Dottybacks are some of the best-looking saltwater species boasting some of the most beautiful natural colors. They typically feature a half purple and half yellow body, which offers a striking contrast in any marine tank.
While they may appear harmless and small, the Dottyback has an aggressive persona and employs a beat-em-up attitude, mostly picking on smaller critters and invertebrates. Their small size only serves to boost their temper tantrums, it seems.
Since they’re aggressively territorial, we recommend buying a large tank, usually 50+ gallons, but you can make do with something as small as 40 gallons. The good news is that they’re relatively low maintenance and come with a well-developed immune system that allows them to withstand a range of water conditions and disease outbreaks.
Here’s all you need to know about Dottyback fish care.
|Level of Care||Very easy|
|Appearance||All colors you can imagine|
|Life Expectancy||Can live for seven years.|
|Size||Reach a size of 3.5 inches maximum.|
|Tank Size||30 to 40 gallons|
|Tank Environment||Marine tank with corals, rocks, and caves|
|Tank Mates||Live well with most docile fish|
They grow to an average size of 2 inches to 3.5 inches max. These fish belong to the family Pseudochromidae with over 100 species.
Their intriguing personality, along with their striking appearance, made them a staple of saltwater aquariums years ago. However, they weren’t readily available and farmed in remote locations, which resulted in increased prices.
However, commercial farms began to successfully breed Dottyback species, bringing the price down and allowing hobbyists to introduce them into their tanks.
Today, the average Dottyback is only $25 to $40 per fish, depending on the species.
The most sought-after Dottyback is Fridman’s Dottyback or the Orchid Dottyback. Its bright violet hues attract many aquarists. The price tag for one species is closer to $100, which is a bit steep. They swim at a depth of around 180 feet in the Red Sea.
They get to mostly about 3 inches in length, featuring a primarily yellow body with a blue cap. They also showcase a sparkling iridescent blue stripe that runs lengthwise, making them highly attractive to most fishkeepers.
Males are somewhat brighter in color than females, although both sexes sport the same pattern across their body fins, tails, and face.
Although They are generally peaceful, they are known for bullying smaller, more docile creatures such as gobies, small wrasses, and blennies. It is why most aquarists recommend keeping them with triggers and surgeonfish to reduce aggression levels.
As a general rule, two males should never be added to the aquarium because they will fight each other to the point of death.
Popular Varieties of Dottyback Species
Neon Dottyback (Pseudochromis Aldabraensis)
Neon Dottybacks are arguably one of the most popular saltwater species. They feature electric blue lines on their head, the upper portion of the body, and the dorsal fin.
The rest of their body has a bright orange hue, which provides a good contrast ratio. They thrive on bristle worms, which can be a problem in saltwater tanks. Neon Dottybacks habitat in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. They are also in northern Kuwait and to the east of Seychelles.
Orchid Dottyback (Pseudochromis Fridmani)
Their habitat is the Red Sea only, where they form colonies near ledges and vertical walls. They will often swim with short bursts of speed to grab passing zooplankton and just as quickly retreat. In the wild, We found Dottyback in shallow to deep depths of water. They have a blue-ish color in the wild instead of the violet color that aquarists are used to.
They’re easy to care for in most home aquariums and relatively easy to feed. They like small plankton feeders such as krill, mysid shrimp, and brine shrimp. Orchid Dottybacks are a bit territorial and do not play well with their kind. If you want them to get along with each other, try adding them as juveniles at once to create a spawning harem.
Royal Dottyback (Pseudochromis Paccagnellae)
Royal Dottybacks have the Latin name Pseudochromis paccagnellae. They only grow to about 2 inches in length and require about 30 gallons to enjoy a good life quality. Royal Dottybacks are exclusively carnivorous and enjoy eating meaty foods.
The front half of their body is half purple, and the back is entirely yellow. Dotty is aggressively defending its territory against fish that are several times its size.
Dusky Dottyback (Pseudochromis Fuscus)
They are small coral reef fish originating in Australia and Madagascar. Adults are either brown or yellow.
Their favorite food is damselfish fry. It is not understood brown and yellow Dottybacks have different colors yet belong to the same species.
