Chromis vanderbilti – Vanderbilts Chromis

Chromis vanderbilti or Vanderbilts Chromis is a small species. They live in a group and are completely reef safe. They grow up to six centimetres long.

Chromis vanderbilti – Vanderbilts Chromis

Chromis vanderbilti was officially described by Fowler in 1941. The species name vanderbilti is a reference to the discoverer of this species George Washington Vanderbilt III. The genus name Chromis is derived from ancient Greek and means Fish or Perch. Their common names