Royal Gramma, scientifically known as Gramma loreto, is a peaceful saltwater fish that is beginner-friendly and is low maintenance. This species has a vibrant coloration of yellow and purple and it would provide an exception color to any aquarium that it is placed in. This species is also known as Fairly Basslet and it originates from the Caribbean.

Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Besides being peaceful, this species is also hardy and that is why it is ideal for both beginners and expert aquarists. Its ease of taking care of is also one of the reasons why this fish has gained popularity among aquarists. This fish makes a perfect addition to your tank and you can never regret this choice. It is also compatible with many species and it is a good community fish.

They are also popular among the saltwater aquarists community due to their vibrant colors which make them stand out in the tank. With the popularity this fish has gained there has been a lot of misinformation that is getting passed around and irrespective of the simplicity of taking care of this species, you can easily mess up if you do not have the right information.

Therefore, this guide seeks to give you a complete guide on the care and maintenance of this fish. That is from the diet and the tank conditions that you need to provide for the Royal Gramma to thrive. As an aspiring aquarist and a beginner aquarist, it is a must-read. You will surely appreciate it!


Scientific NameGramma loreto
ColorYellow, purple, violet
Size3 inches
Lifespan 3 to 5 years
Care levelEasy
Tank size30 gallons
Temperature72 to 80 degrees F
Freshwater or SaltwaterSaltwater


This species is compatible with other species and this makes it easy to take care of them. They have a calm and patient temperament that is perfect if you are planning to keep them together with other species in the same tank.  Some of the compatible tank mates include;

  • Gobies
  • Angelfish
  • Blue-green Chromis
  • Hawk fish
  • Clownfish

The list is long but the stated are the most common tank mates.  However, this does not mean that they are compatible with every species out there.  There are some species that you should avoid.

The fish species that are larger than this species or are more aggressive than this species do not make the ideal tank mates. They will either harm them or threaten and scare them hence increasing their stress levels. When the fish is scared and stressed they will not be able to eat and this will have effects on their health.

Some of the fish you should avoid includes;

  • Lionfish
  • Snappers
  • Groupers
  • Eels

Also, you should avoid a fish that loves making home in crevices and rockwork since they will cause problems too.  This species can sometimes get feisty especially when they feel like their territory is being invaded even if the other fish does not mean any harm. It is important to consider the coloration of the tank mates before putting them since this will affect the general appearance of the aquarium.


As long as there is enough space in your aquarium you can comfortably keep these species together.  They can be testy if they have their eyes on the same place to call home.  The best way to ensure they can co-exist comfortably is by following the recommended size of the tank.  It will ensure the tank has good and enough hiding spots and spacious room to swim.

The males are more likely to get territorial against each other compared to females. This should be in your mind as you plan on keeping them together.  This species can live with each other peacefully as long as you will provide enough room to support their activities and be mindful of their genders.


Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The appearance of this species is something to admire.  They have a vibrant coloration. The front half of this species is characterized by a purple or violet that perfectly blends with the golden yellow towards the tail.  At the center of the body where these two colors blend has a series of dots which gives every fish a different pattern.  Also, you will notice a thin black line that extends from up through the eyes and small black spots on the dorsal fin.

It is a bit challenging to identify the gender of this species when they are born. However, in a shoal, the most dominant group member will change sex and turn into male. Then the male will grow larger than the females and have ventral fins that will also be larger. The males also have more vibrant colors compared to females. 

This species is sometimes confused to the Royal Dotty back. However, despite the resemblance, the Royal Dotty back is a more aggressive fish and has low compatibility with other species compared to the Royal Gramma.  The easiest method of distinguishing between these two species is looking at the coloration on the body. This is because on the Royal Dotty back there is no blending between the purple and yellow color.  In the Royal Gramma, you will notice the purple fades into yellow and the Royal Dotty back has clear fins.


