Royal Gramma – Best Care Guide & Tank Mates


Royal Gramma – Best Care Guide & Tank Mates (2023)

Saltwater aquarium fish often have a reputation for being beautiful but expensive and difficult to keep.

The Royal Gramma fairy basslet is, fortunately, one of several exceptions to this rule! This small fish, with its bright purple and yellow colors, is not only eye-catching but also easy to look after.

The best part? They are relatively affordable, making them even more attractive for aquarium enthusiasts on a budget.

And though they can be quite rude to one another, they are generally peaceful fish that will provide years of pleasure for you. So, if you're looking for a pretty and easy-going fish, the Royal Gramma is a top pick!

This article will provide you with everything you need to know about the Royal Gramma, from its habitat and diet to tips on how to best care for one in your aquarium. Read on!

Royal Gramma Care Guide

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Gramma loreto
Common Name Royal Gramma, Fairy Basslet
Adult Size 3 inches
Temperament Peaceful; Territorial
Lifespan 5+ Years
Care Level Beginner
Water Temperature 74-78℉
Appearance Bicolored with a Purple Front and a Yellow rear half
Water pH 8.0-8.4
Diet Carnivorous
Tank Size 15+ Gallons

Facts and Overview

Fun Fact? The Royal Gramma, scientifically called Gramma loreto and part of the Grammatidae family, is often the first fish many picks when starting a saltwater aquarium.

Known as one of the charming fairy basslets, its vivid purple and yellow shades make it a crowd favorite. Even better, with a price range typically between $20-30 on the US East Coast, it's a beautiful yet budget-friendly option.

Perfect for those taking their initial plunge into marine fishkeeping!

Origin and Habitat

This vibrant dweller's natural playground stretches expansively from the sun-kissed Bahamas, through the Antilles and Bermuda, and dives deep into the waters encircling Central America and the northern part of South America, reaching all the way to the coasts of Venezuela.

Along this vast range, they often seek refuge in the rocky crevices and coral-rich environments of the ocean floor.

Warning: Royal Grammas are known jumpers. If you're keeping them in a tank, make sure to have a tight-fitting lid.

In their natural habitat, they are accustomed to depths of up to 20 meters. This preference for deeper, dimly lit waters, particularly around Central America, suggests that when in captivity, strong lighting might not be their best friend.

Typical Royal Gramma Basslet Behavior

The Royal Gramma is an ideal reef tank resident for the majority of small and medium-sized fish tanks. They are peaceful saltwater fish but can become shy and skittish if not provided hiding spots in their tank.

Grammas of all types are cave dwellers who need a place to call their own and escape from direct lighting, as they often can be found near deep water reefs.

When given a cave you'll see your Royal Gramma out and about, hunting for food. But they can be very possessive of their caves sometimes giving them a reputation of an aggressive species. The Royal Gramma sometimes will chase away fish that gets too curious about their home.

Can Royal Grammas be kept in one tank?

Royal Gramma are also extremely intolerant of one another. They will regularly fight since they will encounter each other regularly. But this is more dependent on tank size than anything else.

In an aquarium larger than 55 gallons with plenty of live rock you have a decent chance of keeping two or even three so long as you introduce them in the right way!



The Gramma loreto is truly a spectacle with its vibrant purple front that seamlessly transitions to a bright golden yellow tail. Amidst this, you'll spot a blend of purple and yellow scales, and a unique black line across their eyes.

They generally have clear fins, but one little guy I've had for years have them fully colored. Their dorsal fin has a small black spot, though you probably won't see it unless they are swimming in the water column.

Now, you might wanna check this out, because some folks often confuse the Royal Gramma with its more feisty look-alike, the Royal Dottyback, often labeled as the "false gramma."

But here's a tip: you can spot the difference by checking for an eyespot on the dorsal fin – only the Royal Gramma has it!]

Beauty aside, they're perfect for beginners due to their modest tank size requirements, versatile diet, and calm nature. A total package, right?

Life Span of the Royal Gramma Fairy Basslet

Royal Grammas are on the longer-lived side for such small fish.

Three to five years is a solid average and they may live to be even older when well cared for with proper water parameters, a nice hiding place, and fed a diverse diet of frozen foods, pellets and flakes, and other high protein grub!

How Big Do Royal Grammas Grow?

This species is right on the edge of being small to medium-sized fish. A fully grown adult Royal Gramma basslet is 3 inches long, making it ideal for aquariums larger than 15 gallons.

