News / Species Spotlight / Popular Piscines - Blue Hippo Tangs (01/08/14)

Popular Piscines - Blue Hippo Tangs

In the Wild

Paracanthurus hepatus is found all over the topical Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the Red Sea, they are most dominantly represented by a variant that has a bright gold belly and orange red markings on their dorsal fin. They are generally found between 25 and 100 feet of water, associated with Pocillopora Reefs. Groups are generally localized in areas with these conditions.

As juveniles and subadults they school tightly, a behavior that stays into adulthood, although the aggregations become much more loosely associated. P. hepatus will reach a max size of just over 12 inches in the wild, where it feeds mostly on zoplankton and secondarily on algae. Like all surgeonfish they are technically a "venomous fish" because of the tang present on the sides of their caudal fin.

This is an animal with a low population doubling time, meaning they are very resilient as a species.

In the Aquarium

Hippo Tangs were made famous by the Dory character in "Finding Nemo", who is going to be the star of a new film "Finding Dory".

Blue tangs go by several names in the hobby: Palette, Regal and Hippo are probably the most common ones. Add in the Yellow Bellied Variant from the Red Sea which is also called Blue and Yellow and you have at least 5 names for one fish, Paracanthurus hepatus. Blue Hippos are among the best aquarium fish in their Family (Acanthuridae - literally "thorn tail") which includes the rest of the tangs / surgeonfish. When small they can be kept in groups and will tightly school. As they grow they will need larger confines, and are less likely to be tolerant of other Blues if they don't have enough room. This being said, there are instances of this species pairing and even spawning in captivity. There are also reports of success in commercial activity along these lines.

Hippo tangs do consume algae, but will quickly diminish if not offered more protein dense food as well. Be sure to give them a varied diet including both pelletized foods, meaty mix and some greenery. It should be noted that this is a species that is less likely to control nuisance algae in your aquarium than other tangs like Acanthurus and Zebrasoma genus fish.

This is a generally peaceful fish, that will give few problems to new comers in your aquariums unless the newcomer is another hippo tang, or is similarly shaped / colored.

Scott W. Michael, Reef Aquarium Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2001).
Quality Marine Internal References: Eli Fleishauer, Adam Mangino