Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus) Information

Kole Tang
S. Baker

The Kole Tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus) is a terrific addition to almost any saltwater aquarium. The Kole Tang spends its time picking at all kinds of algae.

An interesting side note: In ancient times when the Polynesians migrated to Hawaii, they found a lot of Kole Tangs in the waters around the islands. They discovered that the Kole Tangs were delicious to eat and were so good that they decided that they should only be consumed by Hawaiian royalty.

If a "commoner" was caught eating this "royal food" the commoner would instantly be put to death. Today, of course, this practice has been discontinued and the Kole Tang can be found on many dinner tables.

Scientific Name

Ctenochaetus strigosus (Bennett, 1828)

Other Common Names

Yelloweye Bristletooth, Goldring Bristletooth, Goldring Surgeonfish, Yelloweye Surgeonfish.


Extends from Hawai'i southward to central and eastern Polynesia and Australia, then westward through Micronesia, Melanesia, and the Philippines, through the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean at least as far as Mauritius. Apparently, this species does not inhabit this entire area, and specimens from various localities do appear somewhat different in structure and color within this area.


The body of the Hawaiian Kole Tang is brown in color and is marked with about 35 fine, light, longitudinal lines which continue onto the rear of the soft dorsal and anal fins at the back of the body.

Indian Ocean specimens bear spots, rather than the distinctive stripes. The Hawaiian Kole's eye is encircled by a bright yellow ring, small blue spots cover much of the head, and the chin appears to be a purplish color. Some juvenile specimens have a greenish yellow color with blue markings and faint dark stripes.

Maximum Size

The Kole Tang will reach a length of about 7".

Characteristics & Compatibility

Even though the Kole Tang is one of the less aggressive Surgeonfishes, it will battle with its own kind, and possibly with close relatives. Since it is less aggressive, it may also be picked on by other, more aggressive Surgeonfishes. For this reason, it is best kept singly, one per tank, but it does make a good choice when it comes to compatibility with other more docile, non-related species. To reduce compatibility problems it generally helps to introduce them into the aquarium at the same time. Like all Surgeonfishes, the Kole has a very sharp spur or razor by the tail, so use caution when handling this fish.

Diet & Feeding

The Kole Tang spends each day constantly grazing and eating, so providing it with an environment with plenty of algae growth is best. Beware not to put one in a small reef tank, as it can do a lot of damage if you have delicate plants and algae growth that you want to keep. In a very large reef tank, the plant growth can recover, as the Kole has so much to pick from. The Kole Tang adapts to tank fed foods very well. It likes nori (dried seaweed), flake foods made from dried marine algae, and will even nibble on some meaty foods like dried shrimp and blood worms.​

Back when we were collecting tropical fish in Hawaii (on the island of Moloka'i), we discovered that the Kole Tang (also known as the Yellow-Eyed Tang) was fantastic at cleaning Brown Algae from the tank walls. If you looked into one of the 55g tanks we were using at the time for a holding system, you could see all of these little round "lip marks" in the algae on the tank walls. The Kole Tangs seemed to love the algae and were always picking at it.

Minimum Tank Size

55 gallon.

Reef Tank Suitable?

Yes. The Kole Tang is a great addition to almost any reef tank. Generally non-offensive, the Kole Tang spends its time picking at all kinds of algae and not bothering any of your corals or invertebrates.

Guide Notes

Guides Care Rating Level: *.