Clown Tang

the fish profile

Clown Tang

This fish is known as Clown Tang and the correct latin name is Acanthurus lineatus. The family that this fish belongs to is called the Tang family. (e) Origin of this fish is Maldives, Sri Lanka. (e)

Character and suggestions regarding care

It is a poisonous species.

Clown Tang can grow up to 38 cm what is approximately 14 inches. In general, 1 specimen requires at least 4560cm2 of water surface which is approximately 706 square inch. This fish should be kept in aquariums that are very large. (e) Medium aquariums have at least 113 Litres (30 US Gallons). Large aquariums have at least 265 Litres (70 US Gallons). Very large aquariums hold at least 700 Litres (185 US Gallons).

It is not very difficult to keep the Clown Tang fish. (e) The specific gravity (SG) should be between 1,020 and 1,025, the temperature between 23°C (73.4°F) and 26°C (78.8°F). The suggested level of pH (a measure of the acidity/basicity) is between 8.0 and 8.3 which is usual for most marine fish.

I have always found the Clown Tang to be a very attractive species of fish that makes a great addition to any reef aquarium. They are to be found under several common names such as Blue-lined Surgeonfish, Clown Surgeonfish, and even the Lined Tang for obvious reasons but they are all the same fish, to be sure that you have purchased the correct specimen you can order them by their Latin name which has been classified as Acanthurus lineatus. Their markings are very distinct beginning with a light blue background colour and on the top half of their body they display vertical bandings of black and yellow stripes with the blue background separating the markings.

They do have a reputation for being very aggressive and indeed some specimens maybe so but the specimen that I personally purchased proved to be very sedate and in time grew tame enough to accept food from my fingers, I never saw any harassment to other tank mates but I could have been one of the lucky keepers to get a specimen that was an exception to the rules.

The Clown Tang originate from the Indo-Pacific and prefer a reef environment, adult specimens can reach a length of up to 15 inches so if you are purchasing a juvenile specimen in a medium sized aquarium prepare to upgrade as these fish mature. They are classed as a solitary species often only coming together with other Clown Tangs for breeding purposes however some males will occupy areas of water with a harem of females, two males together is bad news as they will become highly aggressive towards each other, it is advised to keep one specimen in the aquarium to prevent any chance of this. It is best to have some experience of keeping saltwater fish as the Clown Tang is not a beginners species, they may take time to settle in the aquarium initially and may refuse food to start with but after a while, given the correct conditions they should settle and eat normally.

Caring for the Clown Tang

Plenty of Live Rock should be added to the aquarium, hiding places can be created by careful placement of the rock, you should also leave the front of the aquarium open to allow for large swimming areas as the Clown Tang is a very active species. As they prefer a reef environment the water flow should be high and the water needs to be well oxygenated, the pH should be set between 8.0-8.4 ( a standard pH for most reef aquariums) and the temperature should range between 22-26°C (72-78°F). The salinity of the water needs to beet between 1.023 -1.026 and regular water changes must be performed to maintain the water quality. The Clown Tang should be acclimatised very slowly, several hours of gentle mixing of the water to prevent any stress when adding the fish to the aquarium and it may be best to keep the lights dimmed until the Tang has had the chance to settle for a few hours.

The absolute minimum size for the aquarium is 150 gallons, these fish need a lot of swimming space, larger than this is more suitable so consider this factor carefully before purchasing a Clown Tang.

Feeding the Clown Tang

If your Clown Tang is kept correctly and has settled it should have a voracious appetite. As mentioned above they do take time to settle into the aquarium and you may have to tempt them with different foods during the first couple of days after the Clown Tang has been added. Have patience and they will eventually start to feed quite happily. They require a diet that has a high vegetable content as they are an herbivorous species, foods that should be offered include items such as a high quality flake, spirulina flake and dried seaweed. They will also require some meaty foods such as brine shrimp but do not offer them one large meal per day, it is far better for the Clown Tang to be offered small meals several times throughout the day. You should also encourage some algal growth in the aquarium as this will then give them the chance to graze around the aquarium inbetween mealtimes.

It is always best to check that the specimen of Clown Tang that you are considering purchasing does have a healthy appetite, loss of desire to eat can mean that the fish may have background health problems so always observe the Tang eating in the store to make sure that the specimen you purchase is in full health.

