Tang Aggression - Understanding and Combating

Nutramar
OP
4FordFamily

4FordFamily

Tang, Angel, and Wrasse Nerd!
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Feb 26, 2015
Messages
20,354
Reaction score
47,052
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Carmel, Indiana
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
So slight update:

I added two small yellow eye tangs to the tank (in an acclimation box) and the bigger white tail bristle tooth keeps attacking the acclimation box with its switch blade... looks like a scene from West Side story. Anyway, how long in any of your experiences has a tang attacked an acclimation box? Like is there a point where I should be concerned for it hurting itself? (I'm picturing someone head butting a wall here) should I try to add a mirror?
Two yellow eye tangs and a white tail tang are not an ideal mix. Two of the same species of bristletooth tang Is dangerous but white tail are probably the most aggressive bristletooth tang and this is a risky pairing. This could work but the odds are not in your favor especially adding two smaller tangs of the same genus that aren’t generally quite as aggressive. If the tang doesn’t calm in a few days I would say he won’t likely calm. :(
 

Digitalfirex

2500 Club Member
Review score
+1 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 19, 2020
Messages
4,282
Reaction score
5,332
Review score
+1 /0 /-0
Location
CT
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Two yellow eye tangs and a white tail tang are not an ideal mix. Two of the same species of bristletooth tang Is dangerous but white tail are probably the most aggressive bristletooth tang and this is a risky pairing. This could work but the odds are not in your favor especially adding two smaller tangs of the same genus that aren’t generally quite as aggressive. If the tang doesn’t calm in a few days I would say he won’t likely calm. :(

I only really wanted one but figures 2 would increase my chances as per what was mentioned above. For reference the white tail is 3-4 inches and the two yellow eye are about 2-3 inches... I do have a frag tank I can put them in in case it doesn't work out in the DT but we'll see in a few days I guess :(
 

i cant think

Wrasse Addict
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 1, 2021
Messages
11,938
Reaction score
16,148
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
England
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I only really wanted one but figures 2 would increase my chances as per what was mentioned above. For reference the white tail is 3-4 inches and the two yellow eye are about 2-3 inches... I do have a frag tank I can put them in in case it doesn't work out in the DT but we'll see in a few days I guess :(
Usually a smaller tang goes under the radar but since you have the more aggressive in first and you’re adding the least aggressive then it’s a bad move. If you add a less aggressive tang it’s often your want it to be larger than the existing one - Bristletooths go under the radar unless the existing tang is of the same genus.
 

Wolffpack Reefer

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 5, 2022
Messages
12
Reaction score
13
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
La Mirada
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
So what's the deal with tangs? How do I keep them together? Why are they so aggressive and difficult to keep sometimes? It's a common discussion point. Some may dissent with what I have to share but I've never had less than three tanks running at a time, up to 7, and have been in the hobby ~15 years with 2 of them spent working for an LFS running their saltwater fish dept largely, for what it's worth.

Root of Tang Aggression:
Understand that from a tangs point of view, more herbivores means less algae. They've evolved to defend their patch of algae and territory very hard because they may starve if someone else comes in and takes it over. It's literally life or death for them. Angels and other herbivores are occasionally ousted but tangs in particular are often in direct competition for food and will be heckled heavily. The only herbivore that is tolerated (sometimes) is foxface. This is because they're venomous. Even still I've seen tangs stress them to death literally.

Tangs are often most aggressive to members of the same species in home aquaria and species in the same genus. When not schooling, they often protect a patch of rock from other fish, often other tangs, particularly tangs of the same species. (It is much more likely that they will compete for food since their diet is identical)

Tangs are also more likely to be aggressive in the home aquaria because they are stressed and in smaller quarters. Even the best hobbyists have questionable environments compared to their natural homes in the ocean. Fish that swim several miles each day such as many acanthurus tangs (particularly PBT, Achilles, etc) feel cramped and as with any organism that is stressed, they can respond to this by "acting out" (aggression).

The author keeps quite a few tangs in his own aquarium as you can see in the 2 photos below.
1-jpg.411877


4-jpg.411880


What Does Tang Aggression Look Like?

