The Royal gramma is a great beginner saltwater fish
The Royal gramma basslet, Gramma loreto, is a great beginner fish for the new saltwater aquarium and belongs to a group of fishes called the fairy basslets. I have personally kept a Royal gramma in every main tank I have set up. That is how much I love them.
The reasons I love them so much are because they are perfectly sized, beautifully colored, hardy, tolerant of the conditions within a saltwater tank and spend their time out in the open, rather than in crevices, hiding.
There is no sexual dimorphism shown between males and females, which basically means you can’t tell them apart just by looking at them.
Once they do begin to bond, the male fish generally is larger than the females, and the shorter females may look a little more swollen in the gut area if they indeed have ovaries full of ripening eggs.
RGs are a cave-spawning saltwater fish and tend to reproduce in harems–one male tends to spawn with several females in a nest that the male makes, in a cave, from macroalgae–or any similar material that is available to them.
The eggs are laid over several nights, so hatching of the eggs, similarly, takes place over multiple days–making them slightly challenging fish to breed and also making them ideal candidates for a larval snagger, since the larvae generally hatch at night and can be collected with a larval snagger without a significant amount of human intervention.
Even though I noted earlier that the Royal gramma, is a harem spawner, it is generally best kept as a single fish, in the home aquarium, because aggression is highly likely between fish of the same species. I have witnessed this first-hand. I suspect the aggression was between two rival males, but I can’t really be certain.
Aggression between fish
A couple of years ago, I had purchased three small individuals from a local fish store, with an intention to try and breed these magnificent fish, but the piscine trio did not last long.
Two of the fish seemed to get along fine–but they ganged up on the third fish–and when the third fish was no more–the two remaining royal gramma specimens, who seemed to get along fine while the third fish was in the mix, soon turned on each other.
I know this is not exhaustive research into the conspecific aggression seen within these species, but I have read enough accounts encouraging the addition of a single royal gramma specimen, per aquarium, to extrapolate my own personal experience and justify the old rule of thumb.
Please don’t try to keep these two species in the same tank together. Things won’t end well for at least one of them. Other than that, the royal gramma is compatible with all corals and most other fish species.
Care and feeding
From a care and husbandry perspective, the G. loreto does not appear to have very specific or troubling requirements. They eat almost anything. In my experience, they tend to prefer meaty live foods, like brine shrimp and black worms, but they also greedily eat meaty frozen foods, like Mysis shrimp. Like most fish, they will take the live or frozen offerings over prepared flake or pellet foods, but they will consume prepared foods as well, if that is all that is offered.
Their mouths seem to be surprisingly large compared with the size of their bodies and they are capable of consuming fairly large bits of food when they are motivated to do so.
Where they will spend their time
In a reef aquarium with sufficient structure, the G. loreto will spend its time suspended in the water vertically, with its belly along a preferred wall of the aquarium or reef aquascape.
Their bold purple and yellow colors will stand out, in any reef–and their general boldness will make them a staple in any reef tank and are part of what makes them a great beginner fish for any reef tank.
They can be a bit shy, at times, and will be bolder if you have bold fish swimming in the tank, signaling, the ‘all is clear’.
The Royal Gramma is one of my all-time favorite saltwater fishes. It is a great addition to the beginner or advanced aquarium and will liven up just about any tank with a flash of color and cool behavior.
For more information about breeding this fish, I recommend you check out The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes.