Chalk Bass Care Guide: Tank Setup, Mates and More – 2021


Chalk Bass is an underrated saltwater fish that has tons to offer to fishkeepers. It has a peaceful temperament, a curious personality, and can survive a range of saltwater conditions. They make an excellent addition to most reef tanks because they don’t pick on invertebrates or corals.


They’re excellent for beginners because they’re relatively low-maintenance: there’s very little work involved from your end, the fish itself is very hardy and can resist several diseases, and gets along well with most aquariums.


The only downside to these fascinating creatures is their lifespan: they don’t live past one-year-old.


Chalk Bass is an ideal starting point for your fish aquarium, and once you get familiarized in your new hobby, you can start adding tank mates like Clownfish, Gobies, and Damselfish.


Let’s explore the detailed Chalk Bass care sheet for beginners and what it takes to pet this stunning fish.



Category Rating
Level of Care Easy
Temperament Peaceful to semi-aggressive
Appearance Purple, orange, and blue
Life Expectancy 1 year to 2-year max
Size 3” to 4” max
Diet Carnivorous species
Family Serranidae
Tank Size 30-gallon tank
Tank Environment Saltwater with spacious swimming space and rock-work for hiding and grazing
Tank Mates Generally peaceful with other community fish


Chalk Bass Overview


The Chalk Bass’s Latin name is Serranus Tortuga rum. It originates from the Western Atlantic waters and can be found in the Caribbean.


They like to spend most of their time near the bottom of the ocean just near the reefs. In their natural habitat, they’ve been found at ocean depths of up to 400 meters, but most are seen swimming at depths of around 11 meters.


For the most part, they’re very peaceful and get along well with most tank mates. They may go after smaller ornamental invertebrates if they grow too big for their tank. That being said, they’ll only do this when there is no other easy way to get food.


These marine fish need a saltwater tank to survive. They can be kept at temperatures between 73 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.


Their favourite spot is to lurk near corals to avoid being eaten by their much larger predators. You’ll have to recreate these settings in your tank for best results.


Chalk Bass Appearance


The appearance of the Chalk Bass varies greatly depending on the lighting conditions and its environment. Its color allows the Chalk Bass to camouflage into its surroundings.


In most cases, they feature a vibrant blue body with dorsal featuring burgundy or black stripes. They are typically torpedo-shaped and feature unique patterns, usually ranging from orange to light blue.


They’re typically tiny and reach a maximum size of around 3”, which explains why they exhibit no predatory characteristics when placed in a tank with much larger fish. In the wild, however, the Chalk Bass is known for reaching a size of 4” and even 5”, and will go after smaller invertebrates.


One feature you’ll notice right away is their enormous eyes, which are disproportionately large compared to the rest of their body. Experts believe it helps the Chalk Bass navigate in Deep Ocean and detect minor changes in lighting.


A juvenile Chalk Bass is no longer than an inch and sports a dull color that changes over time to a vibrant metallic blue to a reddish or orange hue. As it begins to age, their body will become more marker, and they’ll get more reclusive.


Chalk Bass Behavior



chalk base fish



Chalk Bass prefers to swim above rock works and corals in the wild where they feed on small invertebrates and plankton. Because they’re so little, the Chalk Bass may fall prey to larger, more aggressive fish that may capitalize on their relative timidity. It is best to house the Chalk Bass with less aggressive tank mates. We’ll get to that below.


They are very docile and timid in any tank, primarily because of their relatively small size at 3” than their tank mates. Their temperament turns 180 degrees, however,


when they spot invertebrates smaller than one inch in length. The Chalk Bass may decide to harass and intimidate smaller creatures and even eat them if there aren’t any other food sources nearby.


Chalk Bass Tank Mates


The colorful saltwater Chalk Bass is suitable for all kinds of sea animals, except their natural predators. Avoid placing aggressive and assertive tank mates like lionfish, triggerfish, and giant big basses.


The Chalk Bass’ small size will initiate their hunting instincts, and it will be a matter of time when they get eaten.


You can keep them with semi-aggressive fish like Clownfish and Damselfish. However, you’ll have to proceed with extreme caution. A right combination for a reef tank with the Chalk Bass is a Kole tang, male and female Anthias, solar wrasse, and cleaner gobies.


Another highly compatible addition to the tank is a starry blenny and a white spotted filefish which will look stunning in all cases.


