Azure Damselfish

Azure Demoiselle, Half-blue Damselfish, Yellow-dipped Damsel, Royal Demoiselle

Family: Pomacentridae Azure Demoiselle, Chrysiptera hemicyanea, Azure DamselfishChrysiptera hemicyaneaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

The pretty Azure Demoiselle is a personal favorite for both beginner and experienced marine hobbyists!

The Azure Damselfish Chrysiptera hemicyanea is a very pretty demoiselle. This is a small, hardy fish that only reaches 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) in length and it has a gorgeous electric blue and yellow coloring. With its good personality, rarely causing trouble in community tanks, and being reasonably priced, it is a staple of the industry and one of the most desirable damselfish for the saltwater enthusiast. Other names it is commonly known by include Azure Demoiselle, Yellow-dipped Damsel, Half-blue Damselfish, and Royal Demoiselle.

This is one of several bright blue damselfish that sport a striking yellow or golden accent as part of their coloration. In the Aquarium hobby this damsel is often confused with the Yellowtail Blue Damselfish Chrysiptera parasema as they look very similar. However, they can be distinguished by the placement of their yellow accents. The Azure Damsel has yellow on the tail and bottom fin and also along the lower part of its body. On the similar looking Yellow-tail Damsel the accent is on the tail and bottom fin only.

An excellent pet, the Azure Demoiselle is easy to keep, hardy, and disease resistant. This lovely damsel is often available and is one of the true pacifists of its genus with a wonderful, easygoing disposition. It will work equally well in a fish only tank or a reef aquarium. They are are not picky eaters and will happily accept just about any foods you offer. Provide a rock/ coral decor that has many nooks and crannies for hiding and retreat as this will help avert aggression. They do not need any special lighting or water movement but do prefer to hang out at the bottom of the tank.

The Azure Damselfish need a minimum tank size of 20 gallons for one, or to keep a male/female pair. Be very careful when adding other fish if you have a mated pair, however, since all damsels and clownfish claim territories which they will then strongly defend. They can get along with a variety of peaceful to semi-aggressive fish. But like all damselfish, they do best kept in an odd numbered group with a lot of space.

As they mature many damselfish are noted for becoming rather aggressive, and are best not kept with smaller or overly passive tank mates. Larger tanks that are at least 40 gallons are suggested. Of course, if you are going to have larger fish like a large surgeonfish/tang, the tank size should fit the largest fish’s needs. These damsels also make a great addition to a reef tank because they will not bother any corals or invertebrates.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Chrysiptera hemicyanea
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Chrysiptera
  • Species: hemicyanea
Azure Demoiselle Spawning
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Azure Demoiselle (Chrysiptera hemicyanea) spawning in the branches of an SPS coral.

The "main event" is from the beginning of the video until 1:16 then at 3:01 on the spawning seems to finish. After 1:16, the video moves onto other aquarium inhabitants. It is interesting that there are other damsels in the tank including a Black Ocellaris pair, a Ocellaris Clownfish pair and another black and white damselfish showing little to no aggression toward each other. You also see Banggai Cardinalfish, which also readily spawn in captivity. Seems this tank was well thought out! Back to the main event at 3:01, and you see the Azure Demoiselle couple continuing their activity among the SPS coral.

Azure Demoiselle (Chrysiptera hemicyanea)
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Great video of an Azure Demoiselle in captivity.

This video is a perfect representation of the coloring of the Azure Demoiselle (Chrysiptera hemicyanea), as well as the typical flitting movements that damsels like to make. They are quite active, spending a lot of time out in the open and darting in and out of crevices during the day. Provide them with 30 gallons since they are territorial and are a little easier going in larger tanks. Do not keep with clownfish, since they may attack them and avoided housing these little "bite sized" morsels in tanks with predatorial fish or larger eels.