Tangs are purpose built for eating algae and defending said food source. They're equipped with at least one scalpel near the base of the tail for "swiping" other fish. This is where the name "surgeonfish" came from. These can do a lot of damage and leave serious lascerations. When adding or mixing tangs, be on the lookout for aggression and know when to implement "Plan B". Constant chasing, nipping, and swiping is not a good sign and unlikely to stop. As you'll read later, some species hold grudges forever and others let bygones be bygones on occasion. It's your job as the hobbyist to know when to intervene. Occasional chasing, flaring fins, circling each other, or swiping motions that are clearly a dominance display rather than a true attempt at puncturing the other fish should be noted but are common in a tank mixed with territorial herbivores.

With all of this in mind, your existing tangs are not going to be welcoming.

The degree of aggression the new tangs receive can be curbed by:
1) Keep them very very well fed. Keep enough nori in there that by the end of the day it is gone but they have access to it for most of the day. This will make them feel like they need to compete less, but it's no guarantee.​

2) Re-arrange rockwork. This can be successful because the tang feels like they are no longer in their territory temporarily and may hesitate to be as aggressive as otherwise.

3) Add multiple tangs at a time. Tangs can take some serious abuse, but 3 on 1 new addition is terrible odds. It may work but the new fish will be very stressed and possibly stabbed several times. Even if only one new tang heckled the new tang it would not be a fair fight - a fat established and possibly more aggressive species targeting a fish that has been through heck getting to you and as such has a weak immune system, is thinner presumably because it hasn't eaten as it should, and is very stressed. More tangs will increase distraction and will break up aggression considerably, providing you don't have a tang that singles one of the newcomers out. Powder blue are notorious for picking a grudge and taking it to their grave. Other aggressive species often simmer down in a weeks time. If the fish makes it that long things should get better, presuming they don't succumb to ich or other parasites.

4) Use acclimation boxes. This shields the newcomer from attacks from other fish and gets them used to seeing the new fish. It also allows the new fish to adjust a bit so that it is better able to defend itself and know its surroundings better.

5) Mirrors placed in the corner of the tank. For a very aggressive tang, sometimes a mirror placed in the corners will keep the fish flashing and attacking itself rather than harassing a new addition. I've personally never done this but have heard of some limited success.

6) Removal of the problem fish and a re-introduction later. This can work because the tank pecking order is disrupted. The fish will be confused by the change and work out their own new pecking order and be less concerned with harassing the newcomers. Upon reintroduction some few days or months later, assumedly the new fish will not be the tank boss and will not be as territorial as a result (since it is not his territory now - yet)

7) A combination of these ideas. To hedge your bets, mixing strategies may well be worth the effort.

8) If you are planning to add tangs of the same genus, definitely add more than one. I frequently break the rules with tangs. One tank has a PBT and Achilles tang together, another has a PBT, Achilles, and goldrim together. I even have a pair of achilles together (do NOT try this at home). They get along great. This wasn't easy and some fish had to be moved around and they were added simultaneously most of the time. I've always kept purple, yellow, and sailfins as a trio. Again, adding at the same time. They've always gotten along well. I've done this for 12 years with more than three test groups in various tanks on various occasions.

Adding a yellow to an established purple for instance is likely to end in the death of the yellow. Adding an Achilles to a PBT is often murder.

Notice the 2 Achilles tangs, PBT, and Goldrim together in these two photos.
3-jpg.411879


2-jpg.411878

9) Adding tangs of larger OR smaller size. There is different logic to this theory, both is probably valid. Add larger less aggressive tangs than your most aggressive tang to intimidate it. Again some may not be intimidated... particularly PBT.

Adding smaller tangs may make sense because the existing tang may see them as LESS of a threat for dominance in the pecking order (but still a threat to its food sources...)

Many people have different opinions but the only steadfast rule I follow is not to add tangs of the same exact size unless I am adding them in groups.

Conclusion:

Understand that none of this is fool proof. Powder blue tangs in particular are notorious for holding a permanent grudge. Months of time apart will not work if they have a "personal vendetta" to destroy a fish-- not always a tang, either.