Just remember that while they are peaceful, they are very territorial when it comes to defending their home cave. Make sure to aquascape accordingly so all of your tank inhabitants can hide without squabbles!

Sexing Royal Grammas

Trying to tell male and female Royal Grammas apart? It's no easy task. They both sport vibrant colors, though males might pop a tad more if you have them side-by-side.

Here's the fun part: these fish can swap genders like many marine fish do!

They're all born female, but if one becomes the dominant figure in their social hierarchy, it might switch to male over a few weeks.

You'll notice the male has slightly extended pelvic fins and is often slightly larger than the females, but not by very much.

And unless you have a lot of space and several grammas living in the same aquarium, you almost certainly have a solitary female.

Compatible Tank Mates for Royal Grammas

Compatible Tank Mates for Royal Grammas

While they are aggressive towards each other, the Royal Gramma is otherwise a peaceful fish that will get along with a wide range of others!

They are too small to eat even the tiniest of tank mates. But watch out, those little critters like young Sexy Anemone Shrimp or Pom Pom Crabs? They might just end up as a snack.

Nevertheless, they make great tank-mates with Pygmy Angelfish, Tangs, Butterflyfish, Clownfish, Damselfish, and other small to mid-sized community fish.

And if you have larger invertebrates like Blood Red Fire Shrimp and Coral Banded Shrimp, they'll get along just fine.

Other Saltwater Fish for Royal Grammas Include:

  • Pygmy Angelfish, Yellow Tang, ClownfishDamselfish, Gobies, and other small to medium sized Saltwater fish
  • Cleaner Shrimp, Starfish, Corals, Clams, Snails, and other invertebrates

Fish to avoid

Royal grammas love their little rocky hideaways, and if you introduce other species that fancy the same spots, there could be some underwater fireworks!

Remember, these little royals can throw a punch if they feel their turf is under threat.

Now, big fish, even those non-aggressive, can really stress out our little grammas, So, if you've got some large swimmers, consider giving them their own space. Better safe than sorry, right?

Just a heads-up: like many saltwater species, Gramma lotero don't play well with lookalikes. Remember the royal dottyback we talked about? Not the best roommate for them. And this goes for other same-hued fish too. Keep that in mind when picking pals for your tank!

Can I Keep Multiple Royal Grammas Together?

You can only keep small groups of Royal Grammas with careful planning since these species can be viciously territorial towards their own kind.

If you introduce multiple Grammas together at the same time, and in an aquarium that's 55 gallons or larger, you have a good chance of them all finding rocks to defend and getting along reasonably well in your reef tank.

Starting with Royal Grammas as young as possible is also helpful. This way you may even see breeding behavior in the future as a dominant male emerges from your group of females!

Are Royal Grammas Reef Safe?

Gramma loreto are also entirely reef-safe and won't pick at large or small polyp stony corals or soft corals. They will leave other sessile (non-moving) invertebrates alone as well, including Giant Clams, Sea Anemones, and Feather Duster Worms!

Royal Grammas Tank Setup

The Royal Gramma is one of the most extremely popular and beginner friendly marine fish out there! This is due to their hardy and mellow temperament nature.

Nevertheless, while they're a breeze for newbies, it's essential to remember they have their quirks. Always be mindful of their space, tankmates, and water parameters.

With the right care, you'll have a thriving, colorful companion in your marine setup!

Water Conditions

Although very easy to care for, they have few major demands in terms of water chemistry.

They aren't especially sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, or nitrates, nor do they need excessive amounts of trace nutrients like potassium or iodine.

All of these are found mixed into standard marine aquarium salt blends anyway!

  • Temperature: The Royal Gramma fish are found in the tropical portions of the Caribbean Sea and Western Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, we want to provide steady temperatures of 74℉-78℉.
  • Salinity (Specific Gravity): 1.020-1.025
  • pH level: The pH should fall between 8.0-8.4. Assuming you're using a crushed coral (aragonite) substrate, this should not be an issue since aragonite will buffer the water toward alkalinity. Cool stuff, right?

Water Conditions

Tank Size

The Royal Gramma is small enough to thrive in aquariums as small as 15 gallons. But if you're looking to keep one fish of gramma in a community tank with other fish, I'd recommend 20 gallons to 30 gallons as a good start.

The Royal Gramma should only be kept with one another in aquariums 55 gallons or larger.

Pro Tip: When keeping two or more gramma loreto you should introduce both at the same time so a single dominant fish doesn't feel like their territory is being invaded.

You'll also need to provide these saltwater fish with a few places to hide so they can pick their favorite places and delineate their territorial boundaries!