The average size of this species is between 3 to 4 inches in length.  This can however depend on the gender and the genetics of the individual fish.  These fish mainly attain the maximum size in the wild but in captivity is rare to find them having attained the maximum size.


The Royal Gramma is a native of the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda, and the lesser.  Naturally, they live in saltwater and this means in captivity they live in saltwater aquariums also. You will mainly find this species populated in areas with coral and rocks and many other places where there are plenty of hideouts.

This species as said earlier has a beautiful appearance and it is, for this reason, they have widely been accepted by most aquarists and have since spread across many parts of the world. Today if you visit a local store you are likely to find them and they have an average cost of 20 dollars but this varies with the size.

You can either find them in these local pet stores or you can check online for reputable online sellers and buy them online.


Despite their size, the Royal Grammas can live up to 5 years. As stated earlier this species is hardy and this means they are not likely to develop any serious life-threatening condition unless when subjected to harsh conditions. The lifespan is mainly determined by some of the factors such as the diet they feed on or the conditions in which they are brought up.

As an aquarist, if you desire to keep your pet for long life and have a long-lasting relationship, ensure that you provide the right environment and they are likely to even surpass the limit.


This fish is peaceful and they are very mellow.  They do not like causing trouble and they will always run into the corals and rocks to hide in case there is some trouble in the aquarium. They will peacefully co-exist with the other fish without bothering them.

However, there are some instances where you are likely to find some aggression. For instance, when it comes to their preferred home or hiding spots. These species view those areas as their home and whenever the other fish starts invading those areas the Royal Grammas might get aggressive as they try to discourage them from going there.  This species spends most of its time hiding and will only get out to snag some food when it is feeding time.

They are neither bottom nor top dwellers but they prefer dwelling close to their homes as possible. You will sometimes find this species swimming upside down along rocks and other surfaces.  It is completely normal for them but this might appear strange to some.  This is how they are used to navigating through.


If you are planning to keep this species, you need to create an environment that mimics the coastal one. The natural home of this species is surrounded by rocks such as reefs, coral outcropping, and small caves.  In order to make ensure that your fish are happy and comfortable in the aquarium, you must ensure that the tank environment is the same as the marine water system. Some of the conditions that you must provide include;


The minimum tank size for this species should be 30 gallons.  Just like any other saltwater fish, this species prefers living alone in the tank. If you keep them with other species in the same tank there are higher chances that this species will get aggressive. You can however choose to keep them in one big community tank or one small, tank and keep them singly. If you choose a community, you should provide enough space to ensure they are not overcrowded which brings confrontations.

For the community tank, it is advisable to add 20 gallons of the tank for every fish that you add to the tank.


Remember as stated that these species spend most of their time hiding and they dwell close to their hiding areas. It is therefore important to ensure that there are plenty of hiding spots for your fish.  You can add some rocks, reefs, and hiding caves to dim light since this species is usually shy. The hiding areas should not be rough or with sharp edges which might harm the fish.


It is important to install a power filter inside the tank. This is because this species has a high bio load and the filter will help in filtering out the water pollutants. This waste is dangerous if left in the tank since it will rot to produce unnecessary ammonia. This filter is also important in bringing a high flow of water into the aquarium.


It is important to add some substrate to the tank. This is because the aquarium needs to be planted and therefore you need to look for an aquarium that can support the growth of some plant roots.  The substrate should be soft.


This species mainly lies deep in the water covered with herbs and bushes and this means that it does not like dwelling under the harsh light.  You should try to install the normal lighting on the ceiling of the tank.


When it comes to the Royal Gramma you need to look for saltwater plants. You can go for both the artificial and live plants depending on your choice.  Both of them should serve the purpose of providing more hiding spots for this species. Some of the ideal plants include;

  • Red Grape Algae
  • Halimeda
  • Red Bush Gracilaria

It is important to ensure that the tank is always clean so as to avoid some bacterial infections which might have health implications for the fish. Therefore, the tank should be cleaned on regular basis from time to time. The cleaning is to remove the waste and all the food leftover from the tank.

