Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Striped Damsel, Striped Damselfish, Black and white Damselfish, Threestripe Damselfish, White tailed Damselfish, White tailed Damsel, Banded Humbug, Common Humbug, Zebra Humbug, Humbug Damselfish, Humbug Dascyllus, White-tiled Footballer, and Whitetail Dascyllus is found in Indo West Pacific waters from East Africa and the Red Sea to the Line, Marquesan, and Tuamoto islands. They are also found off the southern coast of Japan and further south to Sidney, Australia.

Three Stripe Damselfish are usually found in large groups around staghorn Acropora and other stony coral heads in the shallow lagoons and subtidal reefs of their range.   In smaller groups, Three Stripe Damselfish are often found over individual coral heads at depths from 3 to over 210 feet.   Off the southern coast of Japan, Three Stripe Damselfish are frequently found living with the Lemon Damselfish (Pomacentrus moluccensis).

Like most damselfish species, Dascyllus aruanus is an active species that feed on algae, benthic invertebrates, and zooplankton during daylight hours and shelters among the coral heads during the night.   Like Domino Damselfish and most clownfish; juvenile Three Stripe Damselfish will often enter into symbiotic relationships with sea anemone, however, as they mature into adults, they don’t seem to need their protection and usually cease the activity.

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)

The Three Stripe Damselfish has a snow white body color with three wide black bars along the flanks, separated by two white bands with a smaller bar of white to offset the tail, and a large spot on the dorsal portion of the snout.   The pectoral fins are translucent, the pelvic fins are black, and the caudal fin is colored a pale white.

Easily confused with the Dascyllus melanurus, commonly known as the Four Striped Damselfish; Dascyllus aruanus has 3 vertical black stripes while Dascyllus melanurus has 4 black stripes running vertically.

Adult Three Striped Damsels can be sexed based on their appearance.   Males are usually larger than females, however, a safer method of sexing is to look at the genital area.   Males are equipped with a tube that ends in a tip, while females have a wider, crate like tube.

Three Stripe Damselfish do well in groups of three or more individuals, but use caution when housing them with other damsels of the same or other species.

Three Stripe Damselfish are reef safe and can be housed in either a reef environment or a FOLR aquarium of at least 30 gallon capacity with a sand or finely crushed coral substrate, plenty of mature live rock arranged into territories with crevices, caves, and overhangs for them to hide among, and a lot of swimming space.   Ideally, each Striped Damsel should be provided with its own rock cave or coral head.

Due the aggressive behavior of adults, juveniles can be raised in a FOLR community tank with other moderately aggressive species such as basslets, angels, and most clownfish.   Never mix damsels with timid species like cardinalfish, chromis, or batfish.   Also, avoid housing them with Lionfish, Snappers, Groupers, Triggers, Eels, or any other predatory fish large enough to swallow them.

In a reef aquarium with corals and carpet type anemones, they will often bond with an anemone to form a symbiotic relationship.   They will generally not harm invertebrates, corals, or disrupt the decoration in reef setups.

Although Three Stripe Damselfish have been successfully bred in an aquarium environment, the fry are extremely difficult to raise.

During breeding, the males perform a mating “dance” to entice a female to lay her adhesive eggs in a prepared nest; typically a shell or smooth rock in the substrate near some type of cover.   After the male fertilizes the eggs, he will guard and aerate them until they hatch out in about 3 to 5 days.   During this period, the male becomes extremely aggressive and allows no one near the nest.   In their natural habitat, the tiny hatched larvae drift with the current as plankton, feeding on zooplankton and phytoplankton before settling to the bottom.   A single male will often mate with several females during the breeding season.

In the wild, Three Stripe Damselfish feed on algae, benthic invertebrates, and zooplankton.  In an aquarium environment with plenty of mature live rock, they will accept a wide range of live, frozen, and freeze dried foods including omnivore flakes, pellets, Spirulina, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, finely chopped fish fillets or shrimp, etc. Small portions fed several times throughout the day are recommeded over one or two large portions.

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus) are commonly available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts in local fish shops and from online wholesalers, trans shippers, and retailers at prices from $3.00 to $20.00 at approximate purchase sizes:  Small: 3/4″ to 1-1/4″, Medium: 1-1/4″ to 2-1/4″

Although some newcomers to the tropical fish keeping hobby use Dascyllus aruanus to cycle their tanks; cured live rock is a much better option to cycle fishless tanks.

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)

Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)






Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Aquarium Type: Reef or FOLR
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-82°F, dKH 8 to 12 , pH 8.1 – 8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
Max. Size: 3.9″
Color Form: Black, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Reef
Origin: Indo Pacific
Family: Pomacanthidae
Lifespan: 5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

One Response to “Three Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus)”


  1. […] Three Stripe Damselfish, Domino Damselfish, and most species of clownfish; juvenile Four Stripe Damselfish will often enter […]

Leave a Reply

Saltwater Fish

Featuring Clownfish

Aquarium Supplies

On-Sale Aquarium Supplies!

Saltwater Holiday Specials

Tropical Fish Keeping – Categories