Domino Damsel

Three-spot Dascyllus ~ Three-spot Damsel

Family: Pomacentridae Picture of a Domino Damsel or Three-spot Damsel, Dascyllus trimaculatusDascyllus trimaculatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild
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I have a domino in my community tank and he's been a bit strange lately, he or she is been rubbing up against a Tang and breathing very hard and quickly... (more)  pheonix

  These damsels are often called the Domino Damsel because of their juvenile coloration which imitates a "domino".

   As juveniles they have a distinct white spot on the forehead and a prominent white spot on the upper side. In a mature Three-spot Dascyllus or Domino Damsel, the marks will most likely disappear or leave just a remnant spot on the side.

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

Geographic Distribution
Dascyllus trimaculatus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Dascyllus
  • Species: trimaculatus
Mean Domino Damsel, Dascyllus trimaculatus (10 gallon saltwater tank)
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Typical "learning curve" of new aquarists.

The Domino Damsel in this video is in a very small tank, is a very small juvenile, yet has a very LARGE attitude. As adults they are gray and ugly, matching their personality. When told to cycle tanks with damsels, every new aquarist who follows this advice is faced with the duty of removing this beast shortly after it settles. Want to keep it? For one, you will need 55 gallons and for a pair, 75 gallons. They will host various anemones like Carpet Anemones, but they like branching SPS coral and will stick close to that coral once they have bonded to it. Oddly, these meanies are still NOT as bad as the Blue Devil Damsel, but they would be part of the rival gang! House with other aggressive fish that are larger, period.

Domino Damsel, Dascyllus trimaculatus hosting Carpet Anemone
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An aquarist doing it right with lone Domino Damsel!

It is great to see an aquarist who realizes the evil intent of the Domino Damsel as it grows older! This aquarist has chosen to house his damsel ALONE and as the only fish in the tank! This is for the safety of other fish, since this damsel will attack everything that is the same size, anything that is semi-aggressive and larger and especially anything peaceful. House in a large tank with large angelfish, mellower triggers and other large aggressive fish that are not too large and will eat them. They grow to 5" and lose their jet black coloring and 3 bright white dots and put on drab gray and faded white spots that shrink as they grow.

Domino Damsel in the wild.
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Adult Domino Damsel videoed in the wild.

This video shows a Domino Damsel that has such attitude, it doesn't even fear the diver! This adult is a drab gray and has a drab, nasty personality. Imagine the size tank needed for this adult as you watch the area around his home that he guards. There appears to be some juveniles hanging around the base of his little rock, which is normal in the wild, however in captivity, it may not be tolerated. These fish are best kept in the wild since most aquarists want to get rid of them soon after purchase. A black clownfish with white strips is just as attractive but won't kill their tank mates!

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    Domino Damsel or Three-spot Dascyllus are found in the Western Pacific and the Indo-West Pacific from eastern Africa and the Red Sea to the islands of Oceania. It is not found in Hawaii or the Marquesas Islands. They are found at depths between 3 - 180 feet (1 - 55 meters), and inhabit coral and rocky reefs.

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

Maintenance difficulty:    The Domino Damsel or Three-spot Dascyllus is among the easiest of all marine fish to keep.

Maintenance:    This fish will readily eat all kinds of live, frozen, and flake foods and algae. Finely chopped meaty foods (like brine shrimp) can be fed regularly. It is best to feed small amounts several times a day. In a reef situation they don't really need to be fed very often at all.

Foods:    All kinds. See maintenance above.

Social Behaviors:    Like all damselfish, they can be territorial and aggressive, especially as they get older. Can be kept together and with other larger fish but watch them closely to be sure their aggression doesn't become destructive.
   Young Domino Damsels will often live in a comensal relationship with anemones like the one shown here.

Sex: Sexual differences:    Not Known.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Some of the damselfish have been bred in captivity.
   For more information on the breeding of damselfish, see Marine Fish Breeding: Damselfish.

Picture of a Domino Damsel or Three-spot Damsel, Dascyllus trimaculatusPhoto courtesy: Joe D

Temperature:    No special requirements.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Domino Damsel or Three-spot Dascyllus adults can grow to 11.0 cm ( 4.3 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 20 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Swims at all levels of the aquarium.

Availability:    This fish is almost always available.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
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Lastest Animal Stories on Domino Damsel

pheonix - 2010-07-05
I have a domino in my community tank and he's been a bit strange lately, he or she is been rubbing up against a Tang and breathing very hard and quickly yesterday day I noticed it going crazy rubbing up against a rock. When I had a closer inspection, I realized it had a tub like organ coming out next to the anus its been squirting something on the rock and when I had another look today the rock was covered in what I think are eggs, I don't have any other domino in there to fertilize them, is this rare or has this happened to anyone else before? Please let me know.

  • Ranendra Dey - 2013-02-02
    ''From my viewpoint and experience this is the symbol of egg laying, the fishes who have no male can lay unfertile eggs due to overburden of their abdomen.
  • Jacques - 2013-12-21
    My domino damsels spawned yesterday, I found what looked like 1000 small white eggs attached to the glass, while one of the parents were guarding fiercely. Today I siphoned about 5 out with a syringe and looked at them under a microscope, 3 of them were moving inside occasionally and measured 0.3 mm across. I have set up a quarantine tank and will probably move them across to that tank tomorrow, don't want the other fish to eat them, or have them going through the stumps filtration.
Tracy - 2006-02-02
We have 2 dominos and they both love our anemones. We thought that strange till we saw your picture.

  • Pam - 2013-03-17
    To my surprise, I too had my Domino Damsel get into my anemone. I noticed it allowing the anemone to sting it on several occasions and it would defend the anemone. I thought this unusual until I saw this picture. So is this normal for this species of Damsel? And what will happen to my Maroon Clown when it wants to join in? Thank you.
leslie [spud] - 2008-06-29
i have two damsels [two years old]. they have gotten on fine with each other and all of the other fish. one seems to be turning grey [almost see-through] or silver at times. seems healthy. any feedback would be appreciated.

  • Brenda - 2010-05-10
    Mine is turning grey also. I thought something was wrong with him. Maybe not?
  • Rebecca - 2010-12-06
    I have two and one of mine has been turning grey and was swimming in front of the other one funny, then i read somewhere that they could be a pair, making the one that turns grey the male. . . . They might be trying to breed. .
Veronica - 2012-03-23
I think my Domino Damsel just had a heart attack! One of my other fish just died so I was going in with the net to get it out when I noticed my Domino started freaking out and moving its fins rapidly then it sunk to the bottom and laid there. It turned really pale like a silver color. After about 30 sec it started swimming again and slowly turned back to black. He is wimming like nothing happened now....

  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-03-24
    Check ammonia level.