Blue Tang Lifespan – How Long Do They Live?

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Blue tangs are some of the most beloved marine fish for 3 primary reasons: they’re gorgeous-looking, they’re fun, and they live for a long time.

This makes blue tangs become part of the family, exceeding the simple pet status.

Today, we will discuss the lifespan of blue tangs and how you can improve their quality of life over the years. After all, a healthy and happy tang is a longer-lived one.

How Long do Blue Tangs Live in Captivity?

There are conflicting reports on blue tang lifespan in captivity, but the general consensus is that these marine fish can live up to 20 years with good care.

If this sounds impressive, consider that the blue tang can easily achieve 30 years in the wild.

The reason why many blue tangs only reach 8-10 years in captivity boils down to the level of care. There are ways to prolong the fish’s lifespan, so let’s discuss those next.

How to Improve the Longevity of Blue Tang?

The quality of care will make a huge difference in the tang’s size, lifespan, and health status over the years.

Some blue tangs can live up to 20 years or more in captivity, while others will barely survive for 5. The difference is in the details. So, let’s look into those.

Feed Quality Food

Blue tangs may not seem too demanding in terms of food at a first glance. But you would be mistaken. Blue tangs are notorious algae eaters, but they cannot survive on an alga diet only.

This is important to mention because many tang keepers think that blue tangs are herbivorous fish, but they’re not; they’re actually omnivorous.

So, they also require animal protein and various other greens to remain healthy and achieve their growth potential. Meaty foods are necessary, albeit rarer than plant-based meals.

You should provide your blue tang with one protein meal and 2 plant-based meals per day, along with the necessary surplus of vitamins and minerals.

You should definitely speak to a tang specialist to figure out the best dietary approach for your fish.

Also, keep in mind that blue tangs are extremely voracious and have fast metabolisms. This forces them to eat more frequently than other fish.

If you underfeed your tangs, they will grow grumpy and more aggressive towards their tank companions. They will also experience health problems because of it along the way.

Blue tangs should have at least 3 decent meals per day, aside from the food they’re scrapping from their environment.

Provide Good Water Parameters

Blue tangs are pretty sensitive to changes in water parameters and poor water conditions. You should keep their temperature stable between 78 and 82 F, allowing only for small wiggle room.

Regular cleaning and maintenance, along with a good filtration system, are necessary to preserve pristine water quality.

The maintenance schedule should be solid and set in stone, especially given that tangs eat a lot. Their fast metabolism translates to a lot of food consumption but also plenty of fish waste.

Daily tank maintenance is necessary to keep the environment fresh and prevent the dangerous buildup of ammonia and nitrates.

Choose Good Tank Mates

It’s a well-known fact that blue tangs don’t quite make for the ideal tankmates. They’re aggressive, territorial, and extremely food-competitive, causing them to run into a lot of scuffles with their tank mates.

Ignore people who rank blue tangs as peaceful or friendly because that’s not the case.

Sure, the blue tang can coexist with other fish just fine for a while, provided there’s sufficient food and room. But the situation isn’t meant to last.

You need to handpick the fish’s tankmates carefully to prevent aggression. Good options include clownfish, blennies, gobies, dwarf angelfish, etc.

Avoid housing the blue tang with any other tang species or other surgeonfish. Doing so can result in extreme aggression since tangs are not fond of one another.

Also, when looking for compatible tankmates, consider the following:

  • The tank’s size – Blue tangs require a lot of space. It’s not that the fish are extremely large since blue tangs grow up to 12 inches in size. The issue is the overall layout. These are reef fish that require a lot of reef structures and rocks to grow algae for them to consume. So, you need a lot of space, at least 75 gallons for one blue tang. When creating a community setup, make sure that the blue tang has sufficient space to prevent the fish’s notorious territorial outbursts.
  • Food availability – Blue tangs don’t like to share. They eat a lot, and they eat frequently and will fight for their meals relentlessly if necessary. Make sure that the tang’s tankmates don’t restrict the surgeonfish’s access to food. Otherwise, you’ll have a war on your hands.
  • Personalized setup – You should have a varied setup with rocks, driftwood, and several aquatic decorations to provide cover and safety. This way, fish can hide in case aggression arises.

Treat Diseases Fast

Blue tangs are known to be a bit weaker than other fish. They’re prone to marine Ich and other skin diseases, which can aggravate fast.

Most of the fish’s problems stem from poor diets and inadequate water conditions, so at least you have that going for you. In other words, you can prevent these problems with a bit of know-how and commitment.

Even so, it’s bound that your blue tangs will experience some health issues along the way. In that case, early detection and immediate treatment are key to a smooth and fast recovery.

I recommend investing in a hospital tank for you to cycle and prepare for your tanks in case the need for treatment arises.

You need to quarantine the blue tang at the first sign of trouble. Skin parasites are transmissible and can infect the entire environment fast. You will also need to use medication during treatment.

Quarantine is necessary to prevent the drugs from affecting the corals or other lifeforms in the main tank.

Always Quarantine New Fish

The rule is that you always buy the blue tangs first when setting up the tank for the first time. Only then do you purchase other fish once your tangs have already accommodated to their new setting.

This prevents tang aggression as the fish are more comfortable in their setting and are not as stressed or insecure.

The problem is that each new fish comes with a potential new problem. You should always quarantine every new fish you get for at least 2 weeks before adding them to the tank. This makes sure that the newcomer isn’t sick and is safe to join the general population.


Blue tangs are amazing marine fish that will imbue your reef tank with personality and color.

Unfortunately, they’re not quite fit for novices due to their:

  • High environmental requirements
  • The need for rich and frequent meals
  • The need for a lot of space (preferably 75 gallons for one fish, although 100 gallons is even better)
  • The need for fitting tankmates that won’t stress, attack, or eat the tangs’ food, etc.

However, if you can get past all these, keeping blue tangs is bound to become a hobby in and of itself. Oh, by the way, the fish can actually play dead when scared or stressed.

This isn’t a point of massive importance, but it does add some extra color to an already colorful and personality-rich fish.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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