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Yellow Tang: the great beauty

In the exciting world of aquarium hobby, the zembrasoma flavescens fish, also called surgeon fish or yellow tang, is one of the most requested. This is attributed to their incredible beauty, great endurance, and relative sociability with other aquarium inhabitants. If you are a marine life enthusiast, you are surely interested in adding one to your collection. Before that there are certain aspects that you must know to give you the best possible deal. Join us to learn how to take good care of this specimen.

Scientific name

Although it is commonly known as the yellow tang, its scientific name is Zembrasoma Flavescens.

yellow tang

Origin and Family

The Zembrasoma Flavescens fish or yellow surgeon fish is from the Acanthuridae family. Such a name is used for a genus of tropical marine fish that inhabit coral reefs. It is colloquially known as the yellow tang to distinguish it from the common tang, a bright blue relative.


This fish swims in the waters of the central and western Pacific Ocean. Specifically, it is distributed in Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Guam, Japan, Palau, the Philippines, the Mariana Islands and Taiwan, although the largest number of specimens is found in Hawaii.

The yellow tang can be found in coral reefs, in bays or in lagoons, not very deep (no more than 40 meters) and seeks shaded areas. On the other hand, it is a somewhat solitary marine animal. They usually live alone, in pairs or small groups.

It is not an aggressive fish, since it lives without problem with other marine animals both in the wild and in captivity, although the males of the same species are very territorial and can attack each other.

a yellow tang in the reef

Size and Shape

The yellow tang has a physical shape similar to the tip of an arrow. It has a flattened body on the sides, ventral fins, and a thin, prominent mouth. It has an intense and vibrant lemon yellow coloration and a retractable spine located on each side of the caudal fin. Which is a common trait of her family and is used to defend herself. As a curious fact, this peculiarity is what gives it its name of surgeon, due to its resemblance to the scalpel.

The Zembrasoma Flavescens fish or yellow surgeon fish can reach about 20 cm in captivity. In their natural environment, however, they can easily reach 25 to 30 cm in length.

What do Zebrasoma flavescens eat?

It is a herbivorous species that spends most of its time pecking for stringy green algae. Its long snout and its terminal mouth favor this work since it is capable of reaching many remote places where other species cannot. In captivity they maintain this habit so we must offer them a diet in which vegetable matter reaches 90% of the total.

For this task, the simplest thing is to get hold of suitable freeze-dried algae that are sold in papyrus and place them with a suction cup tweezers. Background pills or vegetable pellets are also useful. Flakes are not indicated as they will have difficulty locating them and it is likely that they will be deposited in some corner of the aquarium producing nitrogenous compounds and phosphates.

We can also offer cooked lettuce or spinach attached in the same way as seaweed. They do not consume the vegetables that are left floating and of the submerged ones they will only touch the greenest areas. It is not serious, it will do so because it is very voracious, if it reaches the most protein food aimed at the rest of the species, but we must take into account offering them their specific diet. An excess of protein food can cause severe intestinal blockages.

Diseases, intestinal problems and skin conditions

Although it is less sensitive than other species of Yellow Tang, one of the greatest threats is skin infections.

As I have mentioned, another risk factor is intestinal conditions that can be caused by parasites, so the fish that is acquired must be studied very well, making sure that it has passed a minimum previous quarantine. Those animals that do not eat or their appearance is not suitable with a sunken belly should not be acquired.

The condition to which the species is most sensitive is called Oodinium black or black spots on the skin. This skin infection is caused by a small parasitic worm belonging to the turbellarian flatworms. It is visible because the animal has black dots of different sizes spread throughout its body. The fins and gill area may also be affected. These spots are actually cysts. It causes rapid breathing and excessive secretion of mucus. Affected fish will show other symptoms such as rapid and nervous movements, tilted positions and visible skin hemorrhages in advanced stages of infection. In the presence of the parasitic worm, it is normal for secondary bacterial infections to occur, which will complicate the state of health of our animal.

The severity of the infestation by this parasite will depend on the number of cysts and the size of the animal. The most suitable treatment in a quarantine aquarium is trichlorfon (Metrifonate). In the case of bacterial diseases, amoxicillin for fish or ampicillin for fish can be used in general.


The Zembrasoma Flavescens fish or yellow tang fish is oviparous, in nature it has been seen spawning in groups. Although it is also common for it to do so in pairs, where a territorial male courts the females. In this case, every time a female passes by and spawns, the male is responsible for fertilizing the eggs. In a year they are capable of laying up to 1,050,000 eggs. This process usually occurs only in the periods of full moon.


Because the Zembrasoma Flavescens fish or yellow surgeon fish is a tropical specimen, it enjoys temperate waters. The most optimal is to maintain the temperature of the aquarium between a constant 24 ºC and 27ºC  degrees, day and night. In this way, you guarantee its comfort and a long life. It is important to note that it is convenient to accompany them with other fish that are also adept at this aquatic climate.

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