The colourful world of Blue Tangs

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Write-up by Kenneth Kwang, photos by Ng Boon Ping and Tan Hian Hian from the curatorial team at S.E.A. Aquarium

The Blue Tang is a member of the Acanthuridae family of Surgeonfish with a few common names like Regal Blue Tang, Hippo Tang, Pallete Surgeonfish and many more. Beautiful and harmless as it looks, it actually swims around with a “scalpel”. Here are five awesome facts about this gorgeous fish:

  1. “Scalpel” on the tail

The Surgeonfish name is derived from the scalpel-like structures found near their tails. When annoyed, two surgeonfish may slap each other with their tails causing superficial cuts that are usually not life threatening.

Check out those "scalpels" at the base of their tail.
Check out those “scalpels” at the base of their tail.
  1. Tangs add colours to the sea

While Blue Tangs typically have a blue and black (or navy) body and a yellow tail, the tangs family comprises species that come in a wide variety of colors. These include the Yellow Tang, Purple Tang, Powder Blue Tang, and Clown Tang which add a whole lot of vibrant colours to the reef.

Yellow Tangs (left) and the Purple Tang (right)
Yellow Tangs (left) and the Purple Tang (right)
  1. Peek a Boo!

The Blue Tang has the habit of slipping into crevices of corals or rocks either to sleep or hide, thanks to their laterally flat body. When they slip into a crevice horizontally and remain motionless, they are sometimes mistaken to be asleep when they are really just hiding.

  1. Not fit for consumption

As tempting as it looks, NEVER eat the Blue Tang. Its flesh has a strong odour and if consumed by humans, it may cause ciguatera poisoning (due to ciguatoxin originating from small marine organisms such as algae that grow on coral reefs).

  1. Keeps coral reefs thriving

Blue Tangs are naturally found in tropical coral reefs and are mainly herbivores. They can be seen spending most of their time grazing on algae in the reef. This prevents algae overgrowth which can suffocate corals.


Come meet the beautiful Blue Tangs and their colourful cousins like the Yellow Tang and Purple Tang at the S.E.A. Aquarium.

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