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Royal Gramma Fish Care Guide: Diet, Tankmates and More

Gorgeous purple and yellow hues make up the remarkable Royal Gramma fish, making it a beautiful addition to your aquarium. Belonging to the Grammidae family, this fish, also called the Fairy Basslet, requires a saltwater aquarium and is a great species if you are new to keeping fish.

The fish is bi-coloured with a bright purple front and either vibrant yellow or orange bottom half. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, Royal Gramma is an easy fish to maintain as it hardy and does not fall sick often.

They are also a cleaner fish, they keep the tank clean of certain parasites and other dead matter. Generally priced between $10 and $30 depending on the size, they are one of the most popular types of Basslets sold in aquariums today.

Where Are Royal Gramma Fish From?

Local to the Atlantic, the Royal Grammas can be found in waters that have many caves and reef structures. They are common to the Caribbean but also live in the Bahamas a well as the Gulf of Mexico, the northern Yucatan and even in northwest Cuba and Columbia.

These fish live in waters between one and 100 meters in depth, though they have been found in deeper waters too.

While it does not prefer a particular species of coral, the Royal Gramma will tend to inhabit areas that have vertical structure reefs. They will often make reef walls and sponge structures in their home environments.

The species is a non-aggressive one that tends to be quite shy. It hides in coral reefs and caves. Though there is no specific predator that preys on the Royal Gramma, there is growing evidence that they are being consumed by the Lionfish.

The Royal Gramma has become a popular fish for salt water aquarium enthusiasts with several being sold in the market. Breeders have also reported success at raising these fish in tanks.

Is It Reef Safe?

The Royal Gramma, native to the salt waters of the Atlantic, are most comfortable in reef structures. The gentle nature of these fish makes them reef safe for your aquarium.

They are generally not aggressive towards other species and do not destroy their habitat. It is important to note that while the species is generally docile, there are some individual fish that could have an aggressive nature.

The best environment for the Royal Gramma is a tank that has plenty of live rock. They like to hide in ledges and caves, and will at times make sponge structures or reef walls in their tanks.

The important thing to note is that it is a salt water fish and your saltwater aquarium should ideally have a constant temperature of between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Royal Gramma has a peculiar habit of swimming upside down in the caves and ledges in the ocean. It will usually exhibit a similar behaviour in an aquarium as well. However, since the size of an aquarium is smaller than the ocean, it might contend itself with staying stationary on a rock or ledge upside down.

Are They An Aggressive Fish?

The Royal Gramma is a peaceful fish that does not show aggression towards other fish. However, they do tend to be aggressive towards other Royal Grammas so it is advisable to keep just one fish of the species in one aquarium.

The reason for this behaviour is territorial and can extend to other fish that look similar. As the Royal Gramma tends to make one of the caves or ledges its home, it will show aggression and chase off any other fish that comes too close.

Though this fish is generally not aggressive towards other tank mates, it is a good idea not to introduce it into a tank that has other big fish. Put it this way, if you have a ​California Garibaldi Fish, think again. The Royal Gramma is a common food source for the Lionfish even in the Caribbean.

While the Royal Grammas are unaggressive, the royal dottyback – a fish that looks very similar and is often confused with the Royal Gramma, is an aggressive fish.

If you have mistakenly introduced one of these into your aquarium, it will start exhibiting aggression towards your other fish. It is a good idea to remove it immediately and give it a separate tank.

How Long Do Royal Gramma Fish Usually Live For?

The average life span of a Royal Gramma is anywhere between 3 and 5 years in an aquarium. However, there have been reports of some living up to 13 years.

Unless your Royal Gramma develops a disease or is eaten by a predator in your tank, you can expect it to live for about 7 years. The trick to increasing the life span of the fish in an aquarium is to provide it the best care.

The docile nature of this species means that it tends to shy away from aggression. It is quite often content to stay hidden upside down in its cave or ledge and watch the goings on of the aquarium’s other inhabitants.

As long as no other fish tries to make its way into your Royal Gramma’s favourite cave, it will usually keep away from altercation.

You should not introduce a Royal Gramma into a tank that has predatory species like Eels and Groupers. Since this vibrant fish is small, it becomes easy prey for larger species of fish.

For the most part a proper diet, maintaining your aquarium and being careful not to let your Gramma be eaten should ensure that it lives a long healthy life.

What Do They Look Like?

One of the most popular fish to keep in a salt water aquarium is the Royal Gramma, this is mostly owing to its beautiful appearance. The front half of the fish is a bright and vibrant purple or violet and the bottom is either a vivid orange or yellow.

The colours blend towards the middle of the fish making it appear as though it has three separate hues. There are several dots that appear in the middle where the colours blend, these dots are unique to every Royal Gramma.

A thin black line is present on the mouth of the fish, this extends to the eyes. The Royal Gramma also has a tiny black dot that appears on its dorsal fin.

