The blue tang is a member of the surgeonfish family. These fish are laterally flattened, with an oval-shaped body and deep snouts. The name “surgeonfish” refers to the spines located near the fish’s tail, which resemble the scalpel tool often used in surgery. The spines are normally held close to the body, but if the fish is threatened or stressed, the spine will extend and can cause serious cuts.
The blue tang is named for the royal blue color of most of its body. Its tail is yellow, as are the tips of its pectoral fins. In certain regions, the lower body is also yellow.
The edges of its dorsal and anal fins are black, and it has a large black marking on each side of its body that extends from its eye to its tail. The shape of this marking resembles a painter’s palette, which gives the fish one of its many other common names, the palette surgeonfish.
The blue tang grows to about 12 inches in length.