Starck's Demoiselle

Starcki Damsel

Family: Pomacentridae Picture of a Starck's Demoiselle or Starcki Damsel, Chrysiptera starckiChrysiptera starckiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

   The Starck's Demoiselle are much sought after by aquarists... they are a fish that just about every fish lover, at some time or other, has hopes of keeping in their aquarium!

   The Starck's Demoiselle or Starcki Damsel is a beautiful fish. An excellent aquarium pet as it is easy to keep, hardy, and quite disease resistant. This species does not keep its brilliant blue in the aquarium all the time, sometimes it gets darker or deep blue, but the contrast between its two different colors is always quite attractive.

   This damsel is often available and reasonably priced. It will work equally well in a fish only tank or a reef aquarium. As they mature many damselfish are noted for becoming rather aggressive and are best not kept with smaller or overly passive tank mates. This species is no exception, it is rather territorial and somewhat aggressive. More than two specimens of this species can not be kept safely together, for they may seriously fight causing severe damaged or death. Provide a rock/ coral decor that has many nooks and crannies for hiding and retreat as this will help avert aggression.

For more Information on keeping marine fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Chrysiptera starcki
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Chrysiptera
  • Species: starcki
Starck's Damselfish, Chrysiptera starcki

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Starck's Damselfish in captivity

This deep water damselfish can have an intense blue to bluish purple body with yellow running across their upper back to their yellow tail fin and a white chin. This fish grows to almost 4" and needs a tank that is at least 30 gallons for one or a male and female pair. In that sized tank, do not house with other fish, since that is too small of a territory and they will attack other fish, especially peaceful fish. As juveniles and adolescents they do not cause any problems, however, as they age, like most damsels, they become quite pugnacious. In much larger tanks they do not cause as much of a ruckus, and should still be housed with fish that can keep it in it's place like smaller triggers, puffers, large wrasses and large angelfish. It is a great beginner fish and does well in a nano tank that is at least 30 gallons.

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    The Starck's Demoiselle was described by Allen in 1973 as Abudefduf starcki from the Osprey Reef of the northern Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea. It is now valid as Chrysiptera starcki. They are found in the Western Pacific, with two disjunct distributions; southern Japan, Taiwan and the northern Philippines, and the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney, New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands.
   In their natural habitat they are usually encountered alone or in a small group generally at depths between 82 - 197 feet (25 - 60 meters).
   This damselfish prefers a deeper water. The distribution of this species is divided in the northern and southern parts of West Pacific; probably it was once a wide ranging fish. Divers in Okinawa photographed several individuals in a loose aggregation at the depth of 197 feet (60 meters). Occasionly in the summer in Hachijo-jima (the Izu Islands) they are observed alone or in a small group at the shallow depth of 26 feet (8 meters) (T. Mizutani, pers. comm., 2006). They are rarely seen in the coastal waters of southern Honshu (Japan). The range in the Philippines is not well determined but it is said to occur at least in northern areas. No record from Indonesia or Papua New Guinea is known. It is common off of Noumea of New Caledonia (Allen, 1975).

Status:    These fish are not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:    The genus Chrysiptera is a large group in the family Pomacentridae, along with the Stark's Demoiselle it includes such fish as the Blue Devil Damsel C. cyanea, Yellowtail Blue Damselfish C. parasema, and Springer's Demoiselle C. springeri that are entirely blue, or with some yellow to orange areas. The head and deeper body of the Starck's Demoiselle is blue with a broad yellow band along the back, tapering toward the posterior part. The throat is yellow to whitish and there are lines on the sides of the cheek. The dorsal and caudal fins are yellow and the anal and pelvic fins are blue. The pectoral fins are marked with yellowish dashes and there is a small black spot at the pectoral-fin base.
   There are two distinct color morphs of this species; those from northern part of the West Pacific have a yellow area on the posterior portion of the caudal fin, and those from southern part have a caudal fin that is mostly yellow except for its peduncle which is blue.
   It is also superficially similar to Yellow-fin Demoiselle C. flavipinna, from the Coral Sea.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Adults reach 3.9 inches (10 cm).

