Chalk Bass: Care Guide, Breeding, Tank Size & Disease (2024)

It is one aquarium fish that is often overlooked by most aquarists although it has lots to offer to the hobby. The good news is that the fish has got good behavior and will make a great addition to an aquarium. The fish is native to the Western Atlantic as well as the Caribbean and likes to spend most of its time near the bottom of the ocean just near the reefs. The Chalk Bass has been found at depths of 400 meters but it is most commonly found at just 90 meters deep. It is also referred to as the Serranus tortugarum.

It is a peaceful aquarium fish that will get along with other less aggressive tank mates thus making it a good community fish. At times though when the fish is overgrown it can easily eat smaller invertebrates like the Bamboo shrimp but will only do this when there is no other easy to get food offered.

Chalk Bass: A Quick Summary

The Chalk Bass (Serranus tortugarum) is a small, brightly colored fish native to the Caribbean and Western Atlantic Ocean. It is known for its distinctive white, black, and orange striped pattern and hardy nature. 

Chalk Bass Overview

Chalk Bass fish species are cute, active, and their exciting patterns make them look unique. They are one of the most underrated fish species, but adding them to your fish tank can be a good option because they are hardy fish and are not prone to illness. 

They usually behave politely in the tank leaving other fish and corals alone. So, for anyone looking for a small shoaling fish, Chalk Bass fish species is always a good choice. But before our in-depth guide on Chalk Bass fish breeding care, let’s get to know about them a little through this overview.

Information Chart Chalk Bass
Scientific Name Serranus tortugarum
Family Serranidae
Care Level Low 
Temperament Very peaceful and get along with tankmates 
Temperament Color patterns of light blue and orange 
Lifespan Minimum one year, maximum two years
Size Up to 4 inches
Diet Flake foods, mysis shrimp and brine, and a variety of chopped meaty items
Minimum Tank Size 30 gallons 
Temperature 72- 76oF
Water Conditions Temperature between 72- 76oF, water hardness between dKH 8-12, and pH Value between 8.1-8.4. 
Tank Mate Compatibility Clownfish, Damselfish, Anthias, Fairy Wrasse and Solar Wrasse, Tangs, etc. 

Appearance of Chalk Bass

Chalk Bass

It has a body shape that looks like that of a torpedo with impressive patterns of orange and light blue colors. The definite appearance of the fish is not well defined because it will show varied coloration owing to the lighting it is exposed to. It has got a pigmentation that changes which is an adaptation meant to help it camouflage against would be predators. Sometimes the fish will appear vibrant blue yet sometimes they will appear as turquoise. The dorsal fin of the fish shows burgundy or black stripes.

Native wild habitat

The Chalk Bass originates in the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea and prefers to live just amongst rubbles found at the bottom of the ocean. The native geographical range of the fish includes the Caribbean, South Florida, Bahamas, and Honduras. Although it there are records that show that the fish has been found at depths of up to 400 meters in most instances it is usually found at depths of just 90 meters and below. A marine water adapted fish will require housing in a saltwater tank for it to survive.

The fish thrives in tropical waters where temperatures are not known to go amazingly too low. That said the ideal temperature for keeping the fish in captivity should be between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

In their wild habitat the fish likes to hide amongst corals to avoid being seen by predators and therefore having a well planted aquarium is advised. It is usually found on reef-sand interface and sometimes it can be found hiding inside of empty conch shells and shell rubbles.

Natural Habitat and Origin

Chalk Bass fish species originates from the Western Atlantic water. They are commonly found in the Caribbean. This fish species can typically be found near the bottom of the ocean. They like to live among rubbles and have a peaceful temperament. 

Since they are tiny, they don’t come to open space. In their natural habitat, Chalk Bass can be seen in loose groups or schools. They maintain both female and male reproductive organs. 

The Lifespan of Chalk Bass

The typical lifespan of Chalk Bass is 1 to 2 years. The majority of Chalk Bass live up to this much, but few of them may last up to 2.5 years. But unfortunately, they live a short life. 

Water Parameters for Chalk Bass

Chalk Bass survive well in those tanks that meet their water parameters. It is best to create an environment that will mimic their natural habitat when in the wild. The tank should be around 30 gallons so that the fish can roam around freely. 

Water Temperature 

The ideal water temperature for Chalk Bass should be between 72- 76oF. The temperature should never fluctuate by 2 degrees or higher. Keep a fish water temperature reader with you and monitor the temperature regularly. 

pH Level

The perfect water pH value for Chalk Bass should be 8.1-8.4. In addition, ensure that the ammonia is 0ppm, nitrate is less than 10ppm, phosphate is below 0.1ppm, calcium is 420 to 440ppm, and alkalinity is 8 to 9.5 dKH. 

Water Hardness 

The ideal water harness should be between dKH 8-12. Any difference in the water level will make your Chalk Bass feel uncomfortable.

Chalk Bass Tank Landscape

After duplicating the water condition for the fish, shift your attention to the tank landscape. Again, it’s prudent to provide the fish with proper hardscape and vegetation. Once you put Chalk Bass fish in the fish tank, they will swim down into the tank. That’s why the tank needs to have things that will make them safe. 

Install caves for them in the bottom and make sure the tank has lots of rocks. When the Calk Bass fish is new, adding saltwater plants and stones is better to provide them with hiding space. Also, add a protective cover on the top of the tank to not fly out when the fish jumps. 

