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Four Stripe Damselfish Overview & Complete Care Guide

The Four Stripe Damselfish is easily confused with the commonly known Three Stripe Damselfish. This one has four vertical stripes. The other has only three black stripes running vertically.

The handsome Four Stripe Damselfish is readily available and often relatively inexpensive compared to other marine fish species – this makes them the marine fish of choice for beginners.

They’re incredibly hardy and can survive a range of water conditions and get along fine with most species. Several other common names include Blacktail Damselfish, Blacktail Humbug, Black-tailed Footballer, and Blacktail Dascyllus.

They’re stunning-looking fish that will hold your attention for hours.

If you’re interested in adopting these handsome creatures, check out this in-depth care guide to learn more.

Species Overview

Level of CareBeginner-friendly
Appearance4 black vertical stripes against a white body
Life Expectancy10 years or more
Size3” to 4” max
Tank Size30-gallon tank
Tank EnvironmentSaltwater with spacious swimming space with lots of hiding spaces
Tank MatesGenerally peaceful with other community fish

The Four Stripe Damselfish (Scientific name: Dascyllus Melanurus) belongs to the Pomacentridae family of Damselfish, which includes at least 250 other species. Like most Damselfish, they’re super aggressive and will give their tank mates a hard time.

The are found in the Indo-Pacific region and New Caledonia, among corals. Bleeker first described them in 1854.

They swim at depths of between 3 to 223 feet, but their preference is for depths of about 33 feet. They are commonly found in sheltered lagoons, inlets, and harbors but spotted among outcrops of coral heads.


Most Damselfish sized 3 inches, except for the Garibaldi, which can grow to a height of 1 foot. The Four Stripe Damselfish will reach a length of around 3 to 4 inches max.

They are well known for their bright and handsome colors that will captivate the aquarist’s attention for hours.

This fish is known for four alternating black and white bands that make up its body. We can see the 4th black band at the end of their tail. They have a very prominent triangular anal fin.

The base of the tail is white, and if you look closely, you’ll spot another black band on the back half of the tailfin. It is interesting to note that Damselfish pectoral fins are transparent.

The Four Stripe Damselfish bears an uncanny resemblance to “Gill” from Finding Nemo. Both fish look alike; however, Gill is a Moorish Idol with the Latin name Zanclus canescens.

Males and females share the same physical characteristics, but males will typically grow larger. It will make breeding these fish in captivity more complicated for beginners, more on that later.


Four Stripe Damselfish rarely, if ever, exceed the size of 4″. Other Damselfish, like the Garibaldi, could reach a length of 12″. It makes them easy to care for and keep in a reasonably small-sized tank.

Behavior & Temperament

Despite looking cute in their tiny tanks, these fish are known to harass, chase, and terrorize tank mates, whether they’re small or large.

Like most Damselfish species, the Four Stripe Damselfish can be very territorial and aggressive, especially when they start to age.

As juveniles, they are generally more peaceful whether they’re in a school or alone. However, as they begin to mature, their attitude becomes bolder, and their levels of aggression seem to rise.

Will relentlessly harass any fish unfortunate enough to swim too close to their territory. What happens to the fate of the fish depends on the size of the tank.

If the tank is large enough, the Damselfish will not bother other fish. But if the tank is too small, it will chase other fish to the point of exhaustion, extreme stress, and ultimately, their death. To minimize in-fighting among these fish, it is advisable to keep only one Four Stripe Damselfish in a tank because they will hunt down their own.

They do well in a reef tank and pose no threats to corals and smaller invertebrates. Their presence believes to be beneficial to branching small polyp stony (PSP) corals.

They are known to help clean between the coral branches and even help with food (thanks to their bioload).

If you want to maintain the population of smaller crustaceans like amphipods and copepods, you’ll need a large enough tank.

For the most part, the Four Stripe Damselfish is very intelligent and will quickly recognize predators from harmless species. In the wild, these fish stick together to roam the seascape.

However, it won’t work in a home tank unless you introduce them into their new home at the same time.

Tank Mates

It is a mean fish that is out for a grudge. They will bully small and docile fish that can’t hold their own.

