Y is for Yellow Tang

Yellow tangs graze on algae, sometimes even cleaning the shells of green sea turtles.

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True to its name, the yellow tang sports a brilliant shade of yellow that is impossible to miss among the shallows of a coral reef.

Illustration for Y is for Yellow Tang with 3 Tangs Swimming to the Right

They have a round body with a small snout and grow to be about 7 inches long. Fins extend from their back, growing wider toward their small, triangular tail. In some individuals, a light stripe extends down the side of their bright yellow body.

The untrained eye may mistake blue tangs for yellow, because both fish share the golden color as juveniles. Blue tangs eventually turn royal blue as they age. Yellow tangs, however, never lose their sunshiny shade.

They are in the surgeonfish family, a name derived from the sharp spine at the base of the tail that resembles a surgeon's scalpel. Yellow tangs sometimes live in small groups, but they can be territorial. Native to the Pacific Ocean, they are most abundant around the Hawaiian Islands.

Yellow Tang

The tangs often shelter at night but are active during the day. Like little lawnmowers, they graze on the algae that grows on rocks. They have even been spotted cleaning the shells of passing green sea turtles.

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