Royal Gramma Basslet Care Guide: Facts, Feeding, & Care Tips

Featured Image - Royal Gramma Basslet
Featured Image – Royal Gramma Basslet

The royal gramma basslet is a popular beginner reef fish known for its colorful fins, unique black spot on its dorsal fin, and flitting dance-like movement. While common in reef tanks this shy fish is often miscared for as it requires specific water quality and temperature parameters. Read on to find our all-inclusive introductory guide on Gramma Loreto and how to care for this beautiful fish.

Royal gramma Species Overview

Common NamesRoyal Gramma, Fairy basslet
Scientific nameGramma loreto
Size~3 inches
Lifespan5-6 years
FamilyGrammatidae
GenusGramma
DistributionReefs around Bahamas, South America, and the Bermuda
ColorPurple and yellow
DietPlanktivore, Cleaner fish
TemperamentEasy-going
Minimum tank size20-30 gallons
Place in tankMiddle of water column
Care levelBasic
BreedingDifficult

Royal Gramma History and Background

The Gramma Loreto, often called the fairy basslet, is a popular saltwater aquarium species that make for a great addition to any tank. They became popular for their bright coloring, often being the only source of color in their deep water habitat.

What is an Royal gramma fish

The royal gramma basslet is a saltwater fish that is a great beginner fish, especially for a reef tank. Royal gramma basslets are generally peaceful fish and can be found at your local fish store.

Origin

Native to the western Atlantic the royal gramma basslet is a reef species that enjoys the tropical waters of the Caribbean. It entered into the aquarium trade in the mid-20th century.

Natural Habitat

Royal grammas live in deep water reefs in the Caribbean. They tend to live in the hard rockwork as they have plenty of places to hide.

Royal Gramma Appearance

Royal Gramma Body
Royal Gramma Body

The fairy basslet is popular, likely due to its beautiful coloring. With bright purple and yellow colors contrasted by a stark black line this fish is sure to make a lasting impression on your aquarium.

What do Royal gramma fish look like?

Royal gramma basslets have a colorful appearance and are well known for their unique coloring. Their front half is a vibrant purple (usually blue underwater) and their back half a bright yellow. The transition between colors is gradual, and not stark. There is a black spot on their dorsal fin along with long spines along their fin and a black line from the mouth through the eye to the back of the head. The fish is torpedo shaped with a wide, flat front half, which tapers off to the tail.

One of the most unique features of the fairy basslet is their mouths. With wide open mouths leading from the bottom to the beginning of their dorsal fin. Additionally, all fish are born female and gender differences occur once they reach an inch which is when they reach the juvenile phase.

How big do Royal gramma fish get?

These fish remain small throughout their lifetime, and a fully mature adult will reach a maximum of 3 inches.

How fast do Royal gramma fish grow?

The Gramma loreto grows at a moderate speed reaching maturity (~1 inch) in about 7 to 8 months. Growth will slow after maturity and they will reach a maximum size of 3 inches.

Royal Gramma Temperament and Tankmates

Cardinal Fish and Royal Gramma
Cardinal Fish and Royal Gramma(1)

Part of proper royal gramma care is providing multiple companions for this little guy including those of the same species. The addition of tankmates can provide hours of entertainment or be the source of fighting and stressors. Be sure that you have enough room to house all of these fish, or consequences can be more serious than not having any companions!

Are Royal Gramma Peaceful?

The royal gramma is a very peaceful fish and generally spends its time in the reef tank finding hiding places.

How many Royal grammas should I keep

You should have a minimum of 30 gallons per 1 royal gramma basslet. While these saltwater fish are calm, they like to have space to explore and hide. If you have more than 2 royal grammas they will possibly team up and attack other royal grammas.

What fish can live with Royal grammas

Many other fish can live in the same tank as fairy basslets, as long as their reef safe and have a peaceful nature it is likely that they will get along well. When planning companions for your royal gramma you should take into account your tank size and ensure that there is plenty of territory for all.

Compatible tank mates

If you are looking for tank mates to add here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Angelfish – another popular reef fish known for its vertical height and long flowing fins. Its dark patterns compliment bright reef colors.
  • Gobies – a similarly sized fish you will likely not have many issues with the addition of gobies.
  • Hawkfish – similarly sized but a more aggressive and territorial fish.
  • Boxfish – well known for their spot pattern and bright yellow coloration, they do well in aquariums provided there is lots of stimulation and space.
  • Blue green chromis – an iridescent damselfish this is one of the few non-aggressive damselfish that prefers to keep to itself
  • Clownfish – possibly the most popular reef species, some can grow to be larger fish than royal grammas which can be an issue.

Tank mates to avoid

The following fish and similar species are not compatible tank mates as they tend to be more aggressive and can stress your royal gramma out.

There is some debate about whether or not a yellow tang would be a good fish to keep in the same tank as the royal gramma. Some aquarists say that a tang is too intimidating but others have no issue. It really depends on the personality of the respective fish.

Royal Gramma Tank Requirements

Saltwater Aquarium
Saltwater Aquarium

Tank size, water parameters, and proper diet are all important parts of the requirements of royal gramma care. Even if you only have one fish all of these factors should be well met to ensure a happy and healthy fish.

What size tank do I need for Royal gramma fish?

You are able to keep 1 royal gramma per 30 gallons of water. It is generally not recommended you keep more than 1 gramma because they are a territorial species.

Do Royal grammas jump?

The fairy basslet is well known to be a jumping fish as it is very skittish. When approaching you will likely see your royal gramma darting off to hide in a cave.

