Blue Tang (Paracanthurus Hepatus)

One of over 70 species of surgeonfish, blue tangs go by several aliases, including palate surgeonfish, blue barber, blue doctor, blue tang surgeonfish, yellow barber and yellow doctorfish.

These terms — “doctor,” “barber and the like — refer to the blades either side of the tail, which are actually modified scales, not spines.

The dorsal, anal and pelvic fin spines may be venomous, although any effects are likely to be very localised. This fish may cause ciguatera poisoning if consumed by humans.

Blue tangs can live alone, in pairs or groups as large as 10 to 12. Blue tangs rest in narrow holes and crevices —this protects the species from predators such as tuna, travelly and trout/cod.

As plant-eating fish, blue tangs are important to the Great Barrier Reef and keep algae from growing out of control.

After coral bleaching, fishers and spearfishers should consider leaving plant-eating fish to help control seaweed and enable coral larvae to settle and create new colonies.

Find out more about responsible reef practices for fishing.