Domino Damselfish

Domino Damselfish Care & Facts (Dascyllus trimaculatus)

The domino damselfish is a great-looking saltwater critter! Like other damselfish, however, they can be known for their aggressive nature, which means they are ideal for careful owners. That said, they can be extremely rewarding – you just need to know what they like, and how they act around other fish in the same tank!

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In this guide, we’ll take you through what you need to know about the domino damselfish, and why they might be the next great pick for your own saltwater tank.

  • Fish Lifespan: 2 to 8 years
  • Tank Size: At least 30 gallons
  • Water Temperature: Between 72 and 78F
  • pH: Between 8.1 and 8.4 pH
  • Hardness: Between 8 and 12 dKH
  • Compatibility: Compatible with angelfish, basslets and clownfish
  • Fish Size: Up to five and a half inches

How do you take care of domino damselfish?

Damselfish are very particular little critters who can be pretty aggressive and even territorial at times. Therefore, you need to make sure to look after them in an appropriate tank environment. The domino damselfish is unlikely to pair well with smaller fish, especially those who are of a retiring or timid nature.

Therefore, it’s likely a very good idea to introduce domino damsels to a tank with bigger fish when they are young. They only tend to start developing the famous ‘damsel attitude’ when they mature into adulthood. It’s well worth keeping an eye out for! Smaller fish and shyer fish are going to have a hard time, as the damsel is likely to bully them for food, as well as to try and persuade them away from certain areas of the tank.

Otherwise, it is actually very easy to look after the domino damselfish, particularly as they are so hardy and so easy to leave to their own devices. That, and the fact that their water needs don’t tend to be as specific as many other saltwater creatures’. Therefore, it’s easy to see why beginners may assume all damsels are very easy to take care of.

These fish, as with other damsels, have mixed diets. They will eat a mixture of plant and meat, meaning you are going to need to introduce a balance of just about everything into the tank. They also get on very well with fish flakes, so don’t be afraid to try them on a general mix recommended to you by your local vet or aquarium keeper.

Can damselfish be kept together?

Believe it or not, it’s not always recommended that you keep damsels with other damsels. It’s as a result of their territorial natures.

It’s generally a good idea to keep damsels out of the way of other species unless they match in temperament, or unless other fish are larger in size. However, matching up even similar sized damsels with each other could end in disaster.

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Damselfish are well known for being particularly territorial, which means that if your domino feels that an invading blue devil is about to steal its home, it will start to get particularly nasty. Damsels being damsels, you can expect a fair fight in return.

In fact, blue devils and dominoes are thought to be some of the most aggressive damsels in the wild as well as in captivity. Therefore, even if you feel like ‘testing the water’ between these two species, we’d highly recommend against it.

If you want to try keeping damselfish together, it may be possible with some of the more placid or less aggressive species, such as the azure damselfish. However, even then, it’s only ever something we would advise that experienced fish keepers consider. These are creatures with whom you’d not want to tangle with if you were in the tank!

No – they won’t do you any harm – but put yourself in a timid fish’s gills and keep them well out of the way of your domino. To avoid a scene altogether, make a point of keeping damsels separate at all costs.


Why is my Domino Damsel turning white?

There are a few reasons why your domino damsel may be turning white, and it’s therefore important to consider approaching an expert, such as your local aquarium keepers or your local vet.

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A domino damsel may turn white if tank conditions are incorrect – meaning it may be ill or may be suffering with stress. Even the feistiest of fish can feel stressed out sometimes, and if your domino is losing its black marks and is slowly turning white, you might want to change the way you have set up your tank.

This may also be to do with the age of your fish, or it may be to do with something it is reacting to in your tank. On the whole, you can expect ageing domino damsels to have fading spots.

Therefore, if you do have a white domino damsel, it’s our advice to take a look at the way you set your tank up, and to always consult your vet for professional advice. With any luck, if your fish is still eating and is still happily active, it may be something completely innocent. You are better safe than sorry, in any case.

What animals eat damselfish?

Damselfish are, believe it or not, often prey for many other fish species. Their aggressive attitudes and territorial natures are, of course, defence mechanisms of sorts, and therefore, they are considered prey within the food chain for bigger species in the water.

In the wild, the damselfish may be at risk of getting eaten by coral reef predators such as snappers and groupers. However, what’s interesting as this is not a fish that is generally eaten by humans. This is certainly the case with the domino damsel.

However, the domino damsel is intriguing in that it doesn’t seem to have a specific conservation status. Therefore, we can assume that, for now, it is not under threat. That said, coral reefs that make up many homes for damsels are under threat, though that also puts their predators at threat, too.

At home in your saltwater aquarium, be sure to research any larger fish you put in the same tank with your domino damsels. The safest option, of course, may be to look for large fish that are strictly herbivores, to avoid all doubt.

Naturally – cats will also want to have a quick go at any fish in your tank given half the chance, so keep your aquarium lid on and the whole tank as cat-proof as you can!

Where are damselfish located?

Damselfish tend to live in coral reefs, making them truly tropical fish. This means that you are likely to find them out towards Oceania and Australasia, and largely off the shores of various islands.

Domino damsels, in particular, tend to live around the Philippines, as well as close to Indonesia and Fiji. Therefore, for western fish keepers, they are seen as some of the most exotic, non ‘everyday’ fish. That’s often why they are so sought-after, regardless of the fact that they can be aggressive little nippers sometimes!

You may find damselfish in warm waters elsewhere in the world, too, but this will vary from species to species.

What is the least aggressive damselfish?

The least aggressive damselfish is very likely to be the azure damsel, which is somewhat tame compared to some of the brasher, bolder cousins you’ll find in tropical waters.

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Azure Damselfish

The azure damsel is unlikely to get on well with the domino damsel for reasons explored above. What’s more, many fish keepers and experts will agree that the domino is likely to be on the opposite end of the scale. Dominoes and blue devils tend to be some of the most aggressive.

Therefore, if you are looking for damsels that are quiet and placid, it’s worth going azure – but that doesn’t mean dominoes are really hard to look after. Far from it – they’re not really picky otherwise.

Do damsels kill clownfish?

On the whole, damsels and clownfish can live together peacefully in the same tank, though it may vary from case to case. Providing both the clownfish and the damsels have their own private spaces, and providing damsels don’t feel threatened, there shouldn’t be any issues.

That said, there may be cases where damsels feel that clownfish intrude on their territories. It’s reasonable to suggest that clownfish are low on the scale for fish that are likely to cause damsels much aggravation, but the risk is still there for a bit of a fishy fight!

Should I get a domino damselfish?

Everything you may have heard about damsels may have put you off these beautiful animals. However, they are actually really rewarding to look after. They are great to look at, energetic, and can really liven up a tank. The golden rule, of course, is to just be careful about who or what you put in the same tank!

If you are a beginner fish keeper looking for some species that you can easily grow into, then damsels in general are excellent starting points. Why not take a look at our further guides to see if there are other species that appeal to you?