Blackcap Basslet (Gramma melacara)

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Blackcap Basslet
Gramma melacara
Blackcap Basslet (Gramma melacara)
Name Blackcap Basslet
Name Lat. Gramma melacara
Family Basslets
Family lat. Grammatidae
Order Ovalentarias
Order lat. Ovalentaria inc. sed.
Origin Western Atlantic Ocean
Habitat Coral reefs
Diet Carnivore
pH 8.1-8.4
Hardness 8-10 °KH
Behavior Semi-aggressive
Keeping Individual, pair
Reef Compatible Yes
Care Level Moderate
Life Span 3-5 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 10 cm
Temperature 24-27 °C
Salinity 33-36 ‰
Aquarium ~ 250 l
US Units
Size 4"
Temperature 75-81 °F
Salinity 1.020-1.025 sg
Aquarium ~ 60 gal

Distribution and habitat

The distribution area of Gramma melacara is the western Atlantic, from Bermuda to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean to northern South America. There they live preferentially in caves and rock crevices on coral reefs mostly in depths from 20 m.


They need a well-structured aquarium with a reef structure that allows for territoriality (crevices, caves and shelters), with live stones that they can graze on and that act like a biological filter. Only lime-rich, heavy metal-free sands, gravels, stones or sea sand of various grain sizes may be used as substrate

Filters, skimmers and heaters are necessary to ensure water quality, as well as pumps to simulate tides, swells and bottom currents. Lighting must correspond to the species-appropriate day-night rhythm of the animals

Salinity: 33-36 ‰ pH value: 8.1-8.4
Carbonate hardness: 8-10 °KH Nitrate content: 2-8 mg/l
phosphate content: 0.01-0.1 mg/l nitrite content: 0.0-0.05 mg/l

For salinity, an average value should be aimed for, which may only vary slightly by +/- 0.5 ‰. Ammonia and ammonium must not be measurable. Special attention must be paid to constantly good water quality.


They feed mainly on small crustaceans and zooplankton. The feed change usually succeeds without problems. The food supply should consist of a commercial, vitamin-enriched frozen special food mix or a combination of live and frozen food, such as small mysis, krill, bosmids and artemia with chopped fish, shrimp, mussel and squid meat. High quality dry food (flakes, granules) is also occasionally accepted. It is recommended to feed small portions several times a day (3-5 times)

Regular and varied feeding promotes health and increases resistance.

Behaviour and compatibility

It is recommended to keep them in pairs. To avoid turf wars, they should be placed in the aquarium at the same time. They form a small territory around their living caves, which is defended. Keeping multiple pairs is only recommended in a larger, very highly structured aquarium. They can be socialized well with other peaceful fish.

Sex dimorphism

They are presumed to be sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that they possess both male and female sex expressions. External sexual characteristics are not known.

Reproduction and breeding

They have already been successfully bred in the aquarium. The male builds a nest hollow from algae material, in which the female lays the eggs, which are stuck together with adhesive threads, over several days. The brood is guarded by both parents.


As inhabitants of deeper water regions they prefer subdued On overhangs and in caves they often swim belly up. It is recommended to keep these reef dwellers together with corals and not to keep them in a fish-only aquarium, where they also often suffer from food competition.

If different species are kept together, care should be taken to ensure that the fish match each other in terms of water quality and temperature requirements and social behavior, and that the setup meets the needs of all species kept together. Newly introduced fish must be acclimated slowly to the water in the aquarium

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Werner Knapp; Image: Franz Lowak

Source: KUITER & DEBELIUS (2007): Atlas der Meeresfische: Die Fische an den Küsten der Weltmeere, Kosmos Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF