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Damselfish Care Guide – 15 Facts you wish you knew

The Damselfish is one of the most popular in the petting scene and marine hobbyists love them.

With so many fish lovers housing this fish in their aquariums, it is important to spread as much knowledge as possible on this particular species.

In this Damselfish care guide, 15 facts you wish you knew, will all be answered. We intend to cover everything from the background of the Damselfish, why are they popular aquarium fishes, are they aggressive and so much more.

Once you're done reading, you will get to know your pet a lot better and will be able to better care for your pet.

Before you can properly get to know your pet, it is important to learn a bit about its background and specie relations to other fishes.

What Family Is The Damselfish From?

It would be pleasing for Damselfish lovers to know that there are about 200 species of fishes similar to this one.

These fish all belong to the Pomacentridae fish subfamily and are mainly concentrated to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Further, the majority of these fish are salt water fishes. These very energetic and lively fish tend to live in tropical coral reefs and are known for the eye-catching colours.

However, while very similar, each species of Damselfish has its own unique traits that sets them apart from the rest.

Further, the Damselfish family of the Pomacentridae, according to animal-world, is further divided in additional categories such as, Amphiprioninae, Lepidozyginae, Chrominae, and Pomacentrinae.

The Anemonefish is referred to as the popular members of the Amphiprioninae subfamily and carries about 30 known species.

One fact many may not know is that the Clownfish is also a part of the Pomacentridae family but has been given a different name.

Other subfamilies closely related to the Pomacentridae subfamily are Lepidozyginae, which contains only one species we know of and the Fusilier Damselfish Lepidozygus anthioides. The Chrominae subfamily contains about 100 species.

How Big Do They Grow?

The largest of the Damselfish family as a fully grown adult can grow up to 12 inches long.

However, the average fish from this family grows to a mere 3 inches in length. Damsels have an average lifespan of 6 tob8 years in the wild.

However, as the saying goes: "the strongest ones are the ones that will survive" holds true in the wild. It is true for the Damsel in context. The stronger fish with the most daring and aggressive personality tends to live longer than the weaker ones, with some living as long as 10 to 12 years.

We suspect this has to do with the ability to fend for food because while in captivity this fishes can double their lifespan. Some can live as long as 18 to 20 years.

The large coloured Damselfish: ​

Are They Aggressive?

Unfortunately, we are here to tell you that all of the scary stories you have heard about the Damselfish is probably true.

Damselfish is very territorial and can become aggressive if it feels threatened or if it feels like it habitat is much invaded.

This fish will go after other fish and inflict tiny but consistent biting wounds on fishes who are intruders.

The fish who particularly stands out for aggressive behaviour is the Domino Damsel so if you plan to keep this one, you need to be careful as it could wreak havoc in your aquarium amongst other fishes.

One way on combating aggressive behaviour is by ensuring every fish has adequate space to roam and crevices to hide.

If placed in small aquariums the problem of aggression can become a big issue. Some fishes will claim an entire aquarium if small enough as their own. This fish will reign supreme over other fishes in the tank driving them to hide and act very passively.

This fish will probably even bite your hands if you place your finger in their tank.

All being said, fishes belonging to the Chrominae family are the least aggressive. These fishes will probably get along with fishes of the same specie as well as fishes of other species much easier, than sau the Blue Damsel.

Fishes belonging to this subfamily prefer to live in groups which probably accounts for its more passive behaviour. If you have a large tank and you house these fishes, you will get a firsthand observational seat in witnessing their love of each other. They will often swim in groups closer to the surface of the water. This fish can also be keep with the more passive tank mates.

What Food Do Damselfish Eat?

There seems to be some level of confusion as it relates to the fish primarily diet. Some texts have referred to this fish as primarily herbivores, while others have said this fish is primarily omnivorous.

Whether omnivores or herbivores, they can all be fed green vegetation such as mosses and also fresh and frozen meat such as shrimp, squid, brine shrimp, worms, tiny pieces of fish and copepods.

However, more research required is to determine a structure diet preference, since some species are may prefer strictly a herbivorous diet However, the top favourite, the Blue Damsel, is omnivorous.

While you may be concerned about what to feed you fish, it is worth mentioning that these fish as very tough. This means thay have solid immune systems and can withstand tough conditions.

An example of this is the previous use of the Damselfish to cycle a saltwater tank before the introduction of fishless cycling, according to fishKeepingWorld.

It is worth noting that smaller fishes tend to eat closer to the bottom of the tank. Further, in the wild the herbivorous fishes survive mainly on algae.

In a nutshell, a diet consisting of the above mentioned varieties should fulfill the nutritional needs of your fish. Some will even eat algae that have grown over time in your tank.

Perhaps the part of the Damsels’ diet you do not want to hear is its potential to cannibalism. This probably has a higher chance of happening in the wild, but about 25% of Damsel youngs who died, got eaten by their parents, according to scubaDivingBlog.

