Skip to Content

Vlamingi Tang

A Quick Guide to Caring for the Vlamingi Tang

The Vlamingi tang is a type of surgeonfish, which belongs to the Naso tang species. The male species of the fish usually has a nasal protrusion that looks either like a bump or a horn. That is why this tang has been given the nickname, bignose unicorn fish. These are very popular aquarium fish even though they are quite large, averaging two feet in length.

One of the reasons for the popularity is the color of the Vlamingi tang. It has a grayish-light blue body with brighter blue markings. There are blue lines which are vertical along the sides of the fish. The mouth has blue trimmings and a blue band running across the nose, underneath the eye. The Vlamingi tang has three fins, the caudal, anal and dorsal, all with a blue edging. The fish doesn’t start to develop these colors until he is at least five to six inches long. Young fish are more of a brownish-green color.

Because this fish is so large, you must have a tank with at least 110 gallons of water, six feet long by two feet wide. If you have more than one of these fish, you need an even bigger tank. The Vlamingi tang can be a good community fish but some can be territorial and at least semi-aggressive toward other fish. Do not keep two Vlamingi tangs in one tank unless they have grown up together.

Although tangs can be kept in a community fish tank or a reef tank, they are somewhat clumsy swimmers and can damage the reef daily. They also have two fixed spines, one on each side of the caudal peduncle. These are like scalpels, or blades, which can be used to show dominance or for self-defense. If a human is stabbed with one of the scalpels, it is very painful and can lead to infection. That is why you must be very careful handling this fish.

A Vlamingi tang should be fed twice every day. They eat a lot so if the cost of food is a problem, pass over this tang. When they are very young, the fish are herbivores and eat a lot of algae. As they grow toward adulthood, they become omnivores, eating both the plants and meat. By the time they are adults, this tang becomes a complete carnivore. They need a big variety of food and you many even need to add vitamins to their diets, especially vitamin C. Feed the fish clams, crabs, mysis shrimp, plankton and chopped krill, along with spirulina-enriched flakes.

The natural habitat of the Vlamingi tang is in the Indo-Pacific Ocean from East Africa to Japan, near the Marquesan, Line and Tuamoto Islands, in New Caledonia, and on the southern portion of the Great Barrior Reef. These fish are not found in the Atlantic Ocean. In aquariums they are susceptible to Marine Ich, Marine Velvet, and Lateral Line Erosion. They can be successfully treated with copper drugs, but these will become ineffective if used long-term.

The Vlamingi tang needs to have a tank with lots of hiding places. They will swim throughout the day and are fun to watch. They like being in a reef tank but if you are obsessive about your reef condition, this is not a fish for you, unless you start a separate tank. They need a very large environment in which to live, with lots of moving water and oxygen.

This is not a fish which you can purchase young, thinking you will get it a larger tank as it grows. You need to start out with the final, large tank size. The fish you buy might only be three or four inches long but this is a fish that grows 80% of its adult size in its first year. Since they average two feet long, and can grow to even be three feet long, you really need to be prepared right from the beginning.

You can buy a Vlamingi tang at some pet stores and they can be ordered from many places on the internet. A baby one is in the $45-$65 range. If you do choose to acquire one, make sure your tank is ready for him before he arrives. Then sit back and enjoy this beautiful fish.