Kole Tang 101: Diet, Breeding, Mates, Tank Size & Lifespan

Welcome to the colorful world of Kole Tang care! If you’re a fan of vibrant marine fish that can truly make a splash in your aquarium, you’re in for a treat. The Kole Tang, with its striking patterns and bold personality, is a fantastic addition to any saltwater tank. 

We’ll explore the ideal tank conditions and water parameters necessary to keep your Kole Tang feeling right at home. With a little knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm, you’ll be well-equipped to create a vibrant and thriving aquatic haven that will make your Kole Tang the star of the show. 

So, let’s splash into this adventure together and make your aquarium a true underwater paradise for your finned friend!

Species Summary

The Ctenochaetus strigosus, or Kole Tang (also known as the Yellow-eyed Tang or Bristletooth Tang), is a peaceful and colorful saltwater fish popular among marine aquarium enthusiasts. 

Near Hawaii and the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean is where you may typically find them. They are somewhat smaller than other Tang varieties and are also less aggressive. They tend to graze a lot and eat mostly algae, like their Tang relatives.


The Kole Tang shares the majority of characteristics with other fish in the surgeonfish family and is distinguished by their flat, oval-shaped bodies. They protect themselves from predators using a sharp spike on their bodies called a scalene. Their pectoral fins have an orange/yellowish hue, while the majority of their body is brown. 

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A striking yellow ring around their eyes, body stripes, or small white dots are some of their distinguishing characteristics. As they get older, their colors stand out more. Overall, aquarists greatly prize the Kole Tang since it is such a stunningly attractive fish.

A kole tang swimming in a saltwater aquarium


The average lifespan of a Kola Tang is 6 – 10 years. If everything in your aquarium meets the requirements, they eat a healthy and nutritious diet and live with compatible tank mates, you can expect them to live longer than that. In their natural environment, they can survive for 30 to 35 years.

It is crucial to remember that caring for a Kole Tang properly might be challenging. They need a sizable aquarium with lots of space for swimming and hiding. They also require a varied diet that includes lots of fresh veggies, algae, and meaty items. 

Author Note: It’s crucial to give them excellent water conditions and refrain from overcrowding the aquarium. These fish bring beauty and interest to your aquarium with the right care.

Average Size

An adult Kole Tang has an average size of 7 inches. However, in the wild, they have a maximum length of 10 inches. It’s imperative that they have a tank with enough space so they can swim and develop safely. 

They require a lot of open swimming space because they are active swimmers. You also need to give them lots of places to hide and live stones to graze on so they may feel safe. Maintaining good water quality is an important part of keeping them healthy and stress-free.

Kole Tang Care

As the vibrant hues of the Kole Tang catch your eye, it’s no wonder that this fascinating marine creature has become a popular addition to aquariums worldwide. However, providing an optimal environment for this captivating fish requires a keen understanding of its unique needs. 

Now, we’re going to delve into the essential aspects of Kole Tang care, guiding you through the intricacies of tank size, water parameters, and diet, to ensure that your aquatic companion thrives in its new abode.

Tank Size

Kole Tangs require a minimum tank size of 75 gallons, but a larger tank is recommended for optimal swimming space. For more details check our 75 gallon fish tank guide. An aquarium tank of 180 – 200 gallons offers plenty of swimming and grazing room for Tangs and any other fish you want to have in there.

Water Parameters

  • Water temperature: 75°F – 82°F
  • pH levels: 8.1-8.4
  • Water hardness: 8-12 dKH
  • Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025

Tank Setup

Kole Tangs prefer a tank with plenty of live rock and hiding spots to mimic their natural habitat. They feed on the algae that grow on the rocks, keeping the tank from being overwhelmed by bacteria. 

Author Note: The rock also provides them with security and comfort when they just want some solitude. They also require a strong water circulation system and good filtration.


Kole Tangs do not need specialized lighting; however, if your tank houses coral, a well-positioned full-spectrum LED light that provides wide coverage of the tank may be more beneficial. Even though Kole Tangs do not require lots of light, it is important for the other occupants in your reef tank and any coral. 

High-quality LED fixtures are recommended to reproduce a natural effect on the water. Since LED lights don’t get hot, most tanks can safely use them.


Aquariums housing Kole Tangs require a robust and efficient filtration system to maintain a healthy and stable environment. These fish produce a lot of waste, which can quickly build up in the tank, resulting in bad water quality and possibly spreading disease. 

Therefore, you should invest in a high-quality filtration system that can handle the bioload of the Kole Tang.

