Powder Blue Tang

Family: Acanthuridae Picture of a Powder Blue Tang - Acanthurus leucosternonAcanthurus leucosternonPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild
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There are a lot of various opinions concerning the powder blue tang (PBT) and its ease of care in a captive enviroment. The overall concensus is that it is a... (more)  Stephen D.

   When asked "What is a Blue Tang?" This fish, the Powder Blue Tang, is often given as an example, along with a couple other tangs! Goes to show you how confusing common names can be!

   The Powder Blue Tang is a good example of just how beautiful a tang can be. The color of this fish is a bright light blue with a yellow dorsal fin and caudal peduncle. The face is darker and outlined in white. This is a fairly rare and moderately expensive fish.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Acanthurus leucosternon
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Acanthuridae
  • Genus: Acanthurus
  • Species: leucosternon

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    Powder Blue Tang are found in the Indian Ocean, from Africa to Indonesia. Swims at depths up to 25 meters.

Maintenance difficulty:    The Powder Blue Tang is moderately difficult to keep. But does well once it is established.

Maintenance:    It is important that you feed tangs a good variety of live, frozen, and prepared formula foods with emphasis in vegetable and spirulina. Best to feed small amounts several times a day.

Foods:    Mainly found grazing on algae.

Social Behaviors:    Usually found singly, they form territories in shallow moving water around reef terraces and the edges of reefs. It aggressively defends its territory and therefor whould only be kept singly. This tang is particularly intolerant of other tangs and should be the last fish added to the community aquarium. In the wild, when free algae territories are absent, they will sometimes form large schools to invade other fishes territories, like damsels, so they can eat their algae!

Sexual differences:    Unknown.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Probably will not be accomplished in captivity. See the description in the Breeding Marine Fish page.

Picture of a Powder Blue Tang - Acanthurus leucosternon
Photo courtesy: John Rice

Temperature:    No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 75 and 79 degrees.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Powder Blue Tang adults can grow to 20 cm ( 8 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 50 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Swims all over the aquarium.

Availability:    The Powder Blue Tang is occasionally available at retailers though it is somewhat expensive. They are priced about $60.00 USD and up.

Lastest Animal Stories on Powder Blue Tang

Stephen D. - 2009-05-22
There are a lot of various opinions concerning the powder blue tang (PBT) and its ease of care in a captive enviroment. The overall concensus is that it is a difficult fish to care for, and with that said I would never put too much stake into any one online opinion. Just gather a general consensus from numerous sources and you should end up with some reliable information. This isn't always an exact science like some may have you believe. There are many ways to "skin" this cat!

If your PBT does not have marine crypto at the time of purchase than you have an exceptional specimen and unforunately not the normal scenario. If your fish(es) do get marine crypto it is easily treatable and under normal circumstances if your fish are heathly they can resist the parasite for some time if not permanently. Tank size has absolutely nothing to do with the presence of marine crypto, you either have it in your tank or you don't. Research the life cycle and you will began to understand your opponent better. Research suggests that if the parasite persists long enough in a captive enviroment beyond the time frame of 1.5-2 years it begins to weaken and the fish can more easily fight it off. This is only one school of thought though. Your best and only sure shot way of curing ick and not killing this sensitive fish along with others is via hyposalinity, which is the process of slowly lowering your Specific Gravity/Salinity to 1.009 to basically sufficate/prevent osmosis of the parasite within its cyst/encrusted covering during one of its life cycles which happens to be the only visible stage to the naked (human) eye.

DO NOT ATTEMPT hyposalinity without first purchasing a refractometer and doing a healthy amount of research into the correct procedures. This is a long and patient process (4-6 weeks) so you need to be patient and also know what you are doing as with the lowered salinity comes problems of buffering PH levels and increased water changes (often times daily) due to decreased protein skimmer effiencey! DO NOT lower the salinity in only 48 hours like some suggest, DO IT over the course of four or five days min.

Another thing, please don't believe garlic additives will cure or prevent any marine disease or parasite, why do think SeaChem labels garlic guard as ONLY a food attractant?!? It is not officially proven to do anything else and I have had extensive experience with it myself with no definitive results that suggests otherwise.

The person who suggested the 6 foot long tank is not far from the truth, that is typically a 125 gallon tank but a 5 foot long 110 gallon could work if the tank is not overcrowed with fish and decor. This is a very active fish and it needs to be allowed the room to move about, length is more essential here rather than tank height and width respectively. Dried or fresh algaes are a must for any tang in concerns to long term health and vitality.

What about lettuce, vegs? Call me a naturalist, but the last time I was at the ocean I never saw a head of lettuce floating by or brocoli for that matter. I strongly suggest you stick with fresh sea algaes or in the sheet forms from a good (expensive) brand too (i.e. Two little fishes (Julian Sprung's), Omega One, etc.) and also supplement with a vitamin additive such as Boyd's VitaChem or the like in both it's food (flake, brine, pellets, etc.) and also on a weekly basis directly into the water as indicated on the bottle.

