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Vlamingi Tang Unicorn In The Sea | Vlamingii Care Sheet

I didn’t know that Vlamingii tang can change their body color according to their environment. But it turns out they can and it is one of natures amazing miracle. This fish also known as Vlaming Unicorn. I have lot of information about these amazing creature and in this article I am going share those with you. Let’s dive in and search for more information about the Vlaming Unicorn. In this article, I’ll explain their behavior and care tips. Hopefully, by the end of the article, you’ll feel confident adding them to your collocation.

Vlamingi Tang

One Look Care Guide

Scientific nameNaso vilamingii
Common nameVlamin Unicornfish
Bignose Unicornfish
Zebra unicornfish
Care levelModerate
Reef CompatibleReef safe
Native toIndo Pacific regions
South Pacific regions  
ColorBlack, Blue, Purple, Tan
Tank size300 gallon
Preferred temperature72-78° F
Other water parametersAmmonia :0 ppm
Nitrates    :0 ppm
Nitrites     :0 ppm
Hardness :dKH 8-12
Preferred salinity1.020-1.025 sg
Preferred pH level8.1-8.4
SizeMax 2 feet
Growth rate3,4 inches per year
Recommended tank matesAngelfish
Damsel fish
Parrot fish
Snappers Wrasses
Squirrel fish
Preferred foodAlgae, seaweeds
Feeding frequency3 times per day attach enough food to aquarium rock for a day
breedingDifficult in captivity

Quick Overview

Vlamingi tang is a large member of the Acanthuridae family. It has a brown to the purple color body with blue markings. Their beautiful blue color patterns attract many saltwater hobbyists all over the world. They are peaceful fish and ideal for the community tank. Additionally, they are reef-safe fish. Hence you can add them to your saltwater reef tank. They can reach around 2 feet in size in their natural environment.

The Vlamingi tang or Vlaming’s Unicorn native to,

  • Indo Pacific regions
  • South Pacific regions

They are mainly associated with coral reefs. In the wild, Vlaming tang lives around 45 years.

Vlamingii Tang Interesting Factors

  • They can change their body color with the outer environment and their mood
  • Vlaming tang is a hardy fish. They are not a very sensitive Tang species like other Tang fish. The moderate care level is enough for them
  • Keep in mind that Vlaming’s Unicorn grows quite fast
  • They have the greatest growth rates in the first 5 years
  • They can grow 3, or 4 inches every year. After 8, 10 years Vlaming tang size will be around 24 inches

Because of the fast growth rate and larger body size, some aquarists do not add them to their aquarium. You should have a large tank to rear them in captivity.

The Appearance

Their juvenile stage and adult stage have quite different colors.

naso Vlamingi Tang

In The Juvenile Stage,

  •  The dorsal part of the body is light in color and the ventral part is dark in color
  • There is a blue spot on the mouth area of juvenile fish
  • Later juveniles turn into adults and the blue colors turn darker with purple markings 

Vlaming’s Unicorn Adult Stage,

  •  A brown to the purple color body with blue color markings
  • The blue color band extends from the Vlaming tang eyes to the prominent snout. It gives a unique appearance to them
  • Vlamingi tangs have an elongated body and narrow caudal peduncle
  • Their dorsal, caudal and anal fish are beautifully edged with electric blue color.

The Specific Feature Of Vlamingi Tang

  • The fantastic thing is that Vlaming’s Unicorn forehead area has a small hump
  • That’s why they got this specific “Unicorn” title
  •  But their hump is not dominant like other Unicorn fishes
  • The adult fish can grow around 24 inches (60 cm) in the wild

Vlamingi Change Body Color With The Environment.

They can quickly change their color from brilliant to dark. When they swim in the open ocean, their body is bluish. It gets darker when they enter the reef site. At night, when they are sleeping, their body color turns mud brown. Further, they changes their color to impress the opposite gender or express their anger to other fish. It also helps them to protect themselves from predators.

