Royal Gramma: Care, Compatibility, Habitat, and Diet

Royal Gramma Care Guide, Diet, Habitat and Compatibility
Royal Gramma

An Introduction to Royal Gramma

Royal Gramma fish, which is popularly known as a Gramma Loreto or Fairy Basslet, is a vibrantly colored, tiny fish found in the Caribbean.

It is a peaceful and hardy fish. Royal gramma fish is perfect for both expert fish keepers and beginners alike.

As the crown in a fishkeeper’s collection, to most saltwater aquariums this fish is the perfect addition.

In this post we are going to cover every aspect of keeping Royal Gramma you need to know including its: required tank conditions, typical behavior, dietary requirements, and their compatibility with another species.

Before we begin, I have included a brief table of facts below for anyone searching for a summary.

Care Level:Easy
Color Form:Yellow, Purple
Lifespan:5+ Years
Size:Up to 3″
Minimum Size of Tank:30 Gallons
Tank Set-Up:Marine: Rocks or Coral and Plants
Reef Compatible (Safe):Yes
Table of Facts

The Overview of Royal Gramma

The Royal Gramma is a very peaceful, low maintenance and beginner friendly, saltwater fish. It would give exceptional color to any fish tank it is placed in, with its vibrant yellow and purple body.

It is easy to care for and reef compatible fish which is usually considered a must have fish for most hobby aquarists.

You can purchase them easily for around $20 (depending on their weight and size) and are an entertaining fish to observe.

One important reason why the Royal Grammas are favored by beginner fish keepers is because they are resistant to so many common diseases and are hardy.

They are friendly fish with so many other species and create a great community fish. It is a fish you don’t actually go wrong with. Your aquarium size should be at least 30 gallons and contain lots of caves and rockwork for Grammas to hide in- this helps them to feel safe and secure. But, as these fish are used to deep-water your aquarium should not be exposed to any harmful lighting.

Typically if you are a beginner, this fish must be kept as a single specimen and you can expect it to live to minimum 5 years old.

Appearance of Royal Grammas

Often Royal Gramma fish is the crowning glory of any fish tank it is kept in because of their vibrant color; the fish’s front half is featured by a vibrant iridescent violet or purple which blends into a golden yellow towards its tail.

Generally the middle portion of the fish has a series of dots that gives every Royal Gramma a different look.

Again, you will see a slim black line that extends from their mouth up through the little eyes and a tiny black spot on their dorsal fin.

You can expect the size of Royal Grammas to grow upto 3 inches. The largest captive bred Royal Gramma grows upto 3.1 inches.

As all the Grammas are born females, identifying its gender at birth is impossible. But, the most dominate group member may alter sex and transform into a male in a shoal. The male Grammas will grow bigger than the females and also their ventral fins would also be larger.

Apart from this, usually males have more vibrant colors as compared to the females.

Often people confuse the Royal Gramma with the Royal Dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnellae). Though the Royal Dottyback fish looks alike, it has a low compatibility with most other species and a very aggressive fish. Normally it should be avoided for a beginner fishkeeper.

The simplest way to identify the difference between a Royal Dottyback and a Royal Gramma is to look at the coloring on their body.

There is no blending between the yellow and purple on the Royal Dottyback. On the other hand, on the Royal Gramma fish you can see some purple fades into the yellow. Again, the Royal Dottyback fish owns clear fins.

Royal Gramma Tank Requirements and Habitat

In the deep-water reefs in the Western Atlantic (Caribbean) the Royal Gramma saltwater fish is found.

This special fish is at home when surrounded by the vast majority of rockwork such as caves, coral outcroppings, reefs, and overhangs in dull lighting.

As they aren’t exceptional swimmers, they make this type of rockwork their home and do not venture far out. Before quickly swimming home, you can notice them hiding within the rockwork waiting for some food particle to float by which they can easily eat.

This fish is best known for swimming upside down under ledges and in caves. They can typically be found at a depth of 2-60 meters in a wild environment.

With a view to keeping Royal Grammas in aquariums, the minimum size of the tank you should use is a 30 gallon in size. If you are interested to keep those fish in pairs then you must have a minimum 50 gallon size tank.

Finally, a tank size of 100+ gallons is required if you intend to keep a group.

Royal Gramma Tank Conditions

The optimum water temperature for Royal Gramma is anywhere between 72°F to 78°F. You should maintain a specific gravity of 1.020-1.025, pH levels within 8.1 and 8.4, and with a carbonate hardness (dKH) of 8 to 12°.

Best Tank-Tip

Again, your aquarium should not be exposed to any harsh/sharp light.

In their natural environment, as mentioned previously, Royal Gramma fish is found available in deep-water reefs. Therefore, you have to make sure your aquarium has lots of caves, cavities, and live rock, for them to retreat and hide in, as this is the place where they will spend most of their time.

Royal Gramma’s Diet and Feeding

The Royal Gramma, in its natural habitat, is basically a planktivore that eats phytoplankton and zooplankton. It is a cleaner fish, which means it can eat the parasites off of the skin of another fish.

But, when kept in a fish tank, it will eat small meaty foods like: mysis shrimp and brine.

In a tank setting they are also able to adjust to eating dead food such as: fish flesh and crustaceans.

You should aim to feed with your Royal Gramma various diet including: brine shrimp, quality frozen meat preparations, mysid, plankton, crustacean flesh.