Best Plants for Chalk Bass

Moneywort, Hornwort, Rotala Rotundifolia, Pygmy Chain Sword, Hygrophilia Polysperma, Anubia Nana are good plants in an aquarium. 

Worst Plants for Chalk Bass

Some plants can be toxic for Chalk Bass, such as Angel’s trumpet, Azalea, Black walnut, Caladium, Climbing nightshade, Foxglove, Juniper, Larkspur, and more. 

Chalk Bass Tank Mates 

The best part about Chalk Bass fish species is that they get along with most see creatures, but not their natural predators for apparent reasons. That’s why one should not place them with aggressive tank mates. 

Chalk Bass fish species are small, and they can quickly feel intimated when around a few fish breeds. That’s why you should choose their tank mates carefully. 

Ideal Chalk Bass Tank Mates 

Some of the best Chalk Bass tank mates are Clownfish, Damselfish, Anthias, Fairy Wrasse and Solar Wrasse, Cleaner Goby, Chromis, Tangs, Starfish, Banded Coral Shrimps, and Dwarf Angelfish. 

Bad Tank Mates for Chalk Bass 

Avoid putting Caribbean species with Chalk Bass, such as giant big basses, triggerfish, and lionfish. These fish species are known for their aggressive behavior, and they can’t take Chalk Bass as their food, which is why you should not keep them with Chalk Bass fish. 

Chalk Bass Common Diseases And Their Treatment

Chalk Bass fish usually can resist diseases and infections; however, if you don’t take care of the fish tank, they can suffer from some diseases. Chalk Bass are not immune to Popeye condition and Protozoan cysts. 

Disease 1: Protozoan Cysts

Protozoan cysts disease is a white spot disease commonly found in Chalk Bass. This disease is one of the most aquarium diseases. To keep the fish protected from protozoan cysts, install an ultraviolet system to kill protozoan cysts. 

Disease 2: Popeye Condition

The next is Popeye’s condition. This is, unfortunately, a life-threatening bacterial infection. When the water condition is not good, your fish can become prone to Popeye condition and eventually die. In this condition, the eyes become swollen. 

Take the infected fish out of the fish tank and treat it with antibiotic food. Also, consult a veterinarian because the specialist can help the fish get rid of the infection. Always keep the fish tank adequately maintained, feed nutritional food to the fish, and also change the water regularly.

General care and tank requirement

The chalk bass is a tropical Caribbean inhabitant and it will be best for aquarists to try to provide it conditions that are almost similar with that of the wild. It is best to keep the environment safe for the fish by housing it with other peaceful tank mates that will not harass it. Please not that if it is constantly harassed it has a tendency to jump out of the tank in order to escape.

To get more information and tips about suitable care for the fish please read these tips below:

  • The minimum tank size ideal for housing the fish should be at least 30 gallons
  • Ensure that provide sufficient hiding places for the fish where it can hide in when it feels threatened. You can place rocks and have some plants grown in the tank to offer such hiding places for the fish.
  • It is a community fish that can be housed with other more peaceful fish that will not harass it.
  • Ensure that the tank has got an aquarium lid that will help to prevent it from jumping out as it has a tendency to jump out of tanks.
  • The ideal tank temperature for the fish needs to be set to between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ensure regular water changes that will make the fish thrive.
  • It is a marine water fish and therefore the water in the tank needs to be salty for it to be able to survive there.

Feeding Chalk Bass

The fish is a carnivore that it is capable of eating invertebrates especially if it has grown big enough to consume such. Feeding it is not a big deal as it will readily feed on almost any food that it is offered.

Here below are some great foods that it can fed while being kept in captivity:

  • Adult brine shrimp or mysis shrimp
  • Pigment enhancing foods should also be given to the fish to help maintain its amazing coloration
  • Pellet food or frozen food can be offered as well.
  • It can also be offered chopped mollusks, crustacean flesh and flake foods.
  • They can also be offered squid and krill and ensure that the diet contains high levels of protein to help them get perfectly nourished.

Breeding Chalk Bass

Due to the bizarre nature of the breeding of the fish breeding them in captivity can be a herculean task for you. It is interesting to note that chalk bass is a hermaphrodite; this means that each fish has got testes and ovaries as well. During spawning, each fish will take turns acting as a female and male. The fish are known to simply scatter their eggs in the mid sections of the water when it is time for spawning. In the wild, the eggs are known to drift with plankton finally settling on reefs where they then hatch.


The Chalk Bass is known to be a very peaceful fish preferring to live near coral reefs where it hides most of the time. The fish live in groups in the wild where they usually hover around cave or rocks where they feed in planktons and other small crustaceans. Due to the peaceful nature of the fish and its tendency to easily run away from aggressive fish it is best to house them with less aggressive fish.


What Does Chalk Bass Eat?

Feed Chalk Bass flake foods, Mysis shrimp, and vitamin-enriched brine, as well as chopped meaty items. 

How Big Does a Chalk Bass Get?

Typically, one can expect Chalk Bass fish to grow up to four inches, 10 cm. However, they don’t grow more than that, and since they are hardy fish, they can easily adapt to new environments. 

Are Chalk Bass Jumpers?

Yes, Chalk Bass are jumpers. They are small in size, and when they feel uncomfortable or threatened, they can jump. Ensure to cover the top of the tank so they don’t jump out of it when you are not around. Also, look for small gaps in the tank as well. 

What does a Chalk Bass Look Like?

Look wise; a Chalk Bass looks like a torpedo. A Chalk Bass has unique patterns of light blue and orange colors, which make them stand out. This color may vary depending on the light exposure.

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