It’s a Tang!! It Looks Just Like Me! Attack!

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Tamberav

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Tangs attack decoy 3 D printed tangs that just sit there and do nothing but float on a string.

It is a nice theory but would need actual testing and such.

You could start simple and print out a large yellow blob to see if a yellow tang will attack something the same color but not shape. Print out a large yellow tang that looks like it but doesn’t move and so on.

You probably would want multiple test subjects as behavior and aggression can vary from fish to fish.
 
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Mibu

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Ok so why does a tang fin flick and act crazy to its mirror but say you add a small random fish, it may not take notice at all?

Shouldn’t it fin flick at ALL fish?

Same with wrasse. My wrasses take notice if new wrasses regardless of species but they ended up taking no notice of the marine betta or springer damsel for example or a new clownfish.
Tangs are super territorial. Sometimes they express they are the big dog, some don't care. It all goes down to that individual. My PBT tore an eye out of my female firefish, all because she poked her head out of her hole.
I had a purple tang years ago. Didn't care about a thing. Sweetest fish ever. I have a scopas tang, wants to be top dog, but my melanuras wrasse isn't having it. We can go on and on forever trying to figure out why some tangs are such a holes.

But, when you add 2 tangs of the same species, one is most likely going to die. Why is that? You can have 4 tangs of the same species, and they all just beat up on each other. But, I guess there could be a death.
 

Tamberav

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Tangs are super territorial. Sometimes they express they are the big dog, some don't care. It all goes down to that individual. My PBT tore an eye out of my female firefish, all because she poked her head out of her hole.
I had a purple tang years ago. Didn't care about a thing. Sweetest fish ever. I have a scopas tang, wants to be top dog, but my melanuras wrasse isn't having it. We can go on and on forever trying to figure out why some tangs are such a holes.

But, when you add 2 tangs of the same species, one is most likely going to die. Why is that? You can have 4 tangs of the same species, and they all just beat up on each other. But, I guess there could be a death.

Same reason they also murder blennies that don’t look like them. They seem to vex blennies more then other non similar fish. Probably built in instinct to defend their algae patch from other grazers.

It stands to reason that you survive better if you defend your food source so fish that recognize and keep other grazers away, pass on genes more often.
 
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Dburr1014

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Well, as babies, they know what the parents look like. Then the parents kick them out and chase them off. The babies are forever mad at the parents or any other fish that looks like them. This is where the aggression starts. :)

But seriously, that you Lasse for that pro tip!
 

Mibu

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Same reason they also murder blennies that don’t look like them. They seem to vex blennies more then other non similar fish. Probably built in instinct to defend their algae patch from other grazers.

It stands to reason that you survive better if you defend your food source so fish that recognize and keep other grazers away, pass on genes more often.
I have an algae blenny with my scopas currently. They get along just fine. However, the war is between the wrasse and scopas. Scopas can't win and keeps looking for ways to get at him. The wrasse is smarter, much bigger, and quicker than the tang. Tang preps to attack when his back is turned and he flips around flares up and scopas swims away "it was just a prank, bro!" These things are funny to watch.

Smell is key for animal survival. If it applies to land, it can apply to water. They can smell their food, can they smell when a predator is nearby? I don't know, that's a visual queue from shadows. Don't get me wrong. They need all their senses. If one sense goes bad, survival gets lower.

From how @Lasse introduces new fish, the smell part makes total sense. I never added my fish to the sump. I might try it next time. Anytime I add new fish to the dt, that fish is pestered.
 

ReefLife_Guy

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Well, as babies, they know what the parents look like. Then the parents kick them out and chase them off. The babies are forever mad at the parents or any other fish that looks like them. This is where the aggression starts. :)

But seriously, that you Lasse for that pro tip!
Yeah and I have seen in clownfish one time, where an overprotective father wouldn't let his son grow up because he was born with one little fin and one normal size fin. Along with ridicule by his fish peers, he certainly fostered some hatred for his own species and fish that were in his "school".

