Royal Gramma: A Vibrant and Peaceful Fish for Your Saltwater Aquarium

| Updated: July 13, 2023
Closeup side profile shot of a Royal Gramma

Do you want to add some color and life to your saltwater aquarium? Are you looking for a fish that is easy to care for, friendly, and reef-safe? If you answered yes to these questions, then you might want to meet the royal gramma. This fish, also known as the fairy basslet or Gramma loreto, is a small but stunning species that will dazzle you with its purple and yellow hues. So let’s learn about the royal gramma and how to keep it happy and healthy in your aquarium, shall we? We’ll cover its appearance, behavior, diet, compatibility, and breeding. We’ll also share some tips on preventing and treating common diseases and health issues that can affect this fish.

What is a Royal Gramma?

The royal gramma is a species of fish that belongs to the family Grammatidae, which includes about ten species of small, colorful basslets. The royal gramma is native to the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, where it lives in deep-water reefs, coral outcroppings, caves, and overhangs. It’s usually found at depths between 1 and 20 meters (3 and 60 feet), where it eats zooplankton and crustaceans. It’s also a cleaner fish, meaning that it removes ectoparasites (parasites that live on the skin of other fish) from its tank mates.

The royal gramma is one of the most popular saltwater fish among aquarists because of its hardiness, peacefulness, and beauty. It can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, resist common diseases, and get along with most other reef-safe fish. It can also provide an incredible splash of color to any aquarium with its vibrant purple and yellow body.

Species Overview

Scientific Name
Gramma loreto
Common Names
Royal gramma, fairy basslet
Tropical western Atlantic Ocean
Adult Size
Up to 3 inches
Life Expectancy
Over 5 years
Minimum Tank Size
30 gallons
Captive Breedable

What Do Royal Grammas Look Like?

The royal gramma is a small fish that can grow up to 3 inches in length. The largest captive-bred royal gramma was measured to be 3.1 inches long. The front half of the fish is characterized by a vibrant iridescent purple or violet that blends into a golden yellow towards the tail. The middle of the fish, where the two colors blend, usually has a series of dots that gives each royal gramma a unique pattern. You’ll also notice a thin black line extending from the mouth to the eyes and a small black spot on the dorsal fin.

The royal gramma can be easily confused with the false gramma (Pictichromis paccagnellae), which has a similar coloration. However, there are two main differences between the two species: the false gramma has clear fins and it doesn’t fade but rather has a distinct change in color, and the false gramma is native to the Indo-Pacific region, while the royal gramma is native to the Atlantic region.

Caring for a Royal Gramma

The royal gramma is an easy-to-care-for fish that doesn’t require much attention or maintenance. Perfect for most beginners! However, there are some basic requirements and guidelines that you should follow to ensure its well-being and happiness.

Tank Size and Setup

The minimum tank size for a royal gramma is 30 gallons. But if you want to keep more than one royal gramma or other tank mates, you should opt for a larger tank. The tank should have plenty of rockwork and caves for this fish to hide in and feel secure. They are used to deep-water environments with dull lighting, so you should avoid exposing them to harsh or bright lights.

The water parameters for the royal gramma are as follows:

  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020-1.025
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm

Perform regular water changes (10-15% weekly or 25% monthly) to keep the water quality high and stable. You should also use a good filtration system and a protein skimmer to remove waste and organic matter from the water.

Diet and Feeding

The royal gramma is a carnivore that eats zooplankton and crustaceans in the wild. In captivity, it can be fed a variety of foods, such as frozen or live brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, copepods, krill, bloodworms, and other meaty foods. You can also supplement its diet with high-quality flake or pellet foods that are specially formulated for marine fish.

You should feed your royal gramma once or twice a day.

Compatibility and Tank Mates

The royal gramma is a peaceful fish that can get along with most other reef-safe fish and invertebrates. However, it can be territorial and aggressive towards other fish of the same or similar species, especially if they share the same hiding spot. Therefore, you should avoid keeping more than one royal gramma in the same tank unless you have a very large tank (100 gallons or more) with plenty of space and hiding places. Use caution when keeping a royal gramma with other basslets, dottybacks, or pseudochromis, since they can compete or fight with each other.

Some of the best tank mates for the royal gramma are:

  • Clownfish
  • Tangs
  • Blennies
  • Gobies
  • Wrasses
  • Angelfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Cardinalfish
  • Chromis
  • Damselfish

You should always research the compatibility and temperament of any fish before adding them to your tank. You should also introduce new fish gradually and monitor their behavior closely.

Breeding and Reproduction

The royal gramma is a hermaphrodite, meaning that it can change its sex from female to male when needed. In the wild, the royal gramma forms a breeding harem, where one dominant male mates with several females. The male guards and protects the females and their eggs from predators and intruders.

Breeding the royal gramma in captivity can be challenging but not impossible. You’ll need a separate breeding tank with optimal water conditions, plenty of rockwork and caves, and a pair of healthy and mature royal grammas. The pair should be fed a high-quality diet to induce spawning. The male will court the female by displaying his colors and swimming around her. The female will lay her eggs in a cave or crevice, where the male will fertilize them. The eggs will hatch in about 5 to 7 days depending on the temperature.

The fry (baby fish) are very small and delicate and require special care and attention. You’ll need to feed them live foods, such as rotifers, copepods, or newly hatched brine shrimp. You’ll also need to perform frequent water changes to keep the water quality high. The fry will grow quickly and start to show their colors after a few weeks. You can then transfer them to a larger tank or sell them to other aquarists.

Possible Diseases and Health Issues

The royal gramma is a hardy and resilient fish that can resist most common diseases and parasites. However, it can still get sick or stressed if the water quality is poor, the tank is overcrowded, or the diet is inadequate. Some of the possible diseases and health issues that can affect the royal gramma are:

  • Ich: This is a parasitic infection that causes white spots on the skin and gills of the fish.
  • Marine velvet: This is another parasitic infection that causes a dusty white look on the skin of the fish.
  • Fin rot: This is a bacterial infection that causes the fins of the fish to fray or rot.
  • Fungal infections: These are fungal infections that cause white patches or cotton-like growths on the skin or fins of the fish.
  • Vitamin deficiency: Nutritional deficiency causes loss of color, appetite, or energy in the fish.

You should always quarantine any new fish before adding them to your main tank to prevent the spread of diseases or parasites. You should also observe your fish regularly for any signs of illness or stress, such as abnormal behavior, breathing, or appearance. If you notice anything wrong with your fish, you should act quickly and consult a veterinarian or an expert.

Final Thoughts

The royal gramma is a wonderful addition to any saltwater aquarium. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, and easy-to-care-for fish that can bring joy and color to your tank. If you follow our guide on how to care for this fish, you’ll have no trouble keeping it healthy and happy for many years.

We hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new about this amazing fish. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading!

Shayna Easton Author Image
Shayna Easton
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