Royal gramma: care, price, tank mates and size- 2020

The royal gramma (Gramma Loreto), also known as the fairy basslet, is a fish species in the Grammatidae family that is native to tropical western Atlantic Ocean reef environments. They are found in the aquarium, too.

The Royal Gramma fish is a small, vibrantly colored fish from the Caribbean, also known as a Fairy Basslet or Gramma Loreto. 

It is a hardy, peaceful fish that would be perfect for both beginner and expert fish keepers as well. 

This fish is often the crown in an individual’s collection, making it the perfect addition to most saltwater aquariums. 

In this article, we will cover all you need to know about keeping the Royal Gramma including its: dietary needs, typical behavior, required tank conditions and compatibility with other species.

Overview of Royal gramma fish

The Royal Gramma, with its vibrant purple and yellow body, is a beginner-friendly, low maintenance and peaceful saltwater fish that would give out an exceptional color to any aquarium in which it is placed. 

Another reason that beginners favor Royal Grammas is that they are hardy and resistant to a lot of common diseases. It is a fish with which you can’t really go wrong. Also, they are friendly with many other species and make a great community fish.

Your tank should be at least 30 gallons in length and contain lots of rockwork and caves to hide in- this helps them feel safe. Because they are used to deep water the tank should not be exposed to any harsh lighting, however. 

This fish should generally be kept as a single specimen with beginners and you should expect it to live to at least 5 years of age.


Here is the scientific classification of royal gramma fish:

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Family: Grammatidae
Genus: Gramma
G. loreto
Binomial name
Gramma loreto

Appearance of Royal gramma

Royal gramma fish appearance in aquarium
Image by Aquaimages from Commons Wikimedia

The appearance of Royal Gramma is often the crowning glory of any aquarium in which it is placed because of its vibrant coloring; the front half of the fish is characterized by a vibrant iridescent purple or violet that blends in a golden yellow to the tail. 

The middle of the fish, where the two colors blend, typically has a series of dots that give a different pattern to each Royal Gramma. 

You will also notice a thin black line stretching through the eyes from the mouth and a small black spot on its dorsal fin. 

The Royal Gramma is a small fish and you should expect the size of yours to grow to about 3 inches. Royal Gramma ‘s largest caught bred was measured at 3.1 inches.

It is not possible to identify the gender at birth, because all Grammas are born females. The most dominant member of the group will however change sex in a shoal and turn into a male.

The male will grow bigger than the females and the ventral fins will be bigger too. Besides this, males are generally more vibrant than females. 

The Royal Gramma is often confused with the Pictichromis paccagnellae due to its similar appearance. While the Royal Dottyback looks similar, it is a very aggressive fish and has low compatibility with most other species-for beginners it should generally be avoided.

The easiest way to tell the difference between a Royal Gramma and a Royal Dottyback is by looking at the body’s coloring. 

There is no blending between the lilac and yellow on the Royal Dottyback. Whereas, you’ll notice the purple fades into the yellow on the Royal Gramma. The Royal Dottyback also has clear fins to it.

The fish can be a light purple to a deep violet starting at the head that fades to a golden yellow at the tail of the middle body. The Royal Gramma will also have a small black spot at the front of the dorsal fin and a black line streaking through the eye as well.

It resembles the false gramma (Pictichromis paccagnellae), with the two main differences between the two is that the false gramma has clear fins and does not fade, but instead has a distinct color change.

The royal gramma is relatively small, averaging just over 8 cm (3 inches), and was bred as a tank. Measurement of the largest royal gramma was 8 cm (3.1 in.)

Royal Gramma Habitat and Tank Requirements

Royal gramma tank setup

The Royal Gramma is a saltwater fish found in the western Atlantic (Caribbean) deep-water reefs. This particular fish is at home when surrounded in dull light by extensive rockwork such as reefs, coral outcroppings, caves and overhangs. 

They make this rockwork their home, and they don’t go far out because they’re not exceptional swimmers. You will see them hiding inside the rockwork waiting for a food particle to float through which they can eat, before swimming quickly home. 

Typically it will be found at a depth of 2-60 meters and is best known for swimming upside down under ledges and in caves.

Royal gramma Tank Size

The minimum tank size that you should use for keeping Royal Grammas in aquariums is 30 gallons. If you plan to keep them in pairs then you should have a tank of at least 50 gallons. Finally, a tank size of 100 + gallons is required if you intend to keep a group.

Royal gramma Tank mates

One thing that makes royal gramma care so simple is the way they are compatible with other fish. Their calm and patient temperament is perfect if you are planning to keep them with other species’ tank mates.

Here are few of the tank mates for your royal gramma:

The list goes on and on, so for the sake of sanity, we are not going to live every single species.

