Neon Velvet Damsel
The Blue Velvet Damsel is such a rich sparkling beauty when young, it's dubbed "neon" and "jewel"!
The Neon Velvet Damsel Neoglyphidodon oxyodonis (previously Paraglyphidodon oxyodonis) is one of the most attractive damselfish as a juvenile. Strikingly colored when young, it has flashy neon electric-blue horizontal stripes dashed across its face and upper body which contrast dramatically with its dark body. It also has a vertical white or yellow bar dividing the body just in front of the dorsal fin. As they grow older however, the stripes fade and the fish become a grayish blue or brown color overall.
This bold beauty is called by many other descriptive common names including Blue Velvet Damsel, Black Velvet Damsel, Velvet Damselfish, Bluestreak Damselfish, and Bluebanded Damselfish. It is also called the Jewel Damsel, but it is not the same fish as the damsel known as the Jewelfish or Jewel Damselfish Microspathodon chrysurus, which is also a black fish but with sparkling blue spots all over its body. Common names derived from its place of origin include the Javanese Damselfish and Java Damsel.
When young these fish readily stand out, making them very desirable for the aquarium. They're also hardy and easy to keep, which makes them a good beginner fish. But as they grow into adulthood, reaching almost 6 inches (15 cm) in length, they lose their vibrant coloring and become very aggressive. They are quick swimmers with their stream-lined shape, so will need plenty of room as they become territorial and aggressively defend their space. They are generally easy to feed, however, and will readily accept any algae based or meaty foods you provide. They are a suitable addition to reef tanks as they can be kept with invertebrates, but are still aggressive towards other fish.
The Blue Velvet Damsels are not peaceful community fish and will cause havoc in a tank. Due to their size and attitude these damselfish need to be in a much larger tank than a typical damsel. They can be kept in groups as juveniles, but will fight if the tank is too small. As they age and become more belligerent, the aquarist may need to remove the fish unless suitable tank mates of equal temperament are present. They do best kept singly or as a male and female pair.
The minimum recommended tank size for the Blue Velvet Damsel is 55 gallons for one specimen or a mated pair. If keeping a mated pair, no other fish should be in the same aquarium that is not equally belligerent. Much larger tanks that give the pair plenty of room should help dispel aggression. Adults will attack peaceful fish and smaller semi-aggressive fish. They should only be kept with larger and more aggressive fish in tanks that are at least 100 gallons or more. In the wild they occupy the shallows of the reef, yet in a tank that is less than 24” deep, they will generally inhabit the mid to lower areas of the tank. As juveniles, they appreciate rock work to hide in.
For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium
Blue velvet damsel fish
Neon Velvet Damselfish, Neoglyphidodon oxyodon
Nice view of a juvenile Neon Velvet Damselfish in a peaceful community saltwater aquarium along with some nice coral species.
Neon Velvet Damsel - Quick Aquarium Care
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
- Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
- Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
- Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
- Temperament: Aggressive
- Temperature: 74.0 to 84.0° F (23.3 to 28.9° C)
- Range ph: 8.0-8.3
- Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Neon Velvet Damsel Neoglyphidodon oxyodonis was described by Bleeker in 1858. The genus name was formerly Paraglyphidodon and this species was previously known as Paraglyphidodon oxyodonis. They are found in the Western Central Pacific Ocean, in the Indo-Australian Archipelago around the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Ashmore Reef of the Timor Sea. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Additional common names they are known by often relate to their appearance. With their rich coloring and electric blue stripes they are also known as the Blue Velvet Damsel, Black Velvet Damsel, Neon Velvet Damselfish, Blue Velvet Damselfish, Black Velvet Damselfish, Velvet Damselfish, Bluestreak Damselfish, Bluestreak Damsel, and Bluebanded Damselfish. This species is also one of several damselfish called the Jewel Damsel. Yet the most familiar is the Jewelfish or Jewel Damselfish Microspathodon chrysurus, a black fish with sparkling blue spots all over its body. Names which relate to its place of origin include the Javanese Damselfish, Javanese Damsel, and Java Damsel.
About the Neoglyphidodon Genus:
This species is a member of the very large Pomacentridae family of Damselfish and Anemonefish. It belongs to the subfamily Pomacentrinae in the Neoglyphidodon genus. There are currently 8 recognized species in this genus.