Tank size30 gallons
Water TypeSaltwater
Water Temperature78
Water pH8.1-8.4
Water Hardness8-12 dGH
Water Salinity1.025 specific gravity

Setup

SubstrateSand and live rock
FilterPower filter
PumpYes
Water heaterYes
LightingLow

TIP

Specific gravity is the unit of measurement for salinity. You can also use parts per millions which means for every million grams of water there is only 1 gram of salt.

Tank Plants

Yes, as planktivores they like to eat the small critters on plant leaves. In a reef tank it is a bit hard to fit many plants as your coral reefs will take up most of the saltwater tank. However, it is not necessary to have a planted tank as many micro critters will live in your reef and provide supplemental nutrition to saltwater fish.

Tank Filter

You should keep a filter to help pull out water pollutants. Be aware that they are prone to hiding and they might try to hide behind the filter intake. This could prove dangerous if the intake is too powerful as it will suck your royal grammas slime coat along with the other fish. There are many filter options that are safe to use without risk to slime coats, we’ve included links to our rankings of canister filters and internal filters.

Powerheads are also another option as they will help circulate oxygen and provide waterflow, especially to the middle of the tank.

Heater

Since the royal gramma basslet is a tropical saltwater species you likely need a heater in your aquarium to keep proper water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Substrate

Use reef safe live rocks and fine sand in your saltwater tank to maximize beneficial bacteria. When placing substrate review our guide on how much substrate is needed per gallon.

Decoration

Royal grammas are very skittish and spend most of their day hiding. To ensure enrichment and happiness add many plants, decorations, rocks and other areas for them to escape to.

Lighting

In the wild they live in deep water reefs and don’t like high light environments. This is nice if your aquarium struggles with algae as low lighting will inhibit algal growth.

Tank Shape

In their natural habitat these saltwater fish prefer to swim in deep water reefs, to properly mimic their environment you should have a deep aquarium instead of a long low one.

Royal Gramma Care

Fish Food
Fish Food

In order to ensure your royal gramma can swim, is happy, and is entertained you should be feeding it a high-quality diet, providing enriching decor, and keeping an eye out for common diseases.

Royal Gramma Diet

A high-quality diet ensures bright vibrant coloring and makes for a happy fish.

What Do Royal Gramma Fish Eat in Nature?

Royal gramma is a carnivore and consumes a diet of zooplankton, phytoplankton, crustacean flesh, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, copepods, and fish eggs.

What to feed Royal gramma fish?

In your aquarium, you can give your gramma a variety of meaty foods such as mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, zooplankton, insect eggs and quality frozen preparations. They generally don’t care for prepared foods such as flakes and pellets but depending on your fish you can try different diets and see what they like the best.

When to feed Royal gramma fish?

When it comes to feeding your royal gramma basslet it is not the quantity of food but the quality. You should offer food 2-4x a day for three minutes each to allow your fish to consume as much as they want. Be sure to remove any uneaten food from the aquarium to ensure that your water parameters are not messed up by the added waste.

Feeding your royal gramma on a schedule is important as the routine will help establish a healthy schedule for your fish.

How much to feed Royal gramma fish?

The amount of food you place in your aquarium really depends on the bioload. Many species like zooplankton or insect eggs so if you have many fish in your saltwater aquarium you will have to provide more of those foods. On average a single royal gramma basslet will consume about a teaspoon per sitting. To me, it’s easier to give frozen food in a saltwater tank as they come in pre-measured quantities.

Royal Gramma Health

Royal gramma basslets are a hardy species and generally aren’t susceptible to many diseases when water parameters are well cared for.

Common diseases

  • Marine Ich – a common disease that infects many marine fish but is treatable if caught in time. Though the parasite that causes it is present in all aquariums the combination of stress and a weakened immune system can cause infection.
  • Fungal Infections – near fatal if not treated fungus is something every aquarist has to deal with. To treat, remove the infected fish to a quarantine area and begin anti-fungal treatments.
  • Bacterial Infections– like fungal infections bacterial diseases can be fatal if not treated properly. Remove the infected fish to a quarantine area and begin anti-bacterial treatments immediately. Be sure to keep a close eye on other members of your aquarium in case it spreads.

NOTE

When buying fish online, make sure that the retailer you are buying from is reputable and has good reviews. And always check if the fish arrived healthy and active before putting it in a community tank.

Royal gramma fish lifespan

In good conditions, one fish can live 5 to 6 years. Of course, their lifespan depends on royal gramma care and diet.

Royal gramma Breeding

Compared to most saltwater fish the royal gramma is an easy fish to breed in captivity. They are adept parents and will protect their nest leaving you with little work to do until hatching.

Royal Gramma Mating Behavior

Can you breed a Royal gramma fish?

Breeding the royal gramma basslet is fairly easy compared to other fish and usually occurs in the warmer months. Before deciding to breed royal grammas make sure that you have enough hiding places (plants and caves galore!) as they will otherwise feel insecure.

How to breed a Royal gramma fish?

You’ll know when breeding is about to start when you see the male begin to build a nest, afterwards the female will lay their eggs. The male fish is a good parent and will protect their eggs until they begin hatching. Once the eggs begin to hatch or you see newly hatched larvae, you can now remove the male.

The two most difficult parts of breeding is finding a pair of parents and raising the young. Not all of the fry will hatch or develop at the same rate so they require unique royal gramma care depending on their size.

Is the Royal gramma fish for you?

The royal gramma is the perfect addition to your aquarium if you’re looking for a hardy fish with a calm temperament and one that can swim circles around its other tank mates.

Conclusion

After reading this guide we hope you are ready to continue your research into the royal gramma and its place in your reef aquarium. Don’t let this opportunity for an amazing fish swim by you!

References

  1. By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK – FishUploaded by tm, CC BY 2.0
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