Mimic Tang: A Colorful Guide to This Unique Marine Fish

Mimic Tangs are a unique and colorful addition to any saltwater aquarium, known for their ability to blend in with other marine life. As a fish enthusiast, you might be intrigued by these captivating creatures and their unique adaptations.

With their varying colors and patterns, these fish can be quite alluring to watch as they swim around in your aquarium. Understanding their behavior and care requirements is essential to maintaining a healthy environment for your Mimic Tang.

In this article, we will explore the species profile of the Mimic Tang, including their natural habitat, diet, and compatibility. With this information, you’ll be better prepared to provide a proper home for these mesmerizing marine inhabitants.

Species Overview

The Mimic Tang, or Acanthurus pyroferus, is a fascinating fish that is well-known for mimicking certain species of angelfish, particularly as a juvenile. As the fish matures, it undergoes a noticeable color transformation, yet it still retains its striking appearance, making it a beautiful addition to a saltwater aquarium.

Mimic Tangs thrive in the Indo-Pacific seas, extending from the southern coast of Japan to the Great Barrier Reef. They are solitary species predominantly found in lagoons and seaward reefs, feeding on different types of algae.

These fish have a slightly aggressive temperament, which helps them protect their territory in the wild. Ensure that you choose suitable tank mates and provide ample space for the Mimic Tang to thrive. Here’s a quick overview of their characteristics and requirements:

Property Information
Scientific name Acanthurus pyroferus
Common names Mimic Tang, Chocolate Surgeonfish, Lemonhead Mimic Tang
Distribution Indo-Pacific Sea
Size 8 inches (20.3 cm)
Lifespan 5-7 years
Diet Herbivore (algae)
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Minimum tank size 100 gallons (379 liters)
Temperature 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
pH 8.1-8.4
Water hardness 8-12 dKH
Care level Moderate
Filtration/Water Flow Moderate to high
Water type Saltwater
Breeding N/A
Breeding difficulty High
Compatibility Reef safe, be cautious with tank mates

Remember to closely monitor the water parameters and provide a balanced diet to ensure your Mimic Tang remains healthy and thriving in its environment.

Mimic Tang Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

Mimic Tangs, scientifically known as Acanthurus Pyroferus, are fascinating saltwater fish that inadvertently mimic certain angelfish species in their juvenile stages. They are native to the Indian Ocean, and their natural habitats include areas with coral reefs and rocky substrates. Mimic Tangs are reef-safe fish, making them a popular choice for marine aquarium enthusiasts.

Size and Shape

As for their size and shape, Mimic Tangs are relatively easy to care for since they are not particularly large. They typically grow to about 7 to 8 inches, although they can reach up to 10 inches (25 cm) in some cases. Mimic Tangs have an oval-shaped body, and their caudal fins are lunate in adults, contributing to their visually appealing appearance. Remember, they require ample swimming space due to their active nature.

Color and Markings

When it comes to color and markings, Mimic Tangs go through a transformation as they age. While they are yellow with blue highlights around their eyes and gill covers as juveniles, adult Mimic Tangs show a dark brown or purplish-black color. An orange patch emanates from the pectoral fin base, and they have a dark band covering their gill openings that arcs down to their chins. A narrow white band encircles their mouths, creating a striking contrast.


As for their lifespan, with proper care, a Mimic Tang can live a fulfilling life of around 5-7 years in a home aquarium. Providing high water quality, adequate swimming space, and a balanced diet will help ensure they thrive in their new environment.

Diet and Feeding

As a Mimic Tang owner, it’s essential for you to know that these fish are herbivorous and love to eat algae. To ensure a balanced diet, Nori (dried seaweed) can be an excellent choice for feeding your fish regularly. Additionally, it’s a good idea to feed your Mimic Tang Spirulina (blue-green algae), which can be found in enriched brine shrimp or frozen herbivore rations.

Don’t forget to include some variety by adding small amounts of meaty proteins like Mysis or brine shrimp, along with krill. These treats will keep their diet diverse and help maintain their overall health.

Focus on providing your Mimic Tang with a nutritious and varied diet consisting of algae, Nori, Spirulina-enriched brine shrimp, Mysis, and even vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, and broccoli. Remember that a balanced diet is crucial for your fish’s wellbeing and overall health. Happy fishkeeping!

Behavior and Temperament

Mimic Tangs, also known as Chocolate Tangs or Lemonhead Mimic Tangs, are part of the Surgeonfish family and can exhibit an aggressive behavior pattern in order to defend their territory. However, they are generally peaceful when placed in a suitable environment with compatible tank mates.

In your tank, it is important to provide them with plenty of space to swim and explore, as this helps decrease the chances of territorial disputes. A good rule of thumb is to keep Mimic Tangs in a 120-gallon tank, which allows them to thrive without feeling cramped.

When it comes to their interaction with other fish, Mimic Tangs may bicker with other tangs over territories, especially around their feeding times. To maintain a harmonious environment in your tank, it’s prudent to avoid keeping them with conspecifics and monitoring their compatibility with other tank mates.

Remember to be conscious of their temperament and provide them with the space and tank setup needed for them to thrive. In doing so, you’ll enjoy a beautiful and dynamic addition to your aquarium.

Care and Tank Requirements

In this section, we’ll discuss proper care and tank requirements for Mimic Tangs, focusing on tank size, water parameters, tank setup and decorations, as well as filtration and aeration.

Tank Size

When keeping a Mimic Tang, it is crucial to provide ample space for swimming. For a fully grown Mimic Tang, which can reach up to 10 inches in length, a minimum tank size of 120-150 gallons is recommended. This will ensure your fish has plenty of room to thrive and stay healthy.

