Black and Gold Chromis

Blackmouth Bicolor Chromis, Behn's Damselfish

Family: Pomacentridae Black and Gold Chromis, Neoglyphidodon nigroris, Blackmouth Bicolor Chromis, Behn's DamselfishNeoglyphidodon nigrorisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

The Black and Gold Chromis is so pretty when young, but soon changes both color and attitude as it grows!

The Black and Gold Chromis Neoglyphidodon nigroris (previously Paraglyphidodon nigroris) starts out life as a dazzling yellow, pointy-finned baby fish. It is accented with two long, horizontal black bars that span the length of its body. The adult coloring is much less glamorous, however. As the fish matures it will loose its black stripes and become grayish brown in front and dusky yellow towards the back. Adult specimens found near Java are said to have even pointier fins and their coloring is very dark, almost black.

You will often see juveniles available in a pet store and they are quite unique and attractive with their black and yellow striping. They are commonly called the Black and Gold Chromis or Blackmouth Bicolor Chromis, but do not be fooled. Although they have a moderately compatible temperament when young, these fish is not at all docile like the damselfish of the Chromis genus.

What started out as dazzling beauties turn into drab, mean adults and they get pretty big for damselfish, reaching just over 5 inches (13 cm) in length. Out of all the species in this genus, which are all quite unattractive as adults, the Black and Gold Damsel is a little less homely in comparison. Other few other common names they are known by include Behn's Damselfish, Black and Gold Damsel, Black and Yellow Chromis, Blackmouth Chromis, Yellow Honey Chromis, Yellowfin Damsel, and Scarface damsel.

The Black and Gold Damsels are inexpensive and hardy fish. These damselfish are very easy to care for, so they are great for beginner aquarists. Being omnivores, these fish they are easy to feed and will happily eat any algae based or meaty foods you provide. They are also great for a reef environment as they won't bother any corals or invertebrates. Although some from their genus will eat soft coral, such as the Black Damsel Neoglyphidodon melas, the Black and Gold Damsel will not. It will consume sponges and tunicates if it is hungry, but prefers algae and zooplankton.

They can be kept in groups as juveniles, but will fight if the tank is too small. These are not peaceful community fish and will cause havoc in a tank. As they age and become more belligerent, the aquarist may need to remove the fish unless suitable tank mates of equal temperament are present. They do best kept singly, or as a male and female pair.

Due to their aggression and size, the minimum suggested tank size is 55 gallons for one or a mated pair. With their streamlined shape they are also more active swimmers than some of the other damselfish. Provide areas within the rock work for them to hide. They have no special lighting or water movement requirements, but if keeping them with stony corals these elements will need to fit the needs of the coral rather than the fish. They will swim all areas of the tank, with or without a coral.

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


Geographic Distribution
Neoglyphidodon nigroris
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Neoglyphidodon
  • Species: nigroris
Black and Gold Damsel Neoglyphidodon nigroris

Report Broken Video
Black and Gold Damsel in the wild.

This video starts out with a yellow juvenile, then moves on to a dark adult with yellow toward the back of the body. Looks like they are inhabiting a Bird's Nest Coral. They become very mean as they grow to their ultimate 5" size, and need a minimum tank size of 55 gallons due to their need to swim about much more than others in their family. Their longer body and forked tail provide them with the speed they need!

Black-and-gold Chromis - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 5.1 inches (13.00 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperament: 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 Black and Gold Chromis Neoglyphidodon nigroris was described by Curvier in 1830. The genus name was formerly Paraglyphidodon and this species was previously known as Paraglyphidodon nigroris. They are found in the Indo-West Pacific from the Andaman Sea all the way east to Vanuatu. From there as far north as the Ryukus Islands and then south to the northern parts of Australia. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Additional common names they are known by often relate to their coloring. With their vivid yellow and black coloring they are also known as the Blackmouth Bicolor Chromis, Behn's Damselfish, Behn's Damsel, Black and Gold Damsel, Black and Gold Damselfish, Black and Yellow Chromis, Black and Yellow Damsel, Blackmouth Chromis, Yellow Honey Chromis, Yellowfin Damsel, Scarface damsel, and Blackmouth Damsel.

About the Neoglyphidodon Genus:

This species is a member of the very large Pomacentridae family of Damselfish and Anemonefish. It belongs to the subfamily Pomacentrinae in the Neoglyphidodon genus. There are currently 8 recognized species in this genus.

The Neoglyphidodon species occur in relatively shallow waters, at depths no greater than 159 feet (18 m). Depending on the species they can be found in lagoon and coastal fringing reefs, offshore and inshore reefs, reef flats, reef channels and passes, and outer reef faces. They live near coral growth, both large polyped and small polyped stony corals. They are often solitary fish, mostly occurring singly, but sometimes they may be found in loose groups as adults, which may represent a "clustering" behavior and/or size-related dominance hierarchy. They are omnivores that feed on zooplankton, algae, crustaceans, and at least one species is known to feed heavily on soft corals.

