The Talbot’s Damsel is a pretty and graceful damselfish with an awesome personality!

The Talbot’s Damsel Chrysiptera talboti is a very beautiful and rewarding fish to keep. It’s small in size, reaching only 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) long, an active swimmer, and a great eater. It is also very hardy, often available, and moderate in price, making it a great fish for a beginner or any other saltwater enthusiast.

These pretty fish have such a distinct look to them that they are very hard to confuse with any other damselfish. A bright yellow face and forehead contrast with body colors that can range from pink or pinkish purple, to gray or darker, accented with yellow anal fins. These are also one of those interesting fish with an ocellaris, or “eye spot” located at the base of its dorsal fin. This special black marking helps confuse predators, offering the fish protection from frontal attacks.

This little treasure is one of the true pacifists of its genus with a wonderful, easygoing disposition. It has the mellowest temperament you can get from a damselfish with behaviors much like its even tempered clownfish relatives, the Percula, Ocellaris and Skunk Clowns. In fact the Talbot’s Demoiselle gets along well with many peaceful companions. But unfortunately it is the one that tends to get picked on by other fish, making proper tank mates essential to keep it from becoming stressed out.

These colorful little fish are very easy to keep. They are are not picky eaters and will happily accept just about any foods you offer. Rock work or coral in and around all areas of the tank can provide lots of hiding places, which will keep them content. They do not need any special lighting or water movement, but they do prefer to hang out at the bottom of the tank. They will burrow under rocks, a large shell, or a coral, and then retreat into their little home at night, so a sandy bottom is preferred.

The Talbot’s Damsels are great for any peaceful community tank. They 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 get along with peaceful fish in larger tanks that are at least 40 gallons. Of course, if you are going to have larger fish like a large surgeonfish or tang, the tank size should fit the needs of the largest fish. 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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Chrysiptera
  • Species: talboti
Talbot’s Damsel – 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: 8.2-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Talbot’s Damsel Chrysiptera talboti was described by Allen in 1975. The genus name was formerly known as Glyphidodontops. This species is also known by the common name Talbot’s Demoiselle.

They are found in Western Pacific from the Andaman Sea to Fiji, then north to Palau and south to the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. Around the Australian continent, they are located on the offshore reefs of the northwestern part of Western Australia, then south all the way to an area just south of the city of Brisbane. They are 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 Talbot’s Damsel:

The Talbot’s Demoiselles prefer deep lagoons, fore reef slopes, off shore reefs, and reef faces at depths between 20 and 114 feet (6 to 35 m). They inhabit areas where there are mixed corals with both large polyped stony (LPS) and small polyped stony (SPS) corals, as well as areas with rubble.

Adults are typically found by themselves on mixed coral and rubble patches, or seen in very small groups. This is the mellowest of the Chrysiptera Genus, yet it is just as sturdy as its conspecifics. It is similar in temperament to the peaceful Skunk, Percula, and Ocellaris Clownfish. The Talbot’s Damsels like to feed close to the substrate on zooplankton. They will also eat some algae and weeds that are near the bottom.

  • Scientific Name: Chrysiptera talboti
  • Social Grouping: Varies – Chrysiptera species occur singly, in pairs, or in small loose groups.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Talbot’s Damsel is elongated and fairly deep bodied, giving it the appearance of an oval shape. It has tall dorsal and anal fins. 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.

The Talbot’s is a pink or purplish pink to grayish purple colored fish, with similarly colored dorsal and anal fins. Their tailfin and pectoral fins are clearish with hints of purple in certain light and the pelvic fins are yellow. The only other yellow is on the head area, which extends from the mouth, up onto the forehead. The yellow reaches back to the beginning of the dorsal fin on top, and on the bottom it does not extend past the gill plates.

The most distinguishing feature of this fish is its ocellaris or “eye spot.” This is a big black spot that is found at the base of the dorsal fin. This spot encompasses the dorsal fin area and the very top edge of the body.

