Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Hippo Tang (Blue Tang)

Paracanthurus Hepatus

Also known as the Palette Surgeonfish or Hepaus tang, the Blue Hippo Tang is vibrant blue with contrasting bold, black markings, and a bright yellow tail fin. It has a pointed snout-like nose and sharp spines at the base of the tail. The spines are equipped with a venom gland that inflicts a sting to its victims. It can grow to a length of 12-inches.

Range & Habitat

Native to the reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region, they live in small groups or pairs. 

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Widespread coral reef loss and declining habitat conditions are worrisome, and there is some concern about illegal collection for the aquarium trade.


In the Wild – Plankton and algae (juveniles primarily eat plankton).

 At the Zoo – Marine plants, zooplankton, dried algae.

Life Span

In the Wild: Up to 30 years
In Human Care: 12-14 years

Fun Facts about the Hippo Tang (Blue Tang)

  •  Dory from the "Finding Nemo" movies is a Blue Tang.
  •  Juvenile tangs are bright yellow.
  •  These fish can make themselves semi-transparent to evade predators.
  • Their coloring is a warning to predators that they are poisonous.


 Dallas Zoo. (2021). Retrieved June 2, 2021, from



McIlwain, J., Choat, J.H., Abesamis, R., Clements, K.D., Myers, R., Nanola, C., Rocha, L.A., Russell, B. & Stockwell, B. 2012. Paracanthurus hepatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T177972A1507676. on 03 June 2021.


Thurston, A. 2011. "Paracanthurus hepatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 02, 2021 at


Updated June 7, 2021