Azure Demoiselle - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 2.8 inches (6.99 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 84.0° F (23.3 to 28.9° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Azure Damselfish Chrysiptera hemicyanea described by Weber in 1913. The genus name was formerly known as Glyphidodontops. This species is also known by several more common names including Azure Demoiselle, Azure Damsel, Yellow-dipped Damsel, Half-blue Damselfish, Half-blue Demoiselle, and Royal Demoiselle.

They are found in the eastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. In Indonesia they occur at the eastern Sulawesi and Kai Islands, and off of the North-West Shelf of Australia at the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef, and Ashmore Reef. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

About the Chrysiptera Genus:

This species is a member of the very large Pomacentridae family of Damselfish and Anemonefish. It belongs to the subfamily Pomacentrinae in the large Chrysiptera genus. There are currently 34 recognized species in this genus.

Some Chrysiptera species occur at rather deep reef zones, but the majority are found in the shallower waters of lagoons, sheltered bays, and coastal fringing reefs. They live near coral growth and may hover close to the substrate. They occur singly, in pairs, or in small loose groups. They are omnivores, feeding on plankton, algae, and small benthic crustaceans.

This genus contains some of the most beautiful and brightly colored damselfish, as well as some of the smallest. On average the species range about 2.8 inches (7 cm) in length to a few centimeters longer. They may be territorial towards conspecifics, but many are not as aggressive as other Pomacentrids towards other types of fish.

Their small size along with the less pugnacious nature of many of the Chrysiptera makes them suitable for the aquarium. Some of the more passive species can even be kept in groups and may get along with more peaceful tankmates. There are exceptions, however, as some species become highly aggressive in the confines of an aquarium as they mature.

About the Azure Damselfish:

The Azure Demoiselles prefer the shallower waters of sheltered inshore fringing reefs and lagoon reef patches. Generally they are found at depths between 3.3 to 49 feet (1 - 15 m) though they have also been observed as deep as 124 1/2 feet (38 m). They inhabit areas where there are branching stony corals as well as areas with rubble.

This is one of the more peaceful of the Chrysiptera Genus, yet it is just as sturdy as its conspecifics. In their natural habitat they are seldom observed alone, rather they usually form an aggregation of several specimens in shallower waters. Adults are typically found in small groups, usually with Acropora corals. They like to feed close to the substrate on zooplankton and probably also eats some algae.

  • Scientific Name: Chrysiptera hemicyanea
  • Social Grouping: Groups - This Chrysiptera species usually occurs in small loose groups.
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Description

The Azure Damselfish is a deep bodied fish. These damselfish are small, reaching only up to 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) in length. Similar to other damselfish, their life span in the wild is likely 2 to 6 years and they probably live the typical 15 years in captivity.

The head and upper 2/3's of the Azure Demoiselle's body is deep blue and the chest, abdomen, and caudal peduncle are yellow. There are numerous fine, short, vertical black lines on the blue area and several light blue spots below the eye level of face. There are also two black lines before the eye and one through the eye. The dorsal fin is blue and the other fins are yellow, and there is a black spot at pectoral-fin base.

The Azure Demoiselle is very similar to the Yellowtail Blue Damselfish Chrysiptera parasema. The Yellowtail Damselfish has two distinct color morphs originating from the Ryukyu Islands to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea region, but these two damselfish can still be readily differentiated by their color patterns. This Azure Damsel has yellow on the belly, whereas the Yellowtail Damselfish does not.

  • Size of fish - inches: 2.8 inches (6.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years - Damselfish generally live up to 6 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Azure Damselfish are very easy to care, making them great for the beginning saltwater hobbyists or any other marine aquarist. These beautiful “Demoiselles” are hardy and will take a variety of foods, making it easily kept in the aquarium without special care. They are usually very active swimmers and will venture to the surface for foods when well acclimated. They tolerate a wide range of non-fluctuating temperatures, but even though they are quite durable, they can still fall ill if exposed to poor water conditions for too long.

The tank needs to be at least 20 gallons for one or for a mated pair, so make sure water changes are frequent in such as small tank. They will be quite happy in a reef or a fish only community tank, but as they are often preyed on in nature, they need peaceful companions and a lot of places to hide in rock work or corals to feel safe. No need for a sand bed. Doing normal water changes, feeding them a variety of foods several times a day, and having proper tank mates will keep this damselfish happy and healthy.

