Clown Tang: A Colorful Fish for Your Aquarium Family

Clown Tangs are a striking and vibrant addition to any marine aquarium. With their dazzling horizontal blue stripes on a yellow to orange background, these members of the Surgeonfish family (Acanthurus lineatus) are sure to catch your eye as they gracefully swim through the water.

As an expert-level fish to care for, you’ll need to ensure that their needs are met for them to thrive. In this article, we’ll go over the essential elements of Clown Tang care, including diet, tank size, tank mates, and breeding. Providing the right environment for your Clown Tang will ensure a happy, healthy, and colorful addition to your aquatic collection.

Species Overview

The Clown Tang is a stunning and active species that can be the centerpiece of a large saltwater tank. Known for their bright colors and unique forked tails, these fish are members of the Surgeonfish family. Caring for Clown Tangs requires excellent water conditions and ample space due to their constant swimming and grazing habits.

Here’s a table summarizing important information about Clown Tangs for your convenience:

Property Details
Scientific name Acanthurus lineatus
Common names Clown Tang, Clown Surgeonfish, Lined Surgeonfish
Distribution Indo-Pacific
Size 12-14 inches (30.5-35.6cm)
Lifespan 8-12 years (under ideal conditions)
Diet Herbivore
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Minimum tank size 250 gallons (946L)
Temperature 75 – 82°F (24 to 28°C)
pH 8.1 – 8.4
Water hardness 8 -12 dKH
Care level Expert
Filtration/Water Flow Moderate to high
Water type Saltwater
Breeding Egg scatterers
Breeding difficulty Very difficult
Compatibility With caution (best with other larger fish)

Remember, Clown Tangs demand attention to water quality and require proper nutrition to thrive. Ensure an adequate supply of algae and seaweed for them to graze on. With proper care, you can enjoy their vibrant presence and watch them soar through your tank gracefully.

Clown Tang Basics

In this section, you’ll learn the basics about Clown Tang, including their origins, size, appearance, and lifespan.

Origins and Natural Habitat

Clown Tangs, or Acanthurus lineatus, are members of the Surgeonfish family. They can be found in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, from East Africa to the Western Pacific. Their habitat includes coral reefs, lagoons, and seaward reef slopes, where they swim among corals and rocks.

Size and Shape

Clown Tangs have a unique shape and can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. Their bodies are laterally compressed, with a distinctive forked tail that allows them to cut through the water as they swim.

Color and Markings

These saltwater fish are known for their vibrant, horizontal stripes that alternate between cyan blue and yellow. Their white bellies stand out against these bold colors, providing them with an eye-catching appearance. Additionally, their forked tails often have a blue or yellow outer edge.


In the proper conditions and environment, Clown Tangs can have a lifespan of 5-7 years. To ensure they thrive, it’s essential to provide them with appropriate water temperatures (72° – 78° F), pH levels (8.1 – 8.4), and a balanced diet of fish, meats, vegetables, and plants. Moreover, their natural aggressive temperament means that they require a spacious 250-gallon (946 liters) tank.

Remember, when setting up an aquarium for your Clown Tang, consider their unique needs and natural habits, to ensure their well-being and longevity.

Diet and Feeding

Clown Tangs are primarily herbivores that enjoy grazing on algae and live rock in their natural habitat. To maintain a healthy, balanced diet, it’s crucial to provide your Clown Tang with a variety of plant-based foods.

You can offer dried seaweed, spirulina flakes, and high-quality prepared foods specifically designed for herbivorous marine fish. Supplement their diet with occasional meaty treats, such as brine shrimp or mysis shrimp.

When you first introduce your Clown Tang to its new home, it might be hesitant to eat. In such cases, be patient and gently encourage them to accept prepared foods. It’s essential to establish regular feeding times, making sure not to overfeed your fish.

Remember, a well-balanced diet will help your Clown Tang maintain its vibrant colors and overall health. So, always pay attention to their eating habits and adjust the diet if necessary.

Behavior and Temperament

Clown Tangs, also known as Acanthurus lineatus, are known for being quite aggressive in an aquarium setting. In their natural habitat, these fish are constantly on the move. They enjoy swimming and navigating through their environment, making them an engaging addition to your tank.

As an omnivore, you’ll want to provide a balanced diet of both meaty foods and plant matter to keep them healthy. They also graze on algae and live rock in their environment, so ensuring a variety in their diet is crucial.

It’s important to be cautious when selecting tankmates for your Clown Tang. Due to their aggressive nature, they should be paired with equally assertive or larger-sized fish. Avoid introducing them to a tank with smaller, more timid fish, as the Clown Tangs could bully them or even cause injuries.

Remember that these fish can grow up to 12 inches in length and require a minimum tank size of 250 gallons (946 liters). Providing them with ample swimming space and hiding spots will help reduce aggression and maintain a more harmonious environment in your aquarium.

Care and Tank Requirements

Tank Size

Your Clown Tang will need a minimum tank size of 250 Gallons (946 liters) to thrive. This is because they can grow up to 12-14 inches (30.5-35.6cm) and require ample swimming space.

Water Parameters

Maintain the following water conditions in your tank:

  • Temperature: 72° – 78° F
  • pH: 8.1 – 8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020 – 1.025 specific gravity

Consider using an Auto Top Off (ATO) system to help keep a stable water chemistry.