  • 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 Talbot’s Damsels 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 will help with algae control and appreciate meaty foods as well. 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.

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 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.

  • 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 Talbot’s Damsels are omnivores, In the wild they are zooplankton feeders, but also consume algae and weeds. In the aquarium provide variety in their diet that includes both protein and vegetable foods.

Offer meaty foods like mysis shrimp, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, cyclops, minced fish or shrimp flesh, and other meaty foods, and preparations for omnivores. These foods can be given as freeze dried, frozen, sinking pellets, flake or fresh. You can also provide flakes and other preparations for herbivores, and offer various blanched vegetables to see what they may like right out of your fridge. You can add flakes formulated for coloring up fish too.

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, sinking pellets are great since they stick close to the bottom.
  • 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 several times a day, this also helps to counter any possible aggression.

Aquarium Care

Once acclimated these damselfish are hardy and easy to keep in a well maintained tank. Minimum tank size is 20 gallons, so make sure water changes are frequent in such a 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 Talbot’s Damsel can be happily kept in a reef setting as well as in a fish only peaceful community tank. They typically only grow to 2 1/3 inches, so the minimum tank size is 20 gallons for one, or for a mated pair. 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 the 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. In the wild, the Chrysiptera genus are found in areas of rubble and like to dig their nests underneath dead corals, a 1/2 clam shell, or rubble. A substrate of sand will make it easier for them to burrow in.

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 8.2 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 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: Sand – Chrysiptera like to burrow under rubble, coral (they will not harm the coral), and dead coral.
  • 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 – It has been noted that they do best at this level of salinity.
  • Range ph: 8.2-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any
  • Water Region: Bottom – They inhabit the mid to lower areas of the tank.

Social Behaviors

The Chrysiptera genus of damsels has a wide array of temperaments with the Talbot’s Damsel being one of the most passive. 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.

These are some of the mellowest of all damselfish. The minimum tank size is 20 gallons when kept alone or as a mated pair. You may also keep them in small groups by “crowding,” with one Talbot’s Damsel 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.

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 though you should allow the peaceful tank mates to become established first.

They do not seem to be bothered by most other peaceful and semi-aggressive fish, except the more aggressive damsels or clownfish such as the Clarkii clownfishAmphiprion clarkii. Tanks over 75 gallons should allow both to get along without any trouble, though very aggressive clownfish may still attack the Talbot’s Damsel. Only adding other damsels that are peaceful is suggested. If adding a clownfish, try the more peaceful Percula ClownfishAmphiprion percula, Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris, or Pink Skunk ClownfishAmphiprion perideraion, as they are compatible with these fish in the larger 40 gallon tank size.

Keep an eye on semi-aggressive fish to be sure they are not harassing your Talbot’s Damsel. Do not house them with dottybacks or any aggressive fish. 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, since they may eventually eat your damsel.

In a reef setting the Talbot’s Damselfish thrive. They make a great addition to a reef because they pose no threat to corals and will happily pick off any algae growing at the base of a hard coral. They won’t bother any large or small invertebrates, though they may eat a copepod or two.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive – Although they are considered semi-aggressive, they are one of the most 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 Talbot’s Damsel.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe – Safe in tanks of 40 gallons or more.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Possibly safe in tanks of 40 gallons or more, but they may harass your Talbot’s Damsel. If housing with dwarf angelfish, the tank should be 100 gallons since these fish are very defensive of their algae patches and may be aggressive towards other algae eating fish.
    • 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 Talbot’s in smaller tanks.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor – Talbot’s 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.
    • Monitor – Talbot’s 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
    • 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.

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 Talbot’s Damsels 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 a fast moving that primarily it 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 Talbot’s Damsel is available from time to time and are moderately priced. They can obtained at certain times of the year so are sometimes available both in stores and online.


 Talbots damsel (Chrysiptera talboti) (Image Credit: Rickard Zerpe, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)