Royal Gramma – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

Royal Grammas, also known as the Fairy Basslet or Gramma loreto, are a saltwater species. These fish are native to the Atlantic Ocean. They are also found in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and Bermuda.

In their natural habitat, they live among coral and rocks. They prefer these environments because it is easy for them to blend in with their bright color. They are also shy and like to hide in small spaces.

Royal Grammas are a popular species among saltwater aquarium owners. They are easy to care for and offer a striking visual. Below you will find information about Royal Gramma tank needs and breeding.



Royal Grammas make a stunning addition to any aquarium. They are most well known and popular for their coloring. The front half of their body is purple, while the back half is yellow. Their fins also have purple edges.

For the most part, there is a stark contrast where the two colors meet. Some Royal Grammas do have more of a gradient between the purple and yellow than others, though.

Each Royal Gramma is also unique in the spots where the colors meets. There are black spots that differ from one fish to the next where the purple and yellow come together.

They also have a black dot on their dorsal fin. This dot can be a different size and shape for each fish. But, it is usually about the size of their eye.

They also have a dark line that runs from their mouth through their eyes. This line varies in darkness based on gender and other factors.

They have long bodies with average width. Their bodies taper toward their back, giving them a slight torpedo shape.

These are very small fish. In adulthood, they will grow to be about 3-4 inches in length. They usually do not reach their max size in captivity, though.

It can be somewhat difficult to tell the difference between males and females. All Royal Grammas are born female and change to male for breeding purposes.

The females do tend to be somewhat smaller than males. There are no major differences when they change sex other than size, though.

Tank Conditions

These are very small fish and do not need a whole lot of space. But they may squabble with each other from time to time. So, you do still want to have a decent amount of space for them to swim around.

For a single Royal Gramma, their tank should have at least 30 gallons of water. For two Royal Gramma, you should have at least 50-60 gallons of water. For each extra Royal Gramma, you should add about 20 gallons of water.

Royal Grammas can survive well in a variety of water conditions. But there is still a recommended range for each water characteristic.

Water temperature should be between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH level should be between 8.0 and 8.4. Water hardness should be between 8 and 12 dkH. Specific gravity, or salinity, should be between 1.020 and 1.025.

To explain, pH is a measure of acidity in the water. Water hardness (dkH) measures the amount of dissolved minerals in the water. This usually refers to dissolved calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate. Salinity is the amount of dissolved sea salt in the water.

Tank Set Up

Once you know what the water composition needs to look like, you need to think about other tank additions. Some other pieces of equipment you will need to get include;

  • Hydrometer
  • Filter
  • Heater
  • Lighting
  • Conditioner
  • Air pump
  • Substrate
  • Aquarium test strips
  • Accessories

Hydrometers are a specific need for saltwater aquariums. They help to measure specific gravity and tell you if the water has enough salt. You should also keep sea salt additives available.

Royal Grammas prefer dull lighting. You should consider using LED lights over other types. These lights do not add any heat to the water. So, you will not have to worry about uneven water temperatures.

Royal Grammas like rocky environments. You can use a variety of substrates, as long as you have plenty of rocks and caverns available. They are shy and like to have a lot of places to hide.

You should also look into a variety of saltwater plants and coral. These can add visual appeal and make the environment more natural. You could also add artificial plants if you would like.

Tank Maintenance

When you first start your aquarium, you should test the water every 2-3 days. When you see that water composition does not change often, you can start to test less often. At the least, you should test the water on a monthly basis.

You need to change the water on a routine basis. Aim to change 10-25% of the water monthly. Also test the water after changes to know if you need to add anything for chemistry.

You should not need to remove the fish during water changes. That said, they do startle easily and may jump. Make sure you keep an eye on them to ensure no one escapes. Also make sure the tank stays sealed at all times.

Check on your tank equipment on a routine basis. In general, ensure that the tank is clean and that water continues to flow. This will tell you that all equipment functions well.

For equipment maintenance, most packaging comes with instructions. This will tell you about routine maintenance and any special tools you might need.


In the wild, Royal Grammas are carnivores. This means that they only eat meat. A large majority of their natural diet consists of plankton, a very small marine animal.

Completely carnivorous diets can be a little hard to replicate in captivity. In home tanks, Royal Grammas can actually eat an omnivorous diet.

With an omnivorous diet, Royal Grammas will eat a mix of plants and animals. That said, their diet should still be high in protein to mimic their natural diet. This also ensures optimal nutrition.

Most fish owners use flakes, pellets, and frozen foods to feed their fish. A lot of the nutritional needs can come from these. But, Royal Grammas should still receive meat a few times per week. You can think of this like a snack for them.

The meat that you feed them can be both frozen and dried, as well as live. Some examples are plankton, small shrimp, crustacean flesh, and blood worms. You should rotate what they get on a daily basis to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients.

Royal Grammas are also a “cleaner fish” species. This means that they will also consume algae, parasites, and other dead matter in the tank. This is generally not harmful and actually helps to keep the tank clean.

Royal Grammas are capable of storing food much better than some other species. Make sure you do not overfeed them. At first, you can try to feed them between 2 and 4 times per day. Some Royal Grammas can get by with a single feeding per day, though.