With the captive bred Royal Grammas you can also rely on ready to use pellet foods and flake – but ensure to mix it up by rotating properly what you feed them. This can stop your fish from becoming adjusted to eating only pellets and flakes. Particularly this is true with the newly acquired specimens.

The Royal Gramma is one of the easiest fish to feed. You would be hard pushed to search for one which is a fussy eater!

Throughout the day, you should aim to feed them many times. However, they are not fussy eaters so can tolerate various feeding cycles (e.g. daily individual feed cycles).

If you observe them then you will see they prefer to eat from the middle of the water column. Usually they prefer to rush out from their tank’s hiding place with a view to grab anything edible that drifts close by.

Typical Behavior

The Royals are typically passive fish, calm, somewhat shy, who you should not expect any issues from. The only exception to Royal Gramma is territorial issues. As we mentioned before, they like to claim crevices and rockwork as their home. When another fish intrudes on their home they become territorial and chase them away.

Usually, they like to stay near their chosen home and if frightened they shall come back to their home fast.

They are notorious jumpers in case of jumping. Therefore any fish tank they are introduced in should have a well-weighted lid to prevent them from jumping out of the aquarium. When they are new to the aquarium environment they are most likely to jump.

For any unique behavior, they seem to face their stomach towards nearby hard surfaces which results in the strange ability to hang and swim upside down when underneath ledges. This is no cause for concern however and many beginners often confuse this behavior with an illness.

Compatibility with other Fish

The Royal Gramma is a very peaceful fish. To most saltwater aquariums it will make a fantastic addition.

In general, as a basslet, they will be fine with Hawkfis, Filefish, Clownfish, Angles, Rabbitfish, Squirrelfish, Boxfish, Gobies, Jawfish, Invertebrates, and Corals.

As passive and peaceful fish, they will coexist with a huge variety of species giving the following four key criteria are met:

  1. The tank mates or other fish species should not be too aggressive themselves.
  2. Visually they should not look the same as the Royal Gramma – specially the bright purple color.
  3. They should not try to poke around the Gramma’s selected hiding place.
  4. Lastly, they should not be a predatory fish or much larger, which is capable of eating the Royal Gramma fish (e.g. Snappers, Lionfish, and Eels).

You are set if you meet these four important criteria.

Although their nature is peaceful they do have some interesting quirks. As we have already mentioned in the habitat section, they prefer to surround and adjust themselves with vast rockwork.

They will become aggressive and can be territorial and like to chase other fish away when they encroach on Grammas’ favorite crevices and caves. You should not be confused with bullying though, bullies are surely not. But, they are very much possessive of the tank’s rockwork as the rockwork is their home.

That is why you should ensure your fish tank has lots of hiding places and rockwork if you plan to have Royal Grammas.

You will notice the notorious Royal Gramma ‘gape’ if they become aggressive. The Gramma will open its jaws during this gap as wide as possible to show the comical look of a Great White Shark!

Keeping Royal Grammas Together

Usually, most aquarium experts suggest that the Royal Gramma fish should be kept in a tank as a single specimen. The reason is they can be territorial and without sufficient hiding rooms and rockwork, they shall fight each other continually for their territory.

Therefore, if you intend to have a pair of Grammas, keep in mind to ensure your aquarium size is at least 50 gallons and has enough crevices and rockwork so every royal can have their own hiding room.

Make sure that the pair of Gramma should also be a male-female pairing.

If you are confident, there are so many success stories of keeping a harem of Grammas in a fish tank.

In order to get this, you should have to place all of them in the aquarium simultaneously and don’t have any existing Royals in your fish tank. Apart from this, your aquarium must be at least 100 gallons in size and have sufficient rockwork.

Just a final piece of advice for a harem: at the time of selecting the group of Royals be sure to have the tiny specimens; usually the little specimens are females.

Breeding of Royal Gramma

The Royal Gramma fish is very easy to breed in captivity, unlike so many other saltwater fish.

The breeding activity begins with the male Gramma. They build a nest using algae and small rocks. After that, the female fish will store anywhere from 5- to 40 eggs into the nest created by the males. In order to fertilize the eggs, the male fish can then release its sperm. This usually occurs in early summer/late spring in the wild.

In the breeding season, this routine will continue regularly for a month.

For the next 5 to 7 days their eggs will ‘stick’ to the algae until they hatch. One thing you will notice they usually hatch in the evening; when it is dark.

The biggest issue with raising Royal Gramma fish is feeding them as they hatch in a sequence, and by such few numbers. As a result, you will see a huge difference in the size of their mouths. So you will face some issues while growing out these fish. Until they reach a Fry it’s best to feed them rotifers and copepods.

You can easily feed them newly hatched brine shrimp when they progress into a Fry.

Is Royal Gramma Right For Your Aquarium? (Brief Summary)

The Royal Gramma fish is very easy to care for and it’s a hardy fish. They don’t make many demands and are easy to feed.

The one and only thing you require to account for is adding a lot of rockwork to the fish tank so they have some space to hideout.

Typically they are one of a handful of saltwater fish that spawn well while in captivity and are compatible with a huge variety of other species in your aquarium.

As for their affordability, they are priced reasonably (normally $20) to purchase, and very easy to maintain and feed.

These fish are a perfect addition to an experienced fish keeper who is looking to add some color to their aquarium or the perfect starter fish for a beginner aquarist.

Hey, Do you keep Royal Grammas in your aquarium? Let me know your experience with them in the comments section below…


Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.

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