Hiding Spots for Royal Gramma

Let's talk hideouts. These fish love their privacy, so ensuring they have plenty of hiding places in the aquarium is key.

Think rock crevices, caves, or any other secluded spots. These aren't just for fun; they're essential for their comfort and well-being.

Now, while they're fans of playing hide-and-seek, remember they also love to swim. So, balance is the game! Ensure there's enough space for them to roam freely without feeling cramped.

Feeding Your Royal Gramma

Feeding Your Royal Gramma

The Royal Gramma is purely carnivorous, feeding mostly on meaty foods like zooplankton, young fish, and small crustaceans like shrimp they might find across coral reefs.

In a home aquarium, they readily adapt to eating prepared marine fish food flakes and pellets. But you'll want to stick to a carnivore preparation rather than one that has loads of seaweed and other plant-based additives.

Grammas can't digest vegetable matter and should be fed exclusively protein. You should also offer them thawed frozen foods, including mysis shrimp and brine shrimp, which offer them extra nutrients your prepared may lack.

And hey, a bit of shrimp, crustacean pieces, and other meaty bits give them that reef-at-home feel.

Fun fact: My own Royal Gramma plays hide-and-seek in the rocks but pops out for copepods and those meaty leftovers!

And while the royal gramma is not known as a cleaner fish, this beautiful fish does tend to help eat quite a bit of the leftovers!

Hikari Marine-S Pellets Fish Food for Smaller Marine

How Often Should I Feed My Royal Gramma Fish?

They are small, active fish that normally feed regularly in nature. Therefore, we want to feed them two to three times per day in small amounts!

Breeding Your Royal Grammas

Breeding Your Royal Grammas

Assuming you can get a compatible pair, the best way to condition Royal Grammas to spawn is to give them lots of protein-rich foods like live and frozen foods or newly hatched brine shrimp.

Make sure there are small rocks and cavities for them to spawn in. And don't forget the macroalgae; they'll use it to build their nests!

If you see a nest-building Gramma, then you can be sure you're looking at a male. Once the algae nest has been built, he will then spend most of his time trying to entice the female into entering his cave.

How Can I Tell If a Royal Gramma is Pregnant?

A female Royal Gramma will swell slightly with eggs if she's receptive. But the visual cues aren't as obvious as they are with other fish.

The nest-building activity of the male is a much clearer sign that your Royal Grammas are preparing to spawn!

Once they embrace, which they will do several times over the course of a few days, 20 to 40 eggs will then be cared for by the male until they hatch within 4 to 6 days.

What to Feed Young Royal Gramma?

The young are born helpless at first and will absorb their nutritious yolk sacs for 48 hours. After this point, they become free swimming and are large enough to be fed live micro foods like rotifers and baby mysis shrimp.

Once the fry hatch, it's wise to move them to a separate tank. Otherwise, other fish might eat them, or they could get pulled into filters or protein skimmers. Better safe than sorry!

Captive-bred Royal Grammas are always much pricier than wild-caught ones since they are free of parasites and better adapted to captivity. So be sure to share your success with your local pet stores!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Royal Gramma basslets easy to keep?

These fish are some of the most striking marine fish in the hobby. Fortunately, they are also hardy fish that aren't demanding in terms of water quality, they have a mostly peaceful nature, and don't get too large!

What does the Royal Gramma Eat?

Royal Grammasare carnivorous and need a protein-rich prepared food blend. You can supplement this with frozen foods like brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, and chopped seafood as they are willing to eat dead food!

Where to buy a Royal Gramma Basslet?

I've had great luck with buying royal gramma fish at my local fish store in South Florida. They've given me great tips on royal gramma care in addition to overall advice about my reef tank. Also, several reputable online marine fish sellers offer Royal Grammas for sale. Some top-rated sites include LiveAquaria, Blue Zoo Aquatics, and MarineFishEZ, among others.


In wrapping things up, caring for a Royal Gramma truly is a rewarding experience. These vibrant fish, with their unique personalities and stunning hues, are a testament to the beauty of marine life. And while they have their quirks, like any other species, understanding and meeting their needs ensures they thrive in your tank.

Whether you're a seasoned aquarist or just diving into marine fish keeping, the Royal Gramma is a fantastic addition to your underwater kingdom. With the right care and a bit of love, these dazzling fish will bring joy and beauty to your aquatic space for years to come. So, ready to embark on the Royal Gramma adventure? We bet they're waiting to light up your tank!

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For those with an insatiable aquatic curiosity, we've got more articles ready for your deep dive!


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