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Why Your Yellow Tang Is Turning White!

The various types of tang have been steadily increasing in popularity within the marine fish keeping community for some time now as more and more people fall in love with the beautiful colors and unique shape of tang.

We usually recommend that beginners start with one of the smaller tang species if possible but the yellow tang is definitely one of the top three most popular tang species out there.

Due to its popularity, we constantly see people of all levels of experience reaching out and asking various questions about caring for their yellow tang.

One common question that we see time and time again from the fish keeping community is based on why their yellow tang is turning white with many people rightly being worried about their fish.

The three most common reasons that your yellow tang may start turning white include poor water parameters, poor nutrition levels, and various types of parasitic infections.

Thankfully, all three of these are very easy to fix, especially if you notice your yellow tang is turning white early and you should be able to easily fix the problem.

Do Yellow Tangs Change Color?

It is natural for a yellow tang to change color throughout the course of a day but this is only between various shades of yellow.

During daylight hours, a yellow tang will usually be more of a bright, brilliant yellow that they are famous for but during the night, a yellow tang will usually change to a pale yellow, often with a white lateral stripe on the fish.

Some people new to keeping yellow tang have been known to mistake this natural color change and the white stripe on a yellow tang at night as the fish turning white.

This is understandable as depending on the lighting and the color of the backdrop of your aquarium, it can definitely look like your yellow tang is paler than it actually is but it should still be yellow.

If your yellow tang is consistently turning paler and paler without returning to its brilliant yellow color during the day then it is a good indication that something, somewhere is very wrong.

Unlike some of the common problems with other fish species that can be due to a wide range of things, a yellow tang turning white is usually down to one of three potential causes that we will cover below but two or even all three of these can sometimes be at play at the same time.

Why Is My Yellow Tang Losing Color?

The most common reason that a yellow tang will turn white is due to its water parameters not being optimal for the fish causing it to slowly lose its color.

The two other reasons that a yellow tang may turn white are due to being fed an unsuitable diet or due to the fish suffering from an external or internal parasitic infection.

You should get a decent reef tank test kit if you are looking to keep a marine tank as they are only a couple of dollars more than the cheap versions but they are far more accurate and test for a wider range of potential problems.

They can easily give you a good indication of potential issues with your aquarium water that may be turning your yellow tang white.

We have a dedicated article on how to treat a yellow tang with ich if you suspect that the problem is white spot/ich that is definitely worth reading if you suspect that.

Although yellow tangs are omnivores, they usually do better on a specialist marine fish food that has higher quality ingredients to help maintain their color.

Can HLLE Cause A Yellow Tang To Turn White?

Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE) can cause a yellow tang to start to turn white in the areas where the erosion is taking place but the condition is pretty rare in yellow tang.

Rather than the fish turning white all over its body as it would with some of the other conditions, HLLE will usually have concentrated lines or areas on the fish that are turning white.

HLLE can be a pain to treat with yellow tang due to there being a number of potential triggers. Over crowding in the tank is one of the more common problems double check your tanks stocking levels.

Aggression from tank mates is another common reason that HLLE can breakout in a yellow tang so try to spend some time checking for aggressive fish in your tank if possible too.

We have seen some people say that the lack of a balanced diet can cause a yellow tang to develop HLLE and start to turn white too.

Due to a poor diet being a common reason that a yellow tang can turn white anyway, it may just be the natural color loss due to a lack of nutrients in the fish but it is still a good reason to try and get your yellow tang onto a specialist marine fish food as soon as possible to prevent this.

How To Treat A Yellow Tang That Is Turning White!

It is unlikely that a yellow tang that is turning white will be able to get better by itself so the fish keeper will usually have to intervene to help their fish.

This will usually involved fixing problems with water parameters, improving the diet of the fish, and treating any parasitic infections that are causing issues.

Depending on how long the yellow tang has been having problems, they can sometimes get better within weeks and be back to their normal bright yellow color with no long term issues.

As we mentioned earlier in the article though, sometimes, there can be multiple issues in the same tank causing your yellow tang to turn white.

This is why we would still recommend that even if you have identified one problem, you still check for signs of the other three in your tank and work on treating any problems you find.

Again, the main culprits are poor water parameters, a low nutrient diet, and a parasitic infection but you should be able to fix these with minimal issues as soon as you identify the problem in most cases.


That brings our article going over why your yellow tang is turning white to an end and we hope that we have been able to help as many of our readers as possible. Although it can look bad, it is usually easy and relatively fast to treat the more common problems that can cause a yellow tang to turn white and there is rarely any long term problems with the fish unless the issue was HLLE but even then, there is a good chance of the fish making a full recovery.