Sohal tangs IME are not nearly as aggressive as people make them out to be. I hypothesize that a few people had terror sohal tangs and their stories keep getting repeated by other members and shared with others. As such, they get a worse rep than they deserve because of the same stories being told by several reefers. Honestly I don't even rank sohal tangs in the top 5 most aggressive tangs, although it is on my list because I've not owned all tangs

My list is this: (I'm only ranking tangs I've actually had experience with). This is just an opinion after having several of each species over the years in multiple tanks.

1) Powder Blue
2) Powder Brown
3) Sohal (increasingly nasty with size)
4) Clown (increasingly nasty with size)
5) Achilles (some are docile but the nasty are up there with PBT)
6) Purple
7) Yellow
8) Goldrim/ White Cheek
9) Scopas
10) Gem
11) Kole (increasingly nasty with size)
12) Sailfin
13) Atlantic blue
14) Desjardini Sailfin
15) Hippo & YB Hippo
16) Tomini Tang
17) Chevron
18) Orange Shoulder
19) Convict Tang
20) Blonde Naso
21) Naso

A lot of variance exists between species, this is just my experience and observations over the years with other peers and kin I interact with or see them and their tanks frequently.

I hope this is helpful.
Thanks for this article, was a great read. Tomini have been my favorite and most peaceful tang
 
OP
4FordFamily

4FordFamily

Tang, Angel, and Wrasse Nerd!
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Feb 26, 2015
Messages
20,354
Reaction score
47,052
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Carmel, Indiana
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Thanks for this article, was a great read. Tomini have been my favorite and most peaceful tang
Thanks for the kind words, they’re often great additions!
 

nuxx

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
885
Reaction score
871
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Austin, Tx
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I'm not an expert but housed a few tangs in the same tank.

Tank was 10 foot long ~ 470 gallons.

Tangs:
Gem, Black, (3) Yellow, Purple, Black Hybrid, Chevron, Tomini, Blue, Achilles, Achilles Hybrid

I really wanted a Zebra (couldn't find at the time) and a Sohal (heard horror stories but loved them).

I think just having an abundance of Tangs really stopped the aggression. I also had a Crosshatch Trigger pair that I think were the alphas in the tank, but also really stuck to one corner of the tank, unless it was feeding time and then zoomed around the tank faster than I thought a fish could move.

The Black and Gem grew huge and very fast, but were pussycats. The Black Hybrid would follow the Black around.

The three Yellows just stuck to their group.

The Purple was a loner.

The Chevron and Tomini will a little aggressive, but to most everyone (which I found surprising).

Blue started to become a bit aggressive and was ultimately re-homed, he would flash a lot.

The Achilles and Achilles Hybrid I was most worried about. The Achilles was first by about two months and they only really chased each other (not too bad) for a few days then became best buds and paced the tank together constantly.


When I only had a Black, Tomini and Yellow in the tank I saw the most aggression, with most from the Tomini.

If you have the space, stock up and they should be ok. Also they tend to need less space than people say, for the most part they have their areas of the tank and just graze all day.

I want to note I didn't try a Powder Blue, Sohal or Clown, which are known aggressors.

Can see below, pretty chill:

 

vetteguy53081

Well known Member and monster tank lover
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Aug 11, 2013
Messages
73,040
Reaction score
157,461
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
Location
Wisconsin - Florida delayed due 2 hurricane damage
Rating - 100%
3   0   0
I'm not an expert but housed a few tangs in the same tank.

Tank was 10 foot long ~ 470 gallons.

Tangs:
Gem, Black, (3) Yellow, Purple, Black Hybrid, Chevron, Tomini, Blue, Achilles, Achilles Hybrid

I really wanted a Zebra (couldn't find at the time) and a Sohal (heard horror stories but loved them).

I think just having an abundance of Tangs really stopped the aggression. I also had a Crosshatch Trigger pair that I think were the alphas in the tank, but also really stuck to one corner of the tank, unless it was feeding time and then zoomed around the tank faster than I thought a fish could move.

The Black and Gem grew huge and very fast, but were pussycats. The Black Hybrid would follow the Black around.

The three Yellows just stuck to their group.

The Purple was a loner.

The Chevron and Tomini will a little aggressive, but to most everyone (which I found surprising).

Blue started to become a bit aggressive and was ultimately re-homed, he would flash a lot.

The Achilles and Achilles Hybrid I was most worried about. The Achilles was first by about two months and they only really chased each other (not too bad) for a few days then became best buds and paced the tank together constantly.


