Saltwater Aquarium Blog

9 Types of tangs for a large reef tank

Very few saltwater fish are as beautiful, graceful, and captivating as the tangs and surgeonfish. The desire to keep them in a home aquarium is what drives many of us to set up large tanks.

Here are 9 types of tangs that are great for larger reef tanks

Blue tang

Perhaps the most famous of all the saltwater tang species is the blue tang, also called the regal tang or hippo tang. One look and you probably FIND why it is so famous.

blue tang is one of the most popular types of tangs

Learn more about caring for the blue tang here.

Yellow tang

At this point you may be wondering if the people who have named tangs are not that original. The yellow tang is another popular species. There has been both good and bad news about them lately–the bad news is that due to fishing regulations in Hawaii, it has become a lot more difficult to import them.

yellow tang in a reef tank

The good news is that they are one of the few tang species that have been raised in captivity.

Learn all about yellow tangs here.

Gem tang

The gem tang may require you to own a precious stone producing mine, but they are absolute stunners.

gem tang with black background

Learn more about caring for the gem tang here.

Sailfin tang

The sailfin tang is known for their beautiful and complex color patterns, as well as their large dorsal fin.

Sailfin tang and cyanobacteria

Dive deeper to learn about sailfin tangs here.

Kole tang

A great algae-eater, the bristletooth Kole tang has a gorgeous, but sometimes subtle purple-brown coloration, with stripes, spots and an eye ringed in yellow.

Kole tang in tank with soft corals

They are one of the best algae-eating saltwater fish you can find, and all-around great to have in a tank.

Check out the kole tang here. 

Orange shoulder tang

Back to the relatively straightforward naming conventions, the Orange shoulder tangs have…you guessed it…the color orange on their sides. I guess the creativity here was used up inventing an anatomical structure that doesn’t really exist.

orange shoulder tang

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t fatastic fish.

If you’re interested in the orange shoulder tang you can dive deeper here.

Powder brown tang

It’s hard to make brown look this good–but check out the Powder brown tang. Stunning, right? They are somewhat prone to ich infections.

white face powder brown tang

Learn more about the powder brown tang here.

Clown tang

The blue and yellow tangs were historically my favorite saltwater aquarium fish, but the more I see the clown tang, the more I fall in love. Take a look, they are gorgeous!

clown tang

Read up on how to care for the clown tang.


The doctorfish didn’t go to 8 years of medical sch9ol to be called Misterfish, thank you very much. They have a subtle beauty and grace that makes the largest tanks pop with personality.


Doctorfish in the house.


As you can see from the images in this article, their saltwater tangs a gorgeous group of fish that present in all kinds of colorful patterns. In a reef tank aquarium, they are perpetual motion machines, constantly zipping around the tank and nibbling on rocks and the aquarium glass.

Each of these 9 types of tangs has rather large minimum aquarium sizes, so please be sure to read the care guides and ensure to provide them enough space to be happy and healthy in your tank.

What to read next

Check out these other great saltwater fish types:

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