Most of the Neoglyphidodon species occur in relatively shallow waters, at depths no greater than 59 feet (18 m), though there are a few exceptions. Depending on the species they can be found in lagoon and coastal fringing reefs, offshore and inshore reefs, reef flats, reef channels and passes, and outer reef faces. They live near coral growth, both large polyped and small polyped stony corals. They are often solitary fish, mostly occurring singly, but sometimes they may be found in loose groups as adults, which may represent a "clustering" behavior and/or size-related dominance hierarchy. They are omnivores that feed on zooplankton, algae, crustaceans, and at least one species is known to feed heavily on soft corals.
This genus is sometimes referred to as the "Dark Damsels." When they are young the Neoglyphidodon species can be quite colorful and attractive, and moderately compatible. As they mature, however, they change drastically in both color and behavior. Mature specimens are mostly very drab and homely in appearance, and in attitude they become extremely contentious.
Adults are mostly dark brown or black in color with only a few that are slightly more colorful. A couple have a dark gray-blue or brown color on the head and much of the body with a muddy yellow on the lower body or at the ends of the upper and lower fins and tail. One species has a dark gray-blue body with a lighter cheek area striped with distinctive dark bands. On average these fish are fairly large damselfish, ranging from about 4.7 to 6.3 inches (12 - 16 cm) in length.
The very attractive juveniles may be kept in groups, but in smaller tanks they will quarrel with conspecifics. Yet as they mature the Neoglyphidodon species become outright bullies. As adults they will do best kept singly and only with other equally aggressive tankmates.
About the Neon Velvet Damsel:
The Blue Velvet Damselfish inhabit the protected reef flats of inshore reefs and lagoons where there is a good, strong current. They are found in shallow depths below 13 feet (4 m), normally around Acropora coral heads where they shelter at night.
The adults may be seen in pairs, but when they are not spawning, they congregate in loose groups of varying sizes. Juveniles are probably found singly like others in this genus. Both juveniles and adults are omnivores, feeding on benthic algae and weeds, zooplankton, and various other planktonic invertebrates.
- Scientific Name: Neoglyphidodon oxyodon
- Social Grouping: Varies - Adults congregate in loose groups of various sizes, while juveniles, like others in this genus, probably occur alone.
- IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed - The Blue Velvet Damsel is Not Evaluated as of yet for the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species
The Neon Velvet Damsel is fairly deep bodied though with a much more streamlined shape than other damselfish. Their fins are pointed but their tail fin is rounded. These damsels are good sized, reaching 5.9 inches (13 cm) in length. Similar to other damselfish, their life span in the wild is likely about 6 years and typically 15 years in captivity.
The name of the Blue Velvet Damsel is derived from their rich juvenile coloring. This fish really is in a class all it’s own, with a distinct look that makes it hard to confuse with other damsels.
Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy Mike Donajkowski
Juveniles are dark blue, almost black, with a thin vertical band right behind the pelvic fins and up into the first part of the dorsal fin. This band is yellow near the top and white towards the bottom. The young have two electric blue horizontally curved face stripes, with the upper line running through the top of the eye. There is another electric blue, elongated “C” shape on the dorsal fin and one horizontal electric blue dash just over the top of the base of the tail fin. The edges of the dorsal, anal, and tail fins are a dark purplish blue.
A color change occurs in these fish when they reach about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (5 -6 cm) in length. As the fish matures into adulthood, the band and electric blue stripe coloring fades and the fish becomes a grayish blue or brown color overall.
- Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
- Lifespan: 15 years - Damselfish generally live up to 6 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity with proper care.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
The Neon Velvet Damselfish are among the easiest of all marine fish to keep. They are extremely hardy and very easy to care for, making them great for the beginning saltwater hobbyist or any other marine aquarist. They adapt very easily to the aquarium without special care and will do well in either a reef environment or a fish only aquarium. A steady temperature and a few places within the rock to hide will help them adjust when first acquired.
Unlike the smaller damsels, they need a much larger tank. As juveniles they can be kept in a group, but will fight with conspecifics if the tank is too small. Due to their belligerent attitude, they should be housed alone or as a pair in a minimum sized 55 gallon tank. Adults are very aggressive, so any tankmates need to have an equally aggressive nature and the tank must be very large, 100 gallons or more.
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 an extended period of time. 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 they are extremely aggressive and tankmates must be selected with care.
