Selecting saltwater fish for beginners is no easy task, especially when you have thousands of species and sub-varieties.
Some specimens have complex requirements that may be too expensive or unfeasible, requiring large aquariums over 200 gallons long or near-impossible water chemistry to maintain.
But there is one species that almost all beginners can quickly provide for – the Royal Gramma fish.
The Fairy Basslet or the Royal Gramma basslet is a vibrantly colored fish that is hardy and relatively low-maintenance.
They’re stunning to watch in any saltwater aquarium and can live for over five years. They will frequently reward you for being a great pet owner throughout their life.
Here is the detailed guide on Royal Gramma Basslet care for beginners.
|Level of Care||Very easy|
|Appearance||Yellow and purple|
|Life Expectancy||More than5 years|
|Size||Reach a size of 3 inches maximum|
|Tank Size||Minimum 30-gallon tank|
|Tank Environment||Saltwater fish with rocks, plants, or corals|
|Tank Mates||Very peaceful with other community fish|
The Royal Gramma is a docile, low-maintenance, and beginner-friendly saltwater fish that anyone would enjoy keeping in their marine tank because of its vibrant yellow and purple body.
Moreover, they are fully compatible with reefs and don’t cost more than $25 (subject to various factors such as size and availability), and are very entertaining to observe.
They have naturally robust immune systems that prevent them from getting a ton of diseases. Their scientific name is Gramma Loreto, and they are native to reef environments of the Atlantic ocean.
This species is so widespread that it is featured as Gurgle in the Disney animated film Finding Nemo and its sequel Finding Dory, voiced by Austin Pendleton.
Royal Grammas look stunning in any marine environment because of their vibrant colors. Their body’s front half has an iridescent violet or purple color that strongly contrasts against golden yellow streaks that trail towards the end.
The mid-section of these, where the two colors meet, is characterized by a series of tiny dots which give them a unique pattern.
If you pay closer attention, you’ll notice a blurred dark-colored line that extends from their eyes up to the mouth. A small black spot can also be seen located on the dorsal fin.
These fish scarcely grow over 3 inches in size, making them ideal for smaller marine home environments. It is not easy to tell the male and female apart.
Worse still is the fact that a female can change its sex into a male. For the most part, fully mature males are generally larger than females and boast more prominent ventral fins. Males also tend to have brighter colors than females.
The most significant source of confusion for beginners is the striking similarity Royal Grammas have with Royal Dottybacks. They are almost exactly alike, with few exceptions here and there.
For instance, the Royal Dottyback doesn’t have a blending between the yellow and purple coloration. However, on the Royal Gramma, you’ll notice the yellow fades into purple. The Royal Dottyback has transparent fins.
Moreover, Royal Dottybacks are very aggressive towards other species and may be too difficult for beginners to introduce in their reef aquariums. We’ll discuss Royal Dottybacks in greater detail in a separate guide.
Royal Grammas are known for being very docile and peaceful. You’ll rarely encounter any problems with this passive fish. However, you should be prepared for territorial conflicts they will frequently run into with other fish.
They need lots of rockwork and hiding places, which is hard enough to provide for one specimen, much less a school of Royal Grammas.
When other fish come too close to what they deem to be their hiding spot, the Royal Gramma will fight them off. It could get deadly swift unless you intervene. They use small algae pieces, such as sponge and sea urchin spines, to cover holes that lead up to their nest.
Males will hover in front of the primary opening or sit in the hole with only their heads protruding. The intruder comes too close to the hole. The male will attack the intruder by opening its mouth wide or contorting its body into an S-shape.
Most experts recommend only keeping one Royal Gramma in the tank unless you can provide them with a massive tank (at least 50 gallons or more) with plenty of caves and rockwork to explore so that each fish has its own space.
You should never place two males in the same tank; otherwise, they will fight each other to death. The ideal setup involves a male and female, which is also ideal for mating.
With enough trial and error, you may be able to keep a harem of Royal Grammas where they would mate frequently and create lots of fries. But success stories are few and far between.
The Royal Gramma basslet is known for being a fast swimmer and is very adventurous, so much so that it would often attempt to jump out of the tank. Make sure to keep the tank adequately secured with a lid; otherwise, your Royal Gramma will jump to its death.
One unique behavior that you’ll get addicted to is watching them hang upside down underneath objects. Scientists do not know what causes this behavior, however, they do not associate this with any illness either. So if you spot these marine fish acting a little out of character, don’t jump to any conclusions yet!
Other Basslet Varieties
There are multiple species of Basslets other than royal Grammas. Some of the most prominent ones are as follows:
They are very similar to Royal Grammas and can be found in the Caribbean Sea’s same depths.
Their body is light purple with a jet back diagonal cap. Fish are larger in size and a bit more colorful than Royal Grammas.
They come from the Caribbean sea and are stunningly beautiful because of their multicolored body. They also reach 3 inches in size and have a bright blue body with purple shades.
Gold Assessor Basslet (Assessor Flavissimus)
They have a distinct gold color with red fins. They reach a size of 3 inches in length. Their natural habitat is in Fiji, where they are highly sought-after for their appearance.
Tobacco Basslet (Serranus Tabacarius)
They prefer to live in shallow areas of the coral reef in the Western Atlantic Ocean.
Strawberry Basslet (Pictichromis Porphyrea)
They have bright purple colors and never grow larger than 2.5 inches in size. They originate from the Pacific Ocean.
As mentioned earlier, Royal Grammas are a very peaceful species giving you a wide selection of fish.
They belong to the basslet family and will get along well with Clownfish, Rabbitfish, Corals, Invertebrates, and Filefish. The only condition is to choose similarly sized fish that happen to be non-aggressive.
