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FAQs on Basslets/Grammas Behavior

Related Articles: Grammas

Related FAQs:  Grammas 1, Grammas 2, Gramma Identification, Gramma Compatibility, Gramma Selection, Gramma Systems, Gramma Feeding, Gramma Health, Gramma Reproduction,

Other organisms presence will affect your Grammas behavior.

Royal Gramma, environment, behavior 12/21/11
I was so excited to find this website; sometimes I spend too much time reading.
 Anyway, I am concerned about a Royal Gramma.  My tank is 40 gallons. About 2
months old.  2 Tank-bred Ocellaris Clowns, 1 Canary Wrasse, 2 PJ Cardinals, 1 Royal Gramma, 2 Emerald Crabs, 1 Peppermint Shrimp, couple small blue-leg hermits, and about 12 snails.  The water conditions aren't ideal. Nitrites were a bit high, but Nitrates were lower which I found strange.
<No such thing as nitrites being a bit high, any detectable level of nitrites is a big problem and very rough/deadly to fish.>
  I have about 30 lbs of dry rock and plan on adding some live after the New Year.  Everyone was doing find until a couple days ago by small male clown started to hid underneath an overhang near where the shrimp has made home.
<Results of the poor water quality.>
This went on for a couple of days, I thought he might be stressed so I did a 25% water change; he seems to be more active now.
<Proof that the water is the problem.>
However, now the Gramma, who was always territorial over his little cove, has strayed, and last night even slept against a rock where he usually spends no more than ten minutes at.  He also would pick up and invertebrate with a shell small enough to it in his large mouth and carry them around until dropping
them which I found strange, and kind of cruel.
<Normal behavior from what I have seen from mine, actually tamer, my rips their legs off first chance he gets.>
He seems to now be rubbing against rock every now and then.  I just wanted to try and catch this early, if
it's anything at all. 
<The nitrites are the problem, that is a lot of life for such a new tank of that size, more water changes until nitrites stay at 0.>

royal grammas keep disappearing   6/21/11
Greetings www crew
<<Hello Eric, Adam J with you this late night.>>
I'm hoping you can help me solve the mystery of my missing royal grammas.
I had one in my 55 reef tank when I initially got everything up and running about 8 months ago, but after roughly 10 weeks he perished from Ick. Since then I've tried adding RG's on two occasions, and both times the fish has disappear immediately... never to be seen again.
<<Is this tank covered? These fish...Basslets in general, are notorious for jumping.>>
I won't bother to list all the contents and conditions of my tank; however all parameters test perfect, and all other corals and fish are thriving.
<<Next time please do, as the definition of 'perfect' is variable, we may see something you do not.>>
The only thing my LFS suggests as a culprit are my serpent stars: 2 medium brown/maroon (8" across) and one rather large red one (16" across with a ~2" body). All the research I've done indicates that only green serpents tend to be aggressive towards fish. We keep the large red one well fed on silversides, and there seems to be plenty of scraps from regular tank feeding to keep all scavengers satiated.
<<While the latter is certainly large enough to be a fish 'stalker,' typically you're correct it's the green brittle starfish of the genus Ophiarachna that are known for being midnight fish trappers.>>
Further, the only other fish I've had go missing was a Christmas wrasse, and that's when I was on vacation and my tank sitter never came to tend the aquarium.
<<Unless you were gone for over two weeks I doubt the fish succumbed to hunger, again sounds like a possible jumping suspect or possible predation by 'something.'>>
Other fish: flame angel, pair of cardinals, pink spot goby, mandarin goby,
<<This is a slower moving fish if your echinoderms are snacking on fish, I would have guessed the dragonet to be the first to go. Secondly in a tank of your size I would not keep them with wrasses or Basslets, as they're likely to get outcompeted for food if not outright bullied.>>
Midas blenny, sail fin tang,
<<Your tank size will be far to small for this tang, if it's not already.>>
leopard wrasse
<<The dietary habits (eating micro-crustaceans) of this wrasse also make it a poor choice for housing with the dragonet as well as it's potential to bully, being the stronger swimmer.>>
maroon clown, and a red hawk. I can't decided if it's coincidence that 2 RG's have vanished immediately after introduction to the tank, or if they're being eaten. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
<<Considering the health of your other inhabitants it does not sound environmental, these fish are either being bullied into submission/eaten or jumping from the aquarium.>>
thanks in advance for your help. Your site is simply invaluable.
<<Good luck Eric.>>
<<Adam J.>>

