Pseudochromis – The Dottybacks Fish


Last updated on July 14th, 2022 at 05:02 pm

Dottybacks fish that, or Pseudochromis as they are widely called, can grow up to 8 inches in length, they are one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fish amongst both beginners and advanced hobbyists alike. Having said that, this does not mean that it’s an easy fish to care for, as dottybacks have different dietary requirements compared to other saltwater fish. On top of that, these species are known to be very territorial, especially in their juvenile stage.

Taking care of dottybacks fish can be quite different from taking care of other species of fish, especially if you’re not used to the way they behave or their particular needs in captivity.

Pseudochromis are hardy, beautiful marine fish that make great additions to any saltwater aquarium setup, but they can be high-maintenance pets if the right steps aren’t taken to ensure their safety and well-being. When properly cared for, these fish will live long and healthy lives as part of your tank family, but some extra attention must be paid to their needs in order to bring out their best qualities.

In this article, we will cover how to take care of your Pseudochromis and make sure they live long and happy lives in your saltwater tank.

Origin and descriptions

Pseudochromis are an amazing family of dottybacks fish. You’ll find many species within their genus, which encompasses more than 100 fishes altogether. Most are native to Africa, but some live in Asia and Australia as well. Dottybacks tend to have a sedentary lifestyle, meaning they like to stay in one place when possible, so choose your tank well; they may not do well in small tanks or tanks that aren’t at least 30 gallons big!

They also need plenty of room to swim around, so bigger is always better with these guys. It’s best to keep them in groups too—at least three or four—so they don’t feel lonely.

Species profile

Pseudochromis belong to the family Pseudochromidae, a group of fish commonly referred to as dottybacks. The name dottyback comes from their distinctive black-and-white stripes and spots. Dottybacks are found in tropical waters around the world, but they’re most abundant in coral reefs and other areas with lots of live rock.

Pseudochromis Fridmani (Orchid Dottyback)

They can be kept singly or in groups, and many species are relatively easy to care for. In fact, if you don’t have much experience with saltwater aquariums, dottybacks make an excellent choice for your first saltwater tank.

The dottyback fish, of the genus Pseudochromis, was created in 1979. The name comes from two greek words, pseudes meaning false and chromis meaning color, since these fish have different patterns compared to other species of fish that belong to its suborder. This is a very large genus with over 80 known species, most are marine but there are also a few freshwaters and brackish water species as well. This is a group of true perch-like fishes native to warmer waters.

Common name

Pseudochromis are sometimes called dottybacks, dottyback fish, pseudochromis clownfish, or just pseudochromis fish.


The dottybacks can be found in coral reefs, lagoons, and tide pools. Its natural environment is tropical and subtropical waters; it doesn’t do well in cooler water. It needs ample space, so don’t place a dottyback into a small tank with other fish. You should keep a group of at least 4 in an aquarium 100 gallons or larger. Make sure you have plenty of live rock for them to explore and hide among.

They need lots of hiding places since they are shy by nature. Provide lots of open swimming areas as well. A sand bed will help maintain good water quality and provide a comfortable place for your fish to rest when not exploring their surroundings. Water temperature should be kept between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit (24-28 degrees Celsius).

If you want to breed these fish, then water temperatures must remain between 79-83 degrees Fahrenheit (26-29 degrees Celsius) during the breeding season. Lighting shouldn’t be too bright because it might stress out your dottyback. If there isn’t enough lighting in your tank, consider adding some fluorescent lights to create more depth. These fish like a lot of light while they are young but may become stressed if there is too much light once they mature.

Bicolor Dottyback (Pictichromis Paccagnellae)

Pseudochromis size

Although some can reach up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length, most pseudochromis are generally between 2 and 4 inches (5.1 and 10.2 cm).

Tank size

Due to their small body size, the minimum recommended tank size for pseudochromis is 30 gallons (114 liters), big tanks may be needed for larger fishes.

Tank requirements

While dottybacks are active, fast-moving fish, they’re also fairly delicate. They require a tank with plenty of oxygen and water flow for swimming. Some aquarists keep their dottybacks in reef tanks, but others prefer setting up a freshwater tank specifically for these fish—their needs are not as demanding as other saltwater fish.

Dottybacks can be kept with other fish in large aquariums—just be sure you have enough space for all your pets! If you choose to house your dottyback with other fish, avoid those that are overly aggressive or territorial. This means no lionfish or larger triggerfish like the valentini puffer fish (Canthigaster valentini).