It is highly advisable to pick large fish with similar tempers but not too powerful to pose a threat. Avoid tank mates that can swallow your Four Stripe Damselfish whole. Because of the Damselfish’s ability to recognize predators, it may keep it from eating.

You can keep smaller and docile fish in the tank. However, prepare to invest in an aquarium with 40 gallons of room to accommodate their aggressive nature.

Below is a group of semi-aggressive, large fish species that will hold their own in the same tank as a Four Stripe Damselfish:

  • Large-sized Gobies
  • Larger Wrasses
  • Jawfish
  • Foxface
  • Triggerfish
  • Larger Angelfish
  • Larger Dottybacks
  • Puffers
  • Hawkfish
  • Filefish
  • Dragonets

This species is too aggressive for Clownfish, Dwarf Angels, and Anthias. Any fish that belong to this group should keep in a tank with room for 100 gallons or more. Otherwise, there will be a death.

Slow-moving species like seahorses, mandarins, and pipefish will be bullied by Four Stripe Damselfish, mainly because they won’t be able to outswim it.

Avoid gobies, dartfish, fairy wrasses, and assessors because they will not survive in the same tank as a Four Stripe Damselfish. They’re under-equipped and too small to share the same space.

3 four-stripe damselfish

Ideal Tank Conditions

On their own, the Four Stripe Damselfish can make do with a 30-gallon tank. However, if you decide to place them with conspecifics (or members of their group),

you’ll need to upgrade to a 60-gallon tank and provide them with lots of rockwork. Otherwise, stick to one damsel 30-gallon tank.

Juvenile Four Stripe Damselfish prefer to hang out in the upper levels of the tank. Adults will swim at any level if you don’t provide them with rock work and corals to hover above and move in for shelter. If you plan on breeding a pair, provide them with 55 gallons of space, at least.

Here are the following water parameters that will keep them happy in a marine tank:

  • Temperature: 72-78 °Fahrenheit
  • pH Levels: 8.1 to 8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020-1.026 (1.025 is ideal)
  • Nitrates should be lower than 10ppm at all times.

To recreate spawning conditions, you’ll have to switch the temperatures to around 80 °F-82 °F.

Things to add to the Tank

The Four Stripe Damselfish habitat comprises plenty of corals and rockwork. It’s easy to recreate these in a home tank. Provide these fish with live rock where they can hide within corals and rockwork. Ideally, the tank should have plenty of rocks, rubble, and rubble.

You can choose pretty much anything for the substrate because the Four Stripe Damselfish doesn’t rub its body against the tank bottom.

The substrate should be selected based on your tank mates. As a general rule, if you’ve got bottom-dwelling species like gobies and wrasses, you should go with fine sandy substrate. If the substrate has got too much gravel in it, it could hurt their fragile body.

It is necessary to use high-quality aqua space water filters to remove a wide range of chemicals and leave essential minerals for your fish.

The choice of plants, water movement, and substrate largely depends on the needs of tank mates.

The Four Stripe Damselfish doesn’t have any special requirements for the lighting, but if kept with live rock, you’ll have to provide intense lighting.

Food & Diet

They’re an omnivorous species with a voracious appetite for just about anything that passes as ‘edible.’ Their aggressive nature allows them to feed on larger fish. While they are omnivorous, these fish lean towards eating meaty preparations.

You should provide them with a varied diet to retain their color (and aggressive temper). Diet should include flake, pellets, vegetables, frozen foods such as shrimp copepods and squid, as well as other commercially prepared Damselfish food.

You’ll notice that the Four Stripe Damselfish will swim higher up the tank when it’s feeding time. As a general rule, provide them only as much as they can eat in 2 to 3 minutes. Otherwise, waste food could disrupt the tank’s mineral levels.

Four stripe damselfish hiding in reef looking at camera

Four Stripe Damselfish Care: Dangers & Diseases

Like most Damselfish types, the Four Stripe Damselfish is extraordinarily hardy and disease resistant. Ultimately, however, their ability to ward off illnesses depends on the tank’s conditions.

