OtterAquatics is reader-supported. When you purchase something through an outgoing link, we might earn an affiliate commission.

Yellowtail Damsel Care Guide

Table of Contents

Yellowtail Damsels are one of the most iconic fish in the saltwater aquarium hobby. In fact, it was one of the first fish I ever placed into my tank.

Damsels are also extremely hardy fish, making them a great choice for beginner saltwater aquarists.

They are incredibly beautiful to look at with their striking contrast of colors, but this beauty can come at a cost, considering Damselfishes extreme aggression.

So in this article, we’ll cover everything there is to know about Yellowtail Damsels, from their ideal tank parameters and setup, breeding, feeding, dealing with their aggression, and more!

Yellowtail Damsel Overview

  • Scientific Name: Chrysiptera parasema
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Temperament: Moderate
  • Reef Safe: Yes
  • Max Size: 2-3 inches (5-7.5 Centimeters)
  • Aggression: Pretty aggressive, recommended to go last in a tank
  • Price: Very Cheap
  • Captive Bred: Yes
  • Lifespan: Around five years

Yellowtail Damsel Appearance

Yellowtail Damsels can be easily spotted due to their unique coloration of a dark blue with a yellow caudal fin. Yellowtail Damsels do get pretty big for damsels, all the way up to three inches. 

They are not to be confused with Azure Damsel (pictured below on the left). As you can see, Azure’s are a slightly brighter blue, as well as having the yellow markings come all the way up their bodies.

Azure Damsel
Example of an Azure Damselfish.
Yellowtail Damsel
Example of a Yellowtail Damselfish.

Yellowtail Damsels in the Wild

Yellowtail Damsels are native to the Indo-Pacific, in areas such as Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, and sometimes Australia. 

Their ideal environment is a thriving, biodiverse, coral reef, with plenty of places to hide, such as live rock and coral formations.

Yellowtail Damsel Tank Conditions

As we stated above, Yellowtail Damsels are extremely hardy fish, and not picky with their tank conditions.

That being said, here’s some baseline metrics for you to reference:

  • Temperature: Mid 70s – Low 80s Farenheit
  • PH: 8.1-8.4
  • Salinity: 1.024 – 1.028

As long as these metrics are hit, and the tank has plenty of hiding places in the form of live rock and corals, your Yellowtail Damsel(s) will thrive in your aquarium.

Damsels can do fine in smaller tanks such as a five gallon, assuming there are no other tank mates. They are extremely territorial and aggressive over that territory, so account for this when picking a tank size.

Yellowtail Damsel Aggression

Damsels are known to be some of the most aggressive fish in the hobby and extremely territorial.

In my tanks, I’ve seen them flare their spines to appear larger and more threatening.

In order to counteract this, it’s best to place them in a tank towards the end, so other fish in the tank get to establish their own grounds first.

Because damsels are sometimes used as a cycle fish, they can often be the first ones in aquarium and then start causing problems.

So be sure to use other fish tank cycling methods, and add them last to a tank.

They will have a hard time picking a fight on anything larger than them, so keep this in mind when adding something new to your tank.

One last way to deal with their aggression is to avoid keeping them with fish in the same family or similar appearance.

This can be difficult considering this includes all types of clownfish, other damsels, and even something like Chromis.

Clownfish are a bit easier to place into a damsel tank due to the symbiotic relationship they share with anemones for protection. I currently have a clownfish in a tank with a yellowtail and have no issues once the clownfish began hosting.

Yellowtail Damsel Breeding

Yellowtail Damsel Breeding
Example of a Yellowtail Damsel laying eggs.

Yellowtail Damsels breeding pattern is an extremely similar process to that of a clownfish.

You’ll need to buy a mated pair, or create one by placing them into your tank and letting the other establish dominance over the other. Expect a lot of fighting and aggression. 

Once there’s a winner, the the male will change sex to female, and become the larger one and grow the necessary reproductive organs. In damsels, females often have more rounded bellies than males due to the presence of ovaries.

Once the pair reaches a certain level of maturity, they will disperse eggs into the tank, typically onto the substrate but can also be a wooden plank or pipe you place inside.

Damsel fish are also known to perform filial cannibalism, which is when they eat eggs laid by the female.

It’s thought that they do this in order to no waste resources on the underperforming eggs, attempting to help the strongest eggs survive.

In order to avoid this, we recommend removing the eggs from the tank once laid.

This is an interesting thread from the Reef2Reef forums on the Yellowtail Damsel breeding process.

Yellowtail Damsel Feeding

I always joke around that damsels are the pigs of the underwater worlds.

They are omnivores and will eat EVERYTHING. 

They are the first to go after anything I put in the tank, krill, pellets, flakes, you name it. I’ve even seen them poke at algae on the rocks.

I recommend feeding them at a frequency between daily and every two days. Keeping them well fed will also help tame their aggression.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yellowtail Damsels are absolutely reef safe. You may see them occasionally peck at a rock or coral, but this is usually for algae or some smaller microorganism. 

There have been reports on some forums of damsels eating polyps, but this seems extremely rare and we do not have the full story.

We’d recommend anywhere from once every day, to every two days.

If you want to fatten your fish up a little bit, then go for daily, otherwise they will be just fine being fed every two days.

Damsel fish eat a lot, so you do not want to overfeed them.

It’s hard to put an exact price on the cost of a fish, but Yellowtail Damsels are certainly one of the cheapest fish in the hobby.

I’ve seen them as low as $4.99-$10 in fish stores with better deals when purchased in bulk.

Online fish stores seem to have them around the $12 mark.

Yellowtail Damsels to exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning that males and females to have different appearances.

The main two giveaways of gender are that females are typically larger, and have rounded bellies compared to their male counterparts.

Yellowtail Damsels have been known to change colors, especially at night.

This Nano Reef thread has some interesting comments about the phenomenon.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, Yellowtail Damsels are one of the best beginner saltwater fish, as long as you can handle their aggresion.

They are stunning to look at, one of the cheapest fish out there, and pretty easy to take care of.

If you’re going to add one, be careful about adding any of its relatives in the tanks, such as clownfish, other damsels, and chromis. It can be done, especially with clownfish in anemones, but can lead to lots of fighting.

Have you successfully kept a Yellowtail Damsel?

Any tips for us to include that we missed?

Let us know in the comments!

  • Welcome

    My name’s Austin, and I created OtterAquatics to teach aquarists of all skill levels on how to succeed in the hobby.