But there are certain things you ‘re going to want to avoid.

Fish that are considerably larger or more aggressive than royal grammars do not make good mates to the tank. They’ll scare them and increase their stress levels if they don’t harm your fairy basslet.

You might want to check out these articles:

Tiger shovelnose catfish: care, feeding and tank mates

Bumblebee goby: Size, lifespan, care and tank mates- 2020


Tank Condition

For them, the perfect water temperature is between 72 ° F and 78 ° F anywhere. PH levels should be maintained within 8.1 and 8.4, with an 8-12 ° carbonate hardness (dKH) and a specific gravity of 1.020-1.025. 

The tank should not be exposed to sharp/harsh light, either. 

As previously mentioned, Royal Gramma is to be found in deep-water reefs in their natural environment. So you should ensure that your tank has plenty of live rock, cavities and caves for them to retreat and hide in, as they’ll spend most of their time here.

Royal gramma Feeding and Diet

The Royal Gramma is primarily a planktivore that eats zooplankton and phytoplankton in its natural habitat. It is known as a cleaner fish, meaning that it will eat the parasites off other fish’s skin too. 

However, it can and will eat small meaty foods like brine and Mysis shrimp when kept in an aquarium. 

It will also adjust to eating dead foods such as crustaceans and fish flesh in an aquarium setting. 

You should aim at feeding it a varied diet with your Royal Gramma including plankton, crustacean flesh, mysid, brine shrimp, and other frozen meat preparations of high quality.

You can also rely on prepared flake and pellet foods with captive-bred Royals- but make sure you mix it up by rotating what you are feeding them. This will prevent your fish from adjusting to eating just flakes and pellets. This is particularly true of newly acquired specimens. 

The Royal Gramma is among the easiest fish to feed in terms of feeding. You ‘re going to be hard-pressed to find one that’s just a fussy eater! 

You should aim over the course of the day to feed them several times. Again, however, they are not fussy eaters, so alternate feeding cycles (e.g. single daily feeding cycles) are also tolerated.

You will notice that they prefer to eat from the center of the water column and they will usually rush out of their hiding place to grab anything edible that drifts nearby.

The royal gramma is a planktivore, primarily eating zooplankton and crustaceans. The gramma royal is a cleaner fish, too. It removes ectoparasites from other fish (a parasite that lives on a fish’s skin) and learns to eat dead foods like crustaceans and fish flesh. They prefer picking their food from the middle of the column of water.

Typical Behaviour

Royal gramma typical behaviour
Image by Brian Gratwicke from Commons Wikimedia

The Royal Gramma is generally a calm, somewhat shy, and passive fish who you should not expect any problems from. The only exception to this is territorial problems.

As previously mentioned, they like to claim rockwork and crevices as their home. When other fish intrude on their home they will become territorial and chase them away.

They will generally stay near their chosen home and if frightened they will return to their home quickly.

In terms of jumping, they are a notorious jumper. So any aquarium they are placed in must have a good weighted lid to stop them jumping out of the tank. They are most likely to jump when they are new to the aquarium.

They appear to face their stomach to nearby hard surfaces for any unique behavior which results in the strange ability to hang and swim upside down when below ledges. This is no cause for concern however and this behavior is often confused by many beginners with a disease.

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Compatibility with other Fish

The Royal Gramma is a quiet fish that would add fantastically to most saltwater aquariums. 

As a Basslet, they’ll be fine in general with Angles, Boxfish, Clownfish, Filefish, Gobies, Jawfish, Hawkfish, Rabbitfish, Squirrelfish, Corals and Invertebrates. 

As a peaceful, generally passive fish, they may coexist with a wide variety of species, provided they meet these four key criteria:

  • The other species of fish should not themselves be aggressive.
  • They should not appear like the Royal Gramma visually – especially the bright purple colour.
  • They certainly shouldn’t be trying to poke around the hiding spot chosen by the Gramma.
  • Lastly, they shouldn’t be much larger or a predatory fish that can eat the Royal Gramma (e.g. Lionfish, Eels and Snappers).
  • If you meet these four criteria, then you are set.

Although in nature they are peaceful, they have an interesting quirk. As mentioned in the habitat section, they love to have vast rockwork surrounding themselves. 

They may be territorial, and when they invade their favorite caves and crevices they will become aggressive and chase fish away. This isn’t to be confused with bullying though, they aren’t bullies. They simply possess the rockwork that they call home. 

For this reason, if you plan to keep Royal Grammas, you should make sure that your aquarium has lots of rockwork and hiding spots.

However, if they become aggressive, you’ll see the notorious ‘gape’ of Royal Gramma. During this gape the Gramma will open its jaws as wide as possible to make a Great White Shark appear comical!

