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Humbug Damselfish

The humbug damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus) are members of the family Pomacentridae. They inhabit the Indian Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef, and the shallow waters of the Micronesian sub-regions in the western Pacific Ocean.

This fish has a narrow rounded body. Its distinguishing characteristics are a white body with black vertical bars. These markings are evenly spaced on the fish’s body, one in the front, one in the rear and a third mid-body. The humbug is commonly marketed by the aquarium industry under the names three stripe damselfish, humbug dascyllus, or black and white damselfish.

All damselfish have a hardy constitution and a semi-aggressive temperament. They are an excellent choice for the inexperienced aquarist. This damsel’s reasonable price tag and resilience to fluctuating environmental parameters make it the perfect guinea pig for testing survivability in newly established saltwater bio-systems.

In their natural environment the humbug exists in small shoals. The dominant male will often exhibit territorial behavior toward the more submissive members of the group. In an aquarium it is recommended that humbugs be kept either as a solitary fish or a community of no less than four. Having only two together in an aquarium will result in serious aggression toward the subdominant fish. A group will substantially lessen the possibility of a particular fish being singled out as an intended target for bullying.

Damselfish are instinctively territorial. You do not want to make a group of them the first inhabitants of an aquarium. This will allow the shoal to develop the perception that the news surroundings are their turf. They will be intolerant of new additions to your tank. When keeping more than a single humbug, it is advisable to add them to a pre-established population. This will minimize the possibility of territorial disputes. Lots of hiding place will also prove beneficial.

Damselfish tend to become more aggressive as they age. It is not uncommon for a shoal of juveniles to disband in adulthood. This is a small species. They reach a maximum adult length of 4 inches. Their innate aggressive behavior makes up for their lack of stature. They will not back down to a fish twice their size. Keep their temperament in mind when selecting their potential tank mates. They actually make very good community fish as long as they are with equally aggressive species of their own size or larger.

Despite their aggressive tendencies, humbugs are well suited for a marine reef setup. In their natural environment they make their homes amid the coral formation prevalent in tropical reefs. They will feel right at home in an aquarium with plenty of coral growing in it. It is unlikely that a humbug will pick on you ornamental crustaceans.

This is an omnivorous species. In the wild algae plays an important role in their dietary intake. They are not picky eaters in captivity. They will readily eat flake food and pellets. Supplementing their diet with vitamin enriched brine shrimp and dried algae sheets will help to maintain their natural vigor.

There are no distinguishing features between the males and females of this species. However, like all damselfish they are hermaphroditic. Their ability to change gender will insure that both sexes are always present in a population. This fish has been known to breed in captivity.

Environmental Parameters

TemperaturepH LevelSpecific Gravity
72-78 °F8.1-8-41.020-1.025

This article was authored by S.J. Broy

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Document modified on Mon May 30 2:40:36 UTC 2011
Document created on Wed Jan 6 11:16:02 UTC 2010
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