The Damsel Fish – Good Aquarium Inhabitant Or Not

Quite often a [tag-tec]damsel fish[/tag-tec] is one of the first fish which is introduced to the aquarium, however this might not be a good thing to do – the reason is that they are very territorial and quite aggressive.

I can understand the reasons as to why people introduce these fish first as they are quite hardy fish and can tolerate the conditions of the aquarium when it is first set up – as long as the aquarist is responsible. The trouble though is that once they settle in they can become quite troublesome.

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  1. Hi there

    I had few chromis in my aquarium and few other fish like tomato clown, yellow tang, gobby. Had the really bad idea of introducing 2 small domino damsels. these 2 little ****** have picked on the little chromis, cut most of the fins, and the fish is now in really bad condition. I am thinking in returning the damsels and getting something else….really bad experience…

    What should I do with the chromis

    Do you think I should sacrifice him/her


  2. Hi. The black/white type damsels seem in general to be more agressive than the blue types. Is it possible to remove the dominos? If not, could you remove the chromis and give them to an aquarist or local hobby shop so they can recover? Best of luck anyway.

  3. I have to agree – I think that you should attempt to remove the damsels from your aquarium. Once removed then the chromis will start to recover. Another alternative is to remove the chromis and either return them to your local fish shop or place them in your sump – if you have one.

    That’s the trouble with damsel fish, they are ok when you first put them in but after a while they become territorial and start bullying other fish, it gets worse as they get older as well.

    Let us know how you get on.

  4. i first started tank with maroon clown chocolate chip star live rock. then added orange clown. general star fish. then two blue damsels. one yellow damsel two velvet and black damsels. they don’t seem to be aggressive yet but should i keep a close eye on them? chocolate chip star died looked like chunks were missing out of it do you think a fish could of done that or the pet store said the general star probably did it. Any replay would be appreciated.

  5. With the mixture of damsels you have in the aquarium I am surprised that there has not been any agression shown as of yet. You do not mention however how large the aquarium is or how long it has been running. What you may see over time is that the damsels start to become agressive as they age more.

    With relation to the star fish I very much doubt that this will have been caused by a fish as whilst nippy fish they would probably not have the capacity to be able to take chunks out of the starfish.

    If I remember correctly general starfish should not be kept in a reef aquarium and do need a large aquarium however I do not know the size of the aquarium of whether it is fish only or a reef tank.

    I would be surprised however if the general starfish was the culpret.

    It could be that there is something slightly wrong with your water parameters and the starfish has simply passed away and has been both ‘pecked’ at by the fish as well started to decay.

  6. Any idea how to remove damselfish (chromis) from show tank without disturbing aquascape and corals? Is there some kind of trap for chromis? I want to try to catch them when they are “asleep” but it requires removing live rock. They’re getting bigger and two of them are becoming more and more agressive. I would appreciate if someone can email me an idea. Thank you!

  7. They have a number of fish traps that can work very well. They usually need to be baited with some sort of food. Otherwise you can take apart your whole aquarium to get them out…sorry 🙁

    If you decide to go the fish trap route (shameless plug) Click my name to be taken to my site. Click any link and search for fish trap.

  8. It is very hard to remove fish from an aquarium when there is rocks and corals present.

    As already said there are various traps which are available. Some which do work and other which don’t appear to be that good.

    Patience really is key. They can be removed at feeding time by using two nets, however you do need to take your time and as said be patient.

    If the removal at feeding time does not work and neither does a trap then unfortunately I think you will need to take apart some of your rockwork.

  9. I have an 80gal reef tank. Was considering a group of blackbar chromis (chromis retrofasciata) maybe 4 or 5 , I have 2 maroon clowns,1 tailspot blenny, 1 hectors gobie, 1 royal gramma, and….. 2 springers damsels (they live on opposite sides of the tank but are not aggressive when they frequently Visit the others territory) Lots of live rock to hide, plenty of unclaimed area’s and open water over the reef.

    Will the chromis be tolerated by the damsels?

    Does Anyone have any experiences that may be helpful, other than the typical “damsels are territorial”?

  10. Hello Eric.
    I hate questions like that! I don’t know. I have always placed any damsel in the aquarium last so that the other fishes that could be at risk are already settled with secure areas of their own. I have a blue damsel (Chrysiptera cyanea) that went in last and no problem – the damsel is bossed about by a flame angel (Centropyge loriculus). I have to state that there are only two fish in the aquarium anyway, by design, even though it could house many more. So perhaps only experience will tell and that needs someone who owns the fish you want. If there is a problem then rectifying it could be a pain, even down to dismantling the rockwork, not fun. Perhaps a good trawl of the internet on all the characteristics of the fish would steer you in the right direction. I’ve always gone by the ‘if not reasonably sure don’t’ philosophy.

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