Black Capped Basslet carrying rocks  10/5/09
HI WWM Again.
<Hello again Deborah, for the first time! JustinN here!>
I think my 55 gallon tank, and it's 2 Green Chromis, 1 baby Blue Tang, and 1 Black Capped Basslet are doing great.
<Long-term, the blue tang will likely not sustain comfortably in this set up -- simply too small for the older age size of the fish.>
My corals are doing good too. They are happy, eating and healthy but for a spot of ich on the Tang one day or another.
<A concern nonetheless -- should be isolated, quarantined, and treated until the problem goes away, though Tang's do tend to be on the more sensitive side here.>
The Hydor protein skimmer is working good too! (I am new to this, so I am happy to say these things.)
<Of course! Always celebrate the successes! This is what keeps us going in the hobby, and what helps mold us as conscientious aquarists -- the desire to do better, and the encouragement when doing it right pays off!>
My question is, The Black Cap has changed "holes". He/she? has carried rocks and shells up to the openings in a nice flat rock with mostly Zoanthids on top of it. It has piled these up and made it where it's his, and no one else is suppose to go in, and might not even fit in. (They all get alone fine well). Today, after a 15 gallon water change, (The first one ever, since I started it up 8/15/09), he even pulled off some "mermaid fern" I'll call it, and stuffed that in there. Is this fish building a nest? Maybe to lay eggs or something? Or perhaps just making a nicer home to sleep in at night?
<Nesting is not a likelihood -- more likely, just building itself a comfortable home... Take this as a compliment to your care -- he feels unthreatened enough to visibly assemble his home over time -- most fish do this in the shadow of night!>
I asked the cute little thing, but he/she just looked at me and smiled.. Ha Ha.
<Ahh, the personification of our pets is a great thing. Whether it was real or perceived, the emotion can't be denied. :)>
Also, is it possible to look for certain shapes or whatever, of the black capped Basslet and tell whether or not it may be a male or female?
<Basslet sex is typically determined by alpha dominance of the group, if my memory serves me correctly. In a group, the perceived 'leader' will alter to become the male of the harem. This is known as 'monodandric protogynous hermaphroditism' -- essentially meaning that they are born as females, with the potential genetic disposition to shift to male. -JustinN>
Thanks a Million, D'Ann

Re: Black Capped Basslet carrying rocks  10/5/09
Hi Justin N. Thanks for your informative reply. and the encouragement.
<Hello again D'Ann! Glad to provide some boost!>
Yea the little guy seems quite happy, AND this morning he is even threatening the little blue tang with an open mouth, (nothing more), to stay away from his "house".
<I'd say he's pretty comfortable with his settings now :) The real fun will come with the battle for 'who's the prettiest' once you release the Exquisite from holding again.>
Man! The guys told me the Blue Tang would be better for me than the Yellow Tang. I really really wanted the Yellow Tang. They knew what size tank i have too!!
<Unfortunately, all too typical of many in the business is the unscrupulous advice. The Blue tang will actually likely end up larger than a Yellow tang would -- read more here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/besttgsreefs.htm, here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/paracant.htm, and for more info on the Yellow Tang, here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/zebrasom.htm>
I hope it doesn't outgrow my tank fast.
<They do grow slow, but do bear in mind this fish attains a typical length of a foot. Your 55 gallon, at 13 inches wide, won't be a comfortable ground forever. This doesn't mean get rid of your fish today, just keep in mind that a year or 2 down the line, a tank upgrade would make all the difference.>
You know; I have gotten 'attached' to all my fish and shrimp. I would not want to give the tang up. I Love him.
<Absolutely understood, see above>
Do they grow slow? I even asked this to the shop people, because I see some are very large in their tanks, and they said, "Oh no, they grow VERY, very slow." Is that true?
<One thing to keep in mind about your typical fish store -- they don't necessarily want your success, beyond a few months at a time. They make more money when your livestock is in constant peril, and needs replacement/medicating. I'm personally a conspiracy nut, so do take the tone with a grain of salt, but doing your own research and investigation will make your time as a saltwater hobbyist far more rewarding. The more you learn, see, experience, the more amazed you'll become every time you get 'the pitch' at the LFS. Dig through our FAQ's, and if you haven't already, pick up a copy of Bob's book! You'll be running circles around the fish store guys in no time! -JustinN>
Thanks a Million Again. D'Ann

Basslets: Behavior and compatibility 7/26/2009
Hey all,
<Hi Jonathan.>
Great website. I've learned a lot by browsing the information on the site, great for newbies in the hobby!
<Happy to hear you find it helpful.>
I had a question regarding the Basslets, primarily the Black Cap and the Royal Gramma. I am planning to add one or the other into my 24 gallon nano which currently has one orange and one black and white false Perc.
<That will be a little crowded for a 24 gallon.>
I wanted to know more about the two different Basslets. I cannot seem to find much information on the black cap, and wanted to know if they behaved differently than the Royal.
<I have one of each, their behavior is very similar, but the Blackcap is a bit more aggressive.>
I've read that the Royal will defend his/her territory vigorously and open up his mouth quite large to intimidate trespassers, will the same happen with the Black cap?
I have yet to see an image of the black cap threatening another fish. I've heard that Basslets have a liking for shrimp, will they go after my 2 cleaner shrimps?
<It is possible>
Will one be more aggressive than the other, or be more likely to eat shrimp, harass the clowns?
<I would be more concerned with the clowns harassing the gramma, but the Blackcap is more aggressive than the Royal.>
The videos of the black cap that I've seen, I notice that they dig often.
<They do, mine has excavated an area under its favorite rock..
Will the royal gramma dig in the sand as well?
<They do not seem to dig, but rather hide themselves in the rock.>
Thanks for all your help.
<Read here: it also includes the response I sent the last time you wrote:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/grammasysfaqs.htm >

Thought you might enjoy this photo, Gramma Behavior 7/26/08 Hi Crew, no problem to ask about, you have been indispensable throughout the last 2 years as my tank evolved and matured. <Congrats of the success.> Thank you and Thank you again. <Welcome from one and all.> I recently caved in to my children's yearning for "Dory". I have been afraid to add a hippo due to the ick issues I have heard about. Anyway after a quarantine period, I added my new Hippo Tang to the main tank. I only have a clown pair and a royal Gramma. Well I don't think the Gramma likes this new addition very much. Check out the photos, I never knew the mouth could open that widely. Best Regards Carlos <That's not even full extension. Sometimes I think mine is permanently in that state. Fortunately the display is usually enough to get it's point across, as my male clown will attest too, but no damage is actually done. Although it seems that on occasion mine has decided to try it out on the female clown, I can tell by the fin nips she responds to the display with. Either way it is a neat bit of behavior.> <Chris>