Foods and Feeding
The Neon Velvet Damsels are omnivores. In the wild they are zooplankton feeders and also consume benthic algae and weeds as well as various planktonic invertebrates. Adults are found in loose groups on reef flats where the water is swiftly moving. Being in a current is common for fish who eat zooplankton, since these currents bring nutritious foods right to the fish.
In the aquarium, provide variety in their diet that includes both meaty and vegetable foods. Foods can be offered as freeze dried, frozen, pellets, flakes or fresh. A 50/50 mix of meaty foods and vegetables are the normal fare. Offer foods for herbivores along with mysis shrimp, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, Cyclop-eeze, krill, finely chopped shrimp or fish flesh, and other meaty foods. Also offer flakes and other preparations for omnivores.
These fish need to be fed at least twice a day, but providing macro algae crops in the aquarium can reduce the feeding down to once a day, with just meaty foods. Still it is best to feed small amounts of food several times a day as frequent feedings often help to dissipate aggression within a tank. 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 - Wet the pellets before adding to the tank to prevent air from getting into their intestinal tract.
- 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 at least 2 times a day or once a day if plenty of algae is present and being eaten.
These damselfish are hardy and easy to keep in a well maintained tank. Regular water changes done bi-weekly will also 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:
- Medium sized tanks of 55 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:
- Medium sized tanks of 55 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.
The Neon Velvet Damsel can be kept happy in a reef setting as well as in a fish only tank. Due to their much larger adult size than most other damselfish, being almost 6 inches (15 cm) in length, and their stronger swimming ability derived from their more streamlined body, they need a very roomy tank. At least a 55 gallon is suggested for just one of these fish or a mated pair. If you want to keep one with other fish the tank should be 100 gallons or more with rock work or coral decor providing places for retreat. They also become aggressive as they get older, so other tank mates should be chosen wisely.
Provide juveniles with places to hide within the rock. Rock work with some algae crops to feed from, though not necessary, is also much appreciated by these fish. Having many places to hide will reduce aggression between them and other fish in the tank as well. Any substrate and lighting works fine unless housed with corals, then these factors need to be considered for the needs of the coral. Provide at least one area where there is swift water movement to mimic their environment. They will inhabit the lower to mid areas of the tank. If the tank is very deep, then they will stay toward the bottom areas.
Keep normal water temperatures of 74˚F to 84˚F (23˚C to 28˚C), and the temperature should be stable for a healthy damselfish. Breeding temperatures should be similar to clownfish, with optimal spawning production occurring between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). Salinity range should be between 1.023 to 1.025 and a pH of 8.0 to 8.3 is acceptable.
- Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) - A 55 gallon tank is suggested for one fish or a male and female pair. To keep with other fish it is suggested that the tank be 100 gallons or more.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: No
- Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount - Providing places for them to hide within rockwork or coral will help reduce aggression.
- Substrate Type: Any
- 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° 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: 8.0-8.3 - 8.0 pH 8.3 pH
- 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.
The Neon Velvet Damsels become territorial and very aggressive as they get older. Although a few juveniles will stay together, once they reach adult size they are solitary fish in the aquarium, and will attack any others. They are best kept alone or as a pair. The minimum recommended sized tank is 55 gallons, but it does cause more aggression in these fish. A single damsel in a 55 gallon tank would claim the entire tank, so adding other fish may be to their detriment.
In the minimum sized tank be very careful when adding fish, and only very aggressive fish such as dottybacks should be included. Even then keep an eye out for signs of torn fins on either fish. If a pair forms, the pair is even more destructive and will attack other fish together. Mated pairs need to be in their own tank, due to the intense level of aggression that will pretty much be off the charts once they spawn. In the wild they attack much larger fish when protecting a clutch.
Adult Neon Velvet Damsels hold no compassion for peaceful fish and smaller fish. Do not keep with peaceful fish of any size or smaller semi-aggressive fish such as anthias, clownfish, dwarf angelfish or the like unless the tank is over 300 gallons. Keep them with more aggressive fish in larger tanks that are at least 100 gallons or more. The best tank mates include other similarly tempered fish. Larger semi-aggressive fish such as large wrasses, triggers, and larger more aggressive angelfish may be attempted in large tanks over 200 gallons. Most larger eels should be fine in very large set ups, although you may want to make sure the damsel is not attacking the eel if it is a docile specimen.
