When it comes to captive care, damsels (family Pomacentridae) certainly have a lot going for them. Many are chromatically blessed. Many are more diminutive in size, and most are very hardy. The problem is that many can become very quarrelsome. Thus, you have to choose which damsel you purchase or consider its tankmates very carefully. A number of bright blue damsels available to aquarists are sold as “neon damsels,” and these are less combative than many members of the pomacentrid clan. One of the more common of these in the aquarium trade is the goldbelly damselfish (Pomacentrus auriventris).
Difficulty: The goldbelly damselfish is an ideal aquarium inhabitant. It is colorful, does not get very large and is extremely hardy. As with most damsels, the goldbelly damselfish’s disposition must be considered, but it is less combative than many other members of the family. The goldbelly damselfish readily acclimates to an aquarium lifestyle and will eat most aquarium fish foods. Feed the goldbelly damselfish every other day in a reef aquarium or once a day in a fish-only system. Foods of choice include frozen preparations for herbivores, frozen fish eggs, frozen Cyclops and even flake food.
Physical description: The goldbelly damselfish is bright blue with yellow on the belly, tail, anal fin, pelvic fins and rear portion of the dorsal fin. It reaches a length of 3 inches. The goldbelly damselfish is similar to the Allen’s or blue star damselfish (Pomacentrus alleni), which has yellow only on the anal fin and a black area on the lower portion of the caudal fin, as well as the neon damselfish (P. coelestis), which has much less yellow on the body (the anal and caudal fins are yellow). These two species of damselfish are fairly similar in husbandry requirements to P. auriventris (P. alleni may be a little more docile than the other two and bit less hardy).
Range: The goldbelly damselfish is found from Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, east to Indonesia and Micronesia. It is an inhabitant of shallow inshore reefs (usually in less than 30 feet of water) and is often found in microhabitats exposed to surge. The goldbelly damselfish is found singly but sometimes also forms loose groups. Like most members of the genus Pomacentrus, this species is omnivorous. The goldbelly damselfish feeds on diatoms, detritus and associated micro-invertebrates. It will also consume plankton.
Compatibility: Damselfish are renowned for their surly dispositions; but P. auriventris would have to be considered one of the more mellow members of the pomacentrid clan. Not that it is above chastising new peace-loving fish added to a smaller aquarium. However, in a moderate to large-sized aquarium, the goldbelly damselfish will typically behave itself. The most likely targets are small bottom-oriented species, like dartfish, firefish, gobies, wormfish, small wrasses and dragonets. In larger aquariums (135 gallons or more), this species can be kept in small groups. If you get two male goldbelly damselfish, they will need enough room to set up their own territories; if room is lacking, you may have to remove one or more of the goldbelly damselfish if they fight constantly. In many cases, adding a larger group (say, five individual goldbelly damselfish) is better because that will disperse aggressive interactions between more individuals. The goldbelly damselfish is likely to be challenged and dominated by damselfish of the following genera: Dascyllus, Microspathodon, Neoglyphidodon, Plectroglyphidodon and Stegastes. Large anemonefishes and even some Chrysiptera species have also been known to punish P. auriventris, as well, including the Fiji blue devil (Chrysiptera taupou) and onespot damselfish (C. unimaculatus). Its small size means that this fish is suitable prey for a larger number of piscivores.
Aquarium conditions: The goldbelly damselfish can be kept in aquariums as small as 20 gallons, but in such small confines, it is likely to be more aggressive to smaller, more passive species. Provide it with plenty of hiding places. Keep the water parameters as follows: pH 8.1 to 8.4, specific gravity 1.019 to 1.025 and water temperature of 74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Breeding: The goldbelly damselfish will spawn in the home aquarium, laying eggs in a crevice or in a shell. The male goldbelly damselfish guards the eggs from potential predators.