The hardy mild-mannered Rolland’s Demoiselle is a wonderful addition to an aquarium!

The Rolland’s Damselfish Chrysiptera rollandi is a very pretty little damsel. It is uniquely attractive, usually seen with a greenish black or gray on its head accented with small blue lines and spots, with the remainder of the body being white. There are color variations, however, depending on its place of origin. Some have bodies that are yellow rather than white and others have yellow on top of the head. Thus there are several other common names for the Rolland’s Demoiselle including Black Cap Damselfish as well as Blue Head Damsel, Blue-headed Damsel, and Bluehead Demoiselle.

All varieties are quite handsome and they are also small in size, reaching only 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) in length. These very hardy damsels make a wonderful aquarium fish for the beginner or any marine aquarist. Though not always available, they are a good find for a peaceful community tank or reef when they are available, and are they moderately priced.

The Rolland’s Damselfish are quite disease resistant and very easily kept without special care. They are not picky eaters and will readily accept a variety of aquarium foods. They need some open space for free swimming and many crevices to hide in. Provide a rock and/or coral decor that has many nooks and crannies for retreat as this will help avert aggression. They do not need any special lighting or water movement but they do prefer to hang out at the bottom of the tank. These damsels are a great addition to a reef tank because they will not bother any corals or invertebrates.

A minimum tank size of 20 gallons can work for one fish kept by itself, or to keep a male/female pair. This damselfish is not so aggressive as many of its genus, though it shouldn’t be housed in a small tank with peaceful fish. Other members in the Chrysiptera genusare often quite aggressive toward other fish or species of the same genus. The Rolland’s Demoiselle is not so pugnacious and can happily be kept with a variety of peaceful to semi-aggressive fish in larger tanks that are at least 40 gallons. More than one can be kept in a larger spacious tank too, but like all damselfish, they do best ifkept in an odd numbered group. 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.

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

Rolland’s Damselfish, Chrysiptera rollandi

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Sparing Rolland’s Damselfish and Royal Gramma

About half way through the video, a Rolland’s Damsel appears and the Royal Gramma is not happy. While the Rolland’s Damselfish is mild-mannered for a damsel, it should never be kept in a smaller tank with peaceful tank mates. They do better with less aggressive fish in a medium to larger tank due to their aggressive damselfish-like territorial tendencies! if they have room, they will get along with other fish. Do not house with any clownfish unless the tank is at least 100 gallons. Damsels tend to act more like clowns with other fish, although they do not tolerate clownfish very well!

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Chrysiptera
  • Species: rollandi
Rolland’s Demoiselle – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 2.4 inches (5.99 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 84.0° F (23.3 to 28.9&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Rolland’s Demoiselle Chrysiptera rollandi was described by Whitley in 1961. It was first collected in New Caledonia and described as Chromis rollandi. The genus name was formerly known as Glyphidodontops. This species is also known by the common names Rolland’s Damselfish, Black Cap Damselfish, Blue Head Damsel, Blue-headed Damsel, and Bluehead Demoiselle.

They are found in the Eastern Indian Ocean and Western Pacific; Andaman Sea, Malaysia, Philippines, Palau, Indonesia, Great Barrier Reef, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. They have also recently been recorded from Tonga. It 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 Rolland’s Damsel:

The Rolland’s Demoiselles are found at inshore and outer corals reef at depths between 7 and 115 feet (2 – 35 m). They inhabit coastal fringing reefs, reef faces and and fore slope reefs as well as lagoons where there is lots of stony coral growth.

In their natural habitat they live solitarily or in small groups. They are one of the less aggressive of the Chrysiptera Genus, yet are just as sturdy as their conspecifics. They like to feed close to the substrate, usually within 5 inches (10 cm). They primarily feed on zooplankton but probably also consume some algae.

  • Scientific Name: Chrysiptera rollandi
  • Social Grouping: Varies – This Chrysiptera species occurs singly or in small loose groups.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Rolland’s Damselfish is fairly deep bodied. These damselfish are small, reaching only up to 2 1/3 inches (6 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.

These fish are usually seen with a greenish black or gray head that has small blue spots and narrow blue lines above and through the eye, and the remainder of the body is white. The dorsal fin is greenish black and the other fins are white to translucent. Color variations of this species are dependent on its place of origin. Some have bodies that are yellow rather than white and others have yellow on top of the head.

Rolland's Damselfish, Chrysiptera rollandi A lovely specimen from VanuatuPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

The variety shown here is from New Caledonia, Loyalty Islands, and Vanuatu.

On this variety the head to the anterior part of the back is yellowish. The body is white and there is a broad bluish black oblique band from the dorsal fin to the chest area, and a small black dot behind eye.

It’s dorsal fin is yellowish anteriorly. It has a black band extending onto the chest and it is whitish posteriorly. The other fins are white to translucent.

Those from other localities (as the variety pictured above) have a body that is greenish to bluish black, gradually shading to white or yellow ventrally. There are blue narrow lines above and through the eye and the dorsal fin is greenish black. The other fins are white to translucent.

  • Size of fish – inches: 2.4 inches (5.99 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 Rolland’s Damselfish are very easy to care, making them great for the beginning saltwater hobbyist or any other marine aquarist. These beautiful “Demoiselles†are hardy little fish and great eaters. They need some open space for free swimming along with rocks and/or corals that provide many crevices to hide in. They will help with algae control and appreciate meaty foods as well.

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 when keeping a single fish, so make sure water changes are frequent in such a small tank. 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 cleaner wrasses (Labroides spp.) 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 less aggressive damselfish, tankmates must be selected with care.

