Tangs (Surgeonfish), are amongst some of the mot beautiful, colourful, majestic fish we are able to successfully keep in a marine aquarium. They are also one of the least tolerant species you will come across. Not only do they not like each other, but they are commonly referred to as “ick magnets” within the hobby.

Gem Tang
Gem Tang

Presumably, you have arrived on this page as you are doing some research into a particular or several species of Tang. Good for you! Doing the responsible fish owner thing, a trait, it seems, that is slowly dwindling as people rely more and more on advice from their LFS or they listen to one know it all on a social media platform.

Can you keep multiple Tangs together?

Yes, is the simple answer, but it’s not always easy.

Tangs are a territorial species, and they don’t always play nicely together, but if you have a big enough tank, there is no reason you can’t see success with multiple species of Tang.

Multiple Tangs
Multiple Tangs

Each species of Tang should be researched thoroughly before purchasing. With research, you will be able to learn particular care requirements for that species, along with commonly found aggression levels. It is worth noting here, that just because your research suggests a particular Surgeonfish is considered more docile, that doesn’t mean your fish will be. Each fish has it’s own personality, it’s own quirks & different situations/aquariums will cause them to react in a different manner.

Can I keep multiples of the same species of Tang?

Again, the simple answer is yes, but this will require additional forethought and you should be prepared to split them up should the need arise.

School of Purple Tangs
School of Purple Tangs

If you are going to try and keep a school of a particular Tang species, in an ideal world, you should add all of them to your main display tank at the same time & they should all be of a similar size.

By adding them all at the same time, you reduce the risk of one the last one in being bullied as the others have already established their territory. Similarly, keeping them all the same size reduces the risk of the littlest one being bullied to death.

Can I keep multiple species of Tang?

Once again, the answer is yes, but yet again, it comes with some conditions, including being prepared to separate them if required.

Tang’s are most territorial to fish that have the same shape as themselves. You will likely have quite simple success with 3 or 4 fish that have a different body/face shape. For example, a Regal Tang, Orange Shoulder Tang & a yellow Tang will often get along just fine with minimal intervention. They all have different colourings, face shapes & body shapes, and of the Surgeonfish, these three are generally considered to be less aggressive than other species.

You may find it more difficult with (for example), a Regal Tang, Clown Tang and a Sailfin Tang. The reason for this is the Clown Tang’s are generally considered to be one of the more aggressive Tang’s & in this example, they have a similar face shape as the Regal (Hippo) Tang. The Sailfin is also considered to be one of the more aggressive Tang Species.

In this example, you may find the Regal Tang gets bullied a lot, which causes stress, which in turn can cause ick. This is all theoretical, and not a guarantee, I’m sure there are many people out there who keep these three fish together very successfully, but in the examples given, you are more likely to achieve success easily with the three more docile fish that are totally different body shapes.

Generally, it is considered best practice to add all the Tang’s to the tank at the same time and try to add fish that are of a similar size.

Adding multiple surgeonfish at different times

It’s not always possible to add all the Tang’s you want to keep in one hit, sometimes finances get in the way, finding the stock you want all in one go isn’t always easy or maybe you are worried your bio-load won’t keep up with adding all that mess at one time.

If you can’t add them all at once, there is still a goo chance of success as long as you follow the steps below. PLEASE NOTE: This is not a guaranteed to work guide, it is a guide I personally have seen success with. I take no responsibility for it working or not working for you’re tank.

  1. Try to add fish that are different shapes & colours, not multiples of one species.
  2. Try to add them in an order where the fish that is considered most placid goes in to your aquarium first, and the most aggressive goes in last.
  3. Secure a mirror to the side of the aquarium, this will likely distract any existing tangs and cause them to flare/fight with their own reflection, which in-turn gives your new fish chance to find a bit of the tank to call it’s own.
  4. After clearing quarantine & drip acclimation, turn the lights off in your main display to reduce stress for the new fish. Leave your lights off for a minimum of 4 – 5 hours.
  5. Some chasing is normal. They need to establish a pecking order, but if one of your fish is constantly being bullied into a corner or crevice with no let up, then you need to remove the either the bully or the bullied fish.
  6. Ensure there is plenty of food for the first few weeks and spread the food around the tank. If there is too much to guard over different spots, it will help ensure the one at the bottom of the pecking order gets enough food.

Looking to go buy yourself a Tang or Two now? Check out my Top 5 Affordable Tang’s List!