orchid dottyback on a black background

Orchid Dottyback Care Guide

The Orchid Dottyback is a brilliantly colored and very popular saltwater aquarium fish, often chosen because of the brilliant purple coloration, hardiness, and bold disposition. Let’s dive deeper into what it takes to care for the Orchid dottyback.

Quick care guide facts

  • Size: ~3 inches (7-8 cm), with a narrow body/torpedo shape
  • Minimum tank size: 20-30 gallons (75-113 Liters)
  • Life span: 5 to 7 years
  • Reef safe: yes
  • Care or experience level: easy, appropriate for all levels of experience
  • Preferred diet: polychete worms or small, meaty foods
  • Captive-bred available: yes

orchid dottyback

Scientific name and common names

The scientific name for the Orchid Dottyback is Pseudochormis fridmani. Pseudochromis is the genus and fridmani is the species. It is also sometimes called Fridman’s dottyback or Fridman’s pseudochromis.

What size does the Orchid dottyback grow to?

The Orchid Dottyback usually grows to be about 3-inches in size.

Is the Orchid dottyback reef safe?

The Orchid Dottyback is a reef safe saltwater fish. The only invertebrates it will bother are the kind most people are happy to have removed from their tanks, like bristle worms and potentially small fan worms. Author Scott Michael does warn that there may also be some risk to delicate shrimps as well (Michael 2004).

orchid dottyback pseudochromis fridmani

Care level or difficulty caring for the Orchid dottyback in a saltwater aquarium

The Orchid dottyback is easy-to-care-for and is a great beginner saltwater fish.  or advanced aquariums. They are commonly available from aquaculture facilities like ORA, which generally suggests an even greater likelihood of successful care, given that aquacultured saltwater fish live their whole lives in an aquarium and acclimate easily. Here are a few considerations, when caring for Pseudochromis fridmani in your home aquarium:

Watch out, they may jump–best to have a tight-fitting lid to prevent carpet surfing.

They are carnivorous and therefore do best with meaty foods, and will generally accept most prepared foods easily.

Average lifespan

Keep in mind that the Orchid Dottyback can live between five to seven years in captivity. Some have been recorded to live much longer with proper care.

orchid dottyback near live rocks

Orchid dottyback compatibility

The Orchid dottyback is considered to be semi-aggressive and the personality you see may vary, based on the specific conditions and inhabitants in your tank. They may be shy when first introduced and remain shy if there are aggressive species preventing their peaceful acclimation. However, when kept in a peaceful community tank, this fish can sometimes become the bully over other peaceful fish species, like purple firefish gobies or other small, docile fish.

You can (usually) keep multiple Orchid dottybacks in the same tank, however, it may best to add them to the aquarium at the same time, if they are similarly sized, or allow the smaller fish to establish their territory first, if they are different sizes, to give yourself the greatest odds of keeping the peace.

Pseudochromis fridmani is a protogynous hermaphrodite, which means that each fish is born with the ability (reproductive organs) to be either male or female. Juvenile fish start out female and the dominant fish in a small group or pair will become male.

Are they aggressive?

Pseudochromis fridmani is considered to be a semi-aggressive saltwater aquarium fish by most. That term can be a bit confusing, so let’s unpack it, just a little. In general, they have a pleasant disposition and are usually considered to be the most docile of all the dottybacks–but dottybacks have a reputation for being aggressive. You should expect some aggression to be displayed towards fish who enter your fish’s preferred territory and possibly other fish that are more mild-mannered than it. But otherwise, this fish should probably acclimate pretty nicely to life in your tank.

What to feed them

It is best to feed your P. fridmani at least once a day with a meaty food, like live blackworms, frozen mysis shrimp, or brine shrimp. They will also accept commercially prepared foods. This species isn’t a picky eater and will quickly devour just about any food you add into the tank.

If you have a moment, watch this video to see some juvenile Pseudochromis fridmani eating a meaty frozen food–it is mesmerizing:

Minimum tank size

The minimum tank size to keep the Pseudochromis fridmani is about 20-30 gallons. They are a relatively small saltwater fish, but do enjoy zipping around the aquarium, once comfortable and would be healthiest with that much room, or more, to swim. Like most other reef fishes, they do best and are most confident in tanks with sufficient live rock to allow them places to hide and rest out of sight.

Location in the tank

The Orchid Dottyback prefers to swim near the bottom and the middle of the tank. Keep that in mind, as you plan out your aquarium–once established, they will defend their territory from intruders with plans to occupy the same, or similar, location.

Proper identification

The Orchid dottyback can be distinguished from other Pseudochromis species by their dark purple coloration and the black lines that run from the front of their mouths (tip of the snout) through each eye, back towards the edge of the gill plate. They are sometimes confused with the Magenta dottyback, but that fish has a lighter color (a bit more obvious when the fish are side-by-side than when one is alone in a fish store tank)–but look carefully and you’ll note that the magenta dottyback does not have a black line through the eye.

magenta dottyback

Note that the magenta dottyback, shown above, does not have a black stripe through the eye

Pseduochromis fridmani will have a black line going from its mouth through its eye. If the fish doesn’t have the black stripe, then it is not an Orchid Dottyback.

orchid dottyback on a black background note the black line through the eye

Note the black line through the eye of the orchid dottyback

Reproduction

The Orchid dottyback is a hardy fish that is fairly easy (by saltwater aquarium fish standards) bred in captivity. Since they are protogynous hermaphrodites, any two juvenile fish should technically be able to form a breeding pair, as long as they get along with each other.  Once a pair bonds and begins spawning, you could expect them to repeat the spawning process about every week. The larvae hatch on night number four and settle/metamorphose around the 4th week (Wittenrich 2007).

For more information

Check out this great video to learn more about caring for Pseudochromis fridmani:

What to read next

If you are interested in saltwater fish similar to Pseudochromis fridmani, check out these species next:

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Conclusion

The Orchid dottyback is a fantastic saltwater fish if you are looking for a brightly colored, hardy, captive-bred species. They generally acclimate to aquarium life well and are not picky eaters. As natural predators of polychaete worms, they can even help you keep control over a bristle worm problem. Do you have any experience caring for this great Pseudochromis? If so, leave a comment below with your best tip, advice, or even just to share your experiences. Thanks!

 

References

Michael, Scott W. Bassetlets, Dottybacks & Hawkfishes: Plus Seven More Aquarium Fish Families with Expert Captive Care Advice for the Marine Aquarist. Microcosm Ltd. 2004.

Moe Jr., Martin A. Breeding the Orchid Dottyback, Pseudochromis Fridmani: An Aquarist’s Journal. Green Turtle. 1997

Wittenrich, Matthew L. The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes. T.F.H. Publications. 2007.

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