Gramma Behavior... crowding?    1/9/08 Hello Bob~ <Joe> We have a 55 gallon tank with the following: 1 Gramma 1 Regal Tang <Mmm, needs more room> 1 Black/White Angel <Mmm, what is this species-wise?> 1 Lemon Goby 2 Clownfish 1 Lawnmower blenny 2 Turbo Snails a few crabs & a few other cleaner snails The tank is about 2 years old with no major issues over that span, until last week. Our Royal Gramma has been hiding quite a bit and breathing heavier than normal? I know they are territorial but all the fish have played nice for the most part. They have all been together for the better part of the 2 years. The clowns, blenny, Gramma all started the tank. Then a few weeks later the regal tang was added then the lawnmower was added. Then last the angel. I don't get it. Everything has been normal until now, she never comes out and her breathing is scaring me. HELP! Renee from Florida <... Water tests show what? Your system may be just "topped over" crowding wise here... psychologically... I'd be testing the water, doing a change, maybe re-arranging the rock work, cleaning your skimmer... making sure your water is NSW in spg, pH... that there's not too much NO3... maybe changing to Spectrum food/s to assure there is not a deficiency syndrome at work here. If you have another established system... I'd move the Gramma loreto to it. Bob Fenner>

Re: Gramma Behavior 1/9/08 That was helpful Bob, thank you. <Welcome Joe> The Regal is a small to medium size one. Per DreamAquatics.com they are all compatible and that is what the Ocean Environments store stated too. http://site.dreamaquatic.com/compatibility_chart.html <Mmm... well, my usual pitch here re "things" fitting into smaller spaces at times...> Our angel is a Half Black Angelfish - Centropyge vroliki. <Oooh, one of my faves> The water was just changed & the skimmer was done as well, we do basically every Sunday - 1/12 weeks. Water tested well, except for the ammonia was high .5 stress zone. Nitrate 40 <Mmm, too high by about twice...> Nitrite 0 Ph 7.8 <... too low... the low pH and Nitrate alone could be a/the real problem here... I'd be addressing, stat!> Alknty 300 I will be moving the rocks around to see what happens. Should I keep the light off for the Gramma? <Mmm, no> Is there a better time to do this for the fish.. ie., day, night, bright, dark. Our little lemon goby loves her spot, I don't have to move that too do I? <I wouldn't> Thank you again! PS I see you're into scuba.. any goooood places here is SW Fl? <Never been on the West side... on the SE though, there's fabulous Boynton Beach and some very nice folks as workers and customers at Splashdown Divers... Do give them a try... worth the drive. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Gramma Behavior 1/9/08 She died this afternoon- I am so bummed. <Do look into your water quality... inputs... and soon. BobF>

Odd Gramma Beh.? and questionable worms  3/30/06 Per your instructions, below please find my original email corrected for proper grammar, punctuation and spelling.  Many thanks. ------------- <Welcome> Dear WWM crew: I have a 37 gallon reef tank that is not doing very well and I could use your help. I have only one fish, a Royal Gramma.  When it comes out to swim it struggles but seems to maintain, and when it rests it does so on the live sand up against the glass.  This fish was fine for the first month in my tank, but it has been this way for the last two months, The breathing appears normal, however I cannot be sure, and it maintains a voracious appetite.  It seems alert and responsive when I am near the glass.  Other than the swimming problem and resting on the sand, it seems fine.  Could this be a swim bladder problem? <Possibly... but what you describe is not totally unnatural behavior for grammatids> If so, what are my options?   <Mmm, well... there are some chemical treatments that could be tried... best applied, snuck in the foods this animal is taking... But if it were me/mine, I'd go for improving the nutrition of this fish and leave it at that... by supplementing such foods in Selcon or eq.> I'm afraid to add other fish to the tank until I am able to figure out what to do. <You are wise here> Secondly, there is some kind of parasite in the tank that I'm having trouble identifying.  I think it's some kind of worm.  Unfortunately, I don't have a camera that is sharp enough to capture it so I will do my best in describing it to you.  Each one is no larger than a human hair and is tan in color.  They are congregated in small bunches, and many of them attached on one end to my feather duster and the other end to the live rock.  They seem to be alive, and their movements strike me as some kind of worm, not simply a hair algae. <Mmm, does sound like some sort of worm, but I assure you, it is highly unlikely that this is parasitic> I'm frustrated to all end with these things, and I'm a little too embarrassed to bring this up at my local aquarium store. <Please... don't be...> Any advice, assistance, or otherwise would be greatly appreciated!  Many thanks, and please let me know if you have any further questions.  I love this hobby but I'm getting so frustrated!! Best regards, Chris <Chris, consider availing yourself of a cleaner organism... my choice would be a shrimp of the genus Lysmata... will likely eat these querulous worms, and help cure/improve your Gramma's behavior. Bob Fenner>