When I only had a Black, Tomini and Yellow in the tank I saw the most aggression, with most from the Tomini.

If you have the space, stock up and they should be ok. Also they tend to need less space than people say, for the most part they have their areas of the tank and just graze all day.

I want to note I didn't try a Powder Blue, Sohal or Clown, which are known aggressors.

Can see below, pretty chill:

I can find a zebra but . . . $500 ????
 

nuxx

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
885
Reaction score
871
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Austin, Tx
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I can find a zebra but . . . $500 ????

Way less than they used to be :)

Guessing more fish coming out of Mauritius? Or finding in Madagascar?

Also Gems are way down.
 
CLICK TO VIEW

beesnreefs

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Messages
559
Reaction score
577
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Firestone
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I'm considering adding 2 more tangs. I'd be happy to get them at the same time and introduce them together via an acclimation box. Is this possible?

CURRENT FISH (in a 6-foot 225g system):

Gem tang
White-tailed bristeltooth tang
Male Genicanthus bellus
Mellanarus wrasse
Exquisite wrasse
Blue streaked cleaner wrasse
Ornate leopard wrasse
Radiant wrasse
Supermale lineatus wrasse
2 female lyretail anthias (assuming one will become male eventually)
Royal gramma
Midas blenny
3 Azure damsels

I'm planning on getting a blonde Naso tang plus ONE of the following:

Orange Shoulder tang OR Hippo tang

Thoughts?
 

vetteguy53081

Well known Member and monster tank lover
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Aug 11, 2013
Messages
73,040
Reaction score
157,461
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
Location
Wisconsin - Florida delayed due 2 hurricane damage
Rating - 100%
3   0   0
I'm considering adding 2 more tangs. I'd be happy to get them at the same time and introduce them together via an acclimation box. Is this possible?

CURRENT FISH (in a 6-foot 225g system):

Gem tang
White-tailed bristeltooth tang
Male Genicanthus bellus
Mellanarus wrasse
Exquisite wrasse
Blue streaked cleaner wrasse
Ornate leopard wrasse
Radiant wrasse
Supermale lineatus wrasse
2 female lyretail anthias (assuming one will become male eventually)
Royal gramma
Midas blenny
3 Azure damsels

I'm planning on getting a blonde Naso tang plus ONE of the following:

Orange Shoulder tang OR Hippo tang

Thoughts?
Naso and orange shoulder
 

nuxx

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
885
Reaction score
871
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Austin, Tx
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I'm considering adding 2 more tangs. I'd be happy to get them at the same time and introduce them together via an acclimation box. Is this possible?

CURRENT FISH (in a 6-foot 225g system):

Gem tang
White-tailed bristeltooth tang
Male Genicanthus bellus
Mellanarus wrasse
Exquisite wrasse
Blue streaked cleaner wrasse
Ornate leopard wrasse
Radiant wrasse
Supermale lineatus wrasse
2 female lyretail anthias (assuming one will become male eventually)
Royal gramma
Midas blenny
3 Azure damsels

I'm planning on getting a blonde Naso tang plus ONE of the following:

Orange Shoulder tang OR Hippo tang

Thoughts?

Oddball, but I really like my Chevron.

Maybe a Zebra? It lives in the same waters as your Gem :)

They were unavailable when I had my tank, would have loved to have one with my Gem.
 
Reef Chasers Aquaculture

vetteguy53081

Well known Member and monster tank lover
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Aug 11, 2013
Messages
73,040
Reaction score
157,461
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
Location
Wisconsin - Florida delayed due 2 hurricane damage
Rating - 100%
3   0   0
Oddball, but I really like my Chevron.

Maybe a Zebra? It lives in the same waters as your Gem :)

They were unavailable when I had my tank, would have loved to have one with my Gem.
Zebras' are averaging $1800-$2000
 

nuxx

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
885
Reaction score
871
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Austin, Tx
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Zebras' are averaging $1800-$2000

Wow haven't even looked TBH...

There were $900-1000 when I was looking...

It's weird Gems are down. Wondering if Gems are being caught in Madagascar and Zebras are still just around Mauritius?

