Home | Aquarium Livestock | Popular Marine Aquarium Fishes – Damselfishes and Clownfishes – Part 3

Popular Marine Aquarium Fishes – Damselfishes and Clownfishes – Part 3

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Please see Part 1 and Part 2 of this article for general information on Damselfishes and their close cousins, the Clownfishes, and for notes on the care of the beautifully-colored Percula clownfish, Amphiprion percula.

Damselfishes in the Aquarium

Velvet DamselDamselfishes are generally small, brilliantly-colored and in near constant motion.  These characteristics, along with their general hardiness, render them quite popular with aquarists.

Despite their small size, most damselfishes survive quite well in aquariums with larger fishes.  However, most are very territorial and rather aggressive towards their own and similar species (please see below).


Together with the ever-popular clownfishes, the damselfishes are classified in the Family Pomacentridae, which contains over 325 species.  Many are superficially similar in appearance but differ greatly in habitat choice, food preferences and other regards, and ichthyologists (fish scientists) describe new species regularly.

Marine Gardeners

Blackmouth DamselDamselfishes seem inordinately protective of their territories, so much so that these tiny warriors will even attempt to drive off human divers!  Research has revealed that several species engage in “aquatic farming, with mated pairs protecting beds of algae, a favored food.  Thick mats of algae often grow within well guarded territories but are absent outside these territories, due to a large number of other fishes and invertebrates that feed upon algae. 

The industrious little damselfishes have even been seen to “weed” their algae beds by removing debris and, possibly, competing algae species.

Further Reading

An interesting article on the relationship between Cocoa Damselfishes, human activities, coral reef health and algae is posted here.

I’ll discuss the care of various damselfish species in future articles. Until then, please write in with your questions and comments. 

Thanks, until next time,

 Frank Indiviglio


One comment

  1. avatar

    Interesting, but not what I wanted for Human Interaction.

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.