Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

The Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Fairy Basslet, is native to the deep water reefs in the Caribbean and tropical western Atlantic Ocean and ranges from the Antilles, Bahamas, Bermuda, Venezuela, into the surrounding waters of Central America and northern part of South America.

The Royal Gramma Basslet is usually found alone and occasionally in small groups among the caves, crevices, and overhangs near the bottom at depths from 2 to over 60 feet where they feed on zooplankton, crustaceans, and ectoparasites. They prefer picking their food from the middle of the water column and often set up “cleaning stations” where they remove parasites and dead food from the skin of other fish.

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

The Royal Gramma Basslet has a bright purple to deep violet body color at the anterior that fades at mid body into a bright golden yellow at the posterior. The pectoral fins and front portion of the dorsal are a light purple to deep violet color and the ventral, caudal, and rear portion of the dorsal fin is bright golden yellow. They have a small black spot on the front of the dorsal fin and a black line that intersects the relatively large eye. Males are generally larger than females.

The Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto) closely resembles the False Gramma (Pictichromis

False Gramma (Pictichromis paccagnellae)

False Gramma (Pictichromis paccagnellae)

paccagnellae) except that the False Gramma has clear fins that do not fade and a distinctly sharp change in color at mid body.

Because of their small adult size (3.1 in) and relatively peaceful nature; Gramma loreto is a great beginner fish that is well suited for small nano reef systems.

The Royal Gramma Basslet is best housed in a FOWLR or reef system aquarium of at least 30 gallon capacity with a crushed coral or sandy substrate, plenty of mature live rock arranged into extensive rockwork caves, overhangs, and crevices for them to stake out territories and hide among, and rather subdued lighting.   Although they are generally peaceful towards tankmates of similar size and temperament, they are extremely protective of their territories and can become aggressive to their own kind.  When threatened by any size fish, they will open their mouths wide in a threatening gesture to ward off the intruders.

Unless Royal Gramma Basslets are being kept in a very large tank with plenty of live rock or in a formed pair, it is best to house them singly, however, small groups can be kept as long as the tank is large enough and has enough cracks and crevices for each fish to have its own territory.   Needles to say, they should never be kept with larger, more aggressive fish that will eat them.

The Royal Gramma Basslet will often orient itself to be parallel with the surface that it is closest to. This results in the fish swimming straight up or down and often upside down beneath a ledge or in a cave. Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts unfamiliar with the species mistakenly identify this behavior for illness.

Although Royal Gramma Basslets are very easy to breed and males are usually larger than females, determining a mated pair can be somewhat difficult.   When ready to spawn, the male will use pieces of algae to build a “nest” among the rocks and lead the female to the nest where she will deposit anywhere from 20 to over 100 small (.04 in) eggs.  The eggs have protuberances and tiny threads extending from them that hold onto the algae in the nest and keep them in place.   The male performs frequent cleanings  and debris removal of the nest and ferociously protects the eggs during the breeding period until the eggs hatch out; usually during the evening hours in five to seven days.   The larvae feed on rotifers until they are large enough to consume newly hatched brine shrimp.

In their natural habitat, the Royal Gramma Basslet feeds on zooplankton, ectoparasites, small crustaceans, and small pieces of fish flesh.   In an aquarium environment, they should be feed a varied diet of fresh or frozen meaty fare, including brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and quality frozen omnivore preparations. Over time they can be trained to eat flake and pellet foods.

The Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto) is an ideal beginner species that is readily available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts from specialty fish shops, and online from wholesalers and retailers at the following approximate purchase sizes:  Small: 3/4″ to 1-1/4″; Medium: 1-1/4″ to 1-3/4″; Large: 1-3/4″ to 2-1/2″ at prices from $15.99 to $39.99 or more.

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)






Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Aquarium Type: Reef or FOLR
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72–78 °F, dKH 8 – 12°, pH 8.1 – 8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
Max size: 3″
Color Form: Purple, Yellow
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Reef OK
Origin: Western Central Atlantic
Family: Grammidae
Lifespan: 5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

One Response to “Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)”


  1. […] Gramma (Pictichromis paccagnellae) is much more territorial and aggressive than the more peaceful Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto) which it is sometimes mistaken […]

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