Does the regal tang look familiar? There’s every chance you’ve seen this beautiful fish before, even if it was on a TV screen…
That’s right, you found Dory! The regal tang, or blue tang as it’s also known, has always been a much-loved tropical fish, but its appearance in Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo cemented it as one of the most popular animals here at Blue Planet Aquarium.
Of course, there’s a lot more to know about the regal tang than its Hollywood affiliations. These brightly coloured tropical fish are a member of the surgeonfish family, meaning they have a sharp spine and a solid defence mechanism. So, unlike Dory, you won’t forget them in a hurry.
Find out more about the lovable and instantly recognisable regal tang below.
Regal tang features and characteristics
Regal tangs are medium-sized tropical reef fish that belong to the surgeonfish species. Thanks to their exquisite colours and markings, they’re always easy to spot, so you should have no problem picking them out amid the other animals of our Coral Cave exhibit.
Although the world’s favourite blue tang Dory was known for her kind heart and forgetful nature, these fish aren’t always the cuddly characters they appear. They swing their sharp spine to ward off predators, keeping themselves safe from bigger fish!
You’ll need to venture to tropical waters to catch Dory in her natural habitat. Regal tangs are found all over the Indo-Pacific, though their numbers are sadly in decline due to habitat loss, with the fish now appearing on the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.
Like clownfish (aka, Nemo), blue tangs prefer to stay close to coral reefs, with “cauliflower” reefs being among their favourite places to take shelter in the deep blue. They play an important role in maintaining the health and integrity of their coral reef home, eating algae that would otherwise suffocate the reef bed.
Although regal tangs do an excellent job of defending themselves, they are preyed upon by large carnivorous fish, including groupers, bar jacks, and tuna.
What do regal tangs eat?
Regal tangs are omnivores, meaning they tuck into everything from plankton, brine shrimp and seaweed to krill and other microorganisms. Much of their diet, however, comes from algae, which they eat by the bucketload, scraping the organisms from coral reefs with their small, sharp teeth.
The algae-munching nature of blue tangs is such that the fish provides an invaluable service to the coral reef systems in which they live. Without this particular species, algae would easily suffocate and kill coral reefs, with the potential to send the local marine ecosystem into total chaos. Well done, Dory!
Where can you discover regal tangs?
The iconic regal tang is on display at the Coral Cave exhibit here at Blue Planet Aquarium, along with plenty of other spectacular tropical species. Just look for that recognisable swish of blue and that unmistakable yellow tail.
Fun facts about regal tangs
The next time you’re watching Finding Nemo, break out these fascinating blue tang facts to impress your friends with your knowledge of the film’s lovable sidekick…
Did you know? Regal tangs often play dead when predators pass by
That’s right, just like in Finding Dory, regal tangs can play dead when they feel in danger. And if that doesn’t work, it’s time to break out that deadly tail swish…
Did you know? Male regal tangs are super aggressive to one another
Males are often aggressive towards each other, with the more dominant male gaining larger breeding areas. It’s thought they use their sharp caudal fins to have “sword fights” – yikes!
How long does the regal tang live?
Get this: regal tangs can live up to 30 years! That’s an impressive lifespan for a tropical fish.
Are regal tangs poisonous?
Not quite. Regal tang fin spines are tipped with venomous barbs capable of debilitating predators.
Did you know? Regal tangs go by many names
We’re not sure why, but regal tangs have a confusing number of different names, including blue tangs, hippo tangs, royal blue tangs, Pacific blue tangs, blue surgeonfish, flagtail surgeonfish, and palette surgeonfish.
Come meet our beautiful blue tangs for yourself at Blue Planet Aquarium’s Coral Cave exhibit. Tap here to book your tickets today.
What do they eat?
Plankton and Algae
Up to 30cm
Where are we?