IMHO the tangs that are introduced to a tank with other tangs and don't show aggression probably suffer from short-term memory loss and don't even remember who they are or where they came from. There is documentation of this in the wild, where a clownfish and blue hippo tang bonded, traveling hundreds of miles together.
 
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AKL1950

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Yeah and I have seen in clownfish one time, where an overprotective father wouldn't let his son grow up because he was born with one little fin and one normal size fin. Along with ridicule by his fish peers, he certainly fostered some hatred for his own species and fish that were in his "school".

IMHO the tangs that are introduced to a tank with other tangs and don't show aggression probably suffer from short-term memory loss and don't even remember who they are or where they came from. There is documentation of this in the wild, where a clownfish and blue hippo tang bonded, traveling hundreds of miles together.
OMG! I can’t stop laughing. Thanks for that.
 

DavidinGA

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Okay, I’m not a scientist, marine biologist or someone who has been doing aquariums for 50 years. But, I do sometimes question what I read. When something doesn’t make sense, I go looking for the WHY it doesn’t. This is one of those times. Hope this doesn’t offend anyone, and makes a few laugh in the process. Here goes:

Can’t count the number of times I have read threads here, and elsewhere, where it is said that if a Tang sees another that looks like it, then it will be aggressive toward that fish. Hum?? Let me think about this. The question that comes to mind would be; how does a Tang, or any other fish for that matter, that lives in the ocean, or aquarium, actually know what they look like themselves? Well…..maybe there are little reef area restrooms where they can go in and look at themselves in the mirror. No, probably not. Don’t think they would remember what their parents looked like. Guess their best friend could describe how they look to others. No no, that can’t be it. They can see their reflection in another fishes eye. No, no? I think the answer is, fish have no idea what they look like themselves. So, saying if it sees another that looks like it, it will be aggressive toward that fish just doesn’t seem to wash.

So, where did this wive’s tale get started? Well, that could take years to figure out. It will be easier to determine why it got started. I believe it got started, because that’s what “we” see. Not what the fish sees.

Yes it’s true, if a tang sees another new fish that “looks” exactly the same, or similar, in most cases it will be aggressive toward that fish. But why. Fish don’t know what they look like themselves, so what is it? The simple answer is smell. We humans are one of the few species on this planet that use sight as our primary sense. Most other species use smell. We use it to some extent. If we smell a skunk, we know one is close and become more vigilant. But we usually rely on sight. Most species use smell to identify themselves and to use smells of others to identify them as friends or foes. Our little fish friends do it well, and have to because the water may not always be pristine clean. All species, including us, release scents known as pheromones. A simple definition is “A pheromone is a chemical that an animal produces which changes the behavior of another animal of the same species”. Fish, along with all other species, use this and other means such as urine, feces and body sweat to identify themselves, others, mark territories, warn off competitors or attract mates.

Fish (especially tangs) are aggressive for three reasons. Territory, food and mating (basic essentials of survival). There are a few that are genetically predisposed to display hyper aggression, but that’s another topic. So the answer is, “when a Tang sees another that looks exactly like it, it will be aggressive toward that fish” should be changed to “when a Tang senses another Tang, usually of the same species (through identification of pheromones), it will become more aggressive toward that fish because it activates the Tang’s basic survival instincts. Interesting note, pheromones are also used to identify siblings. Those fish which are siblings would probably not be aggressive toward each other. Tangs, and other fish can also be aggressive toward unrelated species. That goes back to the basic instincts of territory, food and mating rights. Or, I guess you could say the easy answer is, they just don’t like the way they smell.

