What do Tangs eat?

What do Tangs eat?

Key Takeaways:

  • Tangs are herbivorous fish that primarily feed on algae and plant matter.
  • They have a specialized dental structure called “beak-like teeth” that helps them scrape algae off rocks and coral.
  • In addition to algae, tangs also eat plankton, small invertebrates, and occasionally some meaty foods.
  • Providing a varied diet with high-quality dried and frozen foods, as well as fresh vegetables, is important for their health and well-being.
  • Avoid feeding tangs with foods that contain excessive amounts of phosphates, nitrates, or artificial colorings.

If you’re a fish enthusiast or considering adding a tang to your aquarium, you might be wondering, “What do tangs eat?” Well, you’ve come to the right place! Tangs, also known as surgeonfish, are herbivorous marine fish known for their vibrant colors and distinctive beak-like teeth. In this article, we’ll explore the dietary habits of tangs, their preferred food sources, and how to provide a healthy and balanced diet for these fascinating creatures.

Tangs belong to the family Acanthuridae, and most species within this family are primarily herbivorous. They have a specialized dental structure made up of small, sharp, beak-like teeth that protrude from their jaws. This unique feature allows them to scrape algae off rocks and coral, making greenery their main source of nutrition. So, it’s safe to say that tangs are true veggie lovers!

But what kind of algae do tangs eat? Well, they are not picky eaters regarding the green stuff. Tangs will happily devour different types of algae, including filamentous algae, hair algae, bubble algae, and even macroalgae such as chaetomorpha. This affinity for algae not only provides essential nutrients but also helps keep the aquarium clean and free from excessive algae growth.

A Balanced Diet for Happy Tangs

While algae form the bulk of a tang’s diet, it’s important to provide them with a varied and balanced diet to ensure their well-being. In captivity, tangs should be offered a mixture of high-quality dried and frozen foods that mimic their natural diet.

Here’s a list of recommended foods for tangs:

  • Seaweed sheets: These can be easily attached to a feeding clip or rock in the aquarium. Tangs will happily graze on them, just like they would in the wild.
  • Frozen herbivore blends: These convenient mixtures of various plant matter, such as spinach, spirulina, and kelp, provide a nutritious supplement to their diet.
  • Pellets and flakes: Look for high-quality formulas specifically designed for herbivorous fish. These should contain a good balance of plant-based ingredients and essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Mysis shrimp and brine shrimp: While tangs are primarily herbivorous, they can also consume small quantities of meaty foods like shrimp. These can be offered as occasional treats.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Foods with excessive phosphates and nitrates: Tangs are sensitive to water quality, and high phosphate and nitrate levels can be harmful to them. Avoid feeding them foods that can contribute to nutrient imbalance in the aquarium.
  • Foods with artificial colorings: Some fish foods contain artificial colorings that can potentially impact the overall health of tangs. Opt for natural and organic options whenever possible.

Encouraging Natural Feeding Behaviors

In the wild, tangs spend a significant amount of time foraging and grazing on algae-rich surfaces. To mimic this natural behavior, it’s essential to provide them with the right environment and feeding opportunities in the aquarium.

Here are some tips to encourage natural feeding behaviors:

  1. Provide live rocks: Live rocks in the aquarium not only add beauty but also serve as a natural buffet for tangs. These rocks are covered in beneficial algae that tangs can graze on.
  2. Utilize feeding clips: Attaching seaweed sheets or other foods to feeding clips allows tangs to peck and graze on the food, just like they would with algae in the wild.
  3. Implement a feeding schedule: Establishing a regular feeding schedule helps tangs recognize and anticipate mealtime, making them more eager to feed.

Remember, tangs have high metabolisms, and they should be fed multiple times a day in smaller portions to prevent overeating and to ensure a steady nutrient supply.


Tangs are lively and entertaining fish that bring color and vibrancy to any aquarium. As herbivorous creatures, they have a special dietary requirement for algae and other plant matter. Offering a varied diet with high-quality dried and frozen foods, along with fresh vegetables, will help keep them healthy and happy. By mimicking their natural feeding behaviors and providing a balanced diet, you’ll ensure that your tangs thrive in their underwater home. So, go ahead and create an algae-tasting menu for your tangs—they’ll thank you with their exuberant presence and impressive colors!