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Fairy Basslet
(Gramma loreto)

fairy basslet, Gramma loreto

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The fairy basslet or Gramma loreto belongs to the family Serranidae. These deep water dwellers are native to the West Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. They frequent steep reef slopes ranging from depths of 15 to 230 feet. When threatened they will instinctively seek the shelter of the reef interior for protection. It is not uncommon to see them swimming upside down when they feel at ease in their environment. This is a durnal species. They will be active during the day and retreat to the reef at dusk.

The fairy basset has a slender torpedo-shaped body. Their brilliant three toned color palette makes them a popular choice for saltwater aquarists. These fish have a royal purple anterior which fades into a small reddish or fuchsia band mid-body. The anterior region and tail fins are bright yellow. This is a smaller species reaching an adult length of approximately 4 inches. They have an average life expectancy of 3-5 years. The fairly basslet is commonly called a royal gramma because of its purple coloring. It is also referred to as a bicolor fairy basslet.

This species is rated easy to moderate care level. They are perfect for amateur aquarists. This is a docile to timid creature and should not be housed with larger or more aggressive species. They are middle to lower tanks swimmers in aquariums and will require abundant hiding places. An insufficient number of hiding places may cause them to become territorial over their preferred spot. They are considered non-territorial with unrelated species. They do however exhibit territorial behavior toward other grammas. Keep only one gramma species per tank unless you have a large enough aquarium for them to establish territorial boundaries. They are good candidates for reef aquariums but have a propensity to view smaller crustaceans such as hermit crabs and mollusks like turbo snails as a source of nutrition.

In nature this is a shoaling species which should be distinguished from a schooling species. Schooling fish are generally of equal size, lack an established social order and travel in the same direction much like a herd of cattle. Shoaling fish tend to be of varying size, have a hierarchy based on size and dominance and do not move in unison with each other. Both rely on safety in numbers. Basslets shoal by the thousands in their native habitat.

Basslets are primarily carnivorous. In the wild they are known to feed on the parasites infesting other species. In captivity they easily acclimate to common variety marine food. They will readily accept flake foods but a more diversified diet is recommended in order to maintain their vigor and vivid coloration. A diet supplemented with vitamin enriched brine shrimp, frozen marine food formulated for carnivores, or chopped crustaceans such as uncooked shrimp from your local grocer will keep them healthy and happy. Plenty of live rock is also recommended. Not only does this give them adequate hiding places, it also provides an additional source of nutrition. The minuscule crustaceans that live in living rock are a natural source of protein.

It is becoming more and more common to find commercially tank raised basslets for sale. A tank raised marine species is always preferable to a fish caught from the wild. Tank raised species do not have to undergo the transition into a captive environment. They are also more disease resistant, having prior exposure to the escalated bacterial levels common to a more confined surroundings. And they do not further deplete the oceans of one of their most valued resources.

These are harem fish. Harem fish function in a communal setting with an established hierarchal structure. Basslet harems consist of one male and multiple females. A second less dominate male may peacefully coexist within the harem if given enough room to prevent territorial issues. The closer the female is in proximity to the dominant male, the higher she is in the pecking order.

Breeding Fairy Basslets

Fairey basslets are protogynous hermaphrodites. They are all born as females. If a group consisting of only females is introduced to an aquarium the largest most dominate female will undergo a morphological change in gender. The death of the harem’s male will also trigger this hormonal transformation. This is nature’s way of propagating the species. There will always be a male present in the harem to insure future generations. Basslets are also sexually dimorphic. Males are much more colorful and larger than females. Females have shorter pelvic fins and lack the dual coloring of males.

These fish commonly breed in home aquariums. A high protein diet will help induce the spawning cycle. They are accustomed to breeding in the cracks and crevices of tropical reefs. They must be provided a similar environment for breeding purposes. A cave-like structure or hollow aquarium décor will be adequate.

The male’s color palette will darken when he is ready to mate with his harem. We will perform a courtship dance prior to spawning.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8-4 1.020-1.025

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