U.V. sterilizers (Good ones, not cheap crap!) are not a perk here, they should be considered a must as well as some cleaners if your tankmates allow it, get a cleaner shrimp and/or some neon cleaner gobies. Many believe that these fish/shrimp do not remove the crypto or parasites from the fish's slime coat as it is perceived to be too far embedded but they are obviously picking at something are they not? It is a good idea to have at least one if possible and they costs very little <$20-$30 max for most areas.

Sounds like a lot of work and money huh!? Now you are starting to get the picture of what a difficult level of care this fish requires. Those with easy success are not the norm, they are just plain lucky to have received a very hardy individual fish when it comes to powder blue tangs, brace for an uphill battle and breath easy if you are one of the lucky ones!

My last suggestion is that you should likely only purchase this fish via an online dealer that has a 14-15 day gurantee that is actually applied to this species b/c in all reality you may lose one or two specimens due to poor handling procedures and their difficulty during the acclimation process. It is also believed that the hardier PBT's are collected more closely off of or from the coast of Africa rather than their more vulnerable cousins from the indo-pacific ocean region. I strongly suggest buying a larger sized fish in the 4-6+ inches range as they tend to acclimate much easier than those in the 3 or less inches range. The value is in their survivability which will more than justify the increased costs of the $30-$40 typical increase. You can expect to pay anywhere from $29.99-$99.00 or slightly more if show size, for most PBT's and it all depends on the ocean of origin and the size of the fish. To back up what I have said, search through various online retailors that extend their full 14-15 day gurantee on Powder Blue Tangs. You will find most of these on their restricted species lists, that only will gurantee live delivery and nothing more at the best. There are only a couple that will give you the full 14-15 day gurantee...does that not tell you something about this fish? Good luck, to you and the fish.

Chad - 2006-12-25
I'm writing this in the hopes that I might save the lives of a few innocent fish, as well as save you a sizable sum of money. This is a gorgeous fish. Believe me I had my heart set on keeping one. Unfortunately I ended up killing two in the process. These fish are EXTREMELY prone to Ich (white spot), usually don't tolerate other tangs (especially the powder brown), and don't do well in tanks of less than 180 gallons (they are active and like to roam). If you do decide to buy one, avoid specimens that show ANY signs of stress (they don't usually do very well during collection). Look for vivid blue color, active, coherent, and a thick body. Have the store show you that it is eating. Once home, quarantine if possible. If not possible, these fish benefit from a freshwater dip (match PH and temperature, leave fish in for a minimum of 5 minutes, no more than 10, pull out at first signs of stress). This will help kill any hitchhiking parasites. Drip acclimate slowly and leave the lights off for a few days. Maintain high water quality and offer macro algae (brown seaweed). I know people who have kept them successfully, but they've all had to deal with Ich. If you're prepared to give this fish the care and environment it deserves, be my guest, they're a beautiful addition to a tank. If not, please consider a hardier surgeonfish like the Yellow Tang.

Dennis S - 2009-10-12
This fish is a difficult fish to keep, water parameters should be like you are keeping the most delicate coral ever attempted. They need room to swim, places to hide, and rocks to graze on. They do not like other tangs, especially if the other tang is a new fish. I have tried 3 powder blues over about 10 years. The 1st one was when I was new to saltwater and it lasted about a week, and the second one I bought from the handpicked what you see is what you get section of a top end online retailer. I had it for 1 1/2 years. It was an amazing fish but suddenly stopped eating and withered away. The 3rd was from a top end online retailer. The fish was seemingly in perfect health. It ate everything I feed the tank except it would not touch nori(seaweed) no matter what form the food was in or what method of presentation I used, and it died after 2 1/2 months. Was perfectly fine when I went to bed but was dead when I turned on the tank lights in the am. I would love to have another one but i will not have another one. My tank is 7 ft long and the last 2 definitely were from the best collection areas for healthy powder blue tangs, and not from the indo region.

Sam, UK - 2007-02-12
If you buy this fish or any marine fish quarantine first to remove the whitespot/itch/crypto as many have this on their bodies when coming from the wild. If you can see tiny white spots on or within the skin treat with a good copper treatment (cupramine seahchem is good). Also while at the petshop make sure he is eating and buy the same food that they are feeding it.

Once you get him fat and healthy introduce into a 300 liter+ system with no other established or aggresive tangs.

Robbyn McFarland - 2004-12-10
I have had my powder blue tang Starfish for 9 years! I had no idea a saltwater fish in captivity would live this long. He is only about four inches long, but so beautiful. He is like a true family pet and I will be sad to see him go. He loves brine shrimp and flakes, and dines on the algae in my tank daily. Truly a beautiful fish.


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