs, their snouts are extended outwards. Their bodies have a beautiful bluish almost purple color. The tail is bright yellow. The head has black spots, same to the remaining portion of the body that extends to adjacent fins. The whole body has scribbly horizontal lines apart from the caudal fin. On the edge of pectoral fins are scanty yellow colorings.

Adult purple tangs can measure up to 25cm in the wild. In captivity, it is about 22cm.

Tank Requirements

Purple tangs are known to be very agile swimmers. As a result, they require wide space in a tank to be happy. They also enjoy a feeling of security hence would do well with plenty of rocks. These rocks should have some nooks and crannies for the fish to wedge themselves into. They also act as the sleeping areas for the purple tang when it is dark. The fish do not bother rocks and instead look for algae. For this reason, the tank must have plenty of algae to prevent the fish from disturbing the peace of the rocks. For successful coral formation and retention, they should be glued onto the rocks. Remember the purple tang is agile and is likely to topple coral reefs if not well glued.

For an adult purple tang, 100 gallons of water is sufficient. Juveniles can survive with 60 gallons. In its natural environment, it enjoys plenty of light. In an aquarium, normal lighting is sufficient. If it looks a little pale, more lighting can be added. Temperatures of between 74 and 82 Fahrenheit can do quite well.

They need quick speed water and for this reason, provide it. It spends most of its time swimming, darting inside and outside rock crevices. Ensure the tank has conditions necessary for its happiness.


They are considered herbivores though they lean more towards the omnivores. In the wild, algae is their favorite dish. In the aquarium, they take vegetables and protein rich foods. Feeds that can work well for them are:

  • Fish and eggs
  • Marine algae
  • Frozen brine
  • Flake foods
  • Mysid shrimp
  • Sea-weed
  • Japanese Nori

Occasionally, live rock with macro and micro-organisms can be placed inside the tank. This gives the purple tang a reason to be happy in its environment. To meet its complete nutritional needs, provision of vitamin c is necessary. This helps prevent LLC (Lateral Line Erosion). Vitamin C can be added to the water or given in form of dried pellets soaked in liquid with garlic.

Frozen zucchini, spinach, broccoli and lettuce leaves can make its diet very complete. Since the fish is very agile, it has to be well fed. 3 times a day, providing smaller quantities each day is better than huge quantities infrequently.


Noting sexual difference between the male and female purple tangs is very difficult. However, males tend to be larger than females as opposed to most other fish species. The males also become more colorful during times for spawning.

Cases of the purple fish being bred in captivity are rare or even next to nil. Of course there are some cases of the fish having been bred in public aquariums with huge tanks that provide conditions almost similar to that of the wild. In home tanks, so far no one has recorded success.

Some points to remember about Purple Tang

  • They love to graze on algae and may destroy it if it is not well stocked.
  • They are friendly and can be kept in a community tank. Elements of bullying can normally be spotted for their own species. This is particularly so with aging purple tangs. When new additions are added, they tend to be intolerant of them.
  • If a hobbyist wishes to add more purple fish to the tank, the best method is having many at ago. A single addition may suffer instances of bullying and may even die in the process.
  • Another way of successfully adding a new member to the group is after changing the rocks in the tank. This gives the newcomer a place to hide into while distracting the old members.
  • There are moments when they may not feed since they are said to store fat in their bodies. This can keep them going even without feeding. In case one notices this, there should be no cause for worry.
  • The purple tang is usually hardy and can be healthy so long as all its tank requirements are met.

Availability and Price

They are fairly expensive with a single one averaging $75 or more. All the same, the purple tang can be a beautiful addition to the aquarium.

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