Tomini Tang: Colorful, Vibrant, and Quirky Aquarium Fish

Alison Page

Alison Page


Tomini Tang

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The Tomini tang is also known as the Tomini surgeon fish and is one of the most popular tangs, largely because of its small size and bright colors. These fish are reef-safe and pretty long-lived with quirky personalities that make them fun to keep in a well-established marine community tank.

But are Tomini tangs beginner-friendly? What do they eat? And what’s the minimum tank size you need to keep one of the gorgeous tropical marine fish?

To learn whether a Tomini tang would be a good fit for your aquarium and to find out how to care for these beautiful fish, read this guide!

The Tomini Tang – At a Glance

Tomini Tang Info
Scientific NameCtenochaetus tominiensis
Common Name (species)Tomini tang, Tomini surgeonfish, Bristletooth Tomini tang
OriginIndo-Pacific and Western Pacific
Care LevelModerate
ActivityModerately active
LifespanOver 5 years
TemperamentGenerally peaceful toward other species but can be aggressive toward their own kind until a pecking order is established.
Minimum Tank Size70 gallons
Temperature RangeTropical 75° to 80° Fahrenheit
Salinity1.020 to 1.026
pH Range8.1 to 8.4
Filtration/Flow RateWell-filtered, medium flow rate
Water typeSaltwater
BreedingGroup spawners, open-water egg scatterers
CompatibilityGet along well with most other fish and is reef-safe. Can be aggressive toward its own kind until settled and the pecking order is established.

Origins and Habitat

Tomini tangs live in sheltered coastal lagoons and on shallow coral reefs and coral slop drop-offs in the Indo-Pacific region and Western Central Pacific, ranging from Indonesia and the Philipines to Papua New Guinea and the north areas of the Great Barrier Reef.

The fish live alone or in small groups close to dense coral growth where they graze on algae and micro-fauna on rocks and coral mantels. Here, the fish find shelter from predators and plenty to eat.

What Do Tomini Tangs Look Like?

Tomini tangs are one of the smaller tangs, reaching around 6 inches long in adulthood.

The fish has a brown body with a bright blue tail and yellow anal and dorsal fins and a white underbelly that turns brown as it matures. Both males and females look identical.

How Long Do Tomini Tangs Live?

In captivity, the Tomini tang has a life expectancy of over five years if given optimum living conditions and a well-balanced, correct diet.


These diurnal fish are very active swimmers that spend much of their day flitting around the aquarium searching for food and enjoying lots of open water swimming space.

Thanks to their bright colors, the Tomini surgeonfish makes an entertaining, attractive addition to any community aquarium setup.

Temperament and Tank Mates

The Bristletooth Tomini tang is a calm fish that keeps itself to itself and is peaceful towards most tankmates, including invertebrates, sponges, and corals.

However, this aggressive fish does not appreciate sharing an aquarium with other tang species, so you should not put multiple tang types into one tank. If you are creating a new setup, introduce the Tomini tang last, as they can be somewhat testy with new fish that arrive after them. That said, any squabbling and belligerence should die down after a few days.

Aggression displayed by the Tomini tang is generally related to perceived competition for food. Hobbyists keeping this species find it best to provide the fish with a large aquarium containing plenty of live rock and coral structures and keep at least six tangs. That spreads out the aggression and prevents one single fish from trying to claim the whole tank as its territory.

If you want to keep a breeding group of these fish, we recommend keeping a group of at least six to 10 individuals in a suitably sized tank.

Additionally, providing adequate hiding places and feeding stations can help reduce aggression and keep the fish healthy and happy. Overall, with proper care and attention, Tomini tangs can coexist peacefully and make a stunning addition to any marine community tank.

Tomini Tang Care Guide

In this part of our guide, we explain how to care for Tomini tangs in the aquarium.

Tank Size

The minimum tank recommended for the Tomini tang is a 70-gallon fish tank so that the fish have plenty of space to swim and set up a territory. That said, if you have space for a larger tank, that’s even better and will probably make for a more peaceful community.

Although these fish don’t habitually jump, we suggest using a tank with a lid or cover slide to prevent accidents. Keeping the water covered also prevents evaporation that would cause the water parameters to fluctuate and stops dust and debris from getting into the tank.


In order to provide a comfortable habitat for the Tomini tang, you must ensure that the water in their tank is clean and well-circulated, with ample rocks and coral for them to swim around and seek shelter in. That will enable the fish to feel secure and mimic their natural habitat, where they typically feed on algae and swim freely in and out of the coral.

Tangs, like other marine creatures, need pristine water with low levels of nitrates because their natural coral reef home has minimal nutrients in the water. By maintaining their tank’s cleanliness and providing them with high-quality food, you can help them develop robust immune systems and ward off illnesses.

Water Parameters

Tomini tangs need stable water conditions with a pH level ranging from 8.1 to 8.4 and a salinity of 1.020 to 1.026.