Below are a few criteria to watch out for:
- Tank Mates must not be aggressive.
- Tank Mates must not look similar to the Royal Gramma (avoid bright purple or bright yellow fish); otherwise, they will be seen as competitors.
- They must not invade the Royal Gramma’s hiding spots.
- They should not be predatory or large enough to confuse the Royal Gramma for prey (examples include Snappers, Eels, and Lionfish)
Ideal tank mates include:
They are native to the reefs under the deep ocean with plenty of rockwork such as corals, caves, and ledges under dim lighting. Your goal should be to recreate the same settings to improve the quality of life for your Royal Grammas.
You’ll notice that once they claim the rockwork as their ‘spot,’ they’ll rarely venture out too far because they aren’t good at swimming.
They will often hide in their rockwork, waiting for a morsel of food to drop by, which they will instantly eat before retreating into their hide.
In their natural habitat, they can be found swimming at a depth of about 2 to 60 meters. You can make do with a 30-gallon tank. If you want to keep a large group of these fish together, aim for a tank size of at least 100+ gallons.
Try not to deviate too much from the following tank requirements:
- Should maintain the water at around 73 to 77° Fahrenheit.
- Should keep the pH value within 8.2 to 8.4.
- Must maintain The carbonate hardness between 9 to 12 dKH.
- The specific gravity is to be kept between 1.020 to 1.025.
They prefer dim lights. It means you should not place plants that require sharp lighting to survive.
It is recommended to install a power filter in the aquarium tank to recycle water pollutants. The filter should be able to bring high flow in the aerated water of the tank.
You can use a gravel vacuum to clean the gravel and small rocks in the tank. You should use liquid soap, aerated water, and a soft brush to clear out the algae and dirt from the aquarium’s corners and objects. After you’re done washing the tank, wipe out the tank’s body with a very soft dry piece of cloth.
It is recommended to partially change about 10% of the water from the tan every week. If you don’t want to replace the water every week, you can change about 25% every month instead.
Acclimating the Royal Gramma
Before introducing the Royal Gramma into your new tank, you should start by placing them in a deep bucket that they can’t escape. Drip acclimate the fish for about 50 minutes at four drips per second. It should allow the Royal Gramma to adjust its water parameters in line with your tank.
Once it is acclimated to your tank, catch it with a net and gently introduce it into your tank. Careful not to place any of the original water your fish came into your marine aquarium. Once again, it is essential to ensure the lid is tightly kept on at all times.
Food & Diet
In the wild, Royal Grammas are known for feeding on phytoplankton and zooplankton. They are also characterized as cleaner fish, which means they prefer to feed off parasites that grow on other fish’ skins. That’s an excellent feature to have if your tank is frequently subject to parasitical outbreaks and infections.
You can also feed them with small meat foods such as Mysis shrimp and brine. In an aquarium setting, they will adjust to eating dead food such as fish flesh and crustaceans.
The Royal Gramma needs a varied diet with crustacean flesh, plankton, brine shrimp, Mysis, and other protein-rich food to maintain its yellow and purple colors.
You can also nourish them with pellets and flakes; make sure to mix their diet with you now and then.
Try not to get them addicted to just one diet only. It is right in the case of newly acquired Royal Grammas.
They’re not very fussy eaters and will quickly eat most meats that float near the middle column of the tank. They’ll eagerly swim out of their caves to grab food morsels.
It is essential to feed them several times during the day.
Saltwater fish are notorious for being somewhat difficult to breed, but this isn’t the case with Royal Grammas, which have been bred in captivity by amateur fishkeepers.
The only real challenge is identifying the male from the female because they cannot tell apart. As mentioned earlier, males are generally bigger.
When they’re ready to mate, males will create a nest with rocks using pieces of algae. They will lure females to the nest, where they will drop anywhere from 20 to 100 eggs in the nest. This behavior is repeated several times a day for about a month or longer during the entire spawning season.
The eggs are barely 1mm in size and have tiny protuberances over their surface, with small threats coming out. These threads enable the eggs to stay glued to the algae and stay in a stable place. Once they are laid in place, the eggs will hatch after 5 to 8 days.
Fry should be fed on copepods until they are old enough to eat brine shrimp.
Common Diseases and Dangers
Royal Gramma fish are known for being very resistant to dangers and diseases. They have a robust immune system. However, this is no excuse to let the tank conditions deteriorate. It is worth noting that these eat parasites off the skin of other fish, so they are affected by infections such as the following:
- Fungal infection
- Bacterial infection
You can prevent illnesses and maintain their health by regularly cleaning the tank’s rocks, reefs, and caves and partially changing the tank’s water every week. It is recommended to provide them with a rich diet to keep them alive for a long time without any health difficulties.
Is Royal Gramma Reef Safe?
The most significant advantage of Royal Grammas is that they are not a threat to invertebrates and make excellent additions to reef aquariums.
That being said, they are considered prey by the Elephant Ear Anemone. This invertebrate slowly circles prey that rests on its disc. These will become pretty to these species several times.
Larger invertebrates such as crabs, carpet anemones, and mantis shrimp may consider the Royal Grammas as prey.
Where to Buy?
Royal Grammas for sale can be purchased from most saltwater pet stores for about $20 or more. You can also buy them from online stores and websites without encountering much in the way of difficulty. Rarer varieties will cost a lot, though.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t buy these species that are captured in deeper water. They suffer more from disorders resulting due to decompression. Avoid species that have difficulty maintaining their position in the water column.
Royal Grammas are a must-have in any saltwater aquarium because they are easy to provide and don’t have complex requirements.
The average royal gramma fish price is only about $20, making it very affordable for most fishkeepers. One of the most exciting things about them is that new varieties keep showing up in the aquarium trade because of extensive breeding.