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Damselfish Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Includes a variety of damselfish, including:

  • Blue damsel 
  • Domino damsel 
  • Three stripe damsel
  • Fiji blue devil damsel
  • Yellowtail damsel
  • Sergeant major damsel 
  • Pink smith damsel
  • Talbot’s damsel


Scientific name: Chrysiptera cyanea, Dascyllus trimaculatus, Dascyllus aruanus, Chrysiptera taupou, Chrysiptera parasema, Abudefduf saxatilis, Pomacentrus smithi, Chrysiptera talboti 

Damselfish are active and colorful marine fish. Damselfish are a close relative of clownfish. Recommended for beginning marine aquarists.

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Can be very territorial toward same species. Damsels become more territorial as they age
  • Damsels like to hide in or near a cave, coral or crevice, darting out to defend territory or capture food
  • Damsels inhabit all levels of the aquarium
  • Some damsels change color as they mature from juveniles to adults 


Care Difficulty Easy
Average Life Span Up to 12 years with proper care, depending on species
Average Adult Size 1.75-12+ inches long, depending on species
Diet Omnivore and carnivore, depending on species
Minimum Habitat Size 29+ gallons, depending on species
Water Temperature 74-80°F
Specific Gravity 1.020-1.025


Habitat size

 A minimum of 29 gallons is recommended for smaller-sized adult damsels. A larger aquarium will be needed for larger species.  

Building your habitat

  • Water health - Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Moderate to strong water circulation, based on species, should be provided to mimic water currents found in the damsel’s natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. The addition of a protein skimmer can aid with maintaining great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than +/-2 degrees in a 24-hour period. The specific gravity should remain stable. Do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than +/-0.001 in a 24-hour period.
  • Décor - Provide rock and décor for hiding places and plenty of room for movement

What do damselfish eat?

A well-balanced damsel diet consists of:

  • Flakes, pellets, freeze-dried and frozen food
  • A variedVary diet to ensure proper nutritional balance


Things to remember when feeding your damsel:

  • Depending on species and size, feed small amounts two to three times daily, no more than fish will eat in 1 to 2 minutes
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding

Damsel care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your damsels healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10 to 25% of the total volume of water every two to four weeks, or as needed. Change filter media monthly
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions as this is a major cause of stress and disease. Maintain good water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration

Where to buy 

 In store and online Damsels are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local location, call ahead to check availability.


Tank mates 

Compatible with:

  • Anthias 
  • Clownfish
  • Dwarf and large angelfish
  • Blennies
  • Basslets
  • Hawkfish
  • Foxface/rabbitfish
  • Dartfish 
  • Gobies
  • Butterflyfish 
  • Hogfish
  • Pseudochromis
  • Puffers
  • Tangs 
  • Wrasse

Can be compatible with some cardinalfish.


Signs of a healthy fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy appetite
  • Active swimming
  • Fins completely intact and undamaged
  • Bright, even coloring 
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or veterinarian.)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Listlessness
  • Labored breathing
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Erratic swimming
  • Frayed fins

Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueFin rot Symptoms or CausesFrayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueMarine Ich Symptoms or CausesWhite spots appear on fins and body; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically. Rapid respiration. Suggested ActionQuarantine fish immediately; add freshwater aquarium salt and use commercial ich remedy as directed. Consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian.
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add aquarium salt; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueViral infection (lymphocystis) Symptoms or CausesWhite nodule growths on fins or body Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment


  • What do damsel fish eat? Damsels should be offered a variety of flakes, pellets, freeze-dried and frozen diets 
  • Can damsels live with clownfish? Some damsel and clownfish species can make good tank mates if provided enough space. Always research compatibility when selecting new fish to add to the aquarium.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet. 

Go to for more information about aquatic life and disease.


The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, contact your veterinarian as appropriate.