Foods and Feeding

The Rolland’s Damselfish are omnivores. In the wild they feed primarily on plankton (both zooplankton and phytoplankton), 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, cyclops, 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.

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. They are usually very active swimmers and may venture to the surface for foods when well acclimated. If feeding pellets, make sure they are wet before adding them to the tank so air will not enter 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 at least twice a day, but offering food several times a day will help to counter any possible aggression.

Aquarium Care

These damselfish are hardy and easy to keep in a well maintained tank. Minimum tank size is 20 gallons when keeping this as a single fish, and even in this small of a tank water changes need to be frequent. 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 10% water changes bi-weekly or 20% monthly.
    • Medium sized tanks 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 tanks 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 Rolland’s Damselfish will be happy kept in a reef setting or in a fish only peaceful community tank. They typically only grow to 2 1/3 inches, so the minimum tank size is 20 gallons when keeping just one, or for a mated pair. This damselfish is notas aggressive as many of its genus, but it shouldn’t be housed in a small tank with peaceful fish. They are also a great nano tank fish if they are the only ones in the tank. To keep them with a variety of peaceful to semi-aggressive fish provide a tank that is at least 40 gallons. More than one can also be kept in a larger tank, but like all damselfish, they do best kept in an odd numbered group with a lot of space.

They swim in the mid to lower areas of the tank, but as they are often preyed on in nature, they need many hiding places 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 substrate, 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, 40 gallons or more, is suggest when keeping more or with other peaceful to semi-aggressive fish.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes – This fish should be alone 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&deg 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: Bottom – They mostly inhabit the mid to lower areas of the tank. Being active swimmers they spend a good deal of time darting in and out of the crevices in the decor.

Social Behaviors

This genus of damsels, the Chrysiptera, has a wide array of temperaments with the Rolland’s Damselfish being one of the less 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 DamselChrysiptera cyanea!

The minimum tank size is 20 gallons when kept alone or as a mated pair. A group of several individuals of this species can be kept together but they need some hiding places, otherwise they may fight, causing serious damages. You may keep them in small groups by “crowding,†with one Rolland’s Damselfish per 15 gallons. This number increases to 20 gallons per damsel, however, if you are adding a different peaceful species of damselfish. 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. Larger tanks of at least 60 gallons should make this situation less volatile.

This damsel is relatively peaceful and can be housed with a variety of other tank mates including smaller or weaker fish. However, if you wish to keep them with other fish, they should have at least 40 gallons to prevent any possible aggression. Like all damselfish, they do like their own little piece of space within the aquarium, and they will defend it. In these larger tanks they will get along with peaceful and passive fish, but you should allow thepeaceful tank mates to become established first, before adding the Rolland’s. Angelfish in the Centropyge genus, cardinalfish, larger butterflyfish, wrasses, and non-aggressive damselfish can all be good tank mates.

They can be kept with other fish that have similar aggression attitudes. They will get along with moderately aggressive fish or much larger fish. They can also be kept with damsels of similar temperament or with more aggressive, larger clownfish if the tank is at least 100 gallons. Provide an additional 50 gallons per damsel. Fish that could be at risk include small juveniles of butterflyfish and Centropyge angelfish, as well as cardinalfish.

They can hold their own with larger semi-aggressive fish, but keep an eye out to be sure they are not harassing your Rolland’s Damselfish. 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. Large aggressive fish like Clown Triggerfish or the very territorial dottybacks would not be good tank mates. A large tank size is the main aggression dissipater. 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 Rolland’s Demoiselle 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 the more peaceful of their genus.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – They 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 Rolland’s Damselfish.
    • 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 harass your Rolland’s Damselfish. If housing with dwarf angelfish or the more aggressive clownfish, the tank should be 100 gallons or more with many hiding places.
    • Monitor – Dottybacks will be too aggressive. Other small damsels with a similar mild temperament can be kept if the tank is at least 60 gallons. Six- and Eight-line Wrasses may harass your Rolland’s in smaller tanks.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor – Rolland’s Damselfish may be 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.
    • Monitor – Rolland’s Damselfish 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 Rolland’s Damselfish have spawned in captivity. They have similar spawning habits as others in their genus, such as the Blue Devil Damsel Chrysiptera cyanea. Blue Devil males have their own territory, which is near a nesting site. This site has rubble or a half shell from a clam near the entrance. The day before spawning a female will visit the males in her colony, including any males she has spawned with in the past. When she chooses a fit and healthy male she will stop swimming, and facing upward, will flash a light ring around each eye.

Once the female has “solicited†a male whose nest she wants to inspect, the male starts a courting performance with hopes of impressing her. After she evaluates his display the female will follow the male to his nest 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 with the male who is largest, put on the best “dance,†and has the most eggs. If there is another female who has decided on 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 to spawn one at a time, one after the other, with the same male.

These nests can have almost 10,000 eggs donated from several different females. Males know that the more eggs they have in their nest, the better the chance the female will spawn with them. They have even been known to abandon their small egg clutch to take over a larger abandoned egg clutch of another male. The male will stay and protect his eggs (and the eggs of the missing male if needed) until they have hatched, which can take 4 days. The larval stage for Chrysiptera species can last between 10 to 50 days. See general breeding techniques under Clownfish on the Marine Fish Breeding page.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult – 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 fast moving and primarily infects the gills. Uronema disease, which is typically a secondary infection, is very deadly and will attack your damsel quickly and lethally.The first symptom is lack of appetite. It is most often contracted when the aquarist lowers the salinity to treat another type of illness, but doesn’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 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.


The Rolland’s Damselfish is available from time to time both in stores and online, and are moderately priced. They have been shipped from Indonesia and from Vanuatu as well, but those from Vanuatu may be a bit more expensive.

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).