this is what happens when you put 2 tangs together

This is why you don’t try to keep two tangs in the same tank

This is why you don’t try to keep two tangs in the same tank.

I took a trip to (what used to be) my favorite local fish store today. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I arrived at the store 10 minutes early and waited, in anticipation, for the manager to unlock the door.

Technically, they opened the store at 10:01 (were 1 minute late), but who’s counting…

Once inside, I was greeted by that all too familiar odor that can only be created by hundreds (thousands?) of gallons of water being pumped through a wall of fish tanks.

I picked up the pace of my walk and made a b-line for the fish room. I walked through the aisles, starry-eyed, trying to find the perfect thing to add to my tank. Maybe a new saltwater fish today?

I zipped past the tanks packed with damselfish. Paused for a moment to gawk at an impressive-looking flameback angelfish, rounded the corner to a row of very large tanks (120 gallons, I think?), where they tend to keep the larger predators like lionfish and larger groupers. But when I turned the corner, I didn’t see a row of large predatory fish…unfortunately, I saw a disturbing site (by aquarium hobby standards).

An unfortunate two tang-o

In the tank, there were two fish. A yellow tang and…

another yellow tang.

The fish were almost the same size, but one was slightly larger than the other. The larger fish was AGGRESSIVELY biting the smaller fish. The smaller fish, turned sideways, to demonstrate subordination, but the larger fish only took that as an invitation to peck at the fish’s belly. There is aggression…and then there is aggression.

this is what happens when you put 2 tangs together
don’t put two tangs together or this will happen


The larger yellow tang did take a break from biting the subordinate fish, to allow an opportunity to stab the smaller fish with the white spine next to its tail.

The confrontation

I made sure to tell the fish room attendant. It went a little something like this…

Me: “Hey, just so you know, you guys (meaning the fish store…I’m from Philly, You guys and jaun are pronouns that can stand in for any word in a given sentence) have 2 yellow tangs in one of the big tanks up front and one of them is (I’m not proud of this language, but I was upset) was beating the sh*t out of the other one.”

While wiping a smirk off his face, the fish dude replied, “Yeah, that’s why you don’t put two tangs in the same tank, that’s what always happens.”

Me, oozing as much passive-aggressiveness and sarcasm as I can muster: “Which begs the question then…”

And I counted-off the awkward silence in my head, waiting for the fish dude to catch up to my sarcasm and witty retort…one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…four Mississippi…at which point I grew impatient and finished my own passive-aggressive question…

“…why do you guys have two yellow tangs in the same tank, then?”

The logical explanation

Fish dude, looking somewhat irreverent yet confident, “Well usually there are 5 or 6 in that tank.”

Oh, that explains it. Ok.

[pullquote cite=”Fish Room Attendant” type=”left, right”]Yeah, that’s why you don’t put two tangs in the same tank, that’s what always happens.[/pullquote]Don’t take my word for it, take it from this expert, who has apparently seen this happen a bunch of times.

“Don’t put two tangs in the same tank, or [one will brutally murder the other]…that’s what always happens”

The experience today was not a typical experience for me at that store, but it did taint my impression of what is going on there. Sorry, little yellow tang. I hope your story helps some other little yellow tangs down the road.






2 responses to “This is why you don’t try to keep two tangs in the same tank”

  1. rick haydn

    Ok I can understand two will fight but what about if I was to put three ( and all at the same time) ?

    1. How large of a tank? I don’t think 3 is enough to disperse the aggression.

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