MATURE Vlaming’s Unicorn forehead

Native Habitat Of Vlamingii Tang

The Vlamingi tang or Vlaming’s Unicorn is native to the Indo-Pacific and South Pacific regions. Further, they are commonly found in coastal areas of;

  • East Africa
  • Southern Japan
  • Southern areas of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Islands of Tuamotu
  • Marquesae

Vlamingi tangs are schooling fish and swimming as a group. They are commonly associated with coral beds and rock formations. They are found in coastal lagoon areas. In the wild, they inhabit 150 feet (50 meters) depths.

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Why Are Vlamingi Tang So Hard To Keep?

  • It has a high growth rate and can grow 3, or 4 inches per year. Thus, if you want to rear tang in your aquarium, you should have a large space for them
  • The minimum tank requirement is 300 gallons. It is quite a large size for a home aquarium
  • They are active swimmers. Thus, they can knock your reef and rocks. Then those structures can break
  • They are continuously seeking food. Thus, you should provide enough nutritious food for them. The lack of nutritious food causes Lateral line disease.
  • It is susceptible to many diseases. Hence, you should do protein skimming, vigorous filtration, and regular water changes to maintain water quality parameters at an optimum level.
  • The cleaning procedures of large tanks are a bit difficult
  • Most people have limited space to rear fish and limited time to spend with fish

you should have good financial background to maintain a huge tank at your home.

  • You have to spend more money to purchase a large tank, filter system, and light system for your aquarium.
  • Need to spend a lot of money on electricity bills

Because of the above reasons and difficulties some fish hobbyists do not like to add Vlamingii to their aquarium.

Vlamingi Tang Types

There are 20 fish species that are identified under the Genus of Naso. They have “rostral protuberance” or hump or horn-like structures on the forehead. Thus, they are also known as unicorn fish.

  • This genus is distributed across the Indo- pacific region
  • Mainly they are associated with the coral reefs and the main diet is algae and seaweeds
  • Most of the fish of the genus Naso are available in the aquarium industry
  • All species need relatively the same water quality parameters to live in
  •  Moreover, most of them need large spaces to live. Thus, having a large aquarium is essential
Scientific nameCommon name
White margin unicornfishNaso annulatus
Humpback unicornfishNaso brachycentron
Short-nosed unicorn fish spotted unicorn fishNaso brevirostris
Blue tail unicorn fish, blue unicornNaso caeruleacauda
Gray unicorn fishNaso caesius 
Orange spine unicorn fishNaso lituratus
Sleek unicornfish, black tongue unicornNaso hexacanthus
Morrow horse face unicorn fishNaso fageni
Elegant unicorn fish, orange-spine unicornNaso elegans
Slender unicornNaso minor
Square nose unicorn fishNaso mcdadei
Spotted unicorn fishNaso maculatus
Elongated unicorn fishNaso lopezi
Hump nose unicorn fishNaso tuberosus
Bullnose unicorn fishNaso tonganus
One knife unicorn fishNaso thynnoides
Reticulated unicorn fishNaso reticulatus
Blue spine unicorn fishNaso unicornis
Big nose unicorn fishNaso vlamingii

Tank Requirements

Size Of The marine aquarium

You should have a 300 gallons tank to rear and care for this surgeonfish fish. The 4 x 2 feet (length x width) tank can recommend rearing them. Because of their fast growth rates, they can reach around 2 feet in size. Moreover, they need large open spaces to swim and some places to hide. They use some cavities and caves of reefs to sleep. Thus, you have to provide some hiding places in your aquarium

Water Quality

The water quality of your tank should be the same as Vlamingi tang’s natural environment.

Water Salinity

The salinity level is the major parameter that helps for the osmoregulation of marine fish. You must maintain a 1.023-1.025 (33ppt) specific gravity level in your tank. You can use a Hydrometer to measure salinity. 

