Yellow Tang

Yellow Tang Zebrasoma flavescens

Type of Animal:

Reefs, dense coral lagoons

Native to Pacific from Hawaii in E to SW Japan in W & S to N Australia & surrounding islands. Have been released in Florida & in Mediterranean.  

Bright yellow fish, yellower during day & fades at night w/ prominent brownish patch developing in middle w/ horizontal white bands, arrow-shaped fish w/ pointy beak/narrow face, large dorsal fin on top of body running almost entire body except for tail

Algae, seaweed, sea lettuce, green vegetable matter, shrimp, krill, fish poop

Status in Wild:

Breeding in aquaculture, aquariums, & zoos. Captive breeding reducing demand for wild-caught fish.

Schools of 16-40 fish, territories often defended by school

Additional Info:

Young: Acronurus
Group: School
Male: 5-8 oz
Female: 4-6 oz
1 day

Life Span:
10 years in captivity, 30 years in wild

Body Length:
Male: 4-8 in
Female: 2-6.5 in
Young: 0.5 in

Main predators are larger fish, sharks, crabs, & octopus.
During spawning, males court females by shimmering.
Important in keeping reefs healthy due to algae-eating diet. Without these fish, algal overgrowths can occur.
They’re broadcast spawners, w/ spawning occurring in groups & females releasing eggs/males releasing sperm in open water simultaneously.
Females can produce up to 40,000 eggs per month. Females mate w/ 1 male per month while males mate w/ many females.
After hatching, clear pelagic larvae develop among plankton, entering acronurus larval stage where oval body/dorsal & ventral fins/spines develop. Enter planktonic stage at 2.5 months old, letting waves carry them. Maturity reached at around a year old.
Besides using tail scalpels in defense, they’ll also use them in territorial fights.
Sometimes hybridize w/ Scopas/Brown Tang.
Active during the day (diurnal).
Retreat into rockwork at night.
Sometimes seen schooling w/ other fish species.

Fun Fact(s):
Known to provide cleaning services to sea turtles by removing algae from shells.
Also called Yellow Surgeonfish, Yellow Sailfin Tang, Yellow Hawaiian Tang, Lemon Surgeonfish, Yellow Doctorfish, Lemon Sailfish, & Somber Surgeonfish, Lancetfish, & Thorntail. Gets surgeonfish/doctorfish name from 2 razor sharp scalpel-like spines near tail base used in defense. These can cause nasty wounds. In younger fish, they’re venomous.
Very popular saltwater aquarium fish but rather difficult to breed in captivity.

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