“Finding Nemo” Meets the Tang Police

In my last post I mentioned wanting a purple tang for the new 65g, so it’s probably a good idea to mention that I won’t be adding one before I get my hiney chewed.

But first, a brief segue!

Poor little Nemo.  The Circle of Life isn't always about being eaten.  Sometimes it's about your father changing sex and becoming your dominant mate.

The Circle of Life isn't always about being eaten. Sometimes it's about your father changing sex and becoming your dominant mate.

Finding Nemo is an absolute delight for saltwater hobbyists.  With the exception of the clownfish (Marlin and Nemo’s relationship being… um…  slightly different than it would have been in reality), the personalities of the main characters are remarkably close to the qualities of the fish they portray.  The Moorish Idol is almost impossible to keep in an aquarium, the yellow tang is a complete basket case, and the royal gramma is easily startled and neurotic if it doesn’t has a cave or territory of its own.  Not quite sure why the shrimp was French but…

Anyhow, you remember Dory’s line about “just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” yes?  That’s a tang trait.  They love to swim and swim and swim, and they require a lot of room in which to do it.  Unfortunately, tangs are really beautiful fish, and many of the best-looking ones are extremely common, are completely reef-safe, and don’t grow all that large.  These traits have caused some misconceptions about the acceptability of tangs in aquariums.  The yellow tang in “Finding Nemo,” for example, is very hardy and rarely grows to be larger than 7 to 8 inches in length.  And most fish stores sell juvenile tangs which are tiny, usually less than three inches in length.

The result?  Many tangs seem to be suited for aquarium life.  They are, however, suited for swimming.  They… okay, I have these dogs, right?  One’s a Rottweiler, the other’s a Retriever.  The Rottweiler has to guard, the Retriever has to retrieve.  I tell you this not to explain why the three of us are perpetually frustrated when I take them out to play fetch, but to provide a familiar context for an unfamiliar behavior.  We think of fish as always swimming in general, but tangs?  They have to swim.  They are healthiest when they are active and constantly moving, and they need more space to do this in than what is typically found in any aquarium under 100 gallons.

Stands for truth, justice, and acting like a complete dickwad when you end your post with "I'm planning to move it to a bigger tank..."

Stands for truth, justice, and acting like a complete dickwad when you end your post with "I'm planning to move it to a bigger tank..."

Still, as attractive, reef-safe fish, there’s a whole lot of rationalization going on about how we can keep them in smaller tanks.  The two biggest myths are (1) Get them young and they will grow to fit the size of the tank and no larger; and (2) I’m planning to upgrade to a bigger tank soon, anyhow.  As for the first, fish never stop growing, but they often die before they reach their full adult size.   We don’t know much about the lifespans of many fish and we think that keeping a tang alive for six years or so is a good track record.  Maybe that’s the case.  Or maybe the fish was unable to live any longer than six years in an aquarium.  There’s so much we don’t know about what keeps a fish alive and healthy.  But their bodies recognize size limits on the tank and stop growing?  No.

As for the second… right.  Sure you’re planning to get a new tank, or move it to a friend’s tank when it gets big enough, or catch it and take it back to the store when it outgrows your tank.  Again, no.

In either case, you have instigated your own ass-whupping with the Tang Police.  These self-appointed activists are quick to point out whenever someone even mentions putting a tang in a tank too small.  You can find them anywhere.  In forums, in fish stores, in those little comment boxes under aquarium posts on YouTube (did you know there were aquarium posts on Youtube?  No?  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.).

I haven’t fully come to terms with how I feel about the Tang Police.  On the one hand, thank you Mister Ossifer, for defending the poor fish from people who don’t know any better.  On the other, holy dogpoop shut up already.  But hey, that’s the Internet for you!  And I post this now so that the Tang Police don’t think my mentioning a tang in a 65g done with the intention of buying one… I just really, really want one.

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~ by KBSpangler on March 14, 2009.

One Response to ““Finding Nemo” Meets the Tang Police”

  1. […] more than anything… the problem is that my biggest tank is only sixty-five gallons, which is too small for a tang.  Since the sticker shock on these little critters is usually $150, It’s been pretty easy to […]

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