Clown Tang - Acanthurus lineatus

Updated August 5, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
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The Clown Tang is one of the more sought after species of tangs but it has needs that most saltwater aquarists cannot meet. The Clown Tang has alternating cyan blue and yellow horizontal stripes with a white belly. Overall Clown Tangs are very active swimmers and can become quite an aggressive fish in the confines of an aquarium.

Clown Tang Clown Tang

Being a tang, they need lots of swimming room and highly oxygenated water with lots of flow, usually provided by power heads or wave makers. Tanks at least 6 feet in length at minimum are recommended since the Clown Tang likes to swim and given their potential adult size of 14 inches (36 cm) plus. Tanks in the range of 240 gallons or more should be the minimum for keeping one of these clown tangs.

Yes, you can keep them in smaller tanks as juveniles but for long term health/success you must have an extremely large tank. Some even think this tang shouldn't be collected for the hobby.

Getting a healthy tang that is eating at the store is crucial. They don't ship all that well, perhaps going through several stops before reaching your dealer causing them to go on a hunger strike. Keep nori or dried seaweed either on a clip or under some rock in the tank at all times during acclimation. This is very important! If they are going to make it they will eventually nip at it and start eating. Seeing them eat some nori in the dealer's tank is a very good idea before buying them. Have the store hold them for a week or so (good stores will) and do not buy it if it just arrived in the store. Check out the various forum posts around the net to get an idea of their dismal survival rate. Once they start eating the hard part is usually over.

Mix up their diet with frozen preparations of mysis shrimp and brine shrimp, etc. but the bulk of their diet should be greens. Next you just have to watch out for aggression because they can become quite the jerk as they get larger.

Tank mates need to be considered carefully. Similar sized species should be fine, assuming they are not tangs. You can keep them with some of the tang species that differ considerably in appearance. Purple tangs, Yellow tangs, Tomini tangs etc, might be ok but keep an eye out for aggression. If you do plan on picking one of these tangs up make them one of the last, if not the last fish introduced into the system.

Clown Tang - Acanthurus lineatus Clown Tang

Clown Tang Fish Care

Scientific Name : Acanthurus lineatus

Common Names : Blue lined surgeonfish, Blue banded surgeonfish, Striped surgeonfish, Oriental surgeonfish

Care Level : Moderate to Difficult given their dismal survival rates and tank size requirements.

Life span : 10 years, likely longer

Size : 12 - 14 inches plus (36 cm)

pH : 8 - 8.4

Temperature : 75°F - 83°F (24°C - 28°C)

Specific Gravity : 1.020 - 1.025

Origin / Habitat : Indo Pacific, Fiji, Vanuatu, Maldives

Temperament / Behavior : They can be extremely aggressive and get quite large... Do lots of research on the species you're interested in keeping them with beforehand. Do not keep with other similar looking tangs. They may get more territorial, aggressive as they get larger.

Breeding : Has not been bred in captivity. They form spawning aggregations and pair off to spawn. They are egg scatterers.

Aquarium Size : 240 gallon minimum, but much bigger for long term health. Long tanks (6 feet plus at least) to allow adequate swimming space.

Tank Mates : Avoid keeping them in an aquarium with other Clown Tangs. Tangs that are dissimilar in appearance might do ok but watch for aggression and be prepared to remove them.

Reef Tank Compatible? : Given a large enough reef tank, yes they should leave the corals and invertebrates alone.

Disease : Saltwater Fish Disease - Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment, a quarantine tank is a must with this species. They often come down with ich from stress during shipment. It's very important to get them eating right away.

Diet / Foods : Herbivore, have plenty of live rock and/or be prepared to give them dried seaweed or dried algae using a lettuce clip. Have algae (nori) in the tank at all times during acclimation (first few weeks) to help lower stress and make the more healthy overall. They can be quite finicky when first introduced, ignoring even the most appealing foods like brine and mysis shrimp. Try putting some nori under a piece of rock if they don't go after it on the veggie clip. They will eventually nip at it, realize it's something they like and then eat it regularly. After they've been in the tank for awhile they will also accept flake, pellet foods and live foods. Having dried nori in the tank at all times to let them graze, especially in low nutrient tanks where there isn't enough to graze on the rocks.

Tank Region : All over

Gender : Difficult to determine, but the female may be larger than males of the same age.

Forum : Tang Forum

Photo Credit : Photos copyright

Site References :

"Acanthurus lineatus". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. November 2005 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2005.
Michael, S. W. (2001). Marine Fishes, 500+ Essential to Know Aquarium Species. T.F.H. Publications.

Clown Tang Comments and Tips

From: Jake
I have a 240 gallon aquarium and can vouch for them needing a large tank. I feel guilty just keeping the one I have in my tank. I will be giving mine to a buddy that has a 400 gallon tank in the near future. He/she? swims constantly always on the move. Didn't think it would make it at first becuase it wouldn't eat at all but once he started eating the Julian Sprung sea veggies (the green and purple) I knew he would be fine. My clown tang doesn't seem interested in anything other than the sea veggies. Also, mine doesn't really bully any of the other fish in my tank. Maybe it's still to small yet? A really great looking fish though.

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