You can also use a gravel vacuum to clean the small rocks and gravel in the tank. You should use lukewarm water and a piece of cloth when cleaning. You should never use any soap-based or chemical-based products since they may contain some harmful chemical components. Also, the equipment should be cleaned before being installed in the tank.


Water is a key component in the lives of fish in every tank. The conditions you provide will greatly affect their lifespan and the general health of these species. The water provided in the aquarium should always be a mimic of what is found in their natural environment.  Below are some of the water parameters that should be maintained in the aquarium;


The Royal Gramma is a native of the Caribbean where the temperatures are a bit warm. Therefore in the aquarium, this should be replicated and the temperature should range from 72 to 80 degrees F. You should always ensure this remains consistent and it does not drop or rise beyond the limit since it might have adverse effects on their health.


The water should be slightly alkaline with an average ph. of between 8.1 to 8.4.


The carbonate hardness of the water should be 8 to 12 dKH.


The aquarium water should have a specific gravity of between 1.020 to 1.025.


As a result of waste produced by these fish, there is a need to replace aquarium water after some time. This replacement should however not be done in entirety but in intervals.  You can choose to change water on a weekly or monthly basis.

If you choose to replace on weekly basis ensure that you change 10 percent of water in the tank. If you choose to change on monthly basis ensure that you change about 10 to 25 percent of water in the aquarium. However, the new water you are changing should always meet the parameters as described earlier.


In their natural habitat, the Royal Grammas are carnivores and this implies that they mainly feed on fresh. Mainly their diet consists of planktons which are small marine animals. It is a little bit challenging to replicate such a completely carnivore diet in captivity. These species can also eat an omnivorous diet in captivity with no harm. With the omnivorous diet in captivity, this species will feed on plants and animals. Despite this, their diet should mainly consist of proteins and mimic their natural diet.  Feeding with a lot of protein also ensures there is optimal nutrition.

Most of the aquarists feed this species on flakes, pellets, and frozen food as well as live foods.  Some of the examples of live foods include; brine shrimps, small shrimps, bloodworms, crustaceans fresh, and planktons. You should rotate whatever they feed today to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients.

This species is also known as cleaner fish due to the fact that they will feed on anything they find in the tank such as algae, parasites, and other leftover foods in the aquarium. Ensure that you do not overfeed them. You can start by feeding them 2 to 4 times a day especially when they are juveniles but some of them are okay with feeding just once a day.

The Royal Gramma prefer feeding on food from the middle area of the water column and even if they are in their hiding areas they will swim to pick food that is floating. If you find out that the fish is eating all the food you have been feeding it is the right time you add the quantity. The fish should eat and leave some uneaten to indicate the food was enough.


This species is one of the easiest species to breed in a home aquarium. It is a bit easier to pair them when they are young but this does not mean they cannot be paired as adults.  One of the advantages of breeding them in an aquarium is the fact that they do not need a separate breeding tank like most fish species do.  They also do not need any species tank conditions to breed successfully.

 This species is strange because they are all born females but for the purpose of breeding, one will turn into a male. This species forms a group called a shoal and it is the most dominant female that turns into a male.  This species breeds during the late spring or summer while they are in the wild.  Whenever you notice that the male has started to build a nest then it means the breeding season has begun. They will use the vegetation and the rocks that they find in the aquarium to construct a nest. They will take a day or two to complete the construction.

Once the process of building the nest is complete, the female proceeds to lay some eggs in the nest.  The female will lay approximately 5 to 40 eggs at a time.  Shortly after the eggs have been laid, the male will fertilize these eggs and this process will continue daily for about a month.  These eggs will stick to the algae in the nest and will remain there until they hatch.  The eggs should take 5 to 7 days to hatch. They mainly hatch in the evening when there is dark but they can sometimes vary.