The Royal Gramma is quite a small fish. The average size of this beautiful species is between 1.5 and 3 inches, though there have been rare instances where one grew to 5 inches. The largest Royal Gramma bred in captivity grew to 3.1 inches.

What Is The Difference Between The Male And Female Sex?

All Royal Grammas are born female. As they grow the more dominant members of the shoal will change their gender and become male. There are very few differences in the appearance of the male and female Royal Gramma and for the most part they are difficult to distinguish.

A male Royal Gramma will grow a little bigger than the female and have larger ventral fins. Another way to tell a male Royal Gramma apart from the female is by their colours. The male will have more vivid colours compared to the female.

Unless the tank you plan to keep your Royal Grammas in is very large, it is advisable not to have two males in the same space. Their territorial nature when it comes to other males of the same species could lead to trouble.

If you would like to keep more than one of these fish, you can choose one large and one small. That is the best way to try and get a male and a female. However, this could lead to several more of the species.

What Is The Best Tank Size For A Royal Gramma?

The natural habitat of the Royal Gramma is the deep-water reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, an ideal tank for this species should be between 30 and 50 gallons.

However, this size is only suitable for one fish. If you plan to have more than one Royal Gramma in the same tank it should have a capacity of at least 100 gallons.

The Royal Gramma is known to be a jumper, and you should make sure that you have a lid on the tank. While this particular type of Grammidae does not require a lot of space to swim, it does feel more at home with reef and coral structures.

Before you introduce this fish into your aquarium, you should add some live rock to make it more comfortable. As it is quite a shy fish, it will prefer to hide out in a cave for the initial few hours after it is introduced into a new habitat.

It is also a good idea to have live plants as they will provide more opportunities for the Royal Gramma to hide and contribute to less stressful environment.

What Is The Best Water Conditions For It?

Royal Grammas need salt water tanks with temperatures that remain between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal pH level of the tank should be between 8.1 and 8.4 with a specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.025. An ideal tank size for a single Royal Gramma should not be less than 30 gallons.

Maintaining a tank can be quite tedious, this is especially true of salt water tanks that require more maintenance. Ideally, between 10 and 25% of the water should be changed once a month.

If you have more fish in your aquarium then the water should be changed at least twice a month if not more. You should ensure that the filter system is functioning well.

A salt water tank will also need more equipment to monitor the levels of the water. You have to keep and ensure that the temperature, pH levels and specific gravity are maintained at the required levels. Additionally, you should know if the nitrate level in the aquarium and find out if there is any ammonia present.

What Do Royal Gramma Fish Eat?

The Royal Gramma is one of the least fussy fish when it comes to food. They are described as carnivores or planktavores depending on whom you ask.

While this colourful fish does eat plankton it also eats some species of smaller marine fish, crustaceans and mysis shrimp. While you can feed them store bought meat or pellets, it is good to give your fish live food like black worms and brine shrimp as well.

When bred in captivity, they will also be happy to eat flakes and pellets. Though these fish will eat anything, experts recommend that their diet consist of all of these elements on rotation.

So, if you feed your fish crustacean meat for a week, the following week they can be given shrimp etc. They are cleaner fish so will also consume parasites and dead matter that is floating around.

One of the advantages of keeping the Royal Gramma is their easy feeding requirements. They can adjust to the feeding patterns of other similar fish in your aquarium as well.

Their mouths are quite big in comparison to the rest of their bodies, which makes them able to eat large pieces of food if it strikes their fancy. 

10. Is It Easy To Mix Them With Other Fish (Tankmates)?

As a fairly docile fish, the Royal Gramma makes a perfect addition to a tank with other fish. It is not an aggressive fish however, if you intend to have more than one Royal Gramma it is advisable to get a larger (100 gallon or more) tank.

Fish of the same species tend to be aggressive towards each other. You should also be careful not to get fish that appear the same as this colourful creature.

The Royal Gramma adjusts quite well with other fish, whether it is the new arrival or if you introduce a new fish into the Royal Gramma’s tank. However, as they can be quite territorial about their favourite caves or reef ledge, they will chase away any intruder that enters.

There are some good practices that will help your new fish feel more comfortable in its new environment like feeding your other fish before adding the Royal Gramma.

This way the other inhabitants do not feel threatened or behave territorially towards the new fish when it is feeding time. When you have multiple fish in a tank you should ensure that they are all about the same size. Big fish will otherwise end up eating the smaller ones in some cases.

Are They Easily Bred?

The good news for fish fanatics is that Royal Gamma fishes are easy to breed compared to other saltwater fish. Breeding season is around late spring or summer for Royal Gammas in the wild.

During that time of breeding, you’ll notice that a nest will have been built by the male Royal Gamma. The nest is usually made up of small rocks and algae.