Below is our pick of the best tank mates. They’re neither too big to pose a threat nor too aggressive to get in your Dottyback’s way continually.
Hawkfish are ideal for tanks that are at least 30 gallons or longer. They feature red stripes against a white body, which adds a strong contrast to any tank. Hawkfish are also very interesting to add. It is important to note that they will jump out of the tank at the earliest opportunity (often to their deaths). Make sure the tank is tightly secured to prevent them from jumping out.
These fish are semi-aggressive, which makes them ideal to live in the same environment as Dottybacks. Hawkfish thrive in reef tanks.
Damsels require 30-gallon tanks and can be very territorial. Their level of aggression roughly cancels out the Dottyback’s level of aggression – and so they both stay out of each other’s attacking as there is enough space in the tank.
The important thing is to provide plenty of hiding space for these creatures because they enjoy privacy. You can choose from several brightly colored Damselfish.
Clownfish is the best beginner-friendly saltwater fish. They sport an elegant orange body against white stripes composed of light-reflecting cells known as iridophores.
Clownfish enjoy a unique relationship with anemones, unperturbed by their stinging cells. It allows both creatures to enjoy a symbiotic relationship. The anemone protects the clownfish, which provides nutrition by throwing food directly into its mouth.
Wrasses prefer to lurk on sandy substrates where they can bury themselves among rocks from danger. They are very docile and will stay out of the Dottyback’s way.
They will retreat into their burrows at the slightest hints of danger. They generate a ton of bio-load, which necessitates a decent-sized tank to keep the tank’s nitrate and nitrite levels from rising too abruptly.
Angelfish are among the best saltwater species, prized for their unique color attributes such as stripes, spots, and marled color. They have an unusual angular shape with long vertical anal fins and tall vertical dorsal fins.
Their bodies feature various patterns and colors, which are bound to complement the Dottyback. They’re semi-aggressive and will hold their own against Dottybacks without beating them up too badly.
Food & Diet
To make sure They retain their stunningly bright colors, they will need to eat a nutritious and varied diet to maintain their looks. They are not very picky eaters, but they should be fed high-quality foods such as Brine Shrimp, Mysis Shrimp, and chopped meat. The frequency of feeding the Dottybacks depends on how they sourced them.
For instance, if sourced from the wild, they need to eat around 5 to 6 times a day. Captive fish, on the other hand, should be fed twice a day.
They often go into a feeding frenzy, stealing food meant for other fish. It means you should closely monitor whether the rest of your fish are getting their nutrition or not.
Do not overfeed your fish to keep up with the frequency. They will not be able to eat more than their gut allows. The resulting food waste will upset the water’s delicate chemistry and could kill your entire stock.
Feed them only as much as they can eat in a few minutes. Remove any leftover food at once if you don’t already have bottom-dwellers like wrasses to clean up after your Dottyback.
Ideal Tank Conditions
A marine tank with a minimum of 30 gallons capacity is needed to provide Orchids with their ideal home. It is because they need plenty of hiding spots to retreat into when they feel threatened.
When you first introduce these fish into your aquarium, they will be timid and try to seek a hiding place. It will take quite some time before they adjust to their new environment.
Give it a few days, and they should emerge from their hole and explore the new territory with more confidence. As they become bolder, they’ll become more inquisitive and probably grow into your favorite fish in the aquarium.
The ideal water conditions for Dottybacks are as follows:
- Temperature: 73 to 77° Fahrenheit
- Water Hardness Levels: 8 to 12 dKH
- pH Value: 8.2 to 8.4
- Specific Gravity: 1.021 to 1.025
Although they are a hardy species, Always add them to a mature saltwater aquarium. They’re very skilled at jumping out of the tank and need a secure lid to stay alive.
It’s straightforward for them to get spooked and reach for the skies – to their death. You will also need to plug any outlets that lead outside of the tank because Dottybacks can slip out unnoticed.
Tank Setup: Things to Add
They are reef safe and perfectly compatible with corals and invertebrates. They need plenty of hiding spots to make their dens. Start by installing various rock formations and small caves that they can use to escape should they detect the presence of danger.
Most Dottybacks originate from 70 feet or deeper. At these depths, the natural light from the sun dims out. Thus they prefer dimly lit aquariums. Most tanks with bright lights will stress them out to the point of death.
