Royal Gramma – A Beautiful Fish That is Beginner Friendly

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Today’s post we are going to talk about the Royal Gamma. 

About the Royal Gramma

The Royal Gramma has been a mainstay in many reef tanks for many years. Its scientific name is Gramma loreto. It is also known as the Fairy Basslet. It hails from the Caribbean. This fish really packs it all. They work in most saltwater aquariums due to their compact size, they are very hardy, and generally very peaceful. 

Royal Gramma Overview

Below are the main stats and facts for the Royal Gramma:

Category Rating
Scientific Name Gramma Loreto
Care Level Easy
Temperament Semi-Aggressive
Colors Purple, Yellow
Lifespan Over 5 years
Size 3″
Diet Carniove
Minimum Tank Size 30 Gallons
Reef Safe (Inverts) Yes
Reef Safe (Corals) Yes

The main attraction with the Royal Gramma is their colors. There really are few fish that really have this assortment of vibrant colors at this size. The front half of its body is purple with black strips across the eyes and the back half is yellow. They are usually a lone species in the aquarium because they are known to be aggressive to any fish that looks similiar to it and males Royal Gramma will fight among themselves. If there is a lone male in the tank, it is possible for the group to form a harem, but it is difficult to sex them. Due to their size and temperament, they make good candidates for nano reef tanks.

If you are looking at trying to have a pair or harem, the best way to attempt this would be to buy 2 immature royal grammas ensuring that one is slightly bigger then the other. What hopefully will happen is the larger fish will become the male. This has also been attempted with a group of immature grammas where the top two in the pecking order are kept and paired up. The remaining royal grammas are then returned to the fish store or traded to other hobbyists.

One of the more amusing characteristics of this species is its propensity to orient itself with its belly toward any nearby hard surface, whether it happens to be the floor, wall, or ceiling of its cave. So, it’s not unusual—or any cause for alarm—to see a royal gramma specimen positioned completely upside down or on its side within its rocky refuge. While it looks odd, it’s just your gramma being a gramma.

Grammas are known jumpers. Jumping is usually caused by stress and royal grammas generally are really good about handling stress. They are not as risky as say a firefish, but it would not hurt to have a cover on your tank for preventative measures. Many reef tanks owners like to use a mesh cover instead of a hard glass lid to have the benefit of gas exchange.

Royal Gramma Diet

They will eat nearly any type of food offered to them and do not get large with the max size usually being around 3″. They are considered an aggressive eater often dashing in and out to grab food. You don’t need to worry about it getting enough food in the tank as they compete for food well. They prefer meaty foods. With most saltwater fish, frozen food is going to be the best choice for diet. Frozen food is unfortunately hard to find online due to shipping costs. I would recommend you shop at your specialty fish store to get frozen food for your Royal Gramma. 

The best frozen food for this fairy basslet are going to be LRS Food’s Reef Frenzy nano. You will only be able to pick this up at specialty fish stores. The next choice would be common frozen food you can find at a general pet store. Mysis shrimp would be the best choice for a staple. You can use Selcon to add vitamins to your frozen mysis shrimp to add more nutritional value to your Royal Gramma’s diet.

Royal Gramma Tank Mates

Gramma loreto is more bark than bite in the aquarium. They will try to assert themselves, but will often times be settled down by more aggressive tankmates like clownfish, angelfish, and tangs. Given that a Royal Gramma is on the lower end of the semi-aggressive scale, they are best near the beginning of your livestock additions since they will not harass most saltwater fish to death.

They are incompatible with other similar looking fish like firefish. Any large predatory fish that can fit them in their mouths like lionfish are completely off limits.  

Are They Reef Safe?

I am different from other bloggers and live fish sellers in that I separate what is “reef safe” into two categories. Reef safe for corals and reef safe for inverts. This allows you to make an informed decision of what you would like in your saltwater reef tank.

A Royal Gramma in your reef tank will be a model citizen. They are just about as reef safe as you can get. They are both reef safe for corals and for inverts. I have personally never heard of them ever bothering corals or nipping at them. They do not dig or disturb rock work or substrates.

Regarding inverts, the Royal Gramma is very well behaved. They get along with nearly any type of invertebrate in the aquarium. Gramma loreto is a perfect fish for any reef aquarium.

Are They Available As Tank Bred?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a royal gramma that is tank bred. This is primarily due to the availability of wild grammas near the United States and being relatively cheap to import. Grammas are abundant and cheap to purchase at any online or local fish store. Successfully breeding royal grammas is also difficult. While they are easy to get to spawn, it is difficult to rear and grow out the larvae and juveniles.

Outside of the US, there are efforts to tank breed them. One such location is Australia. In Australia, it is not uncommon for a Royal Gramma to cost as much as $120 compared to usually less than $20 in the US. Reef Keepers reported that successful breeding programs are underway with captive grammas likely to be available this year. As Royal Gramma care for fry improve, I would expect us to see tank breed fish come into the supply chain at some point in the future.

What’s Your Experience With Royal Grammas?

Let us know your experience with this fish in the comments below. We love hearing everyone’s personal experience and tank stories.


by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.


  1. Hi there, i have had a Royal Gramma before, but he experienced fading in color (discoloration), any ideas what caused this?


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