Royal Gramma Care Guide

Royal Gramma swimming in tank
Credits to Brian Gratwicke

We think it’s quite hard to come across a fish that is more eye-catching and breathtaking than the royal gramma. The world royal is kind of contradicted by the word gramma, which sounds like grandma if spoken quickly, but that doesn’t take away from the beauty and elegance of this purple and yellow fish. They are also known by a few other common names such as fairy basslet, and gramma loreto.

Whatever you call them, they are small and vividly-colored saltwater fish that are native to the Caribbean. They are quite peaceful fish and can survive quite well in a saltwater aquarium. Since they are naturally a hardy species, they are great additions to any aquarium for experts and are a great beginner fish to have for amateur aquarists.

Information Chart
Care Level:
Yellow and purple
5+ years
3 inches
Minimum Tank Size:

30 gallons

72-80 ºF (22-27 ºC)
Water Conditions:
pH levels will be slightly alkaline at 8.1-8.4 and water hardness of 8-12
Tank Mate Compatibility
Other peaceful non-colorful fish

Care Level

They are quite small but hardy. Though they are elegant in appearance, don’t be fooled as they are carnivorous. However, you don’t have to worry about your other fish as fairy basslets are peaceful saltwater fish that make great tank mates.

Although they are hardy like a goldfish, the royal gramma basslet still requires a certain amount of care with elements you need to make sure are kept at optimal levels. Water conditions and the tank environment are key components to keeping healthy and happy royal grammas.

Not only will their environment have an impact on their lifespan and health, but their diet will as well, but more on that later. All in all, they are the perfect beginner fish for budding aquarists and experts find that they really do brighten up the tank without demanding much effort and care. Another amazing thing about these vivid creatures is their natural immunity to a lot of common fish diseases.

Temperament and Behavior

Is Royal Gramma aggressive? Not at all, royal grammas are a peaceful fish that can play nice with other tank inhabitants. They are peaceful and can even e classified as timid. The gramma loreto is not known to be the ones who start problems in a tank. They sort of just keep to themselves in their favorite hiding places in the aquarium. That’s not to say that they are pushovers. If they feel a fish is impeding on their territory, they can and will chase them away even with their small size.

One thing the royal gramma basslet is known for that is more on the negative end of the spectrum is jumping. They can jump so high despite their small size that if you don’t have a lid on your aquarium, you should get ready to see your royal grammas out of the tank.

As most people know or are taught, when you see a fish upside down in your tank, it can cause panic. You don’t know if your fish is sick or worse. However, if this happens with royal grammas and there are no other accompanying symptoms, then it’s no cause for concern.

These bright little fish are known to just hang out upside down or even swim upside down under hard surfaces.

Royal Gramma Colors
Credits to Aquaimages


As said before, one of the most unique things about the gramma loreto or fairy basslet is its coloration. They are any aquarists dream for an exotic and tropical looking aquarium. Sexing the fish in the early stages is near impossible, but as they grow older and gather in a shoal, the more dominant fish in the pack will change its sex to become male. Male royal gramma fish grow to be larger than the female counterparts.


The gramma loreto is a small fish that won’t take up much space. They can grow up to only about 3 inches in captivity.


They are a combination of opposite colors on the color wheel – purple and yellow. To sort of sew the two colors together, the band where the two colors touch around its torso is decorated with tiny little dots.

You will also notice if looked at closely that these fish have a thin black stripe that runs from the bottom of the mouth up past the middle of the eyes to the back. Males tend to be more brightly colored than females.


How long does a royal gramma live? The little fish can actually live quite long despite their size. You can expect them to be around for more than 5 years. Depending on the gramma care these fish tend to be able to live longer if the environment suits them.


Since they are so small, royal grammas can only feed on types of plankton in the wild. You can expect a royal gramma diet to consist mainly of zooplankton and phytoplankton. Another amazing ability that contributes to the awe of the royal gramma is they are known as cleaner fish. They clean other fish by feeding off of the parasites on their scales. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties.

If there isn’t a lot of other fish in the aquarium with them, then their main diet should consist of mysis shrimp and brine shrimp since they are technically classified as carnivores. Any crustaceans or fish scales that have been shed and floating around the tank will also be cleaned up by the royal gramma. They are not only a colorful addition to the tank, but a beneficial one as well in maintaining the environment.

Keeping them on a steady diet of mysis shrimp and brine shrimp will keep the royal grammas happy and healthy for the most part. You can incorporate the easy to feed pellets and flakes from time to time as well since royal grammas are very easy to feed and will accept almost anything.

