The orchid dottyback Pseudochromis fridmani is one of the small,
peaceful—yet somewhat territorial—dottybacks.
greater risks than working in shallow water does. Hence, it’s
easy to appreciate the challenges associated with collecting this
species and why a higher price tag may be warranted.
I briefly touched upon the dottybacks earlier when mentioning
the aggressive nature of the royal dottyback. Indeed, many of
these basslets are quite territorial. But please don’t let that fact
frighten you away from keeping them, as some species aren’t
quite as challenging as others, provided you give them plenty of
live rock to shelter in and don’t house them with overly docile
tankmates. As a bonus, many dottybacks are known to earn their
keep by munching on bristle worms.
The popular orchid dottyback Pseudochromis fridmani is among
the more peaceful dottybacks and reaches a very manageable
3 inches in length. However, it will, like any self-respecting
dottyback, aggressively defend its live-rock retreat from would-be
interlopers. Solid magenta with a black line through the eye, P.
fridmani is from the Red Sea, which for many years drove up the
price and limited the availability of this species. However, it is now
routinely bred in captivity, making it more affordable, as well as
more commonly available.
The similar-looking and similar-sized magenta dottyback or
strawberry basslet Pseudochromis porphyreus also makes a good
choice for the aquarium housing other moderately aggressive
species. I’ve found this Pacific species to be fairly agreeable
with non-passive tankmates that aren’t too similar in size, color,
or shape. On the other hand, house one with a royal gramma,
dartfish, small hawkfish—or any small, non-aggressive species,
for that matter—and all bets are off!
Black overall with neon-blue accents on the head, Springer’s
dottyback Pseudochromis springeri is another species that will get
along well with moderately aggressive tankmates. Like P. fridmani,
P. springeri is from the Red Sea but is now being bred in captivity.
Topping out at around 2 inches in length, P. springeri stays quite
small, even by basslet standards, making it a great choice for the
small aquarium—as long as plenty of rocky retreats are provided.
What’s in a Name?
Though the term “basslet” may not mean much from the
standpoint of scientific classification, the widely diverse group
of fishes that this term encompasses does contain many species
that are truly exceptional candidates for the marine aquarium—
manageable size, ease of feeding, and undeniable beauty. So perhaps
there’s something to the common name “basslet” after all! D