Blackcap Basslet “Gramma Melacara”

blackcap basslet

Last updated on August 23rd, 2022 at 06:10 pm

The blackcap basslet (Gramma melacara) is a beautiful little fish that can be found in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. This species gets its common name from the black cap it sports on its head. They are small fish, typically reaching only about four inches in length.

Like other Gramma species, the blackcap basslet is very peaceful and can be kept with many different fish of similar size. They are also reef-safe! Blackcaps make great additions to small aquariums or even large community tanks where they will go about their business without bothering any tankmates.

They are nocturnal hunters, which means they spend the day hiding among coral or rocks and come out at night to feed. They are carnivores, eating mostly small crustaceans and juvenile fish.

Origin and descriptions

blackcap basslet

The blackcap basslet is a saltwater fish that can grow up to an inch long. They are native to the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

It’s a beautiful fish that adds a unique flair to your aquarium. Its vibrant purple body and jet-black diagonal cap are striking features that make it a unique fish.

They have a small mouth and will accept most foods including flakes, frozen food, freeze-dried food, pellet food, and even brine shrimp nauplii. They can be housed with other peaceful species of fish or mollusks but will be aggressive towards other basslets.

The blackcap basslet is a tropical fish that can be found in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. It is a member of the Gramma genus, which includes about 40 different species.

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Grammas are small, peaceful fish that typically only reach four inches in length. They are known for their beautiful colors and peaceful behavior.

The blackcap basslet gets its name from the black cap that sits on top of its head, similar to a pirate’s hat.

Species profile

blackcap basslet

The blackcap basslet (Gramma melacara) is a small saltwater fish that is often found in coral reefs. This species can reach a size of up to six inches in length, and it has a deep blue body with black markings on the head and fins. The blackcap basslet is popular among aquarium enthusiasts for its coloration and personality.

This species is considered to be moderately difficult to keep in captivity, and it should be housed in an aquarium of at least 30 gallons. It is important that the water temperature does not exceed 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius), and a specific gravity of less than one-degree salinity can help increase its life expectancy.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the blackcap basslet is gramma melacara

Color and appearance

The blackcap basslet has a dark blue body with a black cap on its head. It is a beautiful fish, and its blue body is very striking against the white sand of the reef. It is slender and elongated, with small scales that make it look delicate.

The royal gramma and the Gramma melacara are almost identical in body plan, with one notable exception: the royal gramma has a more deeply bifurcated caudal fin. It is purple in coloration with, as its common name indicates, a diagonal black “cap” that extends from the mouth over the top of the head.

The pale white lines radiate backward from the eye. They can reach a length of up to 4 inches, somewhat larger than their royal gramma counterpart.

Range and habitat

The blackcap basslet is found in the western Atlantic, from North Carolina to Bermuda and along the coast of Central America to Brazil. It lives on rocky or coral reefs at depths between about 15-25 meters (50 feet), but it has also been seen around shipwrecks.

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Like many other Grammas, they will join an aquarium’s cleaning crew and consume parasites from other fish.


Blackcap basslets can reach up to three inches (eight cm), with females usually growing larger than males.

Tank size

Blackcap basslets do well in tanks of at least 30 gallons (114 L). Aquarists should provide plenty of live rock for these fish to hide among, as they like to stay sheltered. They will also appreciate a moderate current and areas of open water for swimming.

In the wild, blackcap basslets are found in large schools over shallow reefs. They prefer well-lit areas where they can easily spot prey and avoid predators like moray eels and larger fish such as groupers (Siganidae).

Life cycle of blackcap basslet

Blackcap Basslets start their lives as eggs and hatch after about 30 days. The female fish will guard the nest for approximately 28 to 32 more days, after hatching, until they become free-swimming juveniles, also known as fry or fingerlings.

The fish will then feed on plankton until they are able to hunt prey. They can grow up to be about 12 inches long and live for approximately 15 years.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Blackcap basslets are usually peaceful fish, but they can become territorial when defending their nests or territory.

Blackcap basslet care

blackcap basslet

What they eat

When caring for Blackcap basslets, they must be given a diet that consists of live foods including brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and other small crustaceans. They will need to have an area where they can hide in caves or under ledges because these are their natural habitat.

Tank mates

Blackcap basslets can be kept with other small fish that inhabit reef tanks. Some good tank mates include firefish, seahorses, gobies, and blennies. They should not be kept with large fish or those that may bully them.

Basslet Fish Care Guide

Water conditions

Blackcap basslets live in water with a pH of around eight. They also need to have good circulation and the tank should be well lit, but not exposed to direct sunlight. The water temperature should be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.


Blackcap basslets are relatively easy to breed. The females lay their eggs on the coral rocks and then both parents take turns guarding them until they hatch around six weeks later. The fries are then free swimming and can be fed with newly hatched brine shrimp.


Blackcap basslets have a very long lifespan and can live up to 20 years. However, they are somewhat slow-growing fish that usually only reach one or two inches in size when fully grown.

Parasites and diseases

Blackcap basslets are typically very hardy fish and don’t usually get sick, but they can be susceptible to parasites like ich. If you notice your blackcap basslet scratching itself or swimming erratically, it may have a parasite problem and you should treat the tank with appropriate medication.


Blackcap basslets are preyed upon by larger fish, so it’s important to keep them in a tank with other smaller fish that will act as protection.

Does it make good pets?

Not really. Blackcap basslets are not really suitable for beginners, because they require very specific conditions. However, more experienced fishkeepers that have the knowledge of how to care for them will enjoy their interesting behavior and bright colors.


Blackcap basslets are beautiful fish that require a little bit of extra care, but they are definitely worth the effort. If you’re able to provide them with the right water conditions and diet, they will thrive and bring color and life to your tank.