Purple Tang, Zebrasoma xanthurum
Image Caption: Purple Tangs at Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco. Credit: Stan Shebs/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 and 2.5)
The purple tang, also known as the yellowtail tang, is found to inhabit the Red Sea, the west coast of India, the east coast of Africa, and the Persian Gulf. It lives amongst reefs and coral rich areas at depths of 3 – 65 feet. This species normally swims in pairs, but will also form schools, and occasionally swim singularly.
The body of the purple tang is disc-shaped with a slightly extended snout and dark bluish-purple in color with a yellow tail. On the head of this fish there are black spots that trail back and transform into dark squiggly lines on the rest of the body. An adult fish can reach ten inches in length, but normally the purple tang is around eight inches long.
The purple tang is a continuous eater, feeding on filamentous algae and weeds.
This species is a popular aquarium fish and prefers large tanks with reef systems of 100 gallons or more. It should be fed marine macro algae several times a day. It is a peaceful fish but it should be introduced last to an aquarium to avoid territorial challenges.
Two major problems with the purple tang in a home aquarium, it is vulnerable to parasites and can be susceptible to head and lateral erosion. Both problems are best addressed by adding a highly unsaturated fatty acid supplement to the diet of the fish.
In the wild a cleaner wrasse will remove parasites from the purple tang, but the wrasse are very difficult to keep in a home aquarium. An alternative, would be the use of neon gobies or cleaner shrimp.