What Do They Look Like?

For this section, we will try to be as general as possible because of the vast variety of fishes in this specie.

Generally, the Damselfish have cavernous bodies and wide tails and they are often either red yellow or blue.

This being said, when buying a Damsel, you need to do proper research into the breed/specie. You see, as Damsels grow, their appearances may change depending upon their breed.

Some fishes may start off being very brightly coloured as babies, only to change later on as adults. Some may change to the extent of becoming a single shade of brown. Damsels have a nostril on each side of their head and two anal spines.

What Are The Popular Varieties Of Damselfish?

The Blue Damselfish is the most popular, especially in the US and is the most sold saltwater fish. Everyone loves this fish because as mentioned above, it's tough and can survive harsh or less to ideal water conditions; whereas many other fishes required their environment to be more tailored.

This Blue Damselfish, scientifically referred to as Chrysiptera cyanea, grow to an average length of 3 inches as adults.

This specie gets its name from its colour since it is primarily blue. However, females and babies have a slight yellow highlight while males have a much bolder yellow tail and snout.

When feeling scared or threatened, you may be interested in knowing that this blue coloured specie changes to a dark grey to black colour. We believe this happens as a way of camouflage.

Now this may seem a bit contradictory but the next most popular specie is the Yellowtail.
Yellowtail Damselfish - this fish like the Blue Damsel, carries a yellow tail as well. However, the difference here is that a yellow tail is unique to their specie. This essentially means that everyone has a yellow tail unlike the Blue Damsel.

This fish is scientifically referred to as Chrysiptera parasema.

The Azure Damselfish - this fish is scientifically referred to as Chrysiptera hemicyanea. We all know this fish as those cute little ones who are equally coloured in yellow and blue. We believe a lot of persons refer to this fish as the half blue Damselfish.
This fish grows up to 3 inches and is probably one of the toughest in the Pomacentridae family.

The Bicolour Damsel - this fish calls the warm Caribbean waters home. It is scientifically called Stegastes partitus.
It's a particularly slender fish and is coloured dark grey to black at the front half of its body and has a light shade cream at it rare end. A fully grown adult Bicolour Damsel is about 4 inches long.

Lastly, we have the Domino Damsel - The super aggressive fish grows up to five inches in length and is trademarked by the white spots on his body.

It is scientifically referred to as Dascyllus trimaculatus or is commonly called three spots.

What Are Their Tank Requirements?

Since most Damselfish grow to a maximum of 3 inches long, a smaller to medium size aquarium or tank will do just fine in housing your fish.

But you need to ensure your tank is brightly coloured and beautiful with lots of vegetation. This will ensure your Damsel doesn't miss his former home too much.

While your average Blue Damsel can be kept in a 30 gallon tank. More fishes means more water. So if for example you plan on housing more than 1 but less than 4 fishes, then you will need perhaps a 50 gallon tank. Any amount 4 and over will require perhaps a 100 gallon tank.

All being said, if you choose to house one of the larger within the Damselfish species, say one that grows to 12 inches, you may need to start off with a 100 gallon tank. This volume of water is required to keep you fish alive and well.

As it relates to quality of water, while we have said that this fish is quite tough and can adapt to various qualities of water, we are not suggesting you treat them poorly.

The Blue Damsel for example will survive well in temperatures of 73 degrees F to 81 degrees F. PH levels should ideally be around 8.1-8.4 and water should be around 1.020-1.025.

Can You Mix Damselfish With Other Fish?

Because of their aggressive nature, this fish should only be mixed with fishes of its own kind. What this means is that Blue Damsel should only be mixed with Blue Damsel etc. Placing another species, such as a pipefish, in the same fish tank is bound to create a very hostile living environment.

However, in larger tanks, they can be mixed with other somewhat aggressive fishes. You do not want to include shy or timid species as this is bound to lead to the more timid fish being taken advantage of.

Fishes who make good living mates for the Damsel are: Clown fish, Tangs, Dwarf Angelfish, Dottybacks and bottom dwelling gobies.

You should note that a proper introduction is necessary before you entice the Damsel into sharing it home. The perfect way of creating a good environment by way of introduction is by adding these little masters to the aquarium after other fishes of a lesser aggressive nature have already been living in the aquarium.

This will help to ensure that the Damselfish knows he has to share and create a smaller territory.

What Types Of Diseases May They Pick Up?

According to research, Damsels seem to die or get ill when exposed to too much ammonia over a prolonged period of time.

Since there is rarely ever any ammonia in the wild, it goes without saying that this could be detrimental to these fishes.

Signs of this illness include a sudden change in colour and possible death a few days after observation that something isn't right.

The complexion will change to a molten dark colour. Though they have often been used to cycle ranks and while some survive many did not.