Tank Cleaning Tips
Saltwater aquariums require more cleaning than freshwater aquariums. You’ll have to partially clean 25% of the water every month or 15% of the water every week. It is an excellent practice to add a small amount of activated carbon to the tank to improve the water’s clarity.
Make sure to clean the filter routinely because they are the first line of defense to trap bio-load, waste, and other undesirable debris that invade the aquarium. It can be tedious to clean or replace these filters manually. It is easier to have a few spares in handy, so you can easily swap them out once during maintenance.
Dottyback Breeding Guidelines
Unlike most saltwater fish, Dotty’s are extensively bred in captivity – both in commercial farms and home aquariums. All you have to do is create an ideal environment for males and females.
The only problem is that there are no external differences between most Dottyback species. Both males and females have identical color patterns, and the lack of gender dimorphism means that matchmaking will be a trial and error process.
A few exceptions to this rule include the oblique-lined dottyback (Cypho purpurascens), in which the males have a more obvious coloration.
In most cases, you may be able to identify males because they grow larger and have slender. Females are usually shorter and have a slightly bulging section in the stomach where the eggs will develop.
When you first place two adult Dotty, you have to monitor the resulting behavior closely. The two will exhibit threatening behavior to each other, which will eventually subside. However, if they bite each other viciously, it’s a sign that they view each other as competitors. If you don’t do something sooner, the dominant fish will kill the less dominant one.
It observed that farm specimens could form pairs at a higher success rate than those caught in the wild – they’re just more aggressive and too selective.
The key to getting these to breed is a well-structured aquarium with lots of spawning caves and a large space to swim around. Dottybacks can utilize these caves as places to sleep or retreat at the sign of danger. It’s always better to create entrances of different sizes to prevent larger ones from invading the caves of smaller ones.
Smaller ones will always choose smaller caves in the presence of larger Dottybacks. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to create at least ten caves for three pairs of Dottybacks to eliminate the struggle for caves.
Dottybacks are demersal spawners and will release around 400 to 3000 eggs in caves or along PVC pipes. You can also provide them with a small flowerpot cut in half. You can place the spawning shelters at any depth, whether close to the surface or on the aquarium floor. Dottybacks will accept any place that can secure eggs.
Feeding Dottyback Fry
Dottyback species will spawn every week, depending on the nutrition provided and water conditions. The larvae will hatch out after every 5 to 9 days.
Males will care for their young, which means you should not touch spawn just a few days old. Instead, it is more effective to capture the larvae in a trap equipped with a small pump and soft spotlighting. Once you’ve got the larvae, gently place them in a tank with at least 2 gallons of water. Now, add phytoplankton slowly.
You will have to add more fresh water and phytoplankton until the propagation tank is full during the next few days.
For more in-depth information on raising the fry to adult size, check out “Breeding The Orchid Dottyback: An Aquarist’s Journal” by Martin Moe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is dottyback reef safe?
When it comes to being reef-safe, Dottybacks are a mixed bag. They’re safe around corals but pose a threat to shrimps, tubeworms, and other invertebrates. They also don’t like creatures that sport a red color. They will eat ornamental shrimps and are probably not suited to most reef tanks.
Are dottybacks jumpers?
Dottybacks are known for habitually jumping out of their tanks, either searching for more places to explore or because they got spooked. Make sure the tank has a firmly secured lid to prevent them from jumping out.
Is neon dottyback aggressive?
Neon Dottybacks are semi-aggressive to similarly-sized species but don’t pose a threat to their life. They do have a reputation for feasting on smaller ornamental invertebrates such as shrimps and bristle worms. They will also attack smaller fish, so it is recommended only to keep them with larger fish.
Where to buy?
Dottybacks are widespread in most saltwater aquariums because of commercial farms that specialize in breeding all sorts of widespread species. The average price tag of a Dottyback for sale ranges from $20 to $100, depending on its rarity and availability.
Dottybacks are a diverse family of fish that most beginners (and experts) will be happy to have in their aquarium.
They’re small, relatively docile (sometimes a bit angry), and very tough. Just remember to provide them with lots of rock works and rock formations to hide, and you’ll be good to go.