Royal Gramma – How To Take Care Of Your Purple and Yellow Fish

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Are you planning on adding a Royal Gramma Basslet to your reef tank? This fish is striking with its purple and yellow body, but it’s important to learn how to take care of them before adding one to your tank. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the requirements for keeping a Royal Gramma healthy and happy in your saltwater aquarium.

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. 

Species Overview

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

Scientific NameGramma Loreto
Common Name (Species)Royal Gramma
OriginFlorida, South America, West Atlantic Ocean
Care LevelEasy
LifespanAt least 5 years
Tank LevelAll Areas
Size3 inches
Minimum Tank Size30 Gallons
Temperature Range73 – 81 Degrees F
pH Range8.1 – 8.4
Filtration/Flow RateAll
Water TypeSaltwater
BreedingEgg-layers, Difficult to breed
CompatibilitySemi-Aggressive tanks
Ok, For Reef Tanks?Yes
Ok, For Inverts?Mostly Yes

What Does This Fish Look Like?

Royall Gramma Fish

The main attraction with the Royal Gramma Basslet are 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 a saltwater aquarium because they are known to be aggressive to any fish that looks similar 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.

Tank Requirements

Royal gramma are very versatile fish. They can be small in both small tanks and large tanks. Ideally, you want them in no small then a 30 gallon saltwater aquarium. This gives them enough room to feel comfortable and will not make them hyper aggressive – a common issue with any territorial fish when placed in an aquarium that is too small.

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.

These fish do well with lots of hiding places. You will want a setup with lots of rocks and caves. They tend to jump in and out of caves. They will not be out of the open as much as say clownfish. They are very hardy fish. They may hide when first introduced and some are just skittish in nature. The more hiding places you have for them the better. They do best in fish only with live rock or reef tank environments.


Royal gramma’s temperament can either be described as reclusive or bold depending on the personality of the fish. Usually in an aquarium, you will see them darting from cave to cave. They will stick to the rocks and will not be seen in the open unless they are feeding (video source).

They tend to be territorial fish and will try to chase away any fish that tries to come into their caves, but generally most fish will have a more aggressive temperature. They will not try to pick a fight with another fish (unless it looks like them). Usually their aggression is to just to defend their territory, but they will yield to a more aggressive fish. Fish like Angelfish and Clownfish will pick them a little, but the conflict will resolve itself once the more dominant fish asserts its position in the tank.

They will generally get along with virtually all fish in a reef tank. Your main concern with Royal Grammas is a fish might be too aggressive or try to eat it given its small size. You will also want to avoid any fish that looks like it – like fire fish.


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 fish. 

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.


A vitamin enhancer that works great in freeze dried and frozen foods. A great choice to boost nutrition in brine shrimp, mysis, and blackworms

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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 Basslet 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 fish 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.


Is This Fish Reef Safe?

Yes – a Royal Gramma is one of the most reef safe fish you put in your aquarium. They will not eat corals and generally will leave more inverts like shrimp and crabs alone. They will adapt to virtually any community reef tank.

How Long Does it Live?

Generally, you can expect your Royal Gramma to live over 5 years. There have been reports with other advanced reefers who have kept Royal Grammas for over 10 years! The better the environment and diet for your fish, the longer it will potentially live. This is very much true in saltwater fish as many have lived well beyond their expected life cycles in captive environments such as public aquariums.

Are They Jumpers?

Yes, Royal Grammas are at risk for jumping out of a tank. The best way to prevent them from jumping is to cover your aquarium either with a lid or a mesh net. The mesh is preferable as it will still allow for gas exchange and will not harm your fish as much as a glass lid in the event of an attempted jump.

Are They Hardy?

Yes, a Royal Gramma is one of the most hardy saltwater fish you can purchase in the hobby. While they are not available as tank bred at the moment, they are far more hardier than many wild caught counterparts in the hobby. Their small size also make them ideal for beginners.

Are They Peaceful?

The Royal Gramma, like more saltwater fish are semi-aggressive and territorial. They will defend their territory and try to attack fish who look like them. That being said, they are one of the least aggressive semi-aggressive fish you can purchase. Most fish like Clownfish, Tangs, and Angelfish will beat them out on aggression. Grammas will mellow out in the presence of these fish. You can say their bark is bigger than their bite!

Do You Have Experience With These Fish?

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


  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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