Yellow tangs bred in captivity prepare to make their debut

Yellow tangs raised at Hawaii Pacific University’s Oceanic Institute arrived at their new home this week at the Maui Ocean Center. • Maui Ocean Center photo

The Maui News – The Maui Ocean Center received its first generation of captive-bred yellow tangs this week.

The fish will be displayed at the aquarium to raise awareness about the Hawaii fish and the developing role of aquaculture in aquarium displays of tropical fish, the center announced Thursday.

More than 80 juvenile yellow tangs were transferred from Hawaii Pacific University’s Oceanic Institute and have “successfully acclimated” to the center’s Aquarium Lab, officials said. The fish’s presence will educate the public about the Hawaiian fish and highlight how fish produced in aquaculture facilities can lead to a viable alternative to wild fish collection practices.

“For aquarium hobbyists, the ability to source captive-bred species is both responsible and sustainable,” Head Curator John Gorman said in the announcement. “It could relieve pressure from local reef ecosystems and provide an alternative to collecting from the wild. With advancements in aquaculture technology, we’re hopeful that certain species will no longer need to be collected from local waters.”

Earlier this month, Gorman said the center has been moving to have 20 percent of all its marine life on display acquired from aquaculture facilities by 2020. He said less than 10 percent of the center’s fish on display were bred in captivity.

About 98 percent of fish in aquariums worldwide are caught in the wild, according to For the Fishes, a Hawaii nonprofit dedicated to protecting coral reef wildlife. Hawaii is the third-largest source of commercial fish, after Indonesia and the Philippines.

The yellow tang is a prized fish in the aquarium trade, an industry that relies heavily on wild collection due to the complexities of raising saltwater fish. The tang is one of the top fish species exported from Hawaiian waters to aquariums around the world, according to the center. The Oceanic Institute became the first facility in the world to successfully breed and rear the fish in 2015.

“Our long-term goal is to create an exhibit dedicated to captive-bred Hawaiian fish species,” Gorman said. “We’re working with other Hawaii facilities who are trying to ‘crack the code’ for other species. The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center is working on the endemic flame wrasse. With support, these organizations could enter full-scale production and make a positive impact on the aquarium industry, but more importantly, protect our local reef ecosystems.”

The juvenile yellow tangs will be raised by Maui Ocean Center staff in the Aquarium Lab. Guests can see these fish and learn more during the aquarium’s Behind-the-Scenes tour.

For more information, call the center at 270-7000, send email to or visit