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Finding Your Own Dory: What You Need to Know About Owning a Blue Tang Fish

Who doesn’t enjoy a good Disney•Pixar movie?

For years, these movies have been redefining animation, bringing amazing visuals and engaging stories to the silver screen.

One of the most popular Disney•Pixar movies, 2003’s Finding Nemo, didn’t just wow movie-goers, it also inspired hundreds of people to go out and get their own “Nemo,” the titular orange clownfish. As sales of clownfish went through the roof, concern grew that the clownfish population would be depleted. Luckily, scientists found a way to breed clownfish in captivity, and disaster was averted.

Fast forward 13 years and we’re facing a similar issue. Finding Nemo‘s sequel, Finding Dory, is out in theaters, and now people are clamoring to have their own, “Dory,” the titular blue tang fish.

The only problem is, scientists haven’t figured out how to breed the blue tang in captivity like they did with the clownfish, so, once again, population depletion is a major concern.

If demand for the blue tang doesn’t grow large enough to significantly impact populations of the fish in the ocean, adopting one won’t be an issue. Still, it is something to keep in mind when choosing a fish.

If you are looking to bring home a blue tang, here’s what you need to know.

Get the Right Tank

Like clownfish, blue tangs are saltwater fish and require a saltwater tank. Unlike clownfish, however, blue tangs grow to a very large size. Before you know it, they can grow from tiny creatures into 12-inch fish. Though they’re often picked up as small as a single inch when they’re in the wild, they grow quickly, outgrowing smaller tanks rapidly.

Blue tangs typically live in pairs or in groups of up to ten to twelve fish. In order to have adequate space to swim and grow, a school of blue tangs requires a tank that is a minimum of 90 to 120 gallons. A 200-gallon tank is highly recommended for these fish, who love to roam and need plenty of room to swim. It’s also important to note that a blue tang’s tank should be kept open and reasonably free of obstructions so they’ll be able to swim freely. An overcrowded tank is very uncomfortable for these fish. They do, however, love to have great hiding places like live rocks or coral.

The installation of saltwater tanks of the appropriate size for blue tangs alone is extremely expensive, and upkeep on saltwater tanks of that size can quickly become cost-prohibitive. For this reason, it’s not recommended that beginners choose this tank for their first aquarium. Even Disney•Pixar recommends that beginning fish owners are better off with a freshwater aquarium, rather than a saltwater one. But if you’re an aquarium enthusiast, and you’re willing to spend the high prices needed to maintain an exotic tank, blue tang fish could be a viable option.

Blue Tangs and Other Fish

Typically, blue tangs aren’t known for showing a great deal of aggressive behavior. They get along well with a variety of other fish and can be incorporated into a large tank environment. With other blue tangs, however, they can show some aggressive behavior that can be troublesome for both the owner and the fish. Two key things are recommended in order to minimize aggressive behavior. First, the tank should be large enough to support all the fish in it: don’t overcrowd the tank in an effort to fit in just one more friend. Second, if you’re going to introduce multiple blue tangs to your tank, try to introduce them all at the same time.

Feeding Blue Tangs

Blue tangs thrive best on marine-based seaweed and algae. They will eat meat-based foods as they’re fed to other fish in the tank, but this should not be their primary source of nutrition. On their preferred diet, blue tangs stay much healthier, with improved immune systems and reduced aggression. Blue tangs should be fed a minimum of three times per week.

Know What You’re Doing

Again, blue tangs are only recommended for experienced saltwater tank enthusiasts. Inexperienced fish owners may discover that they struggle to keep their blue tangs alive and healthy or that the proposition is more expensive than they originally planned. Thankfully, most fish stores are aware of the challenges of owning blue tangs and are standing by to offer appropriate substitutions that will thrill fish owners and allow them to enjoy their new aquarium without nearly the time or monetary investment. For fish enthusiasts who are simply interested in adding a new fish to their collections, however, these beautiful fish are a wonderful addition to the tank. If you’re thinking about owning a blue tang, make sure you do your appropriate research before you find a “Dory” of your very own and bring her into your home.