The Naso tang (Naso literatus, Forster & Schneider, 1801) is undoubtedly the most popular fish in its genus, so much so that the name “Naso,” when used in the aquarium trade, most frequently describes this species. Its unique colors, extremely active behavior and impressive size make it a desirable fish for many hobbyists. In the wild, these fish swim in shoals around rocky outcrops and in open water. They are extremely active in a home aquarium, spending their time grazing on algae and searching for other food items. Due to their large size, they need not only a large tank, but also a long tank. It is recommended to provide a tank of at least 6 feet in length or more to provide them with enough swimming room. Proper oxygenation of the water is also essential to keeping this fish happy and healthy, as they are most often found in shallow surge areas where oxygen levels are near saturation. In the wild, Naso tangs feed mostly on brown algae (they also do a great job keeping a tank clean of this nuisance algae) and invertebrate organisms.
Although these fish have a mixed reputation as a difficult aquarium fish, once a Naso tang is transitioned to prepared foods, they have voracious appetites and are hardy aquarium inhabitants. Tangs generally do not respond well to the starvation they endure through the chain of custody from collector to retailer and can take many weeks to recover. At the Sustainable Islands project, we raise Naso tangs on our hatchery diet, spirulina brine, mysis, and large quantities of Nori, ensuring that these tangs are fat and healthy, so the hard part is already done! These fish are generally disease resistant, especially if a healthy specimen is acquired and kept in the right conditions.
Physical Description: Naso tangs have a dark body ranging from brown to gray. They have a black dorsal fin with accents of blue beneath it, and white above it. Their anal fin is bright orange, outlined in a thin line of black and blue. An orange and white caudal peduncle provides a beautiful contrast to their bright body, as does the yellow streak that runs vertically through their caudal fin. The most intriguing part of this fish is its face. With dashes of blue above their eyes, orange lips, and yellow markings, this is one of the most uniquely patterned fish in the aquarium trade. There is a also a color variation referred to as the “Blonde Naso Tang.”
Temperment: Compared to other tangs, Naso tangs are fairly docile. While they do not get along with others of their species, they can usually be kept safely with others in the Naso genus or tangs of different species. Because of their large size, they are generally compatible with larger, more aggressive tankmates but will not bother smaller more peaceful fish either.
Size: In the wild these fish may grow to over 18 inches in length. In a home aquarium, a more common adult size is usually closer to 12 inches. Because of this, they need a large tank with ample swimming space.
Distribution: Naso tangs have an extremely large range and can be found throughout the Western Pacific, from Indonesia to Hawaii. At the SI project, we most commonly offer Naso tangs from Hawaii.