In the wild a cleaner wrasse (Labroides sp.) will help them by taking parasites from their bodies, however these wrasses are extremely difficult to sustain in captivity. Alternative fish such as Neon Gobies (Gobiosoma spp.) can help them by providing this cleaning service in the home aquarium.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner - They are suitable for the beginner, but being a more peaceful damselfish, tankmates must be selected with care.

Foods and Feeding

The Azure Damselfish are omnivores, In the wild they are zooplankton feeders, but probably also consume algae. In the aquarium provide variety in their diet that includes plenty of proteins.

Offer meaty foods like mysis shrimp, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, Cyclop-eeze, finely shredded frozen seafoods and preparations for omnivores. These foods can be given as freeze dried, frozen, sinking pellets, flake or fresh. You can also offer some flakes and other preparations for herbivores. Color enhancing foods can help maintain their bright coloring.

It is best to feed small amounts of food several times a day. Feeding them more often helps to dissipate any possible aggression within a tank, since food is the biggest reason for protecting their little patch of the reef or tank. Sinking pellets work great because these fish tend to feed near the bottom of the tank. If feeding pellets, make sure they are wet before adding them to the tank so air will not get into their digestive tract, which can cause issues.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes - Make sure to soak pellets for a few seconds to dispel any air. Use sinking pellets since they stick close to the bottom, and preferably those designed for carnivores.
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Only needed if you want to offer a treat or condition them to spawn.
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Feed several times a day, this also helps to counter any possible aggression.

Aquarium Care

These damselfish are hardy and easy to keep with a well maintained tank. Minimum tank size is 20 gallons, so make sure water changes are frequent in such as small tank. Regular water changes done bi-weekly will help replace the trace elements that the fish and corals use up. Guidelines for water changes with different types and sizes of aquariums are:

  • Fish only tanks:
    • Nano/Small tanks up to 40 gallons, perform 5% water changes bi-weekly.
    • Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 15% bi-weekly.
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 10% bi-weekly to 20% monthly, depending on bioload.
  • Reef tanks:
    • Nano/Small tanks up to 40 gallons, perform 15% water changes bi-weekly.
    • Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 20% to 30% monthly depending on bioload.
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 20% to 30% every 6 weeks depending on bioload.

For more information on maintaining a saltwater aquarium see: Saltwater Aquarium Basics: Maintenance. A reef tank will require specialized filtration and lighting equipment. Learn more about reef keeping see: Mini Reef Aquarium Basics.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Do bi-weekly water changes of 15% in a reef setting or 20% monthly in a fish only tank.

Aquarium Setup

The Azure Damselfish can be happily kept in a reef setting as well as in a fish only peaceful community tank. They typically only grow to 2 3/4 inches, so the minimum tank size is 20 gallons for one, or for a mated pair. The tank should be well decorated with rocks/ corals with many hiding places, as well as open areas for swimming. They are also a great nano tank fish if they are the only ones in the tank.

These are one of the more peaceful damselfish. They swim in mid to lower areas of the tank, but as they are often preyed on in nature, they need many places to hide to feel secure. They will appreciate little crevices, nooks and crannies created within rock work (preferably live rock), corals, or other decor. There is no need for a sand bed.

There are no special requirements for water movement or lighting, unless housed with corals, in which case the coral requirements will need to be considered. Water temperatures between 74°F to 84°F (23° - 29°C), with pH from 8.1 to 8.4 will keep them happy and healthy. Breeding temperature should be similar to clownfish, with optimal spawning production occurring between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C).

