Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus Strigosus): Ultimate Care Guide


Kole tangs are brown and blue fish with a yellow ring around their eyes that distinguishes them from other tangs. They are native to Hawaiian reefs and were once considered food for Hawaiian royalty.

They are bristle-toothed tangs and some of their common names include; spotted surgeonfish, goldring surgeonfish, yellow-eyed tang, and many more. This article is going to look at how to care for a Kole tang, what fish they get along with, and much more.

Are Kole Tangs Reef Safe?

Kole tangs are highly sought after due to their friendliness to reefs. They get along with cleaner shrimp, crabs, snails, etc. They may pick at the fleshy parts of coral, but this is common with any fish. It is recommended to feed the tang periodically to prevent it from grazing on corals and sessile invertebrates.

Kole Tang Care

Kole tangs are recommended for semi-experienced aquarists. They are not difficult to care for, but they can be time-consuming and require a level of patience. This article is going to discuss how to care for Kole tangs.

 Are Kole Tangs hardy?

Kole tangs are considered to be relatively hardy fish. However, they do prefer well-oxygenated water and lots of hiding places inside the tank. Kole tangs are one of the shyest species of tangs, and therefore they thrive when they have places to hide.

Temperature & Water pH

A Kole tang’s ideal tank environment will provide them with hiding places, free room to swim around, and plenty of algae. They are naturally found in tropical waters and therefore thrive in aquariums that range from 75-82° F.

A consistent pH is vital to a Kole tang’s habitat. They do best in waters with a pH of 8.1-8.4. There are ways to increase or decrease the pH of the tank if it becomes too high or too low. The biggest thing to remember is to slowly make adjustments to a tank’s pH. Harsh adjustments could shock and stress the fish inside the tank.

Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus Strigosus)
Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus Strigosus)

Kole Tang Size

On average, Kole tangs can grow up to 6 inches in length. Generally, the males will be larger than the females, but juvenile females grow faster than their male counterparts. In about four years these tangs will reach approximately 5.5 inches.

Kole tangs grow faster in their first four years of life and then grow at a slower rate. It is important to note that a size difference does not automatically mean the larger tang is a male. It is difficult to tell from visible observations if a tang is male or female.

Kole Tang Food & Diet

Kole tangs are herbivores who like to munch on algae and detritus (dead material that is found on surfaces). Unfortunately, in a tank, these naturally occurring foods are not enough to sufficiently feed a tang. Kole tangs will need food supplements

The majority of a Kole tangs’ diet should come from vegetable sources. These tangs will feast on the algae around an aquarium throughout the day, but it is recommended to offer multiple feedings as well. Kole tangs can eat flake food, pellets, live food, and some vegetables.

Offering multiple options for your tang to feed on will keep your tang and your aquarium happy. These tangs graze the majority of the day, and if they are not offered enough food supplements they may eat the corals in the tank. Encourage natural algae growth and offer plenty of food to keep the tang from causing detrimental damage to corals and rocks.

What to Feed Kole Tangs

Many people recommend feeding Kole tangs a high-quality flake or frozen food, especially one that contains spirulina. They also love to munch on dried seaweed. Even though Kole tangs are considered herbivores they do well when they occasionally feast on meat, such as brine shrimp.

Do Kole Tangs eat hair algae?

Tangs and surgeonfish are listed among the top fish to eat algae. Kole tangs can eat hair algae, but these fish are wild animals. Therefore, there is no way to ensure that a Kole tang or any tang would successfully rid a tank of hair algae.

There are many forums where some people have had success with their Kole tang eating hair algae, while others have had no success. An overgrowth of hair algae is typically a result of a CO2 imbalance. It would be more beneficial to figure out what is causing the overgrowth, instead of waiting for the tang to eat all of it.

Kole Tang Lifespan

Kole tangs can live up to 35 years old in their natural environment. Just like any other fish, these tangs do not live as long in human care. However, most can still live to be 25 years old.

It is difficult for some people to keep their tang for 25 years. People do not realize they can live that long and that they require constant feeding throughout their life. Other people believe that a fish only grows as large as the aquarium, which is simply untrue. A Kole tang may be bought as small as 1 inch or 1 ½ inch, but they grow up to 5 inches in their first 5 years of life.

Tank Setup

This section of the article is going to discuss the size of a tank, tank setup, and what if any fish can live with Kole tangs.

An ideal tank setup for a Kole tang will have ample space and rocks. The tank must have sufficient algae growth before placing the tang in it. Also, when setting up the tank ensure there is a secure lid since Kole tangs can jump.

Kole Tang Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a Kole tang is 70 gallons. Many would argue that 70 gallons may not be big enough depending on how many other fish are present in the aquarium. Since Kole tangs are very active fish, they need room to swim freely and have plenty of hiding and grazing opportunities.

Kole Tang Diseases

Unfortunately, tangs are more prone to disease. They are commonly referred to as dry-skinned fish because they produce less slime than other fish. This drier skin is what makes them more susceptible to sicknesses. Thankfully, Kole tangs are not as prone to ich as other tangs.

Just because tangs are prone to diseases does not mean that every tang will develop a disease. The simplest way to prevent diseases is to quarantine any new fish and immediately remove a fish from the main tank when it starts to show signs of disease.

Are Kole Tangs Aggressive?

Kole tangs are fairly docile compared to other types of tangs. They will not harm invertebrates and can live amongst peaceful community fish. However, Kole tangs have been known to battle other Kole tangs.

It is important to note that Kole tangs do have a spine at the base of their caudal fin. This spine is used for defense against other fish and humans. Use caution when handling a tang and monitor the aquarium for any signs of aggression.

Kole Tang Tank Mates

Sessile invertebrates, crabs, cleaner shrimp, snails, and more can share a tank with Kole tangs. They are docile tangs and will share a habitat with other peaceful fish. With that being said, Kole tangs should be the last fish introduced to a tank.

It is not recommended to have two Kole tangs in the same tank as they do not form bonded pairs. However, it is possible to have two different types of tangs in a tank. The best way to introduce two tangs is to put them in the tank at the same time, this allows both tangs the opportunity to find their home.

Kole Tang Male or Female

Generally speaking, a male Kole Tang is bigger than a female, but this is not an accurate way to differentiate between genders. The male tang will change colors when attempting to mate with a female, but there are no obvious physical differences.

How to Breed Kole Tangs

There is little known about Kole tang breeding because few have been able to successfully breed them. It is believed that tangs’ breeding cycles are linked to the lunar cycle, but all that is definitively known is that tangs are group spawners.

Where can I find Kole Tang for sale?

Online stores and local aquarium stores sell Kole tangs. Their prices vary by size of the fish with large tangs (3.5-5.5 inches) being the most expensive. Unless there is an online store that you have used previously and trust, many people recommend going to a store to pick out a fish.

When at a physical store it is easy to watch the tang swim and feed. This allows people the opportunity to observe the fish for any diseases. There is nothing wrong with ordering a fish online. Some people just prefer to have their eyes on the fish before spending money.

In Conclusion

Kole tangs are a great addition to any reef tank. They are hardy fish that can live for years and help keep algae at bay. Additionally, they are beautiful and fun fish to watch. They even leave kiss marks on the glass when eating algae.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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