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Royal Dottyback | Pictichromis paccagnella Care & Info

Looking for a colorful addition to your fish tank and not worried about going for something a little more feisty? Let us introduce you to the royal dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnella), a bicolored eyecatcher that isn’t afraid to take on much larger tankmates if it feels its territory is being threatened.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about royal dottyback care and keeping one in your home aquarium!

Name (Common, Scientific)Royal dottyback, bicolor dottyback, false gramma, Pictichromis paccagnella
Minimum tank size20 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature72-78 °F
Difficulty levelIntermediate

Royal dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnella) description

Confused at the first sight? You’re not alone! The royal dottyback is very similar in looks to the royal gramma, which sports almost exactly the same purple-yellow bicolor pattern. If you’re not sure, just have a look at the dorsal fin. If the fish lacks an obvious black dot, then you’re dealing with the dottyback, not the gramma. By the way, based on that, can you tell who is who in the image below? The answer is at the bottom of this post!

Royal dottybacks grow to a maximum size of around 3” and are naturally found in the Western Pacific. 

Did you know? If you like the royal dottyback’s bright colors, it might actually be a better idea to go for its gramma döppelganger. Some dottybacks, including this one, have been reported to fade throughout the months or years.

Royal dottyback vs royal gramma aquarium fish.

Royal dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnella) aquarium

This species isn’t too particular about housing, and it’s known for being hardy. Naturally found in reef environments, it doesn’t need huge amounts of space due to its small size: a minimum of 20 gallons is probably more than enough to keep your royal dottyback content.

Do make sure to provide plenty of hiding places. Although royal dottybacks can be aggressive, they can also be shy, and appreciate being able to dart between live rock and other décor.

Royal dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnella) compatibility

If you’re interested in keeping a royal dottyback in your aquarium, you’ll have to choose its tankmates with care. Unless you’re interested in a single-species set-up, of course, which is absolutely an option!

Unless your aquarium is quite large, multiple royal dottybacks, or any similar-looking fish, are out of the question. Pseudochromis in general are territorial (the splendid dottyback and neon dottyback are just as bad!) and will especially defend their spot from intruders that look like their own species. 

You’ll also have to avoid any fish that are large enough to make a meal out of your royal dottyback. They’re not very large, after all! Species like hawkfish and angelfish are good choices, as they’re too big to bully but not inclined to eat their tankmates.

Although royal dottybacks are considered reef safe in the sense of coral safe. Other small invertebrate critters are a different story, as this is absolutely a carnivore that will make quick work of shrimp and other crustaceans. That being said, it’ll also consume pests like bristleworms, so you won’t have to worry about unwanted infestations.

Did you know? Most dottybacks are territorial and at least moderately aggressive. If you’re looking for a more mellow one, though, you can try the orchid dottyback (Pseudochromis fridmani).

Royal dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnella) aquarium fish in reef tank.

Royal dottyback (Pictichromis paccagnella) diet

Your royal dottyback will appreciate a varied, meaty diet. You can use a commercial pellet or flake food as a staple and supplement with all sorts of frozen options like mysis or brine shrimp.

To add even more variety, try offering finely chopped seafood like shrimp or squid.


Did you guess the top fish was the royal gramma and the bottom fish the royal dottyback? Well done! As you can see, despite their similarities, there are some obvious differences between the two. 

Dreaming of a beautiful aquarium filled with colorful fish like the royal dottyback? We can help! Just contact FantaSEA Aquariums here so we can design, set up and maintain your tank for you.

Photo of author

Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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