Royal Gramma Hiding - 3/20/2006 Hello all, I hope your doing well today. <<Hi Aaron, I hope the same for you!>> I bought a Royal Gramma yesterday and I understand they are cave dwellers but I acclimated it, and it swam into a small pile of LR in the bottom of my tank, and appears to be frightened to the point where it won't come out at all. <<Give it time to become more comfortable/used to his new home.>> Its tank mates are a pair of Perculas in a 30 gal reef with many spots to hide. The lights are bright also but I've heard they will become accustom to this. Will this fish emerge soon? <<Likely, yes.>> If not it may starve. <<Continue to feed as you normally would, and perhaps shorten your photo-period for a few days.  These guys often take a little while to settle in.  I wouldn't worry too much at the moment.>> Thanks for your time. <<Glad to help. Lisa.>> Aaron Is My Royal Gramma Dying?  - 03/13/2006 My first fish, a Royal Gramma (I have had him 4 days) has stopped eating and coming out of the rocks. <Do this sometimes...> Friday he was eating and looked okay when he WOULD come out, but he hides in the rocks so much I hardly ever see him. Saturday he never came out except for once to go from one rock hole to the other and never ate anything that I saw. I have been feeding him Mysis Shrimp soaked in garlic. <Maybe fears bad breath...> Friday morning the tank temperature had gone up to 82.5 when I got up so I unplugged one of the heaters and by Saturday the temp had gone back down to 78.4. This morning it is 79.4 so I don't think the temp change would have been that bad. My water tests fine, PH8.2, Ammonia-0, Nitrate-0, Nitrate-0. The SG 1.024. I did have a diatom problem start on Thursday but it really doesn't look that bad and the water is still fine. I am worried that the fish is sick, he doesn't look sick from outward appearance as much as I can tell as he doesn't come out long enough to check now. When he goes into the rock holes though he just lays on the rock. Should I just wait and see if he dies and how long can he not eat before he will die just of starvation if nothing else? Is he lonely in there all by himself? <I would wait this out... likely the changes you mention are at play here... can go w/o apparent feeding for a few weeks. Bob Fenner> Suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I really hate to lose my first fish for no apparent reason and have no idea why I would with the water tests I have. Oh, btw, no he wasn't quarantined by me but had been in the LFS for a week and a half and was eating well even at home for the first couple of days. Thanks My experience with a Gramma and firefish... behavior  12/17/05 I would like to share my experience with a royal Gramma and a firefish. I have a 10 gallon setup with sand, about 10 pounds of rock, mushrooms and a couple other fish which I will not talk about since that makes me overstocked. <...> I bought the firefish and it looked to be full size. Then about 4 weeks later I bought the Gramma and it was small, maybe half the size of the firefish. When the Gramma is annoyed by the presence of another fish he opens his mouth as wide as possible moving towards the other fish hoping to scare it away. <Good description> It rarely attacks. I have seen the Gramma lunge at the firefish a couple times and the firefish did have a shredded tail once. Both fish compete for food in the water column but the Gramma will eat anything, where the firefish is more selective. I do not know what ticks off the Gramma to take his open mouth stance <Simple crowding> but whenever he is annoyed or wants to protect an area he opens wide. It is interesting to note that the two are always on one side of the tank very close to each other. It is a small tank but even so you would think one would be intimidated enough to find a place on the other side. <Perhaps both are more "afraid" of something else...> The only thing I can think of is that the filter water comes in where they stay and it is there that most of the food comes down during feeding time so they always hang around there. <Good reasons> The firefish's response to the open mouth is interesting. Sometimes he just turns his tail to the Gramma and at other times he just changes his angle and the Gramma backs off. Rarely does the firefish actually bolt from sight as he would when he is spooked.  They have been together 9 months and the Gramma is much bigger than the firefish and his mouth opens verrry wide.  Most of the time they just do their own thing and it is peaceful. The firefish hovers at his 45 degree stance and the Gramma does some landscaping by scooping up sand from an area he decides should be his home and he deposits it elsewhere mostly on the mushrooms and rocks. They are very colorful and that is why I got them. So my guess is that in a bigger tank you should have no problem. But as they say, past performance is no guarantee to the future. And the two fish that I have may not have the same disposition as the two you get. <Thank you for writing, sharing your observations. Bob Fenner> Royal Gramma Behavior - 12/04/05 Have you heard of the following? <<We'll see>> I have recently been placing small fragments of various SPS corals on my sandbed & they have disappeared one by one. <<Mmm...leads me to wonder how small is "small".>> I was thinking along the lines of maybe a renegade crab in the tank disappearing with them. <<Or something building a nest/burrow if there are no other "fragments" available in the tank.>> The latest coral fragments to disappear were three small fragments of Seriatiopora hystrix (birds nest coral) this week. <<Hmm, hystrix (as in hysterics?)... this must be the really "excitable" specie of this coral <G>, I'm sure you meant: Seriatiopora hystrix >> On a night watch of my tank I have discovered the missing link. I have a fairly large growth of a Montipora foliosa coral and out of the corner of my eye on the edge of the plate of my Montipora foliosa I discovered a fragment of the Seriatiopora hystrix lying there. Now my Montipora foliosa is a distance of 50 centimetres from the sandbed. Looking the following morning at the Montipora foliosa on the opposite side of the coral leaf is another fragment of birds nest coral. Now the question is how the heck did it get up there and the answer I have is below. <<Ok>> My one Royal Gramma uses this coral as his hideout and for his night rest. He is the little fellow that carried these fragments up to his/her resting place. <<Mount these frags to some rock rubble and this probably won't happen.>> I have four of these fish in my 1200 litre system. Maybe it's nest building time? So if you have heard of any similar event I would be interested to know. <<Maybe, but this behavior with this fish is not familiar to me...likely just trying to make its resting place a bit more secure by placing bits of coral fragment to limit access.>> If you would like a picture let me know, I just need to find my digital camera somewhere. Yours in reef keeping, Malcolm Stander Cape Town South Africa <<Regards, Eric Russell, Columbia, SC >>

Re: Interesting Royal Gramma Behavior - 12/5/05 Hi Eric, <<Malcolm>> Thank you for your quick response. <<Very welcome>> Your answer of the Gramma securing his rest-place seems to make more sense. Have a good week. <<I shall...and same to you. EricR>> Regards, Malcolm 

Re: Confused royal Gramma  12/16/05 He's quite fat and healthy. The coral beauty just intimidates him. The angel is very mild in his gestures. Not real sure if there was any real aggression or not. He spends about half the time in his cave and the other half on the sandbed. I think the old adage about two fish of the same color may very well be true.   Thanks   Mike from Detroit <Me too. Bob Fenner>

Dancing and Glancing Gramma 11/13/05 Hi WWB crew, <<WWB?  Who are they?>><WetWebBrew? Yay!> <<Hello - Ted here this evening>> First off thanks for the great site and info. <<Thanks. Glad you find it helpful>> My royal Gramma regularly, at least once an hour, makes a quick and what seems to be planned rub up against a few select spots on my live rock. He has done this for well over a year and I have never seen any white spots indicating an Ich infection. He is very fat and healthy in every other regard. Any thoughts on why he would be doing this? Could it be a different type of parasite, an itchy spot, a fun hobby for him? <<It could be some other parasite. It could also be hunting behavior and he may be trying to dislodge crustaceans from the rock. If he is eating and otherwise behaving normally, I wouldn't be concerned.>> My other 4 fishes (3 green Chromis and Lawn mower blenny) all seem to be in great health. I would like to add a purple tang to my tank but I am concerned that ich or a different problem may be present in my main tank based the royal Gramma's behavior. <<Not knowing the size of your tank, it is hard to comment on the advisability of adding a Purple Tang. Bear in mind that Purple Tangs require lots of swimming room and can grow to 10 inches.>> I have considered moving all the fish over to a QT and leaving the display tank empty for 45 days to break the ich cycle, if it exists, but I am hesitant to do so based solely off the weird behavior of the RG. Catching the royal Gramma would probably require me to tear apart the LR structure, disrupting the entire tank. I have not QT'd in the past (yes I am ashamed)  <<Yes, but are you suitably ashamed?>> so it is possible that ich could have been imported in to my tank. I am planning on using a QT (per method defined here on WWM) for the new tang, if and when I get it. <<Do the other inhabitants seem healthy? If so, then quarantine any new additions to prevent the introduction of disease to your healthy system. If some fish seem sick, then take the sick fish from the system and treat them in a separate tank and do not add any new fish until all the other inhabitants are healthy.>> Any thoughts on this matter would be appreciated. Thank you for your time and have a great day. Shad Shriver <<You're welcome and good luck. - Ted>> 

Catchin' fish? Bob, <Bob is out traveling the great Midwest for awhile. Anthony Calfo and myself, Steven Pro, are helping out with answering the daily questions.> I have a couple of fish with ICK I believe, and am trying to get them in my hospital tank, but I can't catch my Royal Gramma. I have a large and small net but as soon as I put it in, he hides deep in the live rock. I can't seem to find a fish trap. Any tricks of the trade? (This seems to be the hardest part) <I have a couple of suggestions. Try to lure him to the top with food and then scoop quickly with your net. Also, does he hide in a hole in a particular rock? If so, you may want to remove the entire rock if you can.> Thanks in advance once again. John Kummer

AN UPSIDE DOWN FISH A recent introduction to my marine tank 7 days was attacked by the other fish. I now have him in isolation in a 'breeding box' which is hanging from the top of the tank. I think the fish is a veil tailed Gramma who is bright yellow in colour. Since the attack he spends at least half his time upside down. His damaged tailed has really grown back strongly and he swims well. Will he recover and what is the problem. Thank you. <Good to read of your fish's recovery. And actually members of the genus Gramma do spend quite a bit of time oriented at odd angles. Not to worry about this 3-D situation. Bob Fenner>

Royal Gramma acting up? 06/17/03 <Hi Luke, PF with you tonight> I've bought a Royal Gramma today, never had it before. The fish appeared to be swimming normally in store. However, when I added it to the tank, it hangs upside-down, by the filter, near the water surface, as if it was dead, yet it is not as it swims away if I touch it :-) Then it goes near the heater and stays totally vertical... and it doesn't move much at all, just stays motionless. Is this normal behaviour for those fish? Thank you, Luke <Well Luke, from what I know, it's not normal. At the same time, I don't know your acclimation procedures, or your tank parameters (size, other inhabitants, chemistry, temp, yada, yada, yada...) so it's hard to answer your question. Talk to you later, PF>