This genus is sometimes referred to as the "Dark Damsels." When they are young, the Neoglyphidodon species can be quite colorful and attractive, and moderately compatible. As they mature, however, they change drastically in both color and behavior. Mature specimens are mostly very drab and homely in appearance, and in attitude they become extremely contentious.

Adults are mostly dark brown or black in color with only a few that are slightly more colorful. A couple have a dark gray-blue or brown color on the head and much of the body with a muddy yellow on the lower body or at the ends of the upper and lower fins and tail. One species has a dark gray-blue body with a lighter cheek area striped with distinctive dark bands. On average these fish are fairly large damselfish, ranging from about 4.7 to 6.3 inches (12 - 16 cm) in length.

The very attractive juveniles may be kept in groups, but in smaller tanks they will quarrel with conspecifics. Yet as they mature the Neoglyphidodon species become outright bullies. As adults they will do best kept singly and only with other equally aggressive tankmates.

About the Black and Gold Chromis:

The Black and Gold Chromis inhabit fringe reefs, reef passes, outer reef slopes and reef faces. They are found at depths of 7 to 75 feet (2 to 23 m), usually in areas with rich stony coral populations.

When they are juveniles they are found in small groups or alone, but as adults they are solitary. Their omnivorous diet in the wild consists of benthic algae and weeds (plants on substrate), benthic crustaceans, zooplankton, and ascidians, or sponges and tunicates.

  • Scientific Name: Neoglyphidodon nigroris
  • Social Grouping: Varies - Adults are found singly, but juveniles may be in small groups or alone.
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Description

The Black and Gold Chromis is fairly deep bodied though with a rather streamlined shape. The fins are all pointed and long and their tail fin is deeply forked and lyred. These damsels are good sized,reaching just over 5 inches (13 cm) in length. Similar to other damselfish, their life span in the wild is likely about 6 years and typically 15 years in captivity.

Black-and-gold Chromis juvenile, Neoglyphidodon nigroris
Juvenile

The name Black and Gold Damsel is derived from their juvenile coloring. When young their entire body is a bright yellow with two horizontal black bars extending the entire length of the body. The top bar starts at the tip of the nose and ends where the body ends, and the second bar starts at the front of the eye and runs all the way through to the base of the tail fin. The fins are all yellow except for the pectoral fins, which are clearish or opaque.

A color change occurs in these fish when they reach about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (5 -6 cm) in length. Adults develop dark lips, which has earned them the name Blackmouth Bicolor Chromis. On their face there are two short, dark vertical bars with one being under the eye and the second over the gill cover. The “cheek” area is paler than the rest of the body. The front portion of the fish, from the nose to just past the half point of the body, is brownish gray to brown and the remaining back portion changes to a dusky or muddy yellow.

There is also a darker version found in Java. Some adult specimens from this location are darker in color and without any yellow except a hint on the back edges of the tail fin. These fish appear to be almost black and also have pointier fins.

The Black and Gold Chromis are not typically confused with other damsels. Yet the adults from the Java location could be mistaken for the Black Damsel Neoglyphidodon melas. The primary difference is the Black Damsel grows to a full inch (3 cm) longer.

  • Size of fish - inches: 5.1 inches (13.00 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years - Damselfish generally live around 6 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Black and Gold Chromis are among the easiest of all marine fish to keep. They are are extremely hardy and very easy to care for, making them great for the beginning saltwater hobbyists or any other marine aquarist. They adapt very easily to the aquarium without special care and will do well in either a reef environment or a fish only aquarium.

A single specimen or pair can be kept with other fish, but as the adults get quite cantankerous, tankmates need to have an equally aggressive nature. They are omnivores and are not too picky about what you feed them, yet in the wild they sometimes will eat sponges and tunicates. Any prized coral in this particular category may be at risk.

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 an extended period of time. 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.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Black and Gold Chromis are omnivores, In the wild they eat weeds and algae equally as often as zooplankton and small crustaceans, yet they also eat sponges and tunicates to a lesser degree. In the aquarium provide variety in their diet that includes both meaty and vegetable foods.

Foods can be offered as freeze dried, frozen, pellets, flakes or fresh. Offer foods for herbivores along with mysis shrimp, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, Cyclop-eeze, krill, finely chopped shrimp or fish flesh and other meaty foods. Also offer flakes and other preparations for omnivores.

They need to be fed at least twice a day, and 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. 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 - You can feed them flake that has sponge material formulated for large angelfish.
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes - Wet the pellets before adding to the tank to prevent air from getting into their intestinal tract.
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Only needed if you want to offer a treat or condition them to spawn.
  • Vegetable Food: Half of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Half of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Feed at least 2 times a day.

Aquarium Care

These damselfish are hardy and easy to keep with a well maintained tank. Regular water changes done bi-weekly will also 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:
    • Medium sized tanks of 55 gallons, perform 10% water changes bi-weekly or 20% monthly.
    • 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:
    • Medium sized tanks of 55, 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 Black and Gold Chromis can be kept happy in a reef setting as well as in a fish only tank. Due to their much larger adult size than most other damselfish, being around 5 inches (13 cm) in length, and their stronger swimming ability derived from their forked tail and more streamlined body, they need a very roomy tank. At least a 55 gallon is suggested for just one of these fish or a mated pair. They also become aggressive as they get older, so other tank mates should be chosen wisely.