Once built, the male will lead the female into the nest where she will deposit approximately 5-40 eggs unto the algae. The male will fertilize the eggs by shooting its sperm into it.

This breeding routine will happen daily for about a month.
The eggs will stick to the algae until it hatches after 5-7 days. The optimum time for hatching is usually in the evening when it’s dark.

The only difficult part about breeding is feeding the baby Royal Gamma. What makes it challenging is the varying sizes of their mouth. Some will have bigger mouths than others, so the best things to feed them during this time are copepods and rotifers.

Once they’ve grown bigger to a fry, brine shrimp can now be part of their diet.

Are They Likely To Pick Up Any Health Issues?

Royal Gammas are known to be hardy and resistant to most health conditions. But unfortunately, it’s possible for a Royal Gamma to pick up saltwater fish diseases. 

Saltwater diseases range from oxygen starvation, ammonia poisoning, and the most common problem that fish owners face is a disease called “Ich.”

Fortunately, it’s also pretty easy to avoid these saltwater health issues. You just have to make sure you mimic the natural environment of your fish, that your water is always of good quality with a consistent temperature, and to have a cleaner species like the Skunk Cleaner Shrimp.

Also, be sure your vegetation and rocks are clean before putting them in the tank, and that your Royal Gammas are compatible with other fish in your tank.

Speaking of compatibility, Royal Gammas are known to be a single dwelling specimen. So to avoid any stress on your fish, you can only have one Royal Gamma in your tank.

They usually have a calm behavior but can get very territorial. So it’s also best to make sure its neighbors are not aggressive. Providing a low stress environment can help ensure your Royal Gamma doesn’t get any health issues due to stress.

How Long To Acclimate A Royal Gamma?

Royal Gammas are easy to care for, thus it doesn’t take long for it to acclimate to its new environment provided that you’re able to replicate its home in the wild.

Introducing them to their new aquatic environment will cause it to become shy and hide for a few days up to a week. They might also refuse to eat. But once acclimated, they’ll start exploring and eat on a regular basis.

Because it’s a deep dwelling saltwater fish found in the Caribbean seas, it feels at home when you surround it with small rocks or reefs that form caves.

This is because Royal Gammas make these caves their hiding place as well as their home. Also make sure your tank is at least 30 gallons so that enough space to swim and wander, and that you don’t expose the tank to sharp or bright lights.

If you’re going to introduce a Royal Gamma into a tank that already has inhabitants, it’s important to quarantine your fish for a week or two first.

This allows them to settle down into its new environment, and also determine if it has any health issues.  After this quarantine period, you can now put your fish into your tank.

How To Treat Ich Disease On A Royal Gamma?

“Ich” or also called the White Ich Disease, is a common disease that affects aquarium fishes and is caused by parasites. They appear as white spots on the scales of your fish, which can be mistaken for salt particles. If not treated immediately, it can lead to the death of infected fish.

The most obvious sign of the presence of ich is when your fish flicks its body against rocks or other aquarium decorations, as if trying to scratch an itchy part of its body.

The good news is that Ich can be treated easily once diagnosed immediately. The easiest way is to use medication specifically for it. Just a few drops will eliminate the parasite from your tank.

It’s a must for all fish owners to have such medication on hand and available on hand since Ich can strike anytime.

But prevention is easier than treatment. The best ways to prevent Ich from appearing are as follows:

  • Excellent water quality – regular changing of water ensures that you always have clean water for your fish.
  • The right amount of food – overfeeding results in some food being left in the water, which then leads to the water to become dirty and bacteria to fester.
  • A good natural environment – mimicking the natural environment of your fish makes them comfortable and happy. A stress free environment causes less health issues.
  • Good neighbours – aside from their natural environment, making sure all your fish are compatible also contributes to the comfort and stress level of your fish.

Do Royal Gammas Jump?

Yes, Royal Gammas are infamously known to be jumpers. This usually happens when they’re put into a new environment, especially if not acclimated properly. There are ways to stop your fish from jumping, the most obvious is having a heavy lid that will cover your tank.

Since this happens when they find themselves in a new environment, the other way to prevent them from jumping is to give them an environment that’s like their natural habitat.

Royal Gammas are deep dwellers, so that means it’s a must to have an environment with lots of rocks or corals with caves for them to call home. It’s also important to put your aquarium away from sharp or bright lights because Royal Gammas are comfortable with a dim environment.

As for the tank size, having at least a 30 gallon tank is good for one Royal Gamma. If you have two, then your tank should be at least 50 gallons in size.


The Royal Gramma is one of the most distinctive fish with its bright jewelled hues. Its nature, hardiness and docility make it especially popular. It is an excellent fish for someone that is new to saltwater aquariums as they are require less maintenance and don’t fall sick often.

Their gorgeous colour scheme just adds to the beauty of the Royal Gramma. Whether you are a seasoned aquarium owner or just starting out, this is a great fish to have.

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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.