Pictichromis paccagnellae

Common Names: Royal dottyback, royal pesudochromis, bicolor dottyback, bicolor pseudochromis, bicolor cichlops, false gramma, etc.

Type Locality: N/A

Range: Western Pacific

Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Pseudochromis paccagnellae.

Size: 7 cm (2¾ inches).

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical marine.

Difficulty: A hardy species good for beginners, but extremely territorial and aggressive, able to bully fish many times its size. It will fight to the death with conspecifics or other similar-looking species. Generally reef safe, but will prey on small crustaceans.

Tank Setup: Live rock piles provide the type of caves and holes this fish needs to set up a home—a home it will defend vigorously against all comers. It is fine for a nano setup, but only if it is the only fish in the tank.

Feeding: A micropredator. It will usually eagerly accept all aquarium foods.

Breeding: Has been bred in captivity, but it is unclear if there are any being commercially produced as are several other dottybacks.

Fish Description

Purple in front, yellow behind, this half-and-half fish always catches your eye. May be confused with the slightly larger royal gramma Gramma loreto, but that fish has a dark line through the eye that the dottyback does not.


This fish has it all—looks, personality, and hardiness. It is, however, a nano-size fish with a grouper-size attitude. Actually, it’s a bit mild for a dottyback, but that is a relative thing, since some dottybacks are nothing short of absolute terrors. Gram for gram, dottybacks are some of the shortest-tempered marine fish in the aquarium hobby, so that makes this species somewhat-moderated terrors. They are especially vicious toward similar fishes, with “similar” including just about any small, elongated fish, and if it has purple or yellow on it, forget it! They’re also not beyond nipping the fins of much larger tankmates.

Careful planning can create a fairly peaceful community, using plenty of space, plenty of rock piles, and larger, bold tankmates whose looks or habits will not make them appear like interlopers to the dottyback.