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What Kind of Fish Is Dory in Finding Nemo? Pictures & Species Facts

Cheryl Regan

By Cheryl Regan

blue hippo tang

Over the last two decades, Pixar has created some of the world’s most memorable animated characters, including Woody the toy, Lightning McQueen the race car, and Dory from Finding Nemo. Dory is a blue tang or Paracanthurus hepatus, and in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this fascinating fish.

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What Are Blue Tangs?

Also known as regal tang, palette surgeonfish, hippo tang, and flagtail surgeonfish, blue tangs are a species of Indo-Pacific surgeonfish.

As its name suggests, a blue tang is predominantly royal blue in color, though it also has a beautifully bright yellow tail and a distinct black “palette design.” They can grow to 12 inches, with adult fish typically weighing around 21 ounces.

Just like Dory, blue tangs are flat—like a pancake—in shape and have a pointed nose. Unlike Dory, however, blue tangs don’t suffer from short-term memory loss. Like most aquarium fish, they can learn to recognize their caretakers.

Where Do Blue Tangs Live?

Blue tangs live in the crystalline waters surrounding coral reefs. They inhabit a large area across the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They can commonly be found along the coast of southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, and in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

blue tang fish swimming near corral
Image Credit: Sigrid Eriksen, Shutterstock

Are Blue Tangs Going Extinct?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists blue tang as a species of least concern, so they aren’t at immediate risk. However, these beautiful fish are in high demand by the aquarium trade, and, until recently, they could not be bred in captivity. As a result, all the fish sold to aquarium hobbyists were taken from the ocean.

How Long Does a Fish Like Dory Live?

Blue tang can live for up to 30 years in the wild, provided they aren’t caught! In captivity, however, these fish don’t survive as long. Most aquarium-bound blue tang live for around 8–12 years, though they can live for up to 20 years.

Do Dory Fish Make Good Pets?

Though they look beautiful in a saltwater tank, blue tangs require a lot of work. They need large, complex saltwater tanks. Furthermore, they have long lifespans, which most people don’t look for in pet fish. If looked after properly, they can live up to 20 years, which is longer than the average lifespan of a dog.

In addition to high maintenance, blue tangs are sourced from the sea for the aquarium trade using cyanide fishing, which many conservation organizations worry has a negative impact on coral reefs and other tropical fish.

How Big Should a Blue Tang Tank Be?

Blue tangs can grow to be around 12 inches in length. Additionally, this is a highly active fish that enjoys swimming around and grazing on live rocks. Assuming you’ve only got one, you’d need, at the very least, a 100-gallon tank.

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Summary

Dory the forgetful fish is a blue tang, a beautiful saltwater fish inhabiting the tropical waters around coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They are highly sought after in the aquarium trade and are usually sourced through cyanide fishing, a practice that is harmful and destructive to coral reefs and marine life. As pretty as they may look in a tank, these fish are at their best in the wild, where they can be left to swim in large, stunning shoals!


Featured Image Credit: Vladimir Wrangel, Shutterstock

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