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What hobbyists need to know about damsels...

Posted 06/25/2016 at 10:54 AM by Sk8r

Please understand about the 5 types of damsels...
'DAMSEL' applies to a number of species of small reef fishes, which is NOT helpful to a novice trying to pick out fish that won't eat each other OR the landscape. They're very colorful, will school under some circumstances, are constantly on the move, comparatively cheap, and among the hardiest of fishes for a beginner, but the catch is---they CANNOT be kept successfully in a tank under 100 gallons, and pairs are doubly problematic: multiply the behavior x 2. You can get away with a pair of the quietest clowns in a 30. You can keep ONE of the chrysiptera damsels or one chromis in a 50. For any other damsels, head for 100 gallons. And do not put chromis and dascyllus damsels together.

Remember: aggression in marine fish is a function of tank size. And it is not straightline math: you can keep one mild damsel in a 50 with no problems. In a 100 you can have a number with no problems---but you have one really dominant dascyllus or (x)glyphidon, and then you will have trouble introducing new damsels...You have to be smart about it, and either temporarily remove the dominant, or out-psych him/her by, eg, an eggcrate barrier which the little fish can pass and he can't. Curiously, many species of fish seem invisible to damsels: they just seem not to see them as rivals or problems.


Here's a breakdown.
1. clowns. These range from the mildmannered percs to the not at all mildmannered clarkiis and 'red' types like maroons. In a 30 gallon, ONLY the mild clowns, percs, etc. If you want a maroon pair, expect it to take 50 gallons of TERRITORY, not just tank.
2. chromis are a sort of damsel, but other damsels, particularly dascyllus species, do NOT like them. They don't like each other, and will kill off the weakest of the lot nightly in battles for sleeping spots. Only 1 per 50 gallon tank, 3 are ok in 75 to 100, but do NOT put them in with dascyllus damsels.
3. regular damsels.
1 Chrysipteras: blues, generally; fiji blues, azures, yellowtails, also one striped b&w, BE SURE OF THE LATIN NAME: Will freak out and fight for room in a 30 gallon, pretty good citizens in a 50, as singles, but do not have more than one. In a 100, maybe 5 of mixed species: remember most max at 3", so leave room.
2. pomacentris: also fairly calm, 50 gallon and above.
3. paraglyphidon: blue velvets, aka electric blue---a black fish with blue stripe; VERY aggressive toward other damsels, ok in 100 gallons up.
4. neoglyphidon: the bluefin, pretty but will eat soft coral, and anything with -glyphidon in the Latin name is hyper-aggressive. This one is usually solitary, unlike other damsels.
5. dascyllus, the plate-shaped damsels: they're shaped like angels, strongly colored or b&w, and grow nearly 5" long, massing quite a bit. One will often grow to full size and the others will not be as large. They will boss the tank, and should NEVER be kept in multiples in a tank under 100 gallons. RED CLOWNS are this shape, mass, and temperament. I would use caution putting red clowns and dascyllus even into a 100 gallon tank.


IN ALL CASES: look at the Latin name when buying fish in general, and especially damsels. If you have trouble saying them, here's a breakdown:
chris-IPP-ter-a; da-SIL-us; pair-a-GLYPH-i-don; knee-oh-GLYPH-i-don; pome-ah-SIN-tris; KRO-miss.

I run a 105 gallon damsel tank with a monster golden dascyllus as the dominant---I'd stack her up against most larger angelfish for color and shape (smaller than they are as an adult and she won't eat coral)---but she IS to reckon with when you want to add smaller fish. One has to protect them while she gets used to the notion that they live there. But being a damsel, a few days on, she won't care if they get up and swim with her. She'll get over-excited at feeding and try to claim it all---she buzzes very loudly when trying to push rivals out of her way: you can hear her across the room---and she will chase one of her tankmates, but she's not too serious and they're not too concerned. They duck into the rockwork and she swaggers off, satisifed, while they reappear swimming right behind her: being a fish, she's made her point, and nobody lost a fin. This is typical behavior if they have room enough.
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