Water Parameters

Mimic Tangs typically reside in lagoons and seaward reefs, at depths between 6 and 85 feet. To replicate their natural habitat, aim to maintain the following water parameters in the tank:

  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020-1.025 specific gravity
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Keep as close to 0 ppm as possible

Regular water tests and maintenance are essential to ensure these parameters remain stable and suitable for your Mimic Tang.

Tank Setup and Decorations

Creating a comfortable environment that resembles the Mimic Tang’s natural habitat is crucial. To set up the tank, include:

  • A mix of sand and crushed coral as substrate
  • Live rock for hiding and grazing
  • Open swimming space for increased mobility

Incorporate dimly lit areas in the tank, as Mimic Tangs often prefer these. When possible, use live rock and coral to mimic their natural environment, replicating the rocky, reef-filled areas they usually inhabit.

Filtration and Aeration

Efficient filtration and water movement are essential to maintaining a healthy environment for Mimic Tangs. Aim to have a high-quality filtration system that is capable of handling a tank of 120-150 gallons. This system should remove waste particles, maintain chemical and biological balance, and promote water circulation.

In addition, Mimic Tangs require highly oxygenated water, achieved through increased surface agitation using equipment like a circulation pump. Proper water circulation and aeration will provide the necessary oxygen levels for your fish and ensure a stable and healthy environment in the tank.

Remember to focus on the topics listed and to keep the tone friendly and engaging. Happy fishkeeping!

Suitable Tank Mates

When choosing suitable tank mates for your Mimic Tang, it’s important to consider the compatibility and temperament of the fish you are introducing to the aquarium. You want to create a harmonious living space for all of your saltwater species, while also maintaining the overall health and well-being of your Mimic Tang.

Firstly, avoid adding other angelfish to your tank as they may fight over food and attack each other. In rare cases, if you’d like to add more Tangs for increased color in the aquarium, ensure they are of similar size, have no similarities, and introduce them simultaneously. Monitor the fish closely to prevent any fights and promote tolerance. Mimic Tangs generally coexist well with other reef fish but may become territorial if underfed or kept in a small tank.

Here’s a list of potential tank mates for your Mimic Tang:

  • Clownfish
  • Blennies
  • Gobies
  • Wrasses
  • Damsels

Remember to take into account the tank size, environmental factors, and nutritional requirements of all your fish to ensure their long-term happiness and health. With the right selection of tank mates, your Mimic Tang can thrive in a vibrant and diverse saltwater aquarium.


Breeding Mimic Tangs in your home aquarium can be quite a challenge. Unfortunately, they have not been successfully bred in such environments. The main reason for this difficulty is that it is tough to differentiate between male and female Mimic Tangs, as they look very similar.

As a fishkeeper, you should be cautious when adding multiple Mimic Tangs to your tank. Unlike other Tang species, they tend to fight each other. So, it is better to avoid keeping two of them in the same tank.

In their natural habitat, Mimic Tangs typically release their eggs into plankton, an environment that is challenging to replicate within a home aquarium. Breeding these fish calls for ample space that allows the male and female to swim together and release the eggs.

Given these unique challenges, it is recommended to let the Mimic Tangs breed naturally in their wild habitats. By doing so, you can still enjoy adding a beautiful and fascinating specimen to your aquarium without the added stress of attempting to breed them.

Common Diseases and Treatments

Marine diseases can commonly affect your Mimic Tang. One such illness is Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), which can be caused by stress and malnutrition. To prevent HLLE, make sure you acclimate your Mimic Tang properly to its new environment and provide a well-balanced diet for optimal health.

Marine ich and velvet infections are another concern for your Mimic Tang. These conditions are caused by pre-existing parasites. It’s wise to quarantine your Mimic Tang before introducing it to your main tank to detect and treat any potential infections beforehand.

Algae consumption is important for the overall health of your Mimic Tang, as it helps to keep their immune system strong and prevent the onset of various diseases. Make sure there is sufficient algae available in your tank and consider supplementing their diet with additional algae-based foods.

By monitoring your Mimic Tang’s diet, acclimating them carefully, and implementing preventive measures such as quarantine and algae consumption, you can help them maintain good health and avoid common diseases. Remember to keep a close eye on their behaviors and appearance, seeking professional advice and treatment if you suspect any health issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for a Mimic Tang?

For a Mimic Tang, the recommended minimum tank size is 125 gallons (473 liters). This provides ample space for the fish to swim and explore, helping to keep it healthy and happy.

Are Mimic Tangs Reef safe?

Yes, Mimic Tangs are considered reef safe. They are compatible with many types of coral and can be a great addition to a reef aquarium.

Can a Mimic Tang coexist with other tangs?

Mimic Tangs are known to be solitary species. However, they can coexist with other tangs in a tank if provided with enough space and hiding spots. It is important to closely monitor their behavior and compatibility when introducing different tangs to your aquarium.

What makes a Mimic Tang different from other tangs?

The unique feature of Mimic Tangs is their ability to change their appearance depending on their location and mimic other nearby fish species, specifically Centropyge species. This characteristic helps them blend in with their environment and avoid predators.

Are there different types of Mimic Tangs?

Yes, there are different types of Mimic Tangs, each displaying slightly different color patterns. Some notable variations include the Yellow Mimic Tang, also known as the Mimic Lemon Peel Tang, and the Half Black Mimic Tang. The coloration of the fish may change as it matures, adding to the variety and interest of this species.