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Finding Dory the Blue Tang

As Pixar releases the highly anticipated Finding Dory, sequel to Finding Nemo, the world is again exposed to the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef and its colourful and funny inhabitants on the big screen.

While we are all familiar with Nemo and Marlin as the character clownfish, Dory, their forgetful friend, the Blue Tang, also known as a Blue Surgeon, Regal Tang, or Palette Surgeonfish, a local inhabitant of the Great Barrier Reef.

Easily recognized by its vibrant electric blues and token yellow tail, the Blue Tang is a member of the Surgeon family, categorized by spines they on their fins and the oval shape of their bodies. Blue Tangs grow up to 31cm in length (1 foot) and are found throughout many of the world’s reefs.

Facts about the blue tang:

  • Juveniles are bright yellow and turn blue as they mature

  • They have 13 venomous spines on their their dorsal, rear and pectoral fins

  • While they can survive for up to 30 years in the wild, in captivity they are likely only able to live up to 20 years but more commonly live between 8 and 12 years

  • Many are found in pairs or small groups in the wild

  • They can ‘play dead’ by laying on their side, tricking other fish or aquarium owners

  • They are change their colouration to communicate with one another

  • They mainly eat algae, which keeps coral healthy, contributing to the ecosystem

  • While their venom isn’t overly harmful to humans, their sharp spines can inflict bad cuts if handled

With the release of Finding Nemo in 2003, Clownfish demands increased by 40%, leading to a decrease in stocks in some parts of the world. Experts are worried the same may happen with the Blue Tang as Dory fans all over the world hope to make her an addition to their home.

However, Blue Tangs do not make great pets and are not a suggested addition to your collection unless you are familiar with their needs and have had high maintenance fish in the past - they are not a beginner fish. While they get along with other species of fish, they will usually fight with their own species, so if you do plan on adding one to your tank, check the compatibility of your existing fish.

  • They need a large tank since they are active fish and are constantly swimming

  • Blue Tangs cannot breed in captivity, meaning that all pet Blue Tangs have been taken from the wild

  • They are extremely vulnerable to disease

  • They often become ill if they don’t get the correct diet

  • They need tanks of 100 gallons or more

  • Wild caught fish are generally captured using a process called ‘cyanide fishing’ which can harm other fish and plants around, as well as the targeted fish

  • They can grow up to 30 cm long and their size can be troublesome for smaller tanks

Because Blue Tangs need to be taken from the wild, their rise in popularity has the potential to severely impact their numbers and threaten the species as a whole. Many experts worry that this will happen with the release of the new film. And while we all love Dory, Nemo and Marlin, they don’t always make a suitable addition to all homes. Keep in mind Blue Tangs don’t make a good impulse buy and you should be versed on keeping high maintenance fish if you plan on adding one to your aquarium. Do your research and weigh your pros and cons and keep in mind Nemo would have never needing finding if a dentist didn’t pluck him from his home in the first place.


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