Tank Setup and Decorations

Create a reef-friendly environment for your Clown Tang by including:

  • A variety of live rocks for grazing and hiding
  • Open swimming space
  • A sandy substrate

Filtration and Aeration

Proper filtration and aeration are crucial for maintaining water quality. Use efficient filters, like canister or sump filters, and regularly check their performance. Additionally, consider using a protein skimmer to remove organic compounds and improve water quality.

Suitable Tank Mates

When selecting suitable tank mates for your clown tang, it’s essential to consider different body shapes and colors of other tangs and saltwater fish. Keep a close eye on aggression levels and be prepared to remove any incompatible fish if needed. Cleaner shrimp, anemones, and starfish make good companions for clown tangs.

It’s best to avoid adding other clown tangs or tangs with similar body shapes and colors to the tank, as this can lead to territorial disputes and stress. Additionally, passive fish or those that are prone to bullying should not be housed with clown tangs, who are known for their active and tenacious nature.

Here are some friendly tank mates to consider for your clown tang:

  • Anemones
  • Angelfish (e.g., Emperor Angelfish)
  • Hippo Tangs
  • Orange Shoulder Tangs
  • Purple Tangs
  • Starfish (e.g., Chocolate Chip Starfish)
  • Tomini Tangs
  • Vlamingi Tangs
  • Yellow Tangs

By creating a harmonious tank environment with compatible tank mates, your clown tang and its new friends will live a more comfortable and stress-free life together.


When it comes to breeding Clown Tangs, it’s important to understand their natural breeding habits. In the wild, these fish are known to live in harems, with one male protecting multiple females. They are broadcast breeders, meaning they release their reproductive cells into the water. The current then helps these cells bind together, and the larva eventually develops among floating plankton.

Interestingly, Clown Tangs generally spawn during full moons in their natural environment. However, attempting to breed them in a home aquarium is nearly impossible. This is because they need a large space to breed and sexing these fish is extremely challenging. Males and females tend to look nearly identical, with females being just slightly larger.

Knowing that Clown Tangs are an egg-scattering species, it’s also crucial to realize they form pairs to spawn in the wild. Unfortunately, breeding them in captivity is incredibly difficult and not recommended for most hobbyists. So, while you may enjoy their stunning appearance in your aquarium, it’s best to appreciate them without attempting to breed them at home.

Common Diseases and Treatments

Clown Tangs are beautiful fish, but they can be prone to certain diseases. As an owner, it’s important for you to be aware of these conditions and learn how to treat them.

One common issue is ich or white spot disease, which appears as tiny white spots on your fish’s body and fins. Quarantine the affected fish and treat the tank with copper-based medications, following the manufacturer’s directions.

Another problem is marine velvet, a parasitic infection causing a dusty appearance on the fish’s body. It’s crucial to catch this early, as it can be fatal if left untreated. A freshwater dip and the use of copper-based medications should help combat this issue.

Lastly, pay attention to signs of malnutrition in your Clown Tang. As herbivores, they require a diet rich in vegetables and plant matter, so ensure they have a balanced diet. Not doing so can lead to a weakened immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases.

Remember, prevention is the best medicine. Keep your tank clean, maintain optimal water conditions, and provide a balanced diet to keep your Clown Tang healthy and disease-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the ideal tank conditions for a clown tang?

To keep your clown tang happy and healthy, maintain a water temperature between 72° – 78° F and a pH level between 8.1 – 8.4. Your tank should be at least 250 gallons (946L) in size to accommodate the growth of these fish, which can reach up to 14 inches in length. An Auto Top Off (ATO) system is recommended to help stabilize water chemistry.

Are Clown Tangs reef safe?

Yes, clown tangs are considered to be reef safe. They can live well within reef tanks and coexist with other reef-dwelling species. Just ensure you provide enough hiding spots to avoid aggression and territorial disputes among your fish.

Which tankmates are compatible with clown tangs?

When selecting tankmates for your clown tang, avoid aggressive and similarly-patterned fish to reduce competition. It is also essential to consider the compatibility of your chosen tankmates with the specific tank conditions required for clown tangs. Some compatible species include peaceful reef-dwelling fish, such as fairy wrasses, cardinalfish, and various gobies.

What type of diet should a clown tang have?

As herbivores, clown tangs primarily consume algae. Provide them with a diet rich in marine algae and include high-quality herbivore-approved pellets or flakes. You can also supplement their diet with fresh, leafy greens like spinach and nori. Remember to feed your clown tang in small amounts and multiple times a day, as overfeeding can lead to health issues.

How fast do clown tangs grow?

Clown tangs can grow relatively quickly when provided with proper care and suitable tank conditions. These fish can reach their full size of 12-14 inches (30.5-35.6cm) within 2-3 years. To encourage healthy growth, maintain a clean and stable environment and provide them with a balanced diet.

Can clown tangs change color?

Yes, clown tangs have the ability to change color. They can display a range of colors from yellow to dark blue, along with their distinctive horizontal stripes. This color change can indicate various factors, including mood, stress, or communication with other fish. Pay attention to your clown tang’s coloration and behavior to assess their overall health and well-being.