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) - A 20 gallon tank is suggested for one fish or a male and female. A larger tank, of 40 gallons or more is suggest when keeping with other peaceful fish.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes - This fish can be kept singly or as a mated pair in this size tank.
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places - Provide places for them to hide within rockwork or coral.
  • Substrate Type: Any - There is no need for a sand bed.
  • Lighting Needs: Any - It has no special lighting requirements, though if kept with live coral the coral may need strong lighting.
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 84.0° F (23.3 to 28.9° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F - The optimal temperature for eggs to hatch occurs with temperatures of 80°F to 84°F (26.8°C to 28.8°C).
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any
  • Water Region: Bottom - They mostly inhabit the mid to lower areas of the tank, and they swim actively, spending time in the open water as well as darting in and out of crevices in the decor.

Social Behaviors

This genus of damsels, the Chrysiptera, has a wide array of temperaments with the Azure Damselfish being one of the least aggressive. Like all damsels, however, they can become territorial and aggressive when kept as a pair and as they get older. Still they are not anywhere near as aggressive as their cousin the Blue Devil Damsel Chrysiptera cyanea!

The minimum tank size is 20 gallons when kept alone or as a mated pair. With a spawning pair the male will viciously guard his eggs, at which point, a separate tank may be needed if he starts attacking tank mates. A group of several individuals of this species can be kept together but only if there are many hiding places. These fish can cause problems if they are overcrowded, so to keep them in small groups make sure there is at least 15 gallons per damsel.

If you wish to keep them with other fish, they should have at least 40 gallons to prevent any possible aggression, since they do like their own little piece of space within the aquarium. They will get along with peaceful, passive fish in these larger tanks, but you should allow the peaceful tank mates to become established first. Some good tank mates include other non-aggressive damselfish, (but not of this genera), larger butterflyfish, and wrasses.

Keep an eye on semi-aggressive fish to be sure they are not harassing your Azure Damsel. Do not house with dottybacks or any aggressive fish. Potential bullies like more aggressive damsels and pygmy angelfish will tend to pick on it. In fact, they will not do well with aggressive fish at all, and tend to be the ones picked on by fish that are larger and more aggressive than they are. Predatory fish are also out of the question, and such fish as sea basses that will eat anything, are not recommended if the tank is not large enough.

In a reef setting the Azure Damsels thrive. They make a great addition to a reef because they pose no threat to coral. They won't bother any large or small invertebrates either, though they may eat a copepod or two.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive - Although they are considered semi-aggressive, they are one of less aggressive of their genus.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - hey can be kept singly or housed as a male/female pair. They may also be kept in small groups with a tank that provides 15 gallons per damsel.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe - Safe in tanks of 40 gallons or more.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor - Only safe in tanks of 40 gallons or more as they may be harass your Azure Damsel. If housing with dwarf angelfish or the more aggressive clownfish, the tank should be 100 gallons or more with many hiding places within the rock/coral decor.
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor - Dottybacks will be too aggressive. Other small damsels with a similar mild temperament can be kept if the tank is provides plenty of room and hiding places. Six- and Eight-line Wrasses may harass your Azure Damsel in smaller tanks.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor - Azure Damsels may picked on by aggressive large angelfish.
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat - Do not house with fish large enough to swallow them. Even a smaller predatory fish that cannot swallow them whole would make these damselfish too afraid to come out and feed.
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Monitor - Azure Damsels will out compete them for food in smaller tanks. Larger tanks over 100 gallons should provide enough food for all.
    • Anemones: Safe
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Safe
    • LPS corals: Safe
    • SPS corals: Safe
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Safe
    • Leather Corals: Safe
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Safe
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Safe
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Safe
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe - May eat some copepods but should not decimate populations.

Sex: Sexual differences

Sexual differences are unknown, though males may be larger. In the same manner as other members of the genus, a male will move rapidly with gorgeous coloration to attract and invite a female to spawn.

Breeding / Reproduction

All damsel species are similar to clownfish and follow the general breeding pattern of clownfish. Successful breeding requires perfect water parameters and a large, non-predatory aquarium system. Similar to clownfish, optimal spawns are between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). If breeding in captivity, note that brittle stars, serpent stars, wrasses and crabs will eat the eggs of damselfish. The eggs and larvae are much smaller than clownfish, and are difficult to rear.

