Tomini Tang: Species Profile & Care Guide

| Updated: July 13, 2023
tomini tang, bristletooth tang, flame fin tang, under white lights in a reef aquarium

Are you looking for a new addition to your reef aquarium? Do you want a fish that is small, colorful, and easy to care for? If you answered yes to these questions, then you might want to check out the tomini tang. This fish, also known as the bristletooth tomini tang or the tomini surgeonfish, is a member of the tang family that stays relatively small compared to other tangs. It has a brown body with yellow, blue, and white highlights, making it stand out in any reef tank.

Read on and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the tomini tang, including its appearance, natural habitat, tank requirements, diet, care, and breeding. We will also give you tips on choosing and acclimating a healthy tomini tang for your aquarium.

Tomini Tang Facts

Before we dive into the details of the tomini tang, let’s take a look at some quick facts about this awesome fish:

  • Scientific name: Ctenochaetus tominiensis
  • Common names: Tomini tang, bristletooth tomini tang, flame fin tang
  • Family: Acanthuridae (surgeonfishes)
  • Origin: Western Central Pacific, Indo-Pacific, Solomon Islands, Fiji
  • Size: Up to 6 inches (15 cm)
  • Lifespan: Over 5 years
  • Diet: Omnivorous, mainly feeds on marine algae
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive, may bully new or similar fish
  • Reef Compatibility: Yes, reef safe
  • Minimum tank size: 70 gallons (265 liters)
  • Water parameters: Salinity 1.020-1.025, temperature 72-78°F (22-26°C), pH 8.1-8.4, dKH 8-12
  • Difficulty level: Moderate

Tomini Tang Appearance

The tomini tang has a distinctive appearance that makes it easy to recognize among other tangs. It has a brown body with a white underbelly that darkens as it matures. It also has yellow dorsal and anal fins with blue edges and a blue tail fin with a yellow base. The area above its eyes has small golden spots and a golden half-circle under its mouth.

The tomini tang has a sharp spine on each side of its tail base that can be used for defense or aggression. This spine gives the fish its common name of surgeonfish. The spine can also cause injury to other fish or humans if not handled carefully.

The tomini tang is one of the smaller tangs available today, reaching a maximum size of about 6 inches (15 cm). However, most specimens are smaller than that in captivity. The tomini tang is also one of the rare tang species that can be found in different color variations. Some individuals may have more or less yellow or blue on their fins or different patterns on their bodies.

Tomini Tang Natural Habitat

The tomini tang is native to the Western Central Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions, where it can be found in coral reefs and lagoons from Indonesia to Fiji. It prefers shallow waters with plenty of live rock and algae growth.

Like most tangs, they are grazers that feed on various types of marine algae throughout the day. It uses its specialized teeth to scrape off algae from rocks and corals.

Tomini Tang Tank Requirements

The tomini tang is a reef-safe fish that can be kept in a reef aquarium with other peaceful or semi-aggressive fish. However, it may not get along well with other tangs or similar-looking fish, especially if they are introduced after the tomini tang. So it’s often best to add the tomini tang as the last fish in your tank or keep it in a species-only tank with other tomini tangs.

The minimum tank size for a single tomini tang is 70 gallons (265 liters), but larger tanks are recommended for more space and stability. The tank should have plenty of live rock for hiding places, algae growth, and open swimming areas.

Regular testing and water changes should maintain water quality at optimal levels for reef tanks. The water parameters should be within the following ranges:

  • Salinity: 1.020-1.025
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • dKH: 8-12

The tank should also have adequate filtration and water movement to keep the water clean and oxygenated. A protein skimmer can help remove organic waste and improve water quality. A powerhead or wavemaker can provide water flow and simulate natural currents.

Tomini Tang Diet

The tomini tang is an omnivorous fish that mainly feeds on marine algae in the wild. In captivity, it should be offered a variety of foods that include both plant and animal matter. The best way to feed them is to provide plenty of live rock with natural algae growth and supplement their diet with prepared foods.

Some of the foods that you can feed the tomini tang are:

  • Marine algae sheets or pellets
  • Spirulina flakes or pellets
  • Seaweed salad or nori
  • Mysis shrimp or brine shrimp
  • Krill or plankton
  • Frozen or freeze-dried marine foods
  • High-quality marine flakes or pellets

The tomini tang should be fed at least twice a day and more often if possible. Feeding it enough food to keep it healthy and prevent it from nipping at corals or other tank mates is important. However, you should also avoid overfeeding it, as this can cause water quality issues and health problems.

Tomini Tang Care

Tomini tangs are relatively hardy fish that can adapt well to different water conditions and tank setups. They can still be susceptible to common diseases and parasites affecting many saltwater fish, such as ich, marine velvet, flukes, and bacterial infections. To prevent these diseases, you should always quarantine any new fish before adding them to your main tank and observe them for any signs of illness or stress.