However, if you want to err on the side of caution, you should go with Caribbean species like the Lysmata wurdemanni, starfish, clams, and Banded coral shrimps.


Below is a list of saltwater tank mates for the Chalk Bass that make excellent additions:


  • Clownfish
  • Damselfish
  • Anthias
  • Solar Wrasse and Fairy Wrasse
  • Cleaner Goby
  • Chromis
  • Dwarf Angelfish
  • Tangs
  • Banded coral shrimps
  • Starfish
  • Lysmata wurdemanni


It is possible to add multiple Chalk Bass but must introduce them into the tank simultaneously. If you add more Chalk Bass into the tank, it will be harassed constantly by the older Chalk Bass.


If they are introduced into the tank simultaneously, they will form a hierarchy and swim around the same tank area. There’s power in numbers, and the more you add in the tank, the more they’re willing to explore. It’s fun to see them form a chain and lead each other around the tank.



Chalk Bass Tank Conditions



chalk base care guide



The best way to keep this fish is to create a marine tank that mimics their natural environment. The ideal Chalk Bass tank size should be about 30 gallons; a smaller size could trigger a stress response that may cause it to lose its color.


Sometimes the Chalk Bass may grow exceedingly large, this is probably because their species was misidentified, and sometimes they do outdo themselves!


If this happens to be the case, you may have to move the Chalk Bass to a larger tank. The problem with larger fish is that they can create severe tank issues because they require more food. They also generate larger bioload in the tank that could make the quality of life worse for their tank mates.


Below are the ideal tank conditions you should maintain:


  • Temperature: 72-78° F
  • Water Hardness: dKH 8-12
  • pH Value: 8.1-8.4
  • Specific Gravity: 1.020-1.025


Below are is the water chemistry sheet you should follow to keep your Chalk Bass marine fish happy:


  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrates: less than 10ppm
  • Nitrites: 0ppm
  • Phosphates: less than 0.1ppm
  • Calcium: 420 to 440ppm
  • Alkalinity: 8 to 9.5 dKH (or seven if you are carbon dosing)
  • Magnesium: 1270 to 1340ppm

For best results, never allow the temperature to fluctuate by 2 degrees or more. Monitor the temperature using an aquarium thermometer.



Things to Put in the Tank



Now that you’ve duplicated the fish’s ideal conditions in the tank, it’s time to provide it with the necessary vegetation and hardscape.


The Chalk Bass will settle into its new tank almost immediately and swim to downwards into the tank, seeking protection in the rock works. Often, the cave they pick at first will be their permanent homes or one of the main places they will spend most of their time.


You can also introduce multiple Chalk Bass saltwater fish in the tank together. They will stick together, instantly form a school (or even a mated pair).


Caution: Do not forget to add a protective cover on the top of the tank to prevent the Chalk Bass fish from jumping out of the tank. They are relatively inquisitive and tiny, making them great escape artists!


Chalk Bass marine fish need lots of rocks and caves in their tank. It’s a good idea to introduce some stones and saltwater plants to provide them with move hiding places.


The presence of live rocks provide the fish with plenty of hiding places, definitely do this if your tank has semi-aggressive tank mates such as clownfish and damselfish. Do keep in mind that your chalk bass may prey on small aquatic live growing on reefs, such as zooplankton.


Another essential feature is to create an open swimming space.


Should tone down the tank’s lighting; these fish thrive in deep oceans and prefer low-lighting conditions. Use a high-quality filter to regulate the tank and keep the water lean.


Too many caves in a small tank may result in low flow zones that will accrue a large amount of debris than the rest of the tank. The Chalk Bass will not eat this debris. The waste will not harm other creatures in the tank, such as hermit crabs or cleaning invertebrates. However, make sure to clean this debris regularly.


What Does Chalk Bass Eat?


Chalk Bass saltwater fish are an exclusively carnivorous species that thrives on eating invertebrates. They develop a voracious appetite for smaller creatures if they grow huge (at about 4” or more). The best part about caring for your Chalk Bass is feeding. They’ll gladly eat just almost anything – as long as it is meat.