Juveniles may be picked on by large aggressive fish, but this will change once these fish become adults. The adults will not stand for it and can hold their own. These fish are very aggressive once they have reached their larger adult size and can hold their own. Avoid any predatory fish that can swallow the Neon Velvet Damsel whole.
In a reef setting with proper tank mates they can work well. As aggressive as these fish are, they are safe with corals. Invertebrates that crawl within the algae like copepods and amphipods will be ingested, so populations of these should be well established in a larger tank before adding these damselfish. Most decorative invertebrates should be safe, unless the damsel decides it is on its "turf,” so do watch out for aggression with starfish.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Aggressive - They are one of the more belligerent damselfish.
- Compatible with:
- Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - They may be kept singly or in their own tank as a mated pair. As adults they are too aggressive to be kept with others of the same species beyond a pair.
- Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Threat - Neon Velvet Damsels are too aggressive for these fish.
- Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Threat - Neon Velvet Damsels are too aggressive for these fish.
- Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor - Do not keep with other damsels unless the tank is over 200 gallons, and then the other damsels need to be of similar temperament.
- Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor - Keep only with more aggressive angelfish, more aggressive triggerfish, and very large wrasses in large tanks over 200 gallons.
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Monitor - Once your Neon Velvet Damsel is full grown, only keep it with smaller predatory fish that cannot swallow it whole.
- Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Threat - Neon Velvet Damsels are too aggressive to be housed with these fish.
- 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: Monitor - Generally safe, but do watch out occasional aggression towards starfish
- Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
- Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
- Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Monitor - Copepod and amphipod populations should be well established in a larger tank before adding these fish.
Sex: Sexual differences
Sexual differences are unknown, though males may be larger and display when attracting a female.
Breeding / Reproduction
The Neon Velvet Damsel has not yet been reportedly bred in captivity, probably because of the expense and aggressive nature of these fish. It has been suggested that a 300 gallon tank or larger would be required to successfully obtain a spawn.
However, all damsel species are similar to clownfish when it comes to breeding. Successful breeding requires perfect water parameters and a large, non-predatory aquarium system. They will have optimal spawns 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 those of clownfish, and the fry are difficult to rear.
In the wild, the male Blue Velvet Damsel has a territory he maintains, chasing other males away. The nest site is usually a coral surface or rocky ledge that he picks clean. Similar to other damsels, the male will try to lure the female to the site, and if he is successful, she deposits her eggs and he fertilizes them immediately. This courtship is short, lasting a little less than 20 minutes, with one female laying up to 20,000 eggs. Males will then coax other females to their nests, thus adding to an ever growing clutch. The male may have the eggs of up to 5 different females, all hatching at different times, depending on when they were laid.
The male will continually tend the eggs, constantly fanning to oxygenate them, and will remove any undeveloped eggs. He will viciously guard his nest until they hatch. The eggs will hatch in 3 to 7 days, depending on water temperature, followed by about a 3 week larval stage. The fry feed on plankton. Due to similarities, see breeding techniques under Clownfish on the Marine Fish Breeding page.
- Ease of Breeding: Unknown - The eggs and larvae of damselfish are quite small and the fry are difficult to rear.
The Neoglyphidodon species are very durable damsels, even when juveniles. However there does seem to be an unexplained “sudden death” that damselfish can occasionally 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 damselfish 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 Neon Velvet Damsel is also commonly called the Blue Velvet Damsel, Javanese Damselfish, or Black Velvet Damsel. They can be found online or in stores most of the year and are moderately inexpensive.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Neoglyphidodon oxyodon (Bleeker, 1858) Bluestreak damselfish, Fishbase
- Scott W. Michael , Damselfishes & Anemonefishes, TFH Publications, 2008
- Scott W. Michael, Reef Aquarium Fishes: 500+ Essential-to-Know Species, Microcosm Ltd, 2006
- H. Debelius and R. H. Kuiter, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, (in German) Hollywood Import & Export, Inc., 2006
- Dr. Gerald R. Allen, Damselfishes Of The World, Aquarium Systems, 1991
- Burgess, Axelrod, Hunziker III, Dr. Burgess's Atlas of Marine Aquarium Fishes, T.F.H Publications inc., 1990
- Blue Velvet Damsel, AquaticCommunity.com
- James W. Fatherree, M.Sc., Damselfishes and Chromises: the Good and the Bad , Advanced Aquarist, 2011