Yellow Tang

Yellow Tang

Coral Reefs in Danger

Yellow Tang

Story Behind the Science

The yellow tang can be found in coral reefs near the shore. The reefs are important to these fish because they provide the necessary food and living conditions for yellow tang, as well as many other marine organisms. When yellow tang reach the point of sexual maturity, they tend to leave deepwater coral reefs for a new home in shallower reefs.

Because coral reefs are valuable as marine ecosystems, it’s important to conserve them. It’s been documented that up to 70 percent of coral reefs around the world are negatively impacted by human activity. Some of these activities include overfishing, pollution, urbanization or improper fishing techniques that destroy coral reef habitats.
Yellow Tang


Yellow tang are one of the top 10 most popular fish for marine aquariums because of their vibrant yellow color and low cost. They are also the most commonly exported fish in Hawaii.

Although yellow tang populations are currently stable, they do face various threats. The most common is the aquarium trade as a result of overfishing. Aquarium trade involves ornamental fish being collected for the sake of distributing, selling and keeping as a hobby. Overfishing simply means that some fish are being caught in large quantities, greatly reducing the numbers found in their natural habitats. The increase in yellow tang catches were caused by a larger number of fishery participants, refocusing on particular types of marine aquarium fish and the use of more intensive techniques for gathering those fish.

Because yellow tangs were being overfished in Hawaii, the state established nine fish replenishment areas (FRAs) in 1999 restricting the collection of marine aquarium organisms. Other policies prohibited the collections of specific fish, such as the yellow tang, to keep them safe while other more populous fish could still be caught and used for trade. As a result, the population of yellow tang increased 48 percent after the FRAs were created.

Yellow Tang

Fast Facts

Did You Know?

  • During mating season, male yellow tang change color to attract a female. They also move in a way that makes their body glisten to attract a mate.Learn More »
  • Corals are actually tiny animals belonging to the group cnidaria, which also includes jellyfish, hydras and sea anemones.Learn More »
  • Perciformes make up more than one third of all fish species; it is the largest order of fish and the largest order of vertebrates.Learn More »
  • When yellow tang reproduce, there is a strong lunar pattern. The number of eggs produced peaks at the full moon.Learn More »
  • The oldest yellow tang ever collected was 41 years old. These fish are known as a long-lived fish species.Learn More »
Compare & Contrast Yellow Tang Perciformes
How many species? 1 9,300
Where do they occur? These marine fish are most popular in Hawaii but can be found elsewhere in the central and western Pacific. They can often be found close to shore near coral reefs. These fish can be found all over the world from tropical waters to those of the Arctic. The majority inhabit marine environments, but many can also be found in fresh and brackish water.
What do they eat? Yellow tang are herbivores that feed mainly on uncalcified and filamentous algae from coral reefs, as well as seaweed and zooplankton. Perciformes have a wide diversity, so different species eat different things. Some may eat algae and seaweed, while others might eat shrimp or smaller fish.
Do they have predators? Larger fish, crabs and octopuses Larger fish and invertebrates prey on perciformes.

Honolulu Civil Beat, “Troubled Waters: The Plight of the Yellow Tang”

Yellow Tang

Get Involved!

Conservation Organizations for Yellow Tang, Coral Reefs & Oceans