We wanted to go to Mauritius and I remember reading they were one of the hardest hit nations in the world in terms of Covid. Wonder if that had something to do with prices?
 

vetteguy53081

Well known Member and monster tank lover
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Aug 11, 2013
Messages
73,040
Reaction score
157,461
Review score
+10 /0 /-0
Location
Wisconsin - Florida delayed due 2 hurricane damage
Rating - 100%
3   0   0
Wow haven't even looked TBH...

There were $900-1000 when I was looking...

It's weird Gems are down. Wondering if Gems are being caught in Madagascar and Zebras are still just around Mauritius?

We wanted to go to Mauritius and I remember reading they were one of the hardest hit nations in the world in terms of Covid. Wonder if that had something to do with prices?
Gems are climbing again going to average $600-$800
 
Tidal Gardens

mahig

New Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 31, 2022
Messages
4
Reaction score
1
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Syracuse
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Have a 150g I’m looking to add some tangs to. It’s new with clown pair, mellanarus, starry, Midas, royal g. Was thinking gem, white tail and mimic. Debating a yellow. Should I stick to the three or yellow be okay? Gem is 4” and yellow 2”.
 

Kalinina

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jan 10, 2020
Messages
123
Reaction score
109
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I may be crazy. I bought a quarantined gem tang last week. It will arrive this week.

In preparation, I installed an avast plank auto feeder, and set to feed 6 times a day. I bought an acclimation box today, and will put in a barnacle cluster and 8lbs of stax flat base rock to create more caves right before I release the gem into the tank to “rearrange” territories. I’m thinking those rock additions will help divert away from a new fish. I have mirrors if necessary.

Fish I have in a fish only 84x24x30:
2 hippos - shmedium and medium
Yellow tang - medium
Sailfin tang - medium
scopas tang - medium
Achilles - medium
Powder blue - medium
Black naso - large
Gold spot rabbit - large
Emperor angelfish - large
Flagfin angel - small
2 clowns
3 damsels
Midas blenny

Any other suggestions? My fish are peaceful for the most part. The emperor is a grump and goes after some of the tangs, and so does the rabbitfish. They are the biggest in the tank and throw their weight around. Also, am I overstocked? I do have small fish on order from a quarantine vendor. I wasn’t planning on any more large fish additions, but I couldn’t pass up the gem.
 
Last edited:

Sink_or_Swim

Valuable Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Dec 19, 2021
Messages
1,130
Reaction score
1,598
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Iowa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I'm considering adding 2 more tangs. I'd be happy to get them at the same time and introduce them together via an acclimation box. Is this possible?

CURRENT FISH (in a 6-foot 225g system):

Gem tang
White-tailed bristeltooth tang
Male Genicanthus bellus
Mellanarus wrasse
Exquisite wrasse
Blue streaked cleaner wrasse
Ornate leopard wrasse
Radiant wrasse
Supermale lineatus wrasse
2 female lyretail anthias (assuming one will become male eventually)
Royal gramma
Midas blenny
3 Azure damsels

I'm planning on getting a blonde Naso tang plus ONE of the following:

Orange Shoulder tang OR Hippo tang

Thoughts?
I'm not a tang expert so don't know whether it would work, BUT if you do add either the orange shoulder or the hippo, my vote would be orange shoulder - something different from the typical Dory and I think they're beautiful. :)

Off topic, but how have the damsels been for you aggression- wise?
 

Kalinina

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jan 10, 2020
Messages
123
Reaction score
109
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Have a 150g I’m looking to add some tangs to. It’s new with clown pair, mellanarus, starry, Midas, royal g. Was thinking gem, white tail and mimic. Debating a yellow. Should I stick to the three or yellow be okay? Gem is 4” and yellow 2”.
IMO you would be fine with all four in your 150. (I’m assuming it’s a 6ft 150). When I set up my first large tank, I had a yellow, sailfin, powder brown and hippo tang as well as other fish in a 125 and they were completely fine.
 
Nutramar

What are some of the challenges of reefing with a cube?

  • Swimming space for fish

    Votes: 18 62.1%
  • Smaller front viewing panel

    Votes: 6 20.7%
  • Adding space between corals

    Votes: 12 41.4%
  • Flow pattern

    Votes: 13 44.8%
  • Other

    Votes: 3 10.3%
Join the movement!
Top