Fish of the week #4-Zebrasoma xanthurum-Purple tang


Sir Brian The Lenient
Staff member
RC Mod
Zebrasoma xanthurum Purple tang

A beautiful fish with a deep purple body and yellow tail and finnage. It can reach up to 10 inches in length, and requires (as is true of all surgeonfish) plenty of swimming area and hiding places. A 90-100 gallon tank is probably the minimum size for these fish.

This fish feeds on vegetable matter and other foods manufactured for herbivores. It will benefit greatly from spirulina and nori. Without a proper diet, they may lose their brilliant coloration or develop head and lateral line erosion. A sick or under-nourished specimen will have a brownish tint to it's tail and fins instead of a bright yellow.

These fish are readily available, with costs ranging from $50-75 mail order to over $100 at local fish stores. They can be very aggressive to other tangs, especially its own species. Therefore, they should only be housed with other tangs if they are in an extra-large tank.

They are considered to be reef safe. An optimum environment is a reef tank with algae available for grazing at all times.

[This message has been edited by BrianD (edited 08-31-2000).]

[This message has been edited by BrianD (edited 08-31-2000).]

[This message has been edited by BrianD (edited 08-31-2000).]
I agree, my favorite tang of them all...and, I got my 4" purple tang with perfect fins & color for a whopping $35!!! I stole that fish, but he didn't call the cops! :D


"Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into
nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes
easy." - Albert Einstein
Personal experience

My purple tang is kept in a 180 gallon tank with a z. veliferum sailfin tang and two p. hepatus regal tangs. My tank is over-tanged at the moment.

Anyway, my 180 is large enough that each of the tangs has their own "spot", so I rarely see any aggression. The purple tang has a favorite hiding place in the rockwork in the middle of the tank, but it still comes out readily to feed or graze on algae. It will eat about anything I put in the tank (flaked food, frozen, dried algae, etc).

My purple tang has never been sick or had any other problems. Once you hear how I got it, you will be amazed that it has done so well.

I ordered the tang on a Monday (mail order from Flying Fish) for Tuesday delivery. For some reason, the shipment was delayed at the airport (I think Nashville, but I don't remember for sure). FFE called me to tell me that it would be delivered Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Well, I had to go out of state on Wednesday so the fish was delivered to my office on Wednesday and sat there until the next day. On Thursday when I returned home I looked in the bag and the fish was laying on its side and appeared to be dead. I put the fish straight in the tank and hoped for the best. I had a 30 gallon tank set up that I used as a kind of refugium for caluerpa and mysid and gamarus shrimp, so I put the tang in that tank. For the first night he just laid at the bottom of the tank, barely breathing. The next morning, he was upright but it didn't look like he had moved.

To make a long story short, after about a month of special treatment in the 30 gallon tank, that fish has now been in my main tank for over 15 months and has grown from about 2 inches to over 6. A beautiful fish, I am so glad he had the fortitude to pull through.

One of my favorite tangs :D
As usual Brian did an excellent job describing the basic care for these guys. I'm glad to hear that after a real shipping nightmare that the tang survived. They really are a tough as nails fish, as I've found most Red Sea Fish to be.


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