Below are good food choices that provide the Chalk Bass with the necessary nutrition needed to maintain its color and stay happy for a long time to come


  • Mysis shrimp or brine shrimp
  • Pigment enhancing food
  • Dried brine
  • Frozen food
  • Live gut loaded with brine shrimp
  • Finely chopped meaty preparations such as table shrimp or squid
  • Pellet food
  • Crustaceans and chopped molluscs
  • Squid and krill (ideal because they’re a good source of proteins and perfectly nourishes your Chalk Bass)


Although your Chalk Bass should do well on just one type of food, such as high-quality flakes, it is essential to rotate the different food groups to maintain a balanced diet.


To introduce fibre into their body, you should feed them plankton. It will provide fish with enough fiber to stay healthy.


Chalk Bass are known for eating their food in a relatively short period despite being slow-moving fish. They will overheat even after they’ve had their fill.


If, however, your Chalk Bass doesn’t finish their food quickly enough, you can try to feed them in multiple areas of the tank. Since they’re a bottom-dwelling species, use sinking pellets to reach the fish in the tank’s lower regions.


chalk bass diseases





Chalk Bass Care – Dangers and Diseases



Chalk Bass saltwater fish are a hardy species that can resist several infections and diseases. However, your success depends on the quality of the water provided, basic tank farming, and their tank mates.


They are not immune to diseases and can get protozoan cysts as well as Popeye condition.


Treating Protozoan Cysts


All Chalk Bass carry bacteria and protozoa that will infect other fish in your tank in the wild. Rule number one of fishkeeping is to quarantine any new additions to your tank, live or otherwise, in a quarantine tank for a few weeks to ascertain its health as well as killing off parasites.


The quarantine tank should be equipped with an ultraviolet system to help kill protozoan cysts. Ultraviolet light is very effective at containing disease outbreaks.


Once you’re satisfied that your fish is in good health, you can keep it in your main saltwater tank.


Popeye Condition


Popeye is a life-threatening bacterial infection that can kill an otherwise perfectly healthy chalk bass. This disease takes place because of sub-optimal water conditions.


Popeye condition is a common disease where the eye becomes swollen and protrudes from the socket because of an underlying illness. Swollen and cloudy eyes often indicate popeye disease. If left untreated, Popeye disease could cause your Chalk Bass to lose its eyes and eyesight.


The Chalk Bass aquarium fish should be moved to a quarantine tank to avoid infecting other fish. When extracting your Chalk Bass for quarantining it, make sure not to stir up the dust in the tank (substrate) otherwise it could irritate their eyes.


Treat the fish with antibiotic food in consultation with your veterinarian to resolve the infection. If you spot that more than one fish is infected, it may become necessary to treat the main tank with antibiotics.


The best way to prevent Popeye Disease is to make sure the tank is well maintained, regularly change the water, and feed your Chalk Bass with proper nutritional food. It will minimize the odds of contracting Popeye Disease. Always keep an eye out for the tank water chemistry and observe your fish for signs of illness.


Chalk Bass Breeding


Chalk Bass are classified as a hermaphrodite. It means that each fish has got testes and ovaries. During mating, the fish will take turns acting as male and female.


They’ll carelessly scatter their eggs around the water, especially the middle sections of the tank. In the wild, their eggs often drift with plankton until they settle on reefs where they hatch. Given their unusual breeding patterns, 

It is very challenging to get the Chalk Bass marine fish to mate in captivity. This task is best left to experts.


Where to Buy Chalk Bass?


Can purchase Chalk Base for sale from your local marine pet store, online store, and online forum. A single fish will cost you about $30 or more, depending on where you live and availability. You can purchase rare species from expert breeders.


Before buying the fish, make sure to look for visible injuries and contusions. Ask your dealer to offer the Chalk Bass some food in your presence and not buy specimens that show disinterest towards the food.


Wrapping Up: Are Chalk Bass Ideal for a Home Aquarium?


The Chalk Bass marine fish is an underrated species that is attractive, small, easy to care for, and will gladly eat just about anything you decide to throw at it.


They’re perfect for reef tanks and will get along with most aquarium species. Given how ideal they are, it’s surprising the Chalk Bass isn’t nearly as popular as other saltwater fish varieties like the Clownfish. Perhaps it’s got something to do with not being featured in a particular popular Disney flick.


Either way, we recommend these saltwater fish to beginners who feel they’re ready to transition into their new role as fishkeepers. The average Chalk Bass life span is only about one year or two years max, and that’s the only bad thing we can think.



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