It’s best to keep rotating their diet and keeping them interested with a wide variety of foods. They are hardy little fish that can do well with any feeding schedule. Usually, the royal gramma should eat a few times a day. Even if they are in their hiding places and hidden from sight, you should still feed them as they will dart out from their spots and snatch up food quickly.


The royal gramma is a small and colorful saltwater fish from the Grammidae family and is native to the tropical waters of the Caribbean.

Tank Conditions

As said, the royal gramma is a hardy fish that can do well with the right tank size and water conditions. They need a reef tank since their natural environment is one thickly populated with reefs, coral and overhangings. They love to hide and they aren’t the best of swimmers. For this reason, you should decorate your tank with plenty of aquarium plants and rocks and little caves for them to hide in.


Since they are native to the Caribbean, your royal gramma fish are accustomed to temperatures ranging from 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit (22-27 degrees Celsius) with a specific gravity of 1.020-1.025.

Water Conditions

PH levels will be slightly alkaline at 8.1-8.4 and water hardness of 8-12.

Minimum Tank Size

As for the size of the aquarium, we would suggest no less than 30 gallons. 30 gallons is the minimum for one royal gramma, and if you intend to keep more, you would need to add 20-30 gallons per fish. If you plan to have enough for them to shoal together, then you are looking at a tank that exceeds 100 gallons. Even for such small fish, they do need a lot of space.

Maintenance and Care

The royal gramma also isn’t too fond of direct sunlight despite coming from the sunny Caribbean. This is due to the peaceful fish mainly living in deep water and not having much exposure to harsh light. Think about placing the royal gramma in a more shaded area in your home.

Don’t worry too much about your royal gramma as they are tough little creatures that don’t have the same disposition for common diseases. Not only that, but they can do wonders for the tank environment and other fish by feeding on dead organisms and cleaning up the tank.

Just make sure the water and tank conditions are right and you will never really have to worry about the health of your royal gramma. Gramma care is easy once you know all the basics that they need.

tank mates
Credits to Tony Hisgett

Suitable Tank Mates

Again, they are peaceful creatures that can live very well with other fish. If you have a saltwater tank, adding a royal gramma or two into the mix is as easy as 1,2,3. They do well with other peaceful and colorful fish species such as clownfish, and more. However, we did say that they tend to want to chase away intruders who encroach on their space.

Other fish you can add to an aquarium filled with royal gamma would need to also be peaceful as well, don’t explore too much and invade the royal gramma’s space, they shouldn’t be predatory and they can’t look too much like the royal gramma either. Not that they get jealous due to the fish with coloring as vivid as they are but it will distract them.

If you actually do get to see your royal gramma feel threatened and feel the need to attack, you will see them doing the gramma gape. This is when these tiny little fish open their mouths as wide as possible in an attempt to be intimidating.


Even though they can get along with just about anyone, most expert aquarists suggest keeping just one royal gramma in your aquarium. It can be tempting to fill it up with shades of yellow and purple, but it could lead to a duel over territory. We understand if you would like to keep at least 2 to breed with, and if that’s the case, then remember to offer them enough space.

Make sure you can have room for a 50-60-gallon aquarium and have enough substrate and decorations for each one to have its own space. Even if you do not intend to breed the royal gramma, we would still advise you to purchase one of each sex to minimize aggression.

There are people who have successfully kept entire tanks full of royal gramma, but that takes a lot of work, a lot of space and introducing them all together without a particular fish having established dominance first.


The royal gramma is easily one of the best fish to have as a beginner because not only do they have the ideal temperament, they are hardy, easy to care for, easy to feed and easy to breed too! Breeding usually happens during the warmer months of the year. The males are the ones who build the nest and the females will lay around a mere 5 to 40 eggs when they are ready. The male then fertilizes the eggs.

This is the routine for one breeding session, and there multiple sessions that occur daily during breeding month.

The eggs hatch within a week and usually during low light conditions (the evenings). Feed them small bits of food in the beginning and as they graduate to larger fryes, you can then start on a diet with brine shrimp. The trouble with raising baby royal grammas is that each batch hatches at a different time, with first-hatched grammas being larger than the newly hatched ones.

This could pose some difficulties for feeding so make sure the food you feed can fit inside all of their mouths.


Are you a beginner or an experienced aquarist? It doesn’t matter because whatever your answer is, a royal gramma will be a great addition to your home aquarium. Not only do they add an exotic splash of color to the mix but they are amazingly easy to care for. They don’t need much, just plenty of places to hide and reefs to play in. They are also reasonably priced and as long as you keep the water conditions relatively stable, they can be your companions for 5 years or more!

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