Maintenance difficulty:    The genus Chrysiptera is wide spread in the Indo-West Pacific and the number of species is still growing. Most of them are very colorful and very easy to keep in captivity. The Starck's Demoiselle is hardy and will take a variety of foods. It adapts very easily to the aquarium without special care and will do well in either a reef environment or a fish only aquarium. It doesn't need much open space for free swimming but it does need many crevices to hide in. There is no need for a sand bed.
   Chrysiptera members are hardy and seldom suffer from infectious diseases. Various parasitic infestations are probably the most common, often resulting from a poor quarantine practice with new arrivals. They can be safely treated with medicine or copper drugs if infected.
   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.
   For more information see Fish diseases.

Foods:    The Starck's Demoiselle feeds primarily on plankton (both zooplankton and phytoplankton) in the wild. They do not harm any live corals or small inverts. No special food is needed in the aquarium and they will accept a wide variety of foods. Provide Meaty foods, dried flakes, shrimps, and occasionally tablets. Feed at least twice a day.

Maintenance:    No special care or technique is needed to maintain this fish in the aquarium and it will become a hardy pet. It is usually a very active swimmer and it will venture to the surface for foods when well acclimated. Frequent water changes are not necessary, rather normal water changes at 10% biweekly or 20% monthly are fine.
   For more information see, Marine Aquarium Basics: Maintenance

Aquarium Parameters:
   This fish doesn't need much open space for free swimming but it does need lots of crevices to hide in. The tank should be well decorated with rocks/ corals. There is no need for a sand bed. It can be kept in either a fish only tank or a reef aquarium.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 30 gallon (114 liters).
Light: Recommended light levels
   It prefers to be kept under normal lighting conditions
   This species lives in tropical areas. Temperatures between 75 -79° F (24 - 26° C) will serve them well, but temperatures higher than 84° F (29° C) or below 72 ° F (22° C) would not be good.
Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong
   Water movement is not a significant factor. It can tolerate a rather strong flow but slow-moving water will be more favorable for feeding.
Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom
   It is an active swimmer spending a good deal of time darting in and out of the crevices in the decor.

Social Behaviors:    The Starck's Demoiselle or Starcki Damsel can be kept in a fish only aquarium as well as being a reef safe fish. It will do well in a tank that is well decorated with rocks/ corals and many hiding places.
   Damselfish can be housed with a variety of tank mates but because damsels become more aggressive as they mature, smaller or very weak fish are not recommended. Fish types that could be at risk include small juveniles of butterflyfish and Centropyge angelfish, cardinalfish, etc. More than two specimens of this species can not easily be kept safely even if there are many hiding places, for they may fight seriously, causing severe damaged or death. Larger tough butterflyfish, wrasses, and somewhat aggressive damselfish (except the same genus), etc. can be good tank mates, but even still this damsel may attack or chase these fish. Very territorial, larger dottybacks, and such fish as sea basses that will eat anything, are not recommended if the tank is not large enough.

Dr. Jungle says, "Hiroyuki shares his experience keeping this damselfish..."
   "I once kept a single specimen of 5 cm long together with other damselfishes, butterflyfishes and angelfishes in a small fish community tank and it showed an aggressive behavior without serious damages. If kept alone it does very well without any problem and can live for a long period." ...Hiroyuki Tanaka

Sex: Sexual differences:    No sexual difference in coloration is reported. 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:    No report for reproductive behavior or for aquatic cultivation is known, but it may be cultivated in a larger laboratory in the near future. Male damselfish establish a territory and prepare surfaces of rubble or coral for females to deposit their adhesive eggs. Once the eggs are laid the male will quickly fertilize them and aggressively defend the eggs from any intruders until they hatch.
   For more information on the breeding of damselfish, see Marine Fish Breeding: Damselfish

Availability:    The Starck's Demoiselle or Starki Damselfish appears fairly regularly at retailers from younger to larger specimens, though most that are available are below 2.8 inches (7 cm). Very small juveniles less than 3/4 inch (2 cm) are hard to get. These fish are priced around $ 30.00 USD.
   When purchasing these damselfish pick similar sized active specimens that have had a few days to acclimate in the retailers aquarium, and that are at least 3/4 inches. Very small species (under 3/4 inch) are often not very durable and larger species can be aggressive.

Author: Hiroyuki Tanaka
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS
Available From These Merchants
Starcks Damsel Chrysiptera Starcki Small Male Starcks Damsel Chrysiptera Starcki Small Male
Offered By: That Pet Place
Price: $49.99
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