Now, I know someone is going to say, well when you put a mirror in front of it, it becomes aggressive and can’t smell the mirror image. Ah, true. But ask yourself why that happens. Imagine. Tang approaches mirror to examine the new fish. Mirror image swims toward Tang. Tang stares at mirror image. Mirror image stares back. Tang makes a jester of dominance by flaring fins. Mirror image does the same. Well, in my world as a fighter pilot, it would be time to say “fights on, fights on” because no one is backing off. Tang and it’s reflection both attack. Now, as time goes by, the Tang stops flaring at the image and the image stops flaring back. No more aggression. Time to remove the mirror. The Tang is not attacking its reflection, it’s attacking another fish that displayed similar aggressive moves. Pretty much identical moves.

So, okay, I’ve stopped running around in tight little circles. Remember, this little episode was only about fish knowing what they look like. All the other instinctual aggression reasons are still in play. Since we all (most all) love our Tangs, I hope this will help a little in understanding their predisposition. They can’t help themselves because basic genetic survival instincts are hard wired in them and they have a hard time over coming it. Guess It would be like a Tiger letting another unrelated Tiger share its domain. Probable won’t happen without a lot of pain, caring and understanding. But, we will keep trying, because that’s who we are.

Jetson

You started this out PERFECT - "I'm not a scientist", but then it just fell apart after that lol

Tangs are not triggered primarily by smell. As others have already mentioned tangs will attack a plastic tang if you put it in the tank.

Quite to the contrary of what you have said, I believe you could keep some Powder blue tangs and Achilles tangs and clown tangs and powder brown tangs all together in your tank and they'd be besties and none of them would fight AT ALL due to smell...just as long as they all had their eyes gouged out and were blind!
 

Ef4life

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Is it smell or taste? I’ve never seen a fish with nostrils but they all have mouths
Think About It Reaction GIF by Identity
 
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Tamberav

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I have an algae blenny with my scopas currently. They get along just fine. However, the war is between the wrasse and scopas. Scopas can't win and keeps looking for ways to get at him. The wrasse is smarter, much bigger, and quicker than the tang. Tang preps to attack when his back is turned and he flips around flares up and scopas swims away "it was just a prank, bro!" These things are funny to watch.

Smell is key for animal survival. If it applies to land, it can apply to water. They can smell their food, can they smell when a predator is nearby? I don't know, that's a visual queue from shadows. Don't get me wrong. They need all their senses. If one sense goes bad, survival gets lower.

From how @Lasse introduces new fish, the smell part makes total sense. I never added my fish to the sump. I might try it next time. Anytime I add new fish to the dt, that fish is pestered.

ya not all tangs will vex blennies... it is just a thing that they vex them more often than other dissimilar fish. dynamics of the tank matter too. when one fish is removed, sometimes it changes how others interact.
 
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Cool tangs

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DNA DNA and DNA!

It's inbeded in our DNA to know what we are. And how to use our bodies for basic functions. Same as fish or any species really. You can't tell me a fish can't think to some extent. Unlike humans that have evolved past survival state, although still some primitive elements embedded in us through our DNA make up.

Smell and visual ques will definitely have a play to how the fish may react but you can't tell me smell is the only thing at play, that makes no logical sense at all in my opinion!

Again aggression comes down to the core make up of DNA and that's survival. these fish are territorial in nature. It's not to say they can not co-exist. As I like to experiment with tang aggression and pushing limits myself. At first generally the instinctive nature kicks in of survival(aggression). The aggression will generally calm once a pecking order is established and the tang will choose to co-exist with one another, providing conditions don't change in the environment causing the need for survival instincts to kick in again

Just my 2 cents, Happy reefing
 

DeniseAndy

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Okay, maybe smell and sight are both a key. Maybe we have not found the fishy sense yet in science. I like a bit of mystery.

So here is a fun one...
I had a christmas wrasse for many years. It was always friendly and loved when I came to the tank. However, one day I wore a maroon shirt and the wrasse went crazy. I mean attacking the tank wall where I stood. Hit it and everything. I took off the shirt (traded for another - flashing fish is not recommended), and the fish was normal. Anytime I wore a maroon shirt this happened. I had to remember not to have that color on when working around the tank. Crazy Fish!!!
 
