Dottyback fish are some of the most colorful fish in the marine aquarium hobby, with bright orange, black patterns, and neon blue highlights that make them so eye-catching, it’s hard to believe they live underwater!
Despite their small size, dottybacks can be very hardy fish and make an excellent choice for the beginning marine aquarist or those who simply don’t have enough room in their tank to keep larger fish. That said, there are many different species of dottyback fish to choose from, each with its own particular care requirements.
The dottyback fish are from the genus Pseudochromis, family Pseudochromidae and are marine fish (saltwater). They are found in shallow water habitats including reefs, sand flats, lagoons, and rocky shores at depths. Dottyback fish inhabit warm tropical and subtropical waters throughout the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.
Dottyback fish species come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes, so before you commit to buying one of these beautiful fish, it’s best to do your research and make sure you’re ready to care for them properly.
Origin and description
The dottyback fish species is perhaps one of, if not, most popular in marine aquariums due to their distinct coloration and tendency to peacefully coexist with other fish in a single tank. The three most recognized species are Pseudochromis fridmani, Paracentropyge multifasciata, and Chaetodontoplus duboulayi.
Although these fish have received much attention from aquarists all over, they have also seen significant decline in recent years. This can be attributed to both poor breeding practices and poor fishing practices, but more recently there has been an effort towards sustainable harvest programs that aim at correcting many of these issues.
Because some species of dottyback live exclusively in saltwater environments, others live only in freshwater lakes or rivers and may require more specific accommodations. But regardless of their environment, all dottybacks require stable water temperatures (around 78 degrees Fahrenheit), regular cleanings of debris from their home environment, an abundance of rocks or other objects to hide under, and frequent feedings on certain types of small foods like brine shrimp or mosquito larvae.
The most notable distinction between different species of dottyback fish is size — some can grow up to 7 inches long, while others stay below half that size. Dottybacks tend to have bright blue bodies with pinkish accents; many have eyespots at either end of their bodies that serve as camouflage when they lie still against a rock or reef.
The dottyback is best suited for a saltwater aquarium with a strong water current. They come from tropical areas and prefer to live in warmer water between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 degrees Celsius). Some freshwater aquariums can sustain dottybacks, but they tend to be shy in colder temperatures.
Large fish will eat smaller ones in a community tank, so it’s best not to mix them with larger fish if you plan on keeping more than one dottyback per tank. Tropical fishes that aren’t threatened by predators are ideal for small-to-medium-sized tanks; these include damselfish and gobies that graze algae off of rocks and other hard surfaces throughout your tank.
Dottybacks also have teeth that continually grow during their lifespan — they need small snails or shrimp as part of their diet to keep their teeth ground down properly, otherwise they can become overgrown.
Dottyback fish size
Dottybacks have a maximum size of 3 inches (8 cm), making them some of the smallest saltwater fish. However, even at 3 inches, they are very long and will take up plenty of space in your tank. Be sure to take their minimum tank size and their maximum length into account when deciding which dottyback you want to keep.
Dottyback fish tank size
30 gallons or larger. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is acceptable for some species, but 30 gallons is best.
Dottyback fish tank set up
To set up a tank for dottybacks, a standard marine setup can be used. Use a fine-grain sand substrate with flat rocks and colorful pieces of coral and live rock. Plenty of hiding spots will allow your fish to feel safe in their new home. It is important to have good filtration which will help prevent fluctuations in water quality.
An under gravel filter is an ideal choice for someone just starting out in saltwater aquariums, as it provides excellent mechanical and biological filtration without much fuss. Lighting should be bright enough to give you an idea of what’s going on in your tank, but not bright enough that it heats up your tank too much!
Aim for around 20 to 30 watts per gallon when setting up lighting if you’re unsure. Feed your dottybacks two or three times per day; use a variety of small frozen foods (artemia, brine shrimp, cyclopeeze) along with some veggie matter like spinach or seaweed.
Try to match their natural diet as closely as possible while they are still acclimating to make sure they get all of the nutrients they need from day one. Be careful about overfeeding; overfeeding is one of the most common mistakes hobbyists make, so try not to overdo it at first!