Royal Grammas >PF: >>He's at a wedding in Colorado this week.  Marina to garner benefit from your wisdom today! >Thanks for your (& entire crew) ongoing mentoring and guidance on matters marine. My fish and I are better off for reading & heeding WWM advice. >>We're all glad to hear it.  Do spread the word! >I noticed the post about a new Royal Gramma staying upside down near a filter in someone's tank. It seemed to readily swim away when approached.  This may not be as bad as it seems. It is the natural behavior of Royal Grammas in the wild to hang out upside down along the roofs of caves. >>Indeed.  Though I missed that post, I would heartily agree with you on that assessment.  Up and down don't quite have the same meaning in a relatively weightless environment, so it makes no difference to the fish, especially if it was an animal collected at some depth. >Perhaps this new Gramma has no better place to hide in that tank. >>Agreed, or this was its habit in the first place, maybe. >If it swims normally and eats well ("a fish that eats is a fish that lives"), I'd bet it will be OK. >>The adage I was taught by the old-timer who gave me my first job in the trade used to tell me a few things, "A hungry fish is a healthy fish", "A dirty tank is a healthy tank", and (pardon the language, but this was exactly how old Dougie put it!), "Get your goddamned hands outta the tank!  Quit messin' with it all the time!"  LOL!  God love that man. >Grammas like lots of live rock nooks & crannies. I have one that has almost doubled in size since I got it 6 months ago (my first marine fish). >>I bet he's going to end up a serious little piece of meat. >It has a specific nook in the live rock that is its home. It eats heartily and will go up against any tankmate for a morsel and it roams freely around the tank.  Still, it always eventually returns to and hides in that one spot, especially when the tank is dark, but comes out and eats heartily whenever food hits the water. It is a beautiful & fun fish. >>Steve, thank you for your input, this will add to the knowledge base, and when others with oddly-behaved Grammas go looking for information, this should put their minds at ease.  Marina

Damma Gramma! >Hello Crew, >>Hello. >I started this morning pouring over the wealth of information you guys have amassed on fish illness and treatments and began to get sick myself!  Wow!  Lots of folks with lots of strange problems.  It's really nice to know that there is someone out there to help.  You guys are great! My problem:  I started up my 45 gal system (my very first) in January (Emperor 280 filter w/o bio-wheel, CPR-2R skimmer, 2-300gph pumps, 3.5 - 4 inches of substrate (2.5 inches of Aragonite, remainder sand), 48lbs LR, 96W 50/50 PC hood, 200W heater).  With work pulling me away from my home for several weeks, I was unable to introduce any fish for several months.  Just LR, 3 peppermint shrimp, a few hermit crabs and snails occupied the system.  Eventually, I bought my first fish, a Royal Gramma that appeared to be fully grown.   >>So, around 3" in length, yes? >Water parameters have been stable for months (Ammo = 0, Nitrite = 0, Nitrate = 0, Phos = 0, SG = 1.025, Temp = 80 degrees (a little high), Alk = normal, pH = 8.4).   >>Looks fine. >I have been doing 15% water changes every two weeks.  She lived in the tank alone for 5 months before I introduced 2 Clowns, a Firefish and a Scooter Blenny. >>All at once?  I do hope this was after each was quarantined for 30 days. >The next few days, I saw the Gramma "mouthing off" at the new arrivals.  The QT-mates didn't seem to care and pretty much huddled together.  The Firefish seemed to step in the middle of Gramma/Clown face-offs.   >>Curious as to the species of clowns, some are far more pugnacious than others.  In any event, clearly THIS tank belongs to the Gramma. >After about 5 days, the Gramma went into hiding.  There was a couple of days where she wouldn't come out to eat at feeding time (frozen Brine shrimp - a favorite of her's).  Eventually, she would come out to eat, then retreat into her hiding place behind the rocks at the back of the tank. >>Someone put her in her place, eh? >Now, about a month into the arrival of the new fish, the Gramma has been hiding under rocks in the front of the tank, more visible and eating. >>Sounds as though whoever she had it out with is top fish. >About two days ago, I noticed that the Gramma was rubbing herself against the plants and rocks ever so slightly at times and was remaining more hidden most of the day.  Also noticed that she didn't eat last evening.  So I pulled out my trusty book collection to figure out what might be the problem.  Ich was something that popped up that scared the living daylights out of me!   >>Common, and easily treated OUTSIDE the main display.. however, if this is it (you should see the cysts) then all fish would have to leave the tank. >All the new fish are very healthy (active swimmers, hardy eaters, no outward signs of disease, no abnormal behaviors).  The Gramma doesn't seem to have any white specks on her (a little difficult to see as Royal Grammas have some natural lite specks on their bodies) or any other abnormalities - well maybe her snoot appears to be a little darker than normal, maybe...  I'm concerned of course that the Gramma could be ill, but then again maybe not ... or not yet??  I'm still thinking that she is having issues with the introduction of her tank mates; more of a social problem.   >>This could very well be. >Do fish exhibit this "rubbing" when they are stressed as well as when they have a parasite on their bodies?? >>Honestly, not that I've noticed.  Usually, when they're rubbing because of parasites it's pretty easy to discern that there is physical irritation.  Many fish will do a "shimmy", that is part battle call and part show-off (they'll flare their fins to make themselves appear larger as well). >I tried to catch and remove the Gramma last night, but had no luck with all the rock in the tank.  I'm now dreading the idea of having to remove rock to catch her.  I don't want to infect the rest of the fish if she is ill.   >>If she is ill, they're already exposed. >Was even considering purchasing a UV sterilizer to help kill what ever could be in the water. >>In my honest opinion, a waste of money. >Should I remove the Gramma from the system?  Should I wait to see if there is anything physically wrong before I upset her any further and the other fish as well? >>I would wait and observe closely, yes.  Then, if you determine she's sick, she MUST be removed from the tank for treatment. >Are there any tricks to catching sick fish without moving/dismantling the setup?? >>Ha!  Yes, many, MANY years working retail makes one very good with the net.  Other than that, see of you can get a shop employee to do the netting up of the fish (get the oldest "hand" you can find).  Other than that, the other methods I've heard used take some time, as they involve training the fish to eat from the net, or trapping. >What about a UV sterilizer?  Should I go ahead with the purchase? >>As I said, I wouldn't. >Any other advice would be great!!!  Thank you for your help!  It is very much appreciated!  Rick >>At this point I would only observe.  If it seems there are still fish wars being fought, a little rearranging of the structure might be in order, or a reintroduction of everyone after a week's hiatus from the display.  Both involve moving the rockwork.  Marina