These fish are susceptible to suddenly dying. There are no signs of this happening, and the fish will drop dead one day.

It could be because they contracted a disease that other saltwater fish are also vulnerable to. But this is pretty rare in most tanks and only happens when they are down with an illness, so quarantining them is a good idea.

They are susceptible to Marine ich, known as white spot disease or Crypt, marine velvet disease, and Uronema disease. All these diseases take place because parasites are being allowed to increase in the tank unchecked.

The most manageable disease to cure is Crypt, but time is of the essence, and if the condition is allowed to progress, it could be too late. Another parasitic disease is Marine Velvet which affects the skin.

It infects the gill and interferes with your Damselfish’s ability to breathe. Uronema disease deserves special mention because it can attack your fish quickly and prove to be fatal.

The first symptom of Uronema disease is a lack of appetite. It mostly happens when the salinity of the tank decreases.

It’s done to treat other types of illnesses. The parasite will live in brackish waters with a specific gravity of around 1.013 to 1.020.

If you provide your Damselfish with a varied diet and make sure the water conditions aren’t allowed to degrade, they will respond well to the tank.

As a rule of thumb, quarantine anything you add to your tank, including fish, live rock, corals, and plants. It is the best way to prevent diseases and illnesses.

Breeding Guidelines

Breeding Four Stripe Damselfish is surprisingly easy, despite the difficulty in identifying males and females.

To successfully breed them, you’ll need a larger Damselfish that is well established in its tank and pair it with a smaller, newer damselfish. The larger one will assume a dominant role in the tank, while the smaller one accepts its submissive role without fighting.

Its leads to the formation of a pair that can breed. For the most part, all Four Stripe Damselfish start as females, changing into males when they become the most dominant one in their group.

Once the two fish are paired and you can see that they’re getting along, you’ll have to meet the following requirements:

  • Increase the tank size to be over 50 gallons. Anything too small will prevent them from breeding
  • Remove any tank mates that could prove to be a threat to the Four Stripe Damselfish pair
  • Should give enough time to the couple to establish their home territory, which they will use for their eggs
  • Provide the fish with high-quality food

Once all of these conditions are perfect, it’s only a matter of time before your Four Stripe Damselfish begin the spawning session. You’ll see a mating dance take place between the two.

It is usually observed in the morning rather than at night. It is recommended to increase the temperature, but not too quickly or beyond 83 °F.

To initiate mating, the male will emit an audible pulse while swimming up and down in the tank to capture the female’s attention. She’ll join this behavior once she’s ready to mate.

The two fish will swim together with the female following the male’s lead to the designated breeding area. It could be near rocks and corals. Here they’ll release their eggs which will stick to the surface of the breeding area.

The number of eggs depends on the female, but they’re usually going to be at least 1000 or more. To increase their chances of survival, you’ll have to remove any fish that may view the eggs as food, including most of the fish in charge of cleaning up.

You can remove the eggs yourself, but this may prove to be too difficult because they’re very delicate at this point.

If you want to remove them, use a container to move the eggs into an isolated tank. It is best done during feeding time because the male will aggressively defend their eggs.

The good news is that the eggs don’t require any unique methods to hatch. Mimic the water parameters of the main tank and perform water changes regularly. Make sure the water is in pristine condition for the best results.

Four Stripe Damselfish fry will emerge from their eggs within three days. They’ll require a diet of rotifer and when they’re mature enough, copepods. It will increase their chances of survival.

Where to Buy?

Four Stripe Damselfish for sale can purchase from most pet stores, online stores, and online forums. They’re readily available and can buy for as low as $9. Prices ultimately depend on where you live.

Wrapping Up

The Four Stripe Damselfish is gifted with a beautiful body decked out with prominent black stripes that will add tremendous flair to your marine tank.

Their aggressive nature will keep you entertained for hours. They’re very hardy and easy to breed, and their care sheet is relatively easy to control. The only thing you have to watch out for is their aggressive nature.

Remember to thoroughly research their potential tank mates before deciding to pair them with the Four Striped Damselfish. Some of the species may not survive.