One Damsel owner has said that two days after acquiring his damsels, one died and the other died some 4 days later. He explained that they both had a change in colour on a dark oval patch on one side of their bodies

The owner was told that these are the signs to look for when a Damsel suffers from the effects of being exposed to too much ammonia.

The fish owner also said there were spots on the tail of one of the Damsels and added that they appeared to be bruises. If this ever happens to your fish, be sure to test your tank water. The ideal tank water requirements are mentioned elsewhere in this article.

What Are Their Water Requirements?

As mentioned in tank requirements, the Damselfish is very tough and excellent survivors. However, idea water specimens are a pH of 8.1 - 8.4. The temperature should be equivalent to ocean temperatures which averages at about 79 degrees F - 82 degrees F (25 degrees C - 28 degrees C).

Specific pressure or Gravity measurements should be about 1.020 - 1.025 and water carbonate Hardness should be about (dKH) : 8 - 12.

As a general rule, you should place saltwater fishes in salt water. Some tank owners may opt to purchase salt water while some may opt to mix their salt water.

Whatever way you choose, ensure you water complies with the necessary measurements and specimens listed. It needs to be made clear that aquarium salt water is made with aquarium salt and not other forms of salt such as epsom or table salt.

How Often Do You Need To Change Their Water?

Generally, you should change your a quarter of your tank water every week. There's really no need to remove the fish from the tank during a change.

You should also try to freshen up the bottom of your tank by moving around rocks a bit a bit during this change.

For some tanks owners, a change can be stretched to every other week. However, you need to use your judgment. If your flora seems a bit under the weather, then it is a good idea to change your water.

It is important to change your water regularly to replace certain elements of the water and keep a certain balance to ensure your fishes live in a healthy and safe environment.

Not changing water often enough is a big cause of sickness and stress for a lot of fishes, including the Damsel. Testing your water regularly can help to give you an accurate time when your water needs changing.

For example, if your water is showing high phosphate or nitrate levels, then it's definitely time for a change. An important element is the salinity of the water, if the salinity is too high, adding an auto top system to your tank may be an option Water salinity should be about 35ppt or 1.0264 sg.

Are Damsels Marine Fish?

Damsels are marine fish for the most part. While the majority of the family live in marine waters, there are a few minorities who live in freshwater lagoons and mangrove areas.

While found mainly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, a few species are found in the Caribbean and Atlantic waters.

Many Damsels can be found in reef water at depths of 6 1/2 to 49 feet (2-15 m). The appearance and layout of their living environments can vary vastly in terms of design.

Some even live in deep water of up to 328 feet (100 m). These fishes are so diverse to the points where schools of certain species can be found living between rocks, some within the water column and others as mentioned before, in seagrass beds.

Are They Similar To Freshwater Cichlids?

Damsels and Cichlids have a few but very uncanny similarities. They have similar body types and behave similarly as well.

Both fishes have two nostrils at the side of the head and a small mouth. They also both have large scales extending to fins and a long dorsal fin which extends through most of its length.

Why Are They Popular Aquarium Fish?

This fish is a popular aquarium fish for a number of reasons. This feature makes an attractive addition to any aquarium. It adds colour and an uplifted atmosphere to your aquarium.

Coupled with the physical appeal, the brightly coloured coral environment required, also adds an essence of appeal to your aquarium. This creates such as stunning and beautiful piece of underwater scenery right in your home.

Further, they are easy to maintain as they are hardy fish who can get by in the toughest conditions. While you should strive to create adequate living conditions, this may be attractive to fish livers because looking after Damsels is not such a tedious task.

This fish is also the top choice for newbies since because of their tough survival nature, they often withstand common mistakes beginners may make, such as missing a recycling schedule.

Lastly, we believe people possibly select this fish because of its massive availability and option to choose from. Unlike other fishes, there are hundreds of species to choose from. This means that you are bound to find a type that best suits you.

Will They Attack Invertebrates Or Other Non-Fish Life?

This is entirely your decision to make since whether these creatures survive depends on various factors.

They have been known to survive from time to time and at other times the Damselfish may eat them. We suspect that this has to do with timely feedings and perhaps the Damsel’s mood.

Perhaps if the fish feels like this creature has somewhat invaded its territory, the creature may be attacked and possibly eaten. Likewise, if your fish becomes hungry, possibly because of a late feeding, you may find your invertebrates have been eaten.

So of you choose to add invertebrates, then they safety may partially depends on you. So if the invertebrates you want to add are essential to the flora and fauna of your tank, you may have to choose.


So would you add the lively Blue Damsel to your tank given the facts? We believe it is important to have the facts to make informed decisions. It all comes down to making the right decisions.

In a nutshell, the key thing to remember about Damsels is that they are generally aggressive so should only be kept with certain fishes such as the clown or angelfish.


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.