These damselfish benefit from stony corals in a reef set up, although they are not necessary. They swim in in all areas of the tank and will appreciate rock work, coral, or other decor that offers several places to hide. Having many places to hide will reduce aggression between them and other fish in the tank.

Any substrate, water movement, and lighting works fine unless housed with corals, then these factors need to be considered for the needs of the coral. Keep normal water temperatures of 74˚F to 84˚F (23 - 28˚C), with pH from 8.1 to 8.4 for a happy, healthy damselfish. 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: 55 gal (208 L) - A 55 gallon tank is suggested for one fish or a male and female pair.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places - Providing places for them to hide within rockwork or coral will help reduce aggression.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • 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 good quality eggs and larvae occurs with temperatures of 79° F to 82° F (26° - 28°C).
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any
  • Water Region: All - They will swim at all levels of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Like all damsels, they can become territorial and aggressive as they get older. Although a few juveniles will stay together, once they reached adult size they are solitary fish and will kill each other. If a pair forms, then the pair will kill the remaining fish together. They are best kept with semi-aggressive to aggressive fish in a tank that is at least 55 gallons or more. The minimum tank size does cause more aggression from these fish.

These fish hold no compassion for docile chromis or other docile damselfish. Keeping one with other damsels would be possible if you provide 50 gallons of water per damselfish of a different genus that has the same level of aggression. The best tank mates include large hawkfish, large angelfish, sand perches, larger wrasses, and other similarly tempered fish. They can be kept with semi-aggressive triggerfish, but aggressive triggerfish such as the Clown Triggerfish is too aggressive. Do not house with fish who can swallow them whole.

Juveniles may be picked on by large aggressive fish, but this will change once these fish become adults. The adults will not stand for it and can hold their own. These fish are very aggressive once they have reached their larger adult size and can hold their own. Still, do not house them with predatory fish who can swallow them whole, or even smaller predators that as they will keep these damsels hiding in the decor.

In a reef setting with proper tank mates they pose no threat to most corals, but they might pose a threat to sponges or tunicates. Their presence can benefit stony corals as their constant movement keeps the branches free from debris and their excrement nourishes the coral. Small ornamental shrimp, like sexy shrimp, may be devoured. They may eat some Copepods and Amphipods too, so populations of these should be well established in a larger tank before adding these damselfish.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Aggressive - They are one of the more belligerent damselfish.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - They may be kept in small groups as juveniles in larger tanks and adult can be kept singly or as a mated pair. As adults they are too aggressive to be kept with others of the same species beyond a pair.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Threat - Black and Gold Damsels are too aggressive for these fish.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Threat - Black and Gold Damsels are too aggressive for these fish.
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor - Six-line or Eight-line wrasses may be picked on, depending on the individual damsel and the tank size. Other damsels need to be of similar temperament in tanks sized at a rate of 50 gallons per damsel.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Safe
    • 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 may make these damselfish too afraid to come out and feed.
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Threat - Black and Gold Damsels are too aggressive for these fish.
    • Anemones: Safe
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Safe
    • LPS corals: Safe
    • SPS corals: Safe - They are beneficial to branching stony corals.
    • 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: Threat - In the wild they are known to feed on sponges and tunicates.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor - Small shrimp specimens may be consumed.
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Monitor - Copepods and Amphipods population should be well established in a larger tank before adding these fish.

Sex: Sexual differences

Sexual differences are unknown, though males may be larger as with other damselfish in the Pomacentrid family.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Black and Gold Chromis have spawned in captivity, though it is unknown if any efforts to breed them are in effect. All damsel species are similar to clownfish when it comes to breeding. They will have 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.

Successful breeding requires perfect water parameters and a large, non-predatory aquarium system. Black and Gold Damsels, opposite of clownfish, are born female and change to male as they move up the hierarchy. In typical damsel fashion, the male chooses a spawning site which can be a rock, dead coral branch, coral rubble, or flat rock.

Once the female sees that the male is ready to spawn, she will join him. They will then swim side by side with the male slightly behind the female, or will swim at each other from opposite directions. Once they are side by side they both deposit their gametes on the prepared surface. This spawning behavior is repeated every few minutes until all are satisfied with the results.

One clutch can have over 1,000 eggs, which the male will oxygenate and will remove any undeveloped eggs. He will viciously guard his nest until they hatch. These eggs will hatch in 2 to 2.5 days, followed by the larval stage which lasts for 22 - 24 days (Wellington and Victor 1989). Due to similarities, see breeding techniques under Clownfish on the Marine Fish Breeding page.

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

Fish Diseases

The Neoglyphidodon species are very durable damsels, even when juveniles. However there does seem to be an unexplained “sudden death” that damselfish can occasionally 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 an expensive 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 Black and Gold Chromis are also commonly called the Blackmouth Bicolor Chromis or Behn's Damselfish. Although they are seasonal, they are often found online and in most aquatic stores and are inexpensive.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney, David Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Black-and-gold Chromis