How Fast Do Saltwater Tangs Grow? (Growth Rates Examined)

There are two important factors to consider when choosing to add a saltwater tang into your tank.

  • The size of the fish for your tank – Is it too large for your tank now, and will it outgrow your tank?
  • The growth rate of the fish – How fast will it grow? 

Of course, there are other factors as well, but many people underestimate the growth rate of saltwater tangs. 

Some of them can grow to be quite large, and although they may start out as a small fish, they can grow to impressive sizes in a short amount of time.

The growth rate of the fish is something you need to consider when deciding if the fish is right for your tank. 

It’s important to have a game plan to upgrade your tank down the road if the fish will grow to a point where it has outgrown the current tank.

The following information will show you both the maximum size and growth rate of various saltwater tangs. 

You will see how fast saltwater tangs can grow in order to help you decide if a specific fish is the right choice for you. 

Why is growth rate important?

Many fish have different growth rates. Saltwater tangs can grow at various rates, depending on the type. Some actually grow at very similar rates and there are many factors that determine this. 

Knowing how fast a fish will grow is important for their overall health. Keeping a fish that is too big and has outgrown the tank will cause stress, aggression, disease. 

If you know that a specific fish will grow at a rate of 1” every 6 months and has a maximum size of 12”, then you can plan for it to be full-grown after 6 years. 

Depending on the fish, you will need a large tank to keep a 12” fish long term. Most likely a 180 gallon – 250-gallon tank size will be needed.

If a large fish is kept in a tank that is too small, not only will that fish be stressed, but it will have consequences for the whole tank. Others will be stressed, and any disease can be passed on to other tankmates.

You will also have water quality concerns which can cause health problems for any livestock in your tank. 

Sailfin Tang

Factors affecting the growth rate

Several factors can affect the growth rate of a specific fish. Having the right living conditions is necessary for fish to grow to their full potential.

Factors include:

  • Tank size
  • Diet
  • Water quality
  • Tankmates
  • Tank decor

If these items meet the requirements of the fish, they should be able to grow naturally to a full-grown size.

5 factors that affect growth rate

Yellow tang

Yellow Tang fish

The Yellow Tang is one of the most common tangs kept in saltwater tanks. They are a semi-aggressive fish that can live up to 10 years.

These fish can grow up to 8” and should be kept in a tank of 100 gallons or larger.

The Yellow tang does most of its growth in the first few years and their growth rate will slow down as they mature.

Yellow tang growth rate: 2” per year for the first few years, then under 1” per year until full-grown

Orange Shoulder Tang

Acanthurus olivaceus, also known as the orange-band surgeonfish, the orange-shoulder surgeonfish

This tang is unique in appearance as it looks completely different as a juvenile as it does when it’s fully grown.

The Orange Shoulder tang can live up to 10 years and has a maximum size of 14”. It is one of the larger tangs available and one of the fastest-growing.

This fish requires a tank size of 180 gallons or larger. 

Orange Shoulder tang growth rate: About 2”- 3” each year.

Hippo Tang

Hippo Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) in Aquarium

The Hippo Tang is another very common saltwater fish. These fish are very colorful as adults and can live up to 12 years.

They are similar to the Yellow tang as far as growth rate goes, but the Hippo tang will generally be a larger fish as an adult.

They can grow to a size of 10”. 

Hippo tang growth rate: 2” each year for a few years then 1” per year thereafter. 

Clown Tang

Blue banded surgeonfish (Acanthurus lineatus), also known as the zebra surgeonfish and Clown fish

The Clown Tang is a very fast-moving and aggressive fish that needs a very large tank to be comfortable. These fish are colorful and can make a spectacular fish for your tank.

As a juvenile, they are not aggressive and will get along with most tank mates. But as they mature, they can become aggressive and bully other fish.

They are another fast grower and can grow to a maximum size of 15”. They require a tank size of 250 gallons or larger with plenty of rock formations and open swimming space.

They are a fast-growing fish with impressive growth rates.

Clown tang growth rate: About 1”- 2” every few months. 

Vlamingi Tang

Vlamingi Tang fish

The Vlamingi tang is another fast-growing fish and is my personal favorite. They are a peaceful fish and will get along with most tank mates.

They will grow the most in the first 5 years and can reach a maximum size of an impressive 24”.

They require a very large tank of 300 gallons or more.

They can also live a very long time. A lifespan of 45 years is possible. 

Vlamingi tang growth rate: 3” each year for the first 5 years, then 2”-3” per year until full-grown

Tomini Tang

Tomini Tang fish Ctenochaetus tominiensis on a coral reef

The Tomini tang is one of the smaller sized tangs. They will grow to a maximum size of 6”, but commonly only reach sizes of 4”-5”.

These tangs can be purchased at a small size and will take time to grow into an adult.

They are considered to be semi-aggressive with other tangs, but they can be kept in a smaller tank size of 75 gallons. One of the few tangs that live in that sized tank.

They also have a short lifespan of around 5 years. 

Tomini tang growth rate: Around 1-2” each year until full-grown

Do fish grow to the size of their tank?

This is a topic that is commonly discussed within the aquarium hobby. Many people believe that a fish will grow to the size of the tank they are in. This is not true.

The truth is that aquarium size does have a factor on the growth rate of the fish. Fish that are kept in smaller tank sizes may become stunted.

This means that they do not grow at the normal rate and size for its species. If that same fish is moved to a larger tank, it may experience a boost in its growth rate as it becomes comfortable in its surroundings.

The idea of a fish growing to the size of the tank is a misconception of the fact that tank size can affect growth rates.

Tank size is a growth factor but not the only factor. Read more detailed information on this topic here. 

What is the slowest growing tang?

One of the slowest growing saltwater tangs is the Lieutenant tang. This fish can grow to a maximum size of 10” but will take a long time getting there.

These fish will grow at a slightly faster rate when young, but then the growth rate will slow down. Expect them to grow at around 1” per year.

After a few years, that can be reduced to under 1” each year. 


Something to keep in mind when determining the growth rate of a specific fish is that there are many different factors at play. It is not just one specific thing that affects how fast a fish will grow.

The growth rate of a saltwater tang is important to know as they can easily outgrow your tank if you are not properly prepared for it.

As tank and fish size must be compatible, this is not something to ignore.