- Loss of Color in Royal Gramma - Hello and thanks in advance to all the wet web crew!  I have a Brazilian Gramma, I've had her about 4 months.  She did fine in the QT  tank, and other than some open mouth arguing with the tanks alpha fish, a  bicolor angel, fit in fine in the main tank.  For the last couple months the pigment on her face is almost white.  She eats like a champ, she  doesn't have any other discoloration, she is bright and vibrant everywhere except her face. <I see no mention of "what" this fish eats like a champ.> I thought it would be best to just leave her alone and  watch, she eats fine, swims around with no problems, she has a favorite cave she  hangs out in so I see no other signs of disease.  She doesn't rub against  the sand or rocks.  It's a 120 gallon tank, the water checks out fine, I  change 35 gallons every 2 weeks, I have an Aqua C Remora skimmer (hope this  gives you the tank info you need).  Any idea why she lost her color? <Probably due to a lack of variation in the foods you've chosen. Most often, a loss of color is due to nutritional issues, either too much of one thing or not enough of another. If you've chosen for instance, brine shrimp, this just doesn't pass as a nutritious food. You'd need to alternate between this and Mysis shrimp, and perhaps some other meaty foods or combination items like Formula One.> It's been the same for a long time, not spreading.  Can fish lose pigment  in their old age? <Yes... but I'd expect that to happen over 10's of years.> I have NO idea how old she might have been, she'd only been at the LFS for a week, I couldn't wait to bring her home any longer as I'd  special ordered her. <Probably not that old.> Thanks so much for all your wise words! Concerned Mom! <Cheers, J -- > Gramma Suicide and Mbuna First I would like to say that your website has been of great help to me as I have been getting back into fish lately! Now for the questions. I will start with the Gramma since its shorter. :) I have a 10 gallon nano marine setup. It has been running for 6 months now and is doing well. I have no measurable nitrites, nitrates, or ammonia. Salinity and ph are constant. For the last several months now I have had an ocellaris clown and a royal Gramma in it. Suddenly a few days ago, my Gramma committed suicide by jumping out of the tank! Unfortunately he did this at night so by the time I saw him he was all dried out on the floor.  Any idea what might have caused this? The tank has a big seashell which he staked out as his home, as well as about 5 lbs of live rock. There is also a peppermint shrimp in it which I think the Gramma was nibbling the antennae off of. The Gramma has always been the top fish in the tank, so I cant figure out why he might have jumped. Now for my main question. I have recently decided to set up my 55 gallon tank as a freshwater tank. I have decided to go with African cichlids. I have chosen a group that I would like to keep together, but I would like to know if they will do well together. What I was thinking of keeping is a trio of electric yellows, 4 P. Socolofi, a trio of Pseudotropheus johanni, 4 cobalt blue zebras, and 2 buffalo cichlids with 1 male per group. This seems like a lot of fish but I read that you are supposed to overcrowd to help avoid anyone getting singled out to be picked on. I will be putting lots of cave work and decorations in to help them establish territories, and I will be using 2 HOB Whisper 30-60 gallon filters. Will these fish get along? If I need to switch some of them, please list several. I am getting them all at my LFS so I have a limited number from which to choose. I was thinking of using some small gravel for the substrate which I can get for free out of a relatives creek bed, but I am not sure if it would work. What do you think? If not I will buy some sand instead. Any brand/type recommendations for that? As for decoration, I wanted to use some rocks which I found but I am worried that they will be too heavy, so I am going to use fake rock decorations which I will buy at my LFS. If you have any suggestions I would be very grateful. Thank you! >>>Hey Michelle, I'll be happy to help out. First of all, your Gramma jumped out because you don't have a lid on the tank. Small tank + No lid = dead fish. If something spooks him, anything, he only has a very short distance to execute an escape maneuver. The other choice is up. As far as your plans for the African tank, it sounds like it should work just fine, but keep up on your water changes. I've kept that many Mbuna and more in a 55 without problems, but you have to manage the nitrogen cycle correctly. There is no such thing as Pseudotropheus johanni, and I think you mean Melanochromis johannii. These are very aggressive fish, but good additions to such a tank. Will they get along? No, but that's impossible, and never the object with these fish. You want to manage the aggression. You need visual barriers.   Whatever substrate you choose, keep in mind that you're going to have to clean it every few weeks. I like sand because it prevents detritus from settling down into the bed. Cheers Jim<<<  