Dottyback fish tank mates
Dottybacks are generally not aggressive and as such, they can be kept with much different fish. Some notable examples of compatible tank mates include clownfish, firefish, banded coral shrimp, candy cane shrimp (anemone-forming), blue-legged hermits, and green chromis.
They also do well in pairs or small groups of three or four. These fish will usually spend most of their time in hiding spots so you need to provide a few hiding spots for them in your tank.
Dottyback fish breeding
While dottybacks are relatively easy to breed in captivity, many aquarists choose not to because of their fragility and short lifespans. Freshwater or brackish ponds should be used for breeding purposes and filled with aged water from your main tank.
The ponds should be three times as long as they are wide, and have large rocks in which they can hide their eggs. Dottybacks will lay clusters of 200 – 300 adhesive eggs on rocks, roots, or mosses; these must be removed immediately when spotted so as to prevent them from drying out.
These eggs hatch within four days. Baby fish require a fine micro food diet, along with algal flakes and rotifers until they are six weeks old — at which point they can be weaned onto other foods such as frozen brine shrimp.
Are dottyback fish aggressive or peaceful?
Dottybacks can be both. They can be very territorial, meaning you’ll want to keep them in tanks with other Dottybacks and no other fish. Some species are considered reef safe, which means they won’t eat invertebrates like coral or urchins (but then, some will). For that reason, it’s best to research your specific species before adding it to a tank.
Dottyback fish care
Because of their unique anatomy, dottybacks are susceptible to specific problems. However, with proper care, these fish can be long-lived and rewarding. One thing that you should know about dottybacks is that they are generally very sensitive to water conditions. They must be kept in stable conditions at all times or else they will fall ill quickly.
Dottybacks also tend to prefer small territories, so make sure there aren’t any territorial issues occurring. If your aquarium has a good amount of hiding places, your dottyback will feel more comfortable in his new home and won’t act out as much towards tank mates.
Dottyback fish diet
The dottyback fish are carnivores and one of many different types of saltwater fish that live in the ocean or brackish waters. Due to their small size, dottybacks don’t need much food, but they do need plenty of protein. The best way to provide a balance of proteins and other nutrients is by feeding your dottyback with a variety of different types of foods, such as carnivore pellets, vegetables, freeze-dried brine shrimp, and finely chopped bits of squid or krill.
The dottyback tank is not too complicated to set up, although there are a few specific requirements. The first is that they are from coral reefs and not open oceans. When you are setting up your tank, make sure to simulate these conditions, but do not go overboard as it may stress out your fish.
Temperature should be between 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit with lots of currents which these fish will utilize while hunting for food. Although they are generally peaceful with other species, some may show an aggressive side when around their own kind, so be aware of any fights happening while setting up their environment.
They are hardy fish that can withstand both lower and higher temperatures but will breed better in a warmer tank. The ideal pH for Dottybacks is between 8.1 and 8.4, and hardness should be around 8 to 12 dkH.
It’s also important to have sufficient filtration as they release ammonia into their water through waste product excretion; too much filtration might be detrimental to their immune system though, so an aquarium with moderate filtration is ideal. It’s important not to overcrowd their environment as well; keep at least 2 inches of space between them and other members of their species or other fish if possible.
Dottyback fish ifespan
Their average lifespan is 5 to 7 years with proper care. Some species can live for up to 10 years.
Parasites and diseases
Dottybacks are susceptible to parasites, notably marine ich and anchor worms. Marine ich is treated with salt baths (use a cup of aquarium salt per 10 gallons of water), while anchor worms can be removed by manually removing or medicating affected areas.
Dottybacks should be monitored for disease if they are kept in tanks with other species that show signs of stress or illness, as they may be stressed by these species in turn and could contract their illnesses.
Dottybacks are susceptible to larger fish and crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters. If you have a dottyback in your aquarium, be sure to cover it at night or put any food into a net bag before dropping it into your tank.
The main threats to dottyback fish are Eels, Lionfish, and Triggers.
Do dottyback fish make great pets?
Though they’re not as popular as angelfish, dottybacks are small and fun to have in an aquarium. As a group, they make great inhabitants of a saltwater aquarium. They also adapt well to captivity, are relatively hardy fish, and can be found at reasonable prices. This makes them an excellent choice for novices who want to try their hand at keeping saltwater fish, or experienced aquarists who are looking for some variety in their tanks.