The fries should be kept in a separate tank from the adults and the tank should be wide enough to accommodate their large number. This is to void any fights.  In separation, you have a number of options to make. First, you can remove the adults from the original tank and move them to a separate one. Also, you can place the eggs inside an incubation aquarium prior to hatching.  The fry has water requirements that are similar to the adults and therefore you should maintain them.

When the fry is first hatched they should receive meals in small amounts. However, you should give them at least a day after they have hatched before giving them any meal.  The first meal should include small animals like rotifers and copepods. You can thereafter feed them on brine shrimp as they get bigger.


As said earlier the sexual dimorphism of this species is not so unique and therefore differentiating them can be a bit tricky.  This is even more when you have new aquarists.  However, by closely monitoring and studying your Royal Gramma you will identify the following differences;

Body coloration – The males are brighter colors compared to the females and this needs a closer look to realize.

General size – The males are slightly bigger than the females.  This is however an exception during the breeding period when the female will appear fuller since they are carrying eggs.

Behavior – The male species have a tendency of being more aggressive than the females.  If you keep them together in the same tank they are likely to fight for dominance.


The Royal Gramma is a hardy species as we discussed earlier and they are not prone to most of the diseases. All you need to do is provide the right tank and water conditions and your fish will thrive with fewer infections.  However, this does not protect the fish completely from the diseases and more so the saltwater diseases.  Some of the diseases that can affect this saltwater species include; ich, ammonia poisoning, oxygen starvation, dropsy, hole in the head, and nitrate poisoning.  It is important to understand that if these conditions are left unattended they can lead to serious complications and even death.

Some of the symptoms of a sick fish include; loss of appetite, loss of coloration, continuous seclusion, and dents on the scales.  Immediately you observe those signs it is important to consult a vet for advice.  The vet should establish the health condition that your fish is suffering so as to propose an effective treatment strategy. The common means of treatment are in form of water additives and medicated food.

This species sometimes rub against the rocks in the aquarium in a way that makes them swim upside down. This is normal behavior that should not get you worried.


Is Royal Gramma a freshwater fish?

No, this fish species is a saltwater fish that originates from the Caribbean. It prefers residing in peaceful places that are surrounded by rocks, coral reefs, and sea plants.

Does Royal Gramma play dead?

Yes, this species sometimes plays dead and this behavior makes the whole process of keeping them fun. They will lay still and quietly in a corner that is visible and go for a few hours to display this behavior.  The interesting this is that when the fish reemerges from this dead state the view is so spectacular.  This mainly happens when you add the fish to a new tank.

Are Royal Gramm Jumpers?

Yes, this species sometimes starts to jump from the aquarium. It is therefore important to have a lid in the aquarium so as to prevent them from jumping off which might get them injured.  This behavior mainly occurs when the fish is new in the tank.

Why is my Royal Gramm hiding?

As discussed earlier this species is shy and timid in nature.  This is why they keep hiding and even in the wild, they will stay close to their homes and whenever they feel threatened they will hide.

Is a Royal Gramma reef safe?

Yes, this species is one of the most reef-safe species you can put in the tank.  They will not feed on corals and will leave more invertebrates like brine shrimps alone.  They will adapt to virtually any community reef tank.


This species is probably one of the decorative saltwater fish that you do not want to miss in your aquarium. More so if you are new to saltwater fish keeping you will have a smooth and interesting experience with this fish.  For this species, it is not about the beautiful appearance but the peaceful nature that even the non-aquarists will find very appealing.

It is also simple to meet all the needs of this species be it on the diet water or tank. Saltwater fish keeping has its own rule with the most categorical being one fish per fish family per tank.  This fish is not an exception and therefore if you need to keep many together you must maintain the social structure.

If you keep the Royal Gramma with compatible tank mates you will have the most rewarding experience and you will never regret it. It is our hope that this guide has given you the right and extensive information regarding the care of this species. You should now consider having one in your tank.

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