Royal Grammas prefer to eat in the middle of the water column. So make sure you drop the food in this area. Even if they are in their hiding space, they will swim out to catch food that floats by.

Adjust the quantity or numbers of feedings if you notice not all the food is being eaten. They do eat dead matter, but this can also lead to bacteria build up. In general, you should try to avoid this if possible.


Royal Grammas are a hardy species, but they do have a somewhat shorter life span than other species. Water composition and nutrition are key to maintaining their health if you want to get the max life span. In general, they can live about 5 to 6 years.

Despite being a hardy fish, you may still see some diseases common to saltwater species. Some of these include;

  • Ammonia poisoning
  • Dropsy
  • Hole in the Head (HITH)
  • Ich
  • Nitrite/Nitrate poisoning
  • Oxygen starvation
  • Velvet

Some of these conditions are the result of poor or changed water quality. Ammonia poisoning, HITH, nitrite/nitrate poisoning, and oxygen starvation are examples. Dropsy is a bacterial infection. Ich and Velvet are parasites.

Most treatment for diseases comes in the form of medicated food or water additives. If you have concerns or questions, you should consult with a veterinarian or other expert.

Not all diseases have treatments. Some can be fatal and very dangerous to other healthy fish. You should quarantine any sick fish if possible.

Symptoms can present in many different ways. In general, look out for sudden or unexpected changes in your fish.

This includes changes in diet, behavior, and appearance. For example, this could be changes in color, indentations in scales, and more. They may also be more aggressive or shy, stop eating, rub against the tank and decorations, etc.

As a quick note, Royal Grammas often rub against their rocks in a way that makes this swim upside down. This is a normal behavior and should not be a cause for concern.

Tank Mates

Royal Grammas will be aggressive toward themselves and other species when stressed. To reduce stress among themselves, make sure they have enough space. Males tend to fight more with each other than with females.

Royal Grammas can be quite docile, though. They do get along well with a lot of other species. Generally, they try to avoid confrontation as much as possible. But there are a few traits to avoid.

First, Royal Grammas should not live in a tank with larger fish that will act in an aggressive manor toward them. Some examples of these fish include snappers, lionfish, eels, and groupers.

Housing them with aggressive fish will increase their stress level. It could also lead to them becoming dinner. Increased stress can be detrimental to long term health.

Royal Grammas may be territorial. So, try to avoid other species that like to live rock work and crevices. In general, Royal Grammas like to make their homes in specific crevices or rocks. They do not like to share.

Also try to avoid fish with similar colors to the Royal Gramma. Royal Grammas are aggressive toward fish that look like them as well. So, avoid fish that are purple, blue, yellow, etc.

Royal Grammas do well with other small, docile species. Some examples include;

  • Angelfish
  • Boxfish
  • Clownfish
  • Filefish
  • Gobies
  • Jawfish
  • Hawkfish
  • Rabbitfish
  • Squirrelfish
  • Invertebrates

If you do see them acting in an aggressive manor toward other fish, you do have a couple different options. You could try to rearrange rocks or add more rocks and coral reefs. This will help to reset and make more territories.

If the aggression is not extreme, the fish can sometimes resolve issues on their own. Make sure they do not sustain any injuries or have drastic changes in behavior. Again, if you have concerns, ask a veterinarian or other expert.




Royal Grammas are one of the easier species to breed in a home aquarium. They are a little bit easier to pair off when they are young, but this can still happen in adulthood.

One nice thing about breeding them at home is that you do not need a special tank. They also do not need special tank conditions.

Since all Royal Grammas are born female, one will become male for breeding purposes. In the group, called a shoal, the most dominant female changes into a male.

In the wild, the breeding season is in late spring or summer. You can tell the breeding process has begun when the male starts building a nest. They will use rocks and pieces of vegetation that they find in the tank. This usually takes 1-2 days to complete.

Once the nest is complete, the female lays her eggs in the nest. She lays about 5-40 eggs at a time. Males fertilize the eggs shortly after the female lays them. This process occurs daily for about a month.

The eggs will stick to algae in the nest. They then stay there until they hatch. The eggs should hatch within 5-7 days. Although it can vary, they generally hatch in the evening when it is dark.

The offspring, called fry, should be in a different tank than the adults. They should also have a large amount of space since they may fight with each other if they feel confined.

You have a couple options for separation. First, you could remove the adults and put them in a different tank. An easier option, though, would be to put the nest and eggs in an incubation tank before they hatch. The fry have the same water parameter needs as adults.

When they are first born, the fry should receive small meals. You should wait a day after hatching before giving them their first meal.

The first few meals should include small animals like copepods and rotifers. As they get bigger, you can start feeding them brine shrimp.


You can see why Royal Grammas are so popular in home aquariums. They are fun to look at and not very demanding. They have pretty basic tank, diet, and breeding needs.

You now have the information you need to set up your tank. Keep in mind water conditions, tank set up and maintenance, and diet. With these things maintained, you will be able to have a prosperous tank with a lot of visual appeal.

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