Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish


Orchid Dottyback
Orchid Dottyback


The Basslets are a common name for a fairly small group of fish from the Pseudochromidae and Grammatidae families. Pseudochromidae are compromised of five different genera including Pseudochromis, Labracinus, Cypho, Ogilbyina and Assiculus, however only members of the Pseudochromis are readily available in the hobby.

Below is a listing of the most commonly available species.



Common Name


Royal Gramma
linkiYellow Stripped Gramma
melacaraBlack Capped Basslet
aldabraensis (dutoiti)
Neon Dottyback
Aldabra Dottyback
Dutoiti Gramma
Neon Gramma
Neon Pseudochromis
diademaDiadem Basslet
Flash Backed Dottyback
flavivertexSunrise Dottyback

Orchid Dottyback
Purple Basslet
Strawberry Basslet
Strawberry Dottyback
Purple Pseodochromis

Royal Dottyback
Bi-colour Dottyback
False Gramma

Magenta Dottyback
Strawberry Dottyback
Strawberry Gramma
Purple Pseodochromis
springeriSpringer Dottyback

The Grammtidae:

The distinguishing features of the grammas are an interrupted or missing lateral line, and a continuous dorsal fin without any noticeable notches in the membrane between dorsal spines. They are generally found in deeper waters and only live in the Atlantic ocean in tropical and subtropical waters. In small tanks they are best off by themselves and in larger 4 to 6 foot tanks can be kept in pairs or trio's, however if not enough cover is given they can become aggressive towards each other.

Royal Gramma:

These relatively peaceful fish are often confused with the Royal Dottyback, however can be distinguished by the black line that runs through both eyes and down across it's face, and the black dot on it's dorsal fin. These are very hardy fish and were one of the first marine fish successfully bred in captivity. The males and females are indistinguishable from the each other. They reach a maximum of 4 inches in length with 3 inches being average in captive raised specimens. This is a good choice as a hardy fish and is easy to care for. They have been bred in captivity.

Black-capped Basslet:

These fish are deep water fish, often found below 40 metres and have a high mortality rate while being collected from the wild do to lack of proper decompression when they are brought up to the boat. However, once properly decompressed and acclimatized to a captive environment. Since the Black-capped Basslet is so hard to keep alive during capture, they are highly priced and sought after in the trade. They reach a maximum of 4 inches and are in captivity generally only reach 3 inches in length.

Yellow Stripped Basslet:

This is another deep water fish that is often found below 40 metres and has a high mortality rate while being collected from the wild. These are rarely seen in nature and therefore they are very hard to find in the hobby. These are the shyest of the three Grammas and require more care to get them to start eating then the other two species. This is the smallest of the three Grammas and only reach a maximum length of 3 inches with 2.5 inch lengths being average in captivity.

The Pseudochromidae:

These are commonly called either Basslets or Dottybacks to distinguish them from the Grammas. They originate from the Red Sea and Indo-Pacific regions. They are similar in nature to the Grammas. Dottybacks are hermaphrodites capable of becoming either males or females. The males are larger then the females and there are very little difference in colouration, however the male usually has slightly better colouration. A common problem with Dottybacks is the loss of vivid colouration while in a captive environment. High quality foods and a varied diet will slow down the loss of colouration. Dottybacks are generally territorial animals and aggressive towards similarly shaped, sized and coloured fish and should be housed with only one in a tank.

While there are many types of Dottybacks only a few are readily available in the aquarium trade. These are the most common ones.

Diadem Basslet:

Probably the most aggressive Basslet of all, the Diadem Basslet has been known to even attack cleaner shrimp that wander into their territories. Extreme caution should be used when housing Diadem's with any other fish. They come from the West Pacific and are only about 2 inches of pure aggression, even to rival the aggression shown by damsels! However their Brilliant colouration and graceful appearance makes it hard to resist attempting to keep one in a tank. If you do plan on keeping one, make sure it is the last fish placed in the tank and that you have somewhere else to put it should it start attacking anything that moves in the tank.

Magenta Dottyback: (P. porphyreus)

Often confused with the Orchid Dottyback, it can be distinguished by the dark line that goes from its snout and up through each eye. The magenta colouring is also more prominent in this species. They reach a maximum size of 2 inches. These are much more aggressive then the Orchid Dottyback as well. They are found in the central west Pacific.

Neon Dottyback:

The Neon Dottyback is found only in the Persian Gulf area and can reach a size of 4 inches in length. Captive bred and raise specimens are readily available from most suppliers. These are aggressive fish that have been known to prey upon bristle worms, 'pods, small feather dusters and any other small living invert found in tanks.

Orchid Dottyback: (P. fridmani)

The Orchid Dottyback is a much more gentle and community oriented species then the Magenta Dottyback. They are naturally found in the Red Sea. When first collected their fins are a vibrant violet colour that make the fish almost appear to glow. They can reach a size of 3 inches in captivity and are more prone to losing their colouration then any of the other Basslets.

Royal Dottyback:

Often mistaken for a Royal Gramma, the Royal Dottyback has a very sharp definition between the Magenta and Yellow sections of the body while the Gramma has a slight integration of colour between the two segments. They are found in the Central West Pacific and can reach up to 3.5 inches in length. They are very hardy fish and have been bred in captivity on rare occasions. They are also fairly territorial fish and caution should be used when placing new fish in a tank with them.

Sunrise Dottyback:

Found in the Red Sea, the Sunrise Dottyback can reach a length of 3 inches. Males of the species have a bluish body with a bright yellow stripe from it's snout all the way down the back/ The females are a bluish-grey with yellowish-white bellies and a yellow tail. These are shy fish that will hide most of the time when larger fish are around. They generally stick to the bottom of the tank and is one of the least aggressive of the Dottybacks.

Springer Dottyback:

Found in the Red Sea, the Springer Dottyback is a beautiful black fish with neon blue stripes along it's face and down it's back. I can reach a size of 2.5 inches. Tank raise specimens are readily available.



Basslets are generally shy fish quickly retreating into their dens when they feel threatened and need a lot of rockwork for cover. The more comfortable they feel in their environment the more they will be seen in the tank. Basslets normally don't get much larger then 4 to 5 inches for the largest species so they can do well in tanks as small as 20Gal.

Basslets are all known to be excellent jumpers so make sure the tank is covered to prevent them from jumping out.


Basslets are carnivores so they need to be fed a good variety of meaty foods. In the wild they eat a variety of Zooplankton, worms, brine shrimp and 'pods. They readily accept most frozen foods and live baby brine shrimp are a great a treat for them. Flake foods will most likely be rejected.


Basslets are very hardy fish and generally disease resistant. The Dottybacks however have occasionally been prone to Marine Velvet outbreaks. Should they become infected with a disease they should be removed from the tank and treated appropriately. They are more likely to pull through the outbreak then most fish are. These fish are also prone to colour loss while in captivity due and it's thought to be caused by poor diets compared to what is available in the wild.