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AKL1950

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Okay, maybe smell and sight are both a key. Maybe we have not found the fishy sense yet in science. I like a bit of mystery.

So here is a fun one...
I had a christmas wrasse for many years. It was always friendly and loved when I came to the tank. However, one day I wore a maroon shirt and the wrasse went crazy. I mean attacking the tank wall where I stood. Hit it and everything. I took off the shirt (traded for another - flashing fish is not recommended), and the fish was normal. Anytime I wore a maroon shirt this happened. I had to remember not to have that color on when working around the tank. Crazy Fish!!!
Wow! That fish might have some Spanish fighting bull in its family tree. Or, maybe it really likes you in maroon and was trying to hit on you. Well, we’ll definitely have to mark that one on the side of visual interaction. Don’t think I could spin that where it would pass the smell test.

Jetson
 

Duncan62

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I have an algae blenny with my scopas currently. They get along just fine. However, the war is between the wrasse and scopas. Scopas can't win and keeps looking for ways to get at him. The wrasse is smarter, much bigger, and quicker than the tang. Tang preps to attack when his back is turned and he flips around flares up and scopas swims away "it was just a prank, bro!" These things are funny to watch.

Smell is key for animal survival. If it applies to land, it can apply to water. They can smell their food, can they smell when a predator is nearby? I don't know, that's a visual queue from shadows. Don't get me wrong. They need all their senses. If one sense goes bad, survival gets lower.

From how @Lasse introduces new fish, the smell part makes total sense. I never added my fish to the sump. I might try it next time. Anytime I add new fish to the dt, that fish is pestered.
It helps. Try it out.
 

Layton (OR)

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I read this and all I thought was “million dollar idea!” Come up with a calming pheromone to dose when introducing new fish to curb aggression for a little bit till they are all established…..might work, might not, who knows!
I wonder if they make CBD fish food yet............
 
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AKL1950

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Tangs attack decoy 3 D printed tangs that just sit there and do nothing but float on a string.

It is a nice theory but would need actual testing and such.

You could start simple and print out a large yellow blob to see if a yellow tang will attack something the same color but not shape. Print out a large yellow tang that looks like it but doesn’t move and so on.

You probably would want multiple test subjects as behavior and aggression can vary from fish to fish.
I think to make this a valid test, you would have to start with a Tang egg (in your example, a yellow tang egg) and have it grow up in total isolation from other fish. Then, it’s never seen another fish and the only fish pheromones it has ever smelled are it’s own. Your starting hypothesis could be if it attacks the plastic it recognizes color or shape and if it doesn’t, it initially can only recognize it’s own smell and the plastic doesn’t smell. Once it is around other tangs and can synapses that they smell the same as it does, it can associate that smell with color and shape allowing it to realize (and remember) that entity is the same as it is. If it’s never been around another tang to make those association, I don’t think it would be aggressive to a plastic fish because it’s never made the connection with a real fish through the only reference it had, which is similar smell. It would be an interesting experiment.

Jetson
 
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Tamberav

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I think it would be act appropriately even if it never saw another tang is instinct is powerful and necessary for survival in animals.

An animal's instincts is the ability to know without thinking, the capability to automatically know how to behave or respond in certain circumstances. This "knowing" ability occurs naturally or instinctively to an animal, and is inherited from birth (Google definition).

Salmon use both the intensity and the inclination of Earth’s magnetic field to orient themselves. Unlike their navigation by sense of smell (discussed below), this ability appears to be genetically inherited by a salmon, not learned along its migration. Fish migrate back to rivers to spawn from the ocean


So salmon use a genetically inherited ability, instinct, and sense of smell to find their way back to spawn.

Smell is clearly important to fish but saying aggression is... just by smell... is oversimplifying fish imo.

I think us humans often over simplify animals because animals have different skills and ways about viewing and navigating the world then we do.
 
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