How To Prepare Saline Water At Home

  • You can prepare saltwater at home.
  • Add 35 grams of aquarium salt into one litter of treated fresh water.
  •  If you use tap water, treat it using dechlorinate chemicals to remove chlorine from it
  • If not, you can store tap water for 2, or 3 days in a separate tank, before preparing the saline water solution.
  • During that period chlorine will evaporate from the tap water.
  •  Because chlorine is highly toxic to marine fish and coral reefs.

Flow Rate

In a natural environment, Vlamingi tangs are associated with the areas that have high flow rates. They enjoy water currents and high levels of dissolved oxygen. Vlamingi tangs need a lot of water turbulence rather than calm water. Thus, in captivity, they prefer high flow rates

Tools: You can use a powerhead or a tide maker to maintain the water currents and flow rates at a good level


You can keep them under normal reef aquarium light conditions. But if you can provide some part of the tank with low light conditions, it is better.

Tank Roof

This is an essential part of a fish tank. They are active swimmers and good jumpers. Hence, they will try to escape and can jump out of the tank. It will injure them or can even have an immediate death. Thus you must use a tight-fitting lid or tank roof for your aquarium

Acclimatization To Tank

Do not add your tang directly to the main aquarium. You should have a separate tank to quarantine and acclimate your baby tang.

Acclimatization Process Using Floating And Drip Method.

  • Take a bucket/small tank and add saltwater that has 1.023-1.025 specific gravity (35ppt)
  • Float fish bag on the water for 20 minutes
  • Then release the fish into the water bucket
  • Take air pipe and put one end at the main tank and another end on bucket/small tank
  • Suck water from the main aquarium and add another end to the bucket/small tank
  • The water dripping rate should be 2,4 droplets per second (use an air regulator to control the rate)
  • The volume of the water in the bucket will double after one hour
  • After one hour move your fish into the quarantine tank
  • You should use the main aquarium water for the quarantine tank too
  • Allow them to live 2,3 weeks in a quarantine tank

How To Breed Vlamingi Tang

The breeding of them in captivity is rare. In the wild, male fish try to impress female by changing their body color to flash with brilliant metallic blue.

Identify Male and Female

It is difficult to identify male and female at the juvenile stage. In the juvenile stage, both have gray bodies with blue spots. But they dramatically change when they mature. The male caudal filaments and nasal humps are developed when they become mature. You can see these features only in the male fish.

How Fast Does this surgeonfish grow ?

Vlamingi tang’s growth rate is 3,4 inches per year. Their growth rate is a bit fast in the first five years. The 8, 10 years old fish have 2 feet long, large bodies. In the wild, they can live around 45 years.

What Does Vlamingi Tang Eat?

They are herbivores. In the natural environment, they mainly rely on plenty of marine-based seaweed and algae. This diet pattern enhances their immune system. Moreover, in captivity, they will eat some meaty fish foods. But most of the time they like to eat algae or vegetable matter. In the aquarium, you can give the following diet .

  • Dried seaweed
  • Spirulina
  • Nori seaweed
  • Veggie clip
  • algae sheets
  • Sea Veggies
  • Seaweed Salad
  • Ocean Nutrition
  • Algae Flake,
  • frozen veggie foods
  • Freeze-dried veggie foods
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Krill

Additionally, Vlamingi tangs will clean your reef by eating algae that grow on reefs.

Important: you can add vitamin c to their diet or you can add it directly into the tank water. It will increase their immunity.

How To Feed this surgeonfish?

You can tie dry or fresh seaweed to the rock of the tank. fish can eat them throughout the day. If not, you can use the above-prepared diets to feed them. Prepared foods are easy to use. You can also give shrimp and worms to your adult Vlamingi tangs.

Feeding Frequency

You should provide food 3 times per day for Vlamingi tangs. In their natural habitat, they eat food throughout the day. They need a huge amount of feed per day. That is why they have quite a fast growth rate.

Tank Mates Of Vlamingi Tang?

They can be added to most saltwater species. Because they are one of the peaceful Tang species.


