The Purple Tang is considered by many to be one of the most sought after fish in the reefing hobby. This beautiful fish has a purple to blue coloured body with a yellow tail and yellow accents on its pectoral fins. It has a classic tang shape with an oval body, relatively small fins and a protruding mouth that it uses to graze on algae. Its colour will often darken as it matures. This is a fairly large fish, reaching a maximum size of about 10”. They are generally peaceful, but can be aggressive towards other tangs, especially other Purple Tangs.
It was once thought that Purple Tangs lived only in the Red Sea but they have also been found in the tropical waters off of northeast Africa as well as the waters surrounding Sri Lanka. However, due to their immense popularity, they are also extensively captive bred. Captive breeding has a number of advantages. In addition to reducing the stress on the natural environment, captive bred fish are often hardier and more likely to accept prepared foods. In a home aquarium they absolutely require large amounts of rockwork for grazing, as algae is their main food source. They generally spend most of their time out in the open but will appreciate caves and overhangs where they can hide if necessary.
Purple Tangs are herbivores and will spend their days scouring the rockwork, and sometimes the substrate, for algae. Captive bred specimens will also eat the same quality pellet foods as other fish in the tank. However, if there is insufficient algae available for them they should also be fed algae flakes, such as Vitalis Algae Flakes, or dried seaweed. This will help with their immune system function as well as improve their temperament. Generally, Purple Tangs are added because of their beauty and the fact that they are such active swimmers but they are also very effective in keeping a tank free of algae.