The water temperature should never drop below 75° F, and it’s crucial to avoid letting the water temperature exceed 80° F since high temperatures can put undue stress on the fish and cause serious health issues for the fish.


When decorating a marine tank for Tomini tangs, it’s important to create a natural-looking habitat that mimics their natural environment. Start by adding plenty of live rock and coral structures to the tank, providing hiding places and feeding stations for the fish. These structures also help to provide territorial boundaries, which can reduce aggression between the Tomini tangs and other tank mates.

Additionally, you may want to grow a variety of algae in the tank, both for the Tomini tangs to graze on and for aesthetic purposes. Overall, aim for a well-established and balanced ecosystem that will provide a healthy and stimulating environment for your Tomini tangs to thrive in.


When it comes to lighting for a Tomini tang tank, it is important to provide a suitable spectrum that replicates its natural environment. That means using full-spectrum LED lighting that mimics the intensity and color of the sunlight in the fish’s natural environment.

It’s recommended to have a light intensity of 6,500-10,000K, and the light should be on for 8 to 10 hours a day to replicate the natural day/night cycle. By providing the right lighting, you can help your Tomini tang thrive and make the most of their beautiful colors in your aquarium.

What Do Tomini Tangs Eat?

In the wild, Tomini tangs are omnivores that feed mostly on algae, micro-fauna, and zooplankton. The fish also graze on microorganisms growing on the rocks and coral mantels that form the majority of their natural environment.

In a captive setting, it’s essential to provide your Tomini tangs with a varied diet that mimics what they eat in nature. Commercially available tang food, including flakes and pellet food, can provide a balanced diet for your Tomini tangs, and you can also supplement their diet with live or frozen fish foods and meaty fish food, such as brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, and algae sheets.

It’s important not to overfeed the fish, as they can be prone to overeating and obesity. A well-balanced diet and a clean tank environment will help keep your Tomini tangs healthy and happy and ensure they enjoy their maximum life expectancy.

How Much and How Often Should You Feed Tomini Tangs?

As a general rule of thumb, you should feed your Tomini tangs in small portions twice a day, rather than one large meal. That helps to prevent the fish from overeating and keeps their digestive system healthy.


Tomini Tang

Tomini tangs are open-water egg scatterers and group spawners, which makes it virtually impossible to breed them in a home tank. So, you won’t find many captive-bred fish for sale, and most of the specimens you buy from fish stores and online breeders are commercially reared or wild-caught.

Health and Disease

Like all fish, Tomini tangs are susceptible to various diseases, some of which can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Here are some common diseases that Tomini tangs can develop:


Ich is also known as white spot disease. This is a common disease that affects many types of fish, including Tomini tangs. The condition is caused by a parasite that attaches itself to the fish, causing tiny white spots to appear on the fish’s body, fins, and gill covers. Infected fish flick and rub against the substrate and solid objects in the tank in an effort to dislodge the irritating parasites.

You can treat Ich with medication and water changes, but it’s important to act quickly to prevent the disease from spreading to your other livestock in a community fish tank.

Marine Velvet

Marine velvet is another parasitic disease that causes the fish’s skin to become covered in a yellowish-brown or rust-colored film. Infected fish usually become lethargic and stop eating. Marine velvet can be treated with medication, but early detection is crucial for a successful outcome.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a bacterial infection that causes the fish’s fins to fray or disintegrate. The condition can be caused by poor water quality, traumatic injury, or even the stress of new tank mates arriving in the aquarium.

Bacterial Infection

Tomini tangs can develop various bacterial infections, including mouth and fin infections. These infections can be caused by poor water quality, injury, or stress.

Depending on the severity of the condition, most bacterial infections can be treated with medication, but you must fix the underlying cause of the infection to stop it from recurring.

Parasitic Infections

Tomini tangs can develop various parasitic infections, including flukes, worms, and lice that can attack the fish externally and internally.

Most of these infections can be treated successfully with medication, but it’s important to identify the specific parasite and use the appropriate treatment.

Disease Prevention

Preventing disease in Tomini tangs means maintaining a clean and stable living environment, providing a balanced diet, and quarantining all new fish and live rocks in a separate tank before introducing them to the main display aquarium.

It’s also important to monitor your Tomini tang’s behavior and appearance regularly to catch any signs of illness early.


Tomni tangs are readily available from good marine fish stores and online. Prices range from around $60 to $80, which seems pricey, although you can pay up to $250 for some larger tang species.

Final Thoughts

Tomini tangs are beautiful, vibrant, and interesting tropical marine fish that can make great additions to a well-established marine community tank.

Although they require moderate care, a bit of attention, and a suitable environment, these fish can be quite long-lived and bring years of enjoyment to their owners. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure that your Tomini tang thrives in its new home and becomes a healthy, happy member of your aquarium community.

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