Royal Gramma Hello, Thanks a million for your informative website. I was just wondering about the royal gamma that I added to my 23 g tank yesterday. Most likely its the only fish I am gonna keep apart from some juvenile sailfin blennies I have. The Gramma hides within the rockwork/caves and does not come out. Is the hiding behaviour normal or would I begin to see her more often swimming around the tank...Thanks a lot. Sid. >>>Hey Sid, You may need more fish. :) Fish (especially small ones) use the presence of other fish in the vicinity to determine if it's safe to be exposed or not. If he continues with this behavior add a few Chromis damsels or something to make him feel more comfortable, and you should see him out swimming more. This is also happening in combination with him just being new and not acclimated to the situation yet. Leave him be for a week or so and see what happens. You may not need the other fish. Cheers Jim<<< Interior Decoration I have a 10 gallon tank (18 months old) to which I added a Royal Gramma about a month ago. He is really digging up the place. I have about 2 inches of fine sand and many  clam shells that I prop up with stones for hiding places. This guy picked on one shell as his home even though it was very low to the sand. He is fixing it up by removing sand from beneath the shell. He dumps the sand about six inches away. I have never seen it since he does it during the day but my wife did see it. Is this usual for grammas. <It's not uncommon to see a fish of this genus "redecorate."  They're still predators, looking to beat the odds on their prey.  Enjoy, thanks for sharing! Ryan>  Maybe he thinks he is a Goby. Emergency move!  30-gal Tank got a leak Dear WWM crew: <Paul> I never start an email to you guys without thanking you for everything you do... So thanks! <Welcome> It seems I am running into bad luck after bad luck starting up my aquarium.  I converted my 30-gal FW to SW and got a 10-gal as a QT tank.  My fish (two clowns, one Gramma, 5 hermits) seemed happy, ate relatively well, and were moderately active.  The Gramma mostly came out of the live rock for feeding, after which he would promptly go hide again. <Typical. Give it time> I woke up one morning to find a huge puddle on the floor and a good portion of the aquarium's water level gone!  The aquarium was leaking, so I decided to put everything in my 10-gal.  I filled the bottom with sand, put as much live rock as I could without stacking it while still making caves, filled it with water, and got my fish to safety.  Now, here's where my confusion comes in. My fish are much more active!  At feeding time, they are extremely anxious to get food, and will even take it out of my hand if I do not let it go in time!  The Gramma no longer spends his time hiding within the live rock.  The crabs are much faster than before.  Is this a bad thing?  Should I take this to mean the fish are happier, or just frantically claustrophobic? <Something/s are different... maybe you've raised the temperature... perhaps just a good water change...> I know small aquariums are dangerous because it's harder to keep the water quality consistent.  However, if I have the water tested by a LFS weekly, would it be impossible, and would the fish be unhappy?   <No store, no agency is able to actually test for all...> Since I live in a small apartment, the small aquarium looks much better than the large one, the fish are more active, eat better... everything seems to be better, except the actual size of the aquarium. I have been maintaining this small 10-gal mini-reef like this for the past two months.  I've been changing 25% of the water weekly, and the water I've been taking out of the aquarium, I've been getting tested the same day.  If I am diligent about these parameters, is it possible I may keep the aquarium as is?  Or is it still ridiculously small? <Mmm, you may have good success for a good long while... much of the probable negative interaction twixt and between the clowns and Gramma has been eliminated through their introduction in the larger tank> I only ask because my 30-gal is useless, I can't afford a new tank at the moment, and I'd have to give the LFS back all my fish and live rock... and something close to a $500 investment will have been wasted. Thanks for your time! Paul Ghica <Paul... did you actually ever find the leak in the thirty? Very often such "leaks" turn out to be gear failures, splash and spray from a powerhead, diffuser... I would definitely set this tank up (outside) with newspaper under it, and CAREFULLY fill it, check for the actual source (if any)... and even IF it did leak, I would simply reseal (silicone) the inside corners... easy to do. At the very least, sell all to someone who will test, repair it. Bob Fenner> Missing Gramma?! Dear WWM, As always, thank you for all you do. <Welcome> Anyway, in my last contact with you, my 30-gal was leaking, and I had put my two clowns, Gramma, and 5 hermits in a 10-gal. As you suspected, the "leak" was due to my protein skimmer not being tightened enough to the back of the aquarium. <Happens... frequently> It was easily fixed, and I'm back to using the 30-gal. I just recently moved. I did it the best way I could, put the water in 3 huge 5-gal plastic bottles, then moved the live rock and the fish in a 5-gal plastic bucket. The remainder of the water I threw out, to be changed at my new residence. All went well, until I set up my aquarium again. The clowns were quick to come out and ask for food (they do that by poking their heads at the top of the water), and the crabs moved around immediately, checking out the new aquarium arrangement. However, the Gramma was nowhere to be found! <Yikes> I know from past experiences that the little guy likes to hide when stressed, but he'd usually come out after a while. A week later, and still no Gramma. I took each piece of live rock out of the water individually, and checked as best as I could, each place where he could be hiding. I used a bright flashlight to help look, and I imagine I would have seen him easily, seeing as how my LR is brown and he is bright purple and yellow! However, he was nowhere. Possibilities? <Either "jumped out" (perhaps enroute), is "stuck" in the decor... or perished and consumed, quickly decomposed...> All I know for facts is that he is not outside of the aquarium, since I took care before and after the move to make sure there were no stragglers left behind, on the floor, or otherwise. However, I can't find him anywhere INSIDE the aquarium either! Could the crabs have made his body lunch?  <Yes, easily> Is live rock that intricate, that I could miss a fish hiding inside, even if I checked thoroughly? <Can be> If it's possible his body is still hidden in the live rock, how can I get it out? Wouldn't a rotting fish in the aquarium be detrimental the health of the entire aquarium? <Could be> Paul <Paul, not much to do re at this point... Either the fish will show up or it is gone. Bob Fenner> 

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