If you have a saltwater fish tank in your living room, the last thing you need is for it to be empty. Instead of wasting time considering all of the potential options for new aquarium inhabitants, why not consider the Royal Gramma? This peaceful fish can tolerate even the silliest amateur fishkeeping mistakes, and it’s a great choice for any saltwater aquarium.
Also known as the Gramma loreto and the Fairy basslet, this vibrant fish is from the Caribbean. As a hardy saltwater fish species, it gets along well with just about all other fish and is the best fish for a saltwater fish tank.
Here’s everything you need to know to make this fish the star of your new aquarium.
Royal Gramma Background
This low-maintenance saltwater fish is a great choice for a new fishkeeper. It is incredibly hardy and can tolerate conditions in most saltwater tanks. It’s also incredibly gorgeous, with a unique yellow and purple body that looks almost electric upon first glance.
This reef-compatible fish is remarkably easy to care for. While it’s on the more expensive size – usually costing around $20 at most fish stores – it is resistant to most diseases and is also resilient under stress. It’s friendly around most other fish species and does well in a large community. While it does need a tank that is on the larger size- usually thirty gallons or more – as well as plenty of hiding spots, it’s otherwise a phenomenal fish for beginners.
These fish are native to the reefs of the deep Caribbean. They usually hang out in rockwork like coral outcroppings, caves, and reefs, preferring areas that are dimly lit. They usually don’t go too far away from the rocks, and will instead wait for food particles to float by that they can scarf up. They aren’t great swimmers, so they don’t like to go too far from home.
Royal Grrammas are usually found at depths up to sixty meters. They can swim upside down as they navigate their home caves and ledges, which is quite a sight to see in the wild.
Royal Gramma Appearance And Behavior
These fish are absolutely gorgeous, and will certainly cause your visitors to pause and take notice whenever they stop by. With a front half that is an iridescent shade of violet, the back half of this fish stops suddenly and turns to a golden yellow hue. The middle of the fish, where the two colors intersect, has a series of dots that is unique to each Royal Gramma you might have.
Royal Grammas also have thin black lines that run from their mouths to their eyes. They also have black spots on their dorsal fins. These fish are small and will only grow to about three inches in size – often, they won’t even get this large. All Royal Grammas look exactly the same in terms of gender – there is no sexual dimorphism among members of this species.
That being said, you can usually tell the difference between the sexes in your Royal Grammas because the males will be the most dominate. Interestingly, males will grow much larger than females and the most dominant group member will change its gender to become a male. Males also have larger ventral fins and more prominent colors.
Royal Grammas are commonly confused with Royal Dottybacks. While these two fish species are similar in appearance for sure, the latter species is much more aggressive. You don’t want to make the mistake of introducing a Royal Dottyback to your tank when you think it’s a Royal Gramma – this could easily result in the loss of some of your fish due to the Dottyback’s aggressive behaviors.
If you want to make sure you have a Royal Gramma and not a Royal Dottyback, take a look at the coloring. Royal Dottybacks don’t have any areas where the yellow and purple colors blend. Royal Dottybacks also have clear fins.
These fish are known for being shy, peaceful, and not aggressive. They usually won’t go after any other fish, but can occasionally become territorial. If other fish try to invade the rockwork that they have established as their own territory, you might notice that your Royal Grammas chase them away.
Otherwise, they will stay close to home and will dart back into the comfort of the caves if they feel threatened in any way. They are also known to jump from time to time, so it’s a good idea to keep a heavy, tight-fitting lid on your aquarium to prevent this behavior from occurring. In addition, they have a bizarre habit of facing their stomachs towards hard surfaces, giving them the ability to swim upside down beneath ledges.
Royal Gramma Tank And Water Requirements
The main thing you need to remember when setting up your saltwater tank to be the best habitat for Royal Grammas is that you need a large tank. Although these fish are small, they like to have plenty of room to move about. Plus, they are used to inhabiting deeper bodies of water.
The smallest tank you can get by with is a 30 gallon tank. If you are keeping pairs of Royal Grammas, you need a tank that is at least 50 gallons, and any more fish than that will require a tank of at least 100 gallons or more in size.
Royal Grammas prefer tanks in which the water temperature is between 72- and 78-degrees Fahrenheit. Try to keep the pH between 8.1 and 8.4. The hardness should be between 8 and 12 and the gravity should be 1.020-1.025. Make sure your tank is dimly lit and is not in the pathway of any direct or harsh rays of sunlight.
In the natural environment, Royal Grammas like to be in areas that are surrounded by or consist of rocky outcroppings. As a result, you should do your best to mimic this in your tank by providing them with plenty of caves, live rock, and other places for them to retreat to. You can do this by including decorations, castles, and, of course, caves.
What Do Royal Grammas Eat?
Royal grammas are planktivores, preferring to eat foods like phytoplankton and zooplankton. Bizarrely enough, these fish are also what is referred to as cleaner fish. They will move around other species of fish and eat parasites that are lingering on the skin of other fish. This can be quite a beneficial behavior in your aquarium!
Royal Grammas will also eat meaty foods, as long as they are in small pieces, such as mysis and brine shrimp. Again, these should be fed in small amounts. Royal Grammas will also eat foods like fish flesh and crustaceans, but you must make sure these are dead or your fish won’t touch them.