You should also maintain good water quality and hygiene in your tank and perform regular water changes and filter maintenance. You can use a UV sterilizer or ozone generator to help eliminate harmful pathogens and improve water clarity. Suppose you notice any signs of disease in your tomini tang, such as white spots, rapid breathing, loss of appetite, or abnormal behavior. In that case, you should act quickly and treat the fish with the appropriate medication or remedy.

Some of the medications and remedies that you can use for treating common diseases in saltwater fish are:

  • Copper-based medications for ich and marine velvet
  • Praziquantel or formalin for flukes
  • Antibiotics or antibacterial foods for bacterial infections
  • Freshwater dips or hyposalinity for external parasites
  • Garlic or vitamin C supplements for boosting the immune system

You should always follow the instructions and dosages of any medication or remedy that you use and monitor the fish closely during the treatment. You should also remove any carbon or chemical media from your filter during the treatment, as they can reduce the effectiveness of the medication. Avoid using any medication or remedy that is not reef safe if you have corals or other invertebrates in your tank.

Compatible Tankmates

Tomini tangs can be kept with other peaceful or semi-aggressive fish as long as they are not too similar in appearance or behavior. They may show aggression towards other tangs or surgeonfishes, especially if they are introduced after the tomini. In many cases, it is best to avoid keeping the tomini tang with other tangs or surgeonfishes unless they are very different in color or size or added simultaneously.

Some of the fish that can be compatible with a tomini tang are:

  • Clownfish
  • Damsels
  • Anthias
  • Blennies
  • Gobies
  • Wrasses
  • Angelfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Cardinalfish
  • Chromis
  • Hawkfish
  • Pseudochromis

The tomini tang can also be kept with corals and other invertebrates, as it is reef safe and will not harm them. Some corals and invertebrates may sting or irritate your fish, but just make sure to leave ample swimming space when placing them. You should also provide enough space and hiding places for your tomini and any tank mates to avoid territorial disputes and stress.

Some of the corals and invertebrates that can be compatible with the tomini tang are:

  • Mushrooms
  • Zoanthids
  • Polyps
  • Soft corals
  • LPS corals
  • SPS corals
  • Starfish
  • Snails
  • Crabs
  • Shrimps

Always research the compatibility and requirements of any fish, coral, or invertebrate you want to add to your tank and ensure that they suit your tank size, water parameters, and setup. You should also observe the behavior and interaction of your tank inhabitants and remove any fish, coral, or invertebrate that causes problems or shows signs of stress.

Tomini Tang Breeding

The tomini tang is what’s called a group spawner, meaning they release eggs and sperm into the water column during certain times of the year. The eggs and sperm are fertilized externally and drift with the currents until they hatch into larvae. The larvae then go through several stages of development before settling on the substrate and metamorphosing into juvenile fish.

Breeding tominis in captivity is very difficult and rarely achieved by hobbyists. The main challenges are providing the right environmental cues for spawning, collecting and raising the larvae, and providing suitable food for the larvae and juveniles. The larvae are very small and delicate and require very clean water and microscopic food items such as rotifers and copepods. The juveniles are also very sensitive and prone to disease and predation.

If you want to try breeding tomini tangs in captivity, you will need a large tank with a group of mature fish (at least one male and one female), plenty of live rock and algae, a strong water flow, and a light cycle that mimics the natural seasons. You will also need a separate tank for raising the larvae and juveniles, with a sponge filter, a heater, a light source, and live food cultures.

You will have to monitor the spawning behavior of the adult fish, collect the eggs with a net or siphon, transfer them to the larval tank, feed them several times a day, perform frequent water changes, and watch for signs of metamorphosis.

Breeding the tomini tang is not impossible, but it requires a lot of time, effort, patience, and luck. If you are not interested in breeding the tomini tang, you can simply enjoy its beauty and personality in your reef tank.


The tomini tang is a great fish for reef tanks that can add color and personality to your aquarium. It is a small, hardy, and active fish that can live well with other peaceful or semi-aggressive fish. If you want a small tang that can brighten up your reef tank, it’s definitely worth adding a tomini.

We hope you enjoyed this article about the tomini tang and learned something new about this fish. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you and help you with your reef tank journey. Thank you for reading, and happy fishkeeping!

Shane Elliot Author Image
Shane Elliot

Shane Elliot is a pet lover and a coral enthusiast. He has been keeping saltwater aquariums for over ten years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with other hobbyists. He writes about coral care, fish compatibility, aquarium equipment, and more. He also covers topics related to other animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. Shane works as a freelance writer and editor when his menagerie of pets allows it.

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