One popular type of filtration used in aquariums with Kole Tangs is a “sump” system, which includes a protein skimmer, mechanical and biological filtration, and a return pump. Protein skimmers are particularly useful in removing organic compounds from the water, reducing the risk of harmful bacteria growth.


When you introduce your new fish into their aquarium, it’s very important that you acclimate them to the new habitat. You can let the fish stay in the bags until you’re ready to put them in the tank. Or you can open the bags and pour them into a bucket for a second option. 

Either method works pretty much the same. The idea is to match the temperature in the bags with the fish, to the temperature of the aquarium tank. Float the bags on top of the water for a few minutes before opening them and pouring the contents into the tank.

Author Note: If you will have other fish in the tank, it is best to add them first, followed by the Tang. More than one Tang per tank is typically not advised, but if you do, add them all at once to reduce stress and aggression.

Are Kole Tangs Reef-Safe?

Kole Tangs are generally considered to be reef-safe and will not harm coral or other fish. However, you should remember that they are grazers. If you don’t provide them with enough food, they may nibble at the polyps of soft corals in frustration. 

It is important to provide a varied diet for Kole Tangs to ensure they do not resort to eating the tank’s inhabitants.

Common Possible Diseases & Prevention

  • Marine Ich. This is a parasitic disease that affects many marine fish species, including Kole Tangs. Symptoms include white spots on the fish’s body, rapid breathing, and rubbing against objects in the tank. To prevent Marine Ich, it’s important to quarantine new fish before adding them to the main tank, and also to maintain good water quality and a healthy diet.
  • Hole in the Head Disease (HLLD) is caused by a parasitic protozoan that affects the fish’s head area, causing lesions and pitting.
  • Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatum) is another parasitic disease that affects Kole Tangs. Symptoms include a velvet-like coating on the fish’s body, rapid breathing, and loss of appetite. Proper tank maintenance, quarantine procedures, and making sure they’re eating well can help prevent these diseases.

It is important to consult a veterinarian or a fish health specialist to determine the best treatment for velvet disease in fish. 

Author Note: Hyper-salinity can sometimes provide temporary relief and reduce the spreading of the disease but it is not a cure for velvet. Proper medication and water quality management are crucial for the successful treatment of velvet disease.

Food & Diet

Kole Tangs, like most others, are herbivores and require a diet high in vegetable matter such as algae, seaweed, and spirulina. Frozen and dry food products can also be offered as supplements. It is important to vary the diet and offer a mix of foods to ensure the tang gets all the necessary nutrients.

Author Note: Too much food is not recommended but you will be pleased to know that it’s nearly impossible to overfeed a Tang. You can feed your Kole small amounts 2-3 times a day and and a minimum of 3 times per week. You can also add some supplements like Vitamin C to prevent Lateral Line Erosion and SELCON for fatty acids. 

Behavior & Temperament

In their own environment, Kole Tangs are lively and good-natured fish. They love to swim and graze, so having them in a large tank with plenty of live rock to hide or feed on and room to swim will make them happy. 

They can and do become aggressive with other Tangs and fish that look like them (shape or colors). For the least amount of stress for all your fish, it is best if you only have one Tang in the tank.

If you have a very large tank (over 200 gallons) you may be able to have more than one, as long as it is a different variety. They are not as aggressive with fish that don’t resemble them, but you should add them to the tank at the same time to let each one establish his own territory.

A ctenochaetus strigosus looking for food

Kole Tang Tank Mates

Kole Tangs can be housed with other peaceful fish species that are not aggressive or territorial such as:


Like other varieties of surgeonfish, Kole Tangs are egg scatterers so they broadcast and spawn their eggs in groups. Telling a female from a male is often difficult, so you never really know if you have a mated pair. 

Because so few have been successfully bred in captivity, there isn’t much information available about their breeding behavior. That is not to say it’s impossible, but it may require more time to figure out.

Wrapping Up

You’re now equipped with the knowledge to provide a fin-tastic home for the amazing Kole Tangs! As a reminder, make sure your Kole Tang has plenty of space to swim and explore creating a lively underwater paradise with rocks, corals, and hiding spots to mimic its natural habitat

Also, offer a well-rounded diet to keep your fishy friend in top form. Your Kole Tang will appreciate the variety and the opportunity to graze throughout the day. Remember, a well-fed fish is a happy fish!

By following this guide, you’ll ensure a thriving and vibrant aquarium that will be the envy of all your fellow aquarists. So dive in, enjoy the beauty of your Kole Tang, and remember to have fun on your aquatic adventure!

And don’t forget to check our other care guides and to tag us on facebook with a nice photo of your fish 😉

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