Keeping Royal Grammas Together

Generally speaking, most experts recommend keeping the Royal Gramma as a single specimen. This is because they can be territorial, and they will constantly fight each other for this territory without enough rockwork and hiding spots. 

So, if you’re going to have a pair, remember to make sure that your tank is at least 50 gallons and that there’s plenty of rockwork and cracks so that each Gramma can have its own room. 

The couple should be a male-female pairing, too. 

If you’re daring to keep a harem of Grammas in a tank, there are success stories. To achieve this you must simultaneously introduce them all into the tank and have no existing Royals in the tank.

To achieve this you must simultaneously introduce them all into the tank and have no existing Royals in the tank. The tank should also be at least 100 gallons long and have lots of rockwork. 

One final tip for a harem: make sure to obtain the smaller specimens when choosing your Grammas group; generally the smaller specimens are females.


Their natural range includes the Bahamas, Venezuela, Lesser Antilles, Bermuda, and the waters around Central America and South America’s northern part. The Royal Gramma tends to swim more downwards with a depth range of 1 to 20 m (3 to 60 ft).

Care In the aquarium?

Question mark symbol
Image from Pexels

The royal gramma is considered an ideal inhabitant for most reef aquariums containing coral and other invertebrates because of their relatively peaceful nature, diet, and small size.

Despite this general statement, when kept in smaller nano reef tanks, they may become aggressive towards tank-mates.

Throughout rocks and crevices, they stake out territories and select favorite hiding places. Royal gramma are generally peaceful fish, but they protect their territories very well and are known to chase out other small fish.

These tend to stay in one area of the tank and will dart back into their holes when they’re startled.

They will vigorously guard their hiding places and, when threatened, open their mouths wide in a threatening gesture to keep the intruders away.

The royal gramma tends to be parallel to the surface it is closest to, causing the fish to swim straight up and down or sometimes upside down under ledges.

One should not mistake this behavior for illness. The minimum suggested tank size is 30 gallons and there should be no sharp lighting to the tank.

The ideal water temperature should range from 72 to 78 ° F, and the water pH should range from 8.1 to 8.4, with a specific gravity of 1.020-1.025.

They are often housed in coral aquaria and are normally housed individually or in pairs. Nonetheless, small groups can be retained as long as the tank is wide enough and each fish has enough cracks and crevices to have its own territory.

If in a shaped male-female pair the royal gramma should not be held with its own gender. Nor should they be kept with larger, aggressive fish that will eat them.

However, they are immune to most diseases, and they make very good fish for beginners. It will also accept meaty and frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and wild Mysis shrimps.

The royal gramma is very easy to feed, but the rotation of their food is said to keep them from becoming picky.

Breeding of Royal gramma

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

The breeding activity begins with the use of small rocks and algae to build a nest for males. The female is then to deposit 5-40 eggs into the nest anywhere.

The male is then able to release its sperm to fertilize the eggs. This usually happens in the wild in late spring/early summer. 

This routine will occur daily for a month during the breeding season. 

For the next 5-7 days, the eggs will ‘stuck’ to the algae until they hatch. During the evening you will find that they generally hatch; when it’s dark.

The biggest problem with raising Royal Grammas is feeding them. As they hatch in a sequence and by so small numbers. This is because the size of their mouths will make a big difference.

So it can be problematic to grow these fish out. Better feed them with copepods and rotifers until they reach a Fry. 

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

Even though pairs are hard to find since there is no obvious difference between male and female, they are very easy to breed. For males generally larger than females, the male may use pieces of algae to build the nest between rocks.

The male then takes the female to the nest where she deposits 20-100 eggs into the nest. This behavior is basically replicated every day for a month or longer during the breeding season.

The eggs are around 1 mm (0.04 in.) and are filled with tiny threads running across the surface with small protuberances. Such threads grab onto the nest algae and keep the eggs in place.

Royal gramma fish price

This is a common question most of the aquarists ask! It is a reef-compatible fish that is easy to care for and is generally considered a must-have for most aquarists.

Royal gramma fish price

As for the royal gramma fish cost, they are reasonably priced and can be bought for about $20 (depending on the size) and are an entertaining fish to watch. They are also, very affordable to feed and keep.



The Royal Gramma has easily cared for hardy fish. They are easy to feed and make not a lot of demands. 

The only thing that you need to account for is to add plenty of rockwork to your aquarium so they have to hide out somewhere. 

They are generally compatible with a wide range of other species and are one of a handful of saltwater fish that spawn well while in captivity. 

They make the perfect starting fish for a beginner fish keeper. Royal gramma fish is an excellent addition to an experienced fish keeper looking to add some color to their tank.

You may contact us here. We at Planet fish value your feedback and suggestions.


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