Royal Gramma like to eat a varied diet. This will help to ensure the health of your fish, keeping it healthy for years to come. You can feed out foods like plankton and brine shrimp, or you can feed prepared flake or pellet foods. Try not to rely too heavily on one type of food, as this can cause your Royal Gramma to become sick.
Besides that, the Royal Gramma is remarkably easy to feed, requiring feedings at several times throughout the day. Since they aren’t picky eaters, you don’t have to maintain a rigid feeding schedule – they won’t know exactly what time it was that you last fed them. However, spacing out your feedings will ensure that they are not over- or under-fed.
When you feed your Royal Grammas, keep in mind that they prefer to eat at the middle of the water column. They won’t hang around long for their meals, preferring to dart out, grab a bite, and then dart back to the safety of their caves.
Royal Gramma Tank Mates
You can keep your Royal Grammas with just about any other type of fish. They get along well with other peaceful species such as jawfish, gobies, boxfish, clownfish, squirrelfish, and more. You can even keep them with invertebrates like snails or shrimp, as they usually won’t view these as food when they are still alive.
Keep in mind that when you are choosing tank mates for your Royal Gramma, you should select fish or other species that are not known for being aggressive. They should also not look like Royal Grammas, as this can confuse your Royal Grammas and make them think that they are members of the same species – this can cause some issues with territorial behavior.
In addition, you should select fish that are not too large or are predatory. You should also avoid fish that are naturally curious, as they will have a tendency to try and poke around the Royal Gramma’s home more often than your fish will appreciate. This will cause your Royal Grammas to repeatedly go after the other fish and chase them in a territorial display.
Most aquarium hobbyists only keep one Royal Gramma per tank. They can easily become territorial if there are multiple members of the same species, and particularly if your tank does not have a lot of rockwork or other hiding spots, this can cause some territorial behavior.
If you decide to keep a pair, try to invest in a tank that is at least 50 gallons. You should only pair males and females together, not males-males and females-females. If you decide to keep more than two fish, you need to make sure your tank is at least 100 gallons in size. You should introduce all of these fish at once – don’t add new fish to a Royal Gramma tank after one or two have already become established, as this, too, can cause territorial behaviors.
Common Royal Gramma Diseases
As previously mentioned, Royal Grammas aren’t prone to too many diseases. This is one of the reasons why they are so popular among aquarium hobbyists. There are some saltwater diseases you can keep an eye out for, but in general, these are more likely to affect other members of your tank than your Royal Gramma. Being vigilant, however, cannot hurt, as Royal Grammas can occasionally become sick.
Ammonia poisoning is one of the most common – yet also most preventable – saltwater and freshwater fish issues. Don’t add tropical fish until the aquarium has fully cycled, and perform frequent water changes to keep ammonia levels low. This will prevent issues like fish who seem to have trouble breathing or have reddened gills.
Hole in the head disease, also known as lateral line erosion, can occasionally occur as a result of poor water quality as well. Provide your fish with proper nutrition and conduct regular water changes to make sure he or she stays healthy. A clean tank is the first and most important step to healthy fish!
Finally, you may have noticed your fish being affected by oxygen starvation. This problem is often the result of water temperatures that are too high. Increase the aeration in your tank or decrease the temperature of your tank. Too much sunlight can cause water temperatures to rise, which is detrimental enough to Royal Grammas as it is. Reduce the water temperature until your fish seem to be swimming back towards the middle or lower levels of the tank again.
Breeding And Life Spans Of Royal Grammas
Provided that you are willing to give your Royal Gramma the space and tank setup that it needs, this fish will live for many years. Royal grammas should only be kept one to a tank (but can be housed with other species) to enhance their lifespans. Usually, they can live for up to five years in captivity.
Many people wonder whether it’s possible to breed Royal Grammas in captivity. The short answer is yes – it absolutely is. However, what you need to keep in mind is that you will want to make sure you have a guaranteed male-female pair when you pick up your fish. Because these fish are so hard to tell apart, you will want to invest in a pair that you know for sure are different sexes.
Otherwise, the breeding process is relatively easy. Males will start by constructing nests from tiny rocks and pieces of algae. Then, the female will deposit 5-40 eggs into the nest before the male returns to release his sperm. This will fertilize the eggs.
In the wild, this usually occurs in late spring or early summer. The fish will engage in these behaviors every day for a month. In captivity, this can occur anytime. You can influence it by warming the waters of your tank ever so slightly.
Once your male Royal Gramma has fertilized the eggs, they will stick to the algae for about w week. After this time, they will hatch. They usually do not hatch during the day but will instead wait until the evening to do so, as there is less light.
Royal Gramma eggs are unique in that they hatch in a sequence and in small numbers. It can be tough for you to stay on top of feeding your fry because of this – you won’t know who has hatched yet. They can also be tricky to feed because they are so small. Their mouths are also appropriately small, so feeding them can be a challenge. However, you can supply them with foods like rotifers until they are old enough to eat larger foods. Once the fry are fully developed, you can feed them freshly hatched brine shrimp.