  • Do not keep them with other Tang fish that belong to the same species.
  • You can keep them with the Tangs fish that have a different appearance from other genera.

Compatible Fish Varieties

  • Angelfish
  • Boxfish
  • Clownfish
  • Damselfish
  • Eels
  • Filefish
  • Groupers
  • Parrotfish
  • Pufferfish
  • Snappers
  • Wrasses
  • Squirrelfish

 It is better if you do not add the following fish with them. If you want to add the following species to your tank, keep your eye on the community tank.

  • Cardinalfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Triggerfish

Do not add the following fishes to live together with this tang.

  • Rays
  • Batfish
  • Pipefish
  • Seahorses

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Predators Of Vlamingi Tang?

The big carnivorous fish are the predators of them. Those are;

  • Tuna
  • Tiger
  • Bar jack
  • Grouper
  • Shark

Why Are Vlamingi Tang Dying?

The most common diseases are;

  1. The marine velvet
  2. Lateral Line Erosion
  3. Marine Ich disease

They do not produce enough skin mucus on the body. It is the reason that they are highly susceptible to these diseases.

How To Prevent Diseases By Following Practices.

  1. Add cleaner wrasse into your saltwater tank to avoid parasite diseases naturally. Cleaner wrasse can feed parasites that live on other fish’s bodies. Parasites are a major part of the Cleaner wrasse diet.
  2. add Cleaner shrimp or Neon Gobies (Gobiosoma sp) as the alternative to Cleaner wrasse. Because Cleaner wrasse is difficult to rear in captivity.
  3. Do not add any fish to your main aquarium just after purchasing them. First, you have to quarantine them for 2 weeks in a separate tank.

If that newcomer contains any disease, you can give treatment to them easily. If you add fish that contains disease-causing agents directly to the main tank, then the disease will spread over the tank. 

Treatments: you can use chemical treatments to recover your tang. Not only Vlamingi tang but also other Tangs are also susceptible to these diseases.

How Much Do They Cost?

Their price ranges from $ 60- $ 75. You can purchase 2, 3 inches size good quality fish by spending around $70. You cannot find them at every pet shop. But you can purchase them from large pet shops or can order them online.

Credits Alex Maile

Are Vlamingi Tangs Dangerous?

Answer : It depends. They are a peaceful and active fish variety that adds vibrant color to your aquarium. You can add them with;

  • Most reef fish
  • Invertebrates
  • Corals

Be Careful When Selecting A Tank.

The tank should have enough strength to add 300 gallons of water. Because you should select a tank that has at least 0.5-0.7 inch thick glasses. they swims fast and they can hit on the glass. If you do not use thick glass with a proper tank setup, your tank can easily break.

Are Vlamingi Tangs Aggressive?

It is aggressive towards the other Tang varieties. But they can peacefully live with other fish. You can add sessile invertebrates with the tang and they can calmly live together in the same tank.

Why Do They Show Their Aggressive Behaviors?

If you put them into small tanks, they will show aggressiveness because of inadequate territory. The stressful factors and poor health conditions will cause their aggressive behavior.

Are Vlamingi Tangs Reef Safe?

Yes, it is a coral reef-safe fish. You can add them into your saltwater reef tank without any fear.

Can Add Vlamingi Tang with Other Tangs?

Yes, you can add unicornfish with other Tang varieties of different Genus. Those fish should have a different appearance than vlamingi tang. Because they do not like to live with fish of the same Genus and that have the same appearance.

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Arai, H. and Sato, T., 2007. Prominent ornaments and rapid color change: use of horns as a social and reproductive signal in unicornfish (Acanthuridae: Naso). Ichthyological Research, 54(1), pp.49-54.

Meyer, C.G. and Holland, K.N., 2005. Movement patterns, home range size and habitat utilization of the bluespine unicornfish, Naso unicornis (Acanthuridae) in a Hawaiian marine reserve. Environmental biology of fishes, 73(2), pp.201-210.

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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.