Also, make sure any tankmates aren’t fast swimmers who might nip at your little guy. Clownfish are a good choice because they’re both colorful and peaceful. You may want to limit how many species you put in one tank; adding too many different kinds of fish can cause overstocking, which leads to disease outbreaks.

Dottybacks will eat small invertebrates such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and planktonic foods. Try supplementing their diet with spirulina flakes or freeze-dried foods designed for omnivores such as shrimp pellets and krill.


Although dottybacks are some of the most commonly kept saltwater fish, they can be a bit tricky to breed. The best way to have success is keeping a male and female together in your tank for at least 3 months prior to breeding.

Dottybacks are one of few fish species that exhibit protandry, meaning males become reproductive before females do. Females lay about 200 eggs on a flat surface such as a rock or coral reef; however, only 1 percent or less will hatch after 24 hours. In just two days, young dottybacks will already be swimming freely.

They mature at around 5 months old and live for approximately 3 years. These fish require an aquarium of at least 30 gallons with plenty of hiding places and live rock. They should not be kept with other small, aggressive fish because they are slow swimmers and could easily get picked on by other species.

Cirrhilabrus Rubrisquamis (Red Velvet Wrasse)

They should also not be kept with large, predatory fish because their small size makes them vulnerable to being eaten by larger species.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Pseudochromis are peaceful towards other fish but territorial in nature. It would not be wise to keep more than one per tank because they can become aggressive toward each other. This makes them good for reef tanks and community tanks as long as you have appropriate tank mates and bigger tanks with many hiding spots.

Pseudochromis care


Pseudochromis (dottybacks fish) can be a fun addition to your marine tank, but they’re sometimes overlooked by hobbyists because they’re less popular than other species. However, if you provide these guys with enough space and good care, they can be a rewarding species to keep.

They should be considered advanced fish for experienced hobbyists only due to their aggressive behavior and need for ample hiding places. The only way to prevent death in your tank is through adequate research beforehand. This will also help you understand how to take care of them properly. If you don’t have much experience with saltwater tanks, it may be best to start off with a different type of fish that requires less work.

What they eat

As carnivores, dottybacks are happy with a wide variety of meaty foods. If they can get their hands on it, they’ll eat it snails, clams, worms, and crustaceans will all be gobbled up. They love eating just about any type of shrimp available—and if there are no shrimp around, they’ll go for fish flakes or pellets.

They are also prone to overeating and belly-bloat if fed too much at once.

Pseudochromis lifespan


The lifespan for Pseudochromis ranges from 5–8 years with a normal being about 7 years. While other types of cichlids can live longer, all tend to have short lifespans as compared to other fish.

Parasites and diseases

If you find yourself with a batch of sick pseudochromis, look for parasites. One common offender is Cryptocaryon irritans (or marine ich), an external parasite that can infect marine fishes and cause skin discoloration. The most visible symptom is white patches on your fish, but there may also be lethargy and problems with eyesight—and if left untreated, it could spread to other fish in your tank.

Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus)

Another disease to watch out for is a hole-in-the-head disease, which affects some species of dottybacks; symptoms include red lesions or growths on their head or body. This type of disease tends to get worse over time and eventually leads to death, so it’s important to treat hole-in-the-head as soon as possible by consulting a veterinarian who specializes in saltwater aquariums.


The key to keeping a dottyback, or any other marine fish, is understanding what their predators are. In your aquarium, these can include tangs, wrasses, and angelfish, which will eat your fish if given half a chance. Make sure you choose species that can live peacefully with each other.

Having an undergravel filter system in place helps protect fish from these predatory threats.

Some other common predators are Angelfish, butterflyfish, clownfish, damselfish, grouper, jacks, tangs, and triggers. These fish will eat dottybacks if given a chance. It is important to provide plenty of hiding places for your dottyback. They should have lots of caves and crevices they can hide in when they feel threatened.

Do they make good pets?

Yes. Dottybacks are really suitable for an experienced aquarist or fish enthusiast. They are best kept in a tank by themselves as they can be aggressive towards other fish and invertebrates, even if it’s one of their own species.

Dottybacks also have a tendency to nip fins, so keeping them with more sensitive species is not recommended. If your tank is big enough and you know what you’re doing, then dottybacks can make good pets; otherwise, avoid them totally.