Four Stripe Damselfish Care Guide

Dascyllus melanurus

Minimum Tank Size30 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

The Four Stripe Damselfish is an extremely hardy, aggressive fish who is frequently used as a starter fish. This is both good and bad, as the fish can easily survive in an uncycled tank, however when they age they will be extremely aggressive and territorial. Keeping this fish will really limit your options on future fish. Combine this with their lifetime of 10+ years and you may have a problem.

Behavior & Aggression

The Four Stripe Damsel fish is an intelligent but aggressive fish. Their eyesight is exceptional and they can easily spot the difference between a threatening predators and a harmless herbivore. They communicate using a series of audible pulses. This can occasional be heard during fights and mating rituals.

In the wild these fish will school together, roaming the seascape and will stick close to cover. They can frequently be found ducking into corals when larger fish swim nearby. This attitude is beneficial to the coral’s growth, as they often help clean out between the corals branches and provide food via waste.

As juveniles these fish act as a peaceful free swimming fish, moving around the tank and exploring every spot imaginable. As they settle into the tank and grow older, they begin prioritizing a certain location, marking it as their territory.

Any fish unlucky enough to stray into their territory will quickly be attacked/harassed. What happens next depends on the tank size. If the tank is large enough then the other fish will be able to claim their own territory where the damselfish will not bother them. If however the tank is too small, the Four Stripe Damselfish will often chase the other fish to exhaustion multiple times. This will leave the other fish stressed and soon ill. It is rare for bullied fish to survive very long.

Tank mates For Damselfish

To combat the damselfishes abrasive nature you will need to either pick a large tank or other aggressive fish. Some smaller quick fish may also be kept with the damsel, however I would not recommend them in a tank smaller than a 40 gallon and two or more damsels.

Appropriate tank mates include:

  • Dragonets
  • Filefish
  • Foxface
  • Larger Gobies
  • Jawfish
  • Hawkfish
  • Wrasse

Most larger, semi-aggressive fish also work with the damsel. Just be sure they are not so large that they will eat the damselfish.

Remember: The damselfish is not larger than itself. Keeping multiple damselfish is not recommended unless you are specifically trying to pair them. You can learn about this in the breeding section below.

Diet & Feeding

There aren’t many fish easier to feed than the Four Stripe Damselfish. The will accept almost any prepared food and are aggressive enough to feed even with larger fish. While their diet is omnivores they are much closer to carnivores than herbivores. Their diet should consist of flake foods, pellets, some vegetables/greens and frozen meaty foods. Like most marine fish you will want to feed the Four Stripe Damselfish twice a day.

Breeding & Sexing

Breeding the Four Stripe Damselfish is exceptionally easy, so long as you get a proper pair of fish. To do so you will need one larger, well established damsel and one smaller new damsel. The larger one will become the dominant of the pair without much if any fighting, leading to a paired set of damselfish.

All Four Stripe Damselfish are inherently female, changing to male only when they are the most dominant damselfish in the group.

After the two fish are paired you simply need to meet a few requirements.

  • The tank should be no less than 50 gallons
  • The damselfish must not be threatened by any other tank mate
  • The damselfish must have an established home territory for their eggs
  • The fish must be fed at regular intervals
  • The lighting schedule must be regular

When all of these factors are accounted for you can expect to see mating dances take place between the two damselfish. This can be observed early in the morning rather than late at night. Additionally they are more likely to mate if the water temperature increases a few degrees from normal. Do not raise the temperature too quickly and do not exceed 82 degrees.

To start the mating the male will begin emitting one of his audible pulses while bobbing up and down in the water. If the female notices the male and is also ready to spawn she will join his behavior. The two fish will begin to swim together, with the male leading the female to the desired breeding grounds. This will often be rocks, rubble or other various aquascape. Here they will release their genetic material, with the eggs sticking to the surface of their breeding spot.

While the number of eggs can vary from female to female, the number of eggs are consistently high, often over 1000. To keep these eggs alive you will need to remove any egg hunting fish as well as most members of the clean up crew. You may also choose to remove the eggs from the tank, however you will need to be careful. The eggs are fragile and cannot survive much stress. My suggestion here is to use a container to move whatever object the eggs are on into an isolation tank. This may or may not be possible depending on where the eggs are. This is also best done during feeding time, as the male will defend his eggs even from human hands.

As the eggs are secured to a surface, no special methods are needed to hatch the eggs. Simply keep the water parameters the same, performing water changes as needed. The cleaner the water the better.

Four Striped Damselfish eggs will hatch within three days. The fry will remain in their larval state for another 3 weeks before progressing into more developed damselfish. They will require rotifer and later copepods for the best survival rate.

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