The Azure Damselfish will spawns in captivity, and it often occurs in the middle of the night. Similar to others in their genus, in the wild, males have their own territory, which is near a nesting site.This site has rubble or a half of a shell from a clam as the roof and a burrow underneath. The day before the spawning ritual begins, a female will visit the males in their colony and when she chooses a fit and healthy partner. She will stop swimming, and facing upward, will flash a light ring around each eye.

Once she has “sent out the bat signal” the male whose nest she wants to inspect responds by acting out displays. These displays are also evaluated! The female will then follow the male to his nest after his display, to see how many eggs he has. She will stay up to 20 minutes inspecting his “crib” and then move on to the next male. She is not ready to lay her eggs during this “evaluation” and she is very picky. She will review a lot of potential mates, even traveling up to 325 feet (100 m) in distance from nest site to nest site.

At dawn of the next day, the female immediately spawns will then spawn with the male that she decided would be the best candidate. This male that is chosen is typically the largest and the male with the most eggs. If there is another female at the nest who wants to spawn with the same male, she will wait her turn at the entrance of the nest. Up to 4 females have been seen at one nest site spawning one at a time, one after the other, with the same male.

These nests can have almost 10,000 eggs from several different females! Males have been known to abandon their small eggs clutch to take over a larger abandoned egg clutches of another male. They know that the more eggs they have in their nest, the better the chance the female will spawn with them.

The Azure Damselfish male will stay and protect his eggs until they have hatched. Hatching takes place in 4 - 5 days with water temperatures between 80°F to 84°F (26.8°C to 28.8°C). The yolk sacs of the fry are completely absorbed in 48 hours. At this time the young can be fed rotifers as their first foods, then follow that with newly hatched Brine Shrimp (Artemia nauplii) and fish eggs. Water changes of 10-30% per day, and cleaning the bottom of the bare tank is essential. See general breeding techniques under Clownfish on the Marine Fish Breeding page.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate - The eggs and larvae of damselfish are quite small and the fry are difficult to rear.

Fish Diseases

Demoiselles of the Chrysiptera genus are very durable damsels once acclimated. The most dangerous time in their lives is the shipping stress they deal with. Overall they are tough and do not often fall ill, but it has been documented that there seems to be an unexplained “sudden death” that damselfish can fall victim to. There are no signs, the fish is just dead one day. They can contract any normal disease that other saltwater fish are susceptible to. But it is pretty rare unless they are captured with an illness already in motion, so a quarantine period is a good idea.

Damselfish are susceptible to Marine Ich Cryptocaryon irritans, also called White Spot Disease or Crypt, Marine Velvet or Velvet Disease Oodinium ocellatum (Syns: Amyloodinium ocellatum, Branchiophilus maris), and Uronema disease Uronema marinum. All of these are parasites.

The most easily cured of these is Crypt (salt water Ich), but they are all treatable if caught in a timely manner. Marine Velvet is a parasitic skin flagellate and one of the most common maladies experienced in the marine aquarium. It is a fast moving that primarily it infects the gills. Uronema disease, which is typically a secondary infection, is very deadly and will attack your Chromis quickly and lethally.The first symptom is lack of appetite. It is most often contracted when the aquarist lowers their salinity to treat another type of illness, but don't lower it far enough. This parasite thrives in mid-level brackish water salinity, which is a specific gravity of around 1.013 to 1.020.

Treat your new damselfish as gingerly as you would any other saltwater fish, and they will respond well. Anything you add to your tank that has not been properly cleaned or quarantined, including live rock, corals and fish can introduce disease. The best prevention is to take care to properly clean or quarantine anything you want to add to the tank. For information about saltwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Azure Demoiselle or Azure Damselfish is readily available and reasonably priced. They can obtain from stores and online.

When purchasing these damselfish to keep as a group, a good rule of thumb is to purchase an odd number to help prevent aggression. Pick several similar sized active specimens along with a single larger specimen (males are generally larger).

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Hiroyuki Tanaka
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