Breeding the Clown Tang

There are no reported cases of the Clown Tang breeding in the aquarium, indeed even attempting to sex these fish is virtually impossible. It is known that in the wild the Clown Tang is an egg scatterer and the fry are left to their own devices drifting in the water currents. Like most marine fish the moon has an effect regarding spawning periods, these usually occur around the time of the full moon.

Because Clown Tangs will fight with each other, you should house only one fish of this species (eventually in a community tank if it’s big enough), or you should keep a larger group of Clown Tangs with no other species in a big tank.

This fish can also be found in Fiji.

Clown Tang picture

Thanks to Kenneth Leonard for the picture. Copyright Ken Leonard.

Clown Tang picture no. 2

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See what other people say about Acanthurus lineatus
#1 Posted on Sat May 31 16:20:29 UTC 2008 by sunrise
I have kept a clown tang about one week but I don't know what types of vegetables or algae that the tangs like most. Can you give me some advices?
Thanks in advance.
This comment was published on Sat May 31 20:23:58 UTC 2008
#2 Posted on Sat May 31 20:33:47 UTC 2008 by admin
@sunrise: It is recommended to feed them filamentous algae and small types of macroalgae. says they should be fed dried sea weed for instance.
This comment was published on Sat May 31 20:33:57 UTC 2008
#3 Posted on Sat May 31 20:51:27 UTC 2008 by Susan
You can try broccoli, zucchini and leaf lettuce from vegetables. According to, it should work.
This comment was published on Sat May 31 21:20:07 UTC 2008
#4 Posted on Mon Oct 13 13:34:33 UTC 2008 by stephen
I just purchased a small (2 inch) clown yesterday and placed him in my reef tank. He hasn't touched any frozen food or formula 2 flakes. However, he is eating the julian sprung sea veggie sheets that I put into the tank.

No signs of aggression yet which is a characteristic of this tang.
This comment was published on Mon Oct 13 14:03:20 UTC 2008
#5 Posted on Thu May 21 6:45:55 UTC 2009 by swee
My clown tang just passed away today after 5 years of being with my family. It was the most wonderful and smart fish. It could recognise people and if he didn't recognise you, he'll hide behind the rocks and not come out. As my tank is near to my house's main door, quite often he'd rush over to see who's home. Really adorable.

It loved speeding around the tank too and it was really a beautiful fish to look at. It seemed to love seaweed flakes a lot! It was quite heart warming to see a fish eating its greens.

It is true that this species can be aggressive but generally not towards smaller fishes.

I am definitely going to miss it and its beauty.
This comment was published on Fri Jun 12 4:01:38 UTC 2009
#6 Posted on Mon Jun 22 10:43:48 UTC 2009 by jeanette mintz
I am so glad that I have found your site and the information abut the clown tang. I have purchased one of these beauties last Friday. Every morning I first check my 180 gal. tank and look especially for this fish to make sure that he is OK. I have a very large ceilphan and a very large yellow tang among other smaller fish, but it seems that everybody gets along fine. My large tangs to not even care, I must say that I feed all my fish about three times a day. Flake food, pellets and frozen foods. I was worried about the newcomer because I do not have a reef tank with live rock. I have a marine fish only tank with large aquarium castles for decoration.

I hope I can keep this fish healthy and strong. I noticed that the clown tang is a faster swimmer than my other tangs and he has a different way of eating, sometime I notice that he is swimming by the food and then may pick some of it on his way back around. Thanks for your site, and I will check back again if there is some more info on this beauty.
This comment was published on Mon Jun 22 21:05:03 UTC 2009
#7 Posted on Tue Jan 12 18:40:41 UTC 2010 by David
Hi, I have a question. I have a 75 gallon tank with a hippo tang who is 3 inches. I want to get a clown tang, but nervous about his aggression toward my hippo tang. The clown tang I want to purchase is about the same size as my hippo tang. If anyone can help please feel free to respond.
This comment was published on Wed Mar 3 1:52:50 UTC 2010
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Document modified on Sun Dec 22 18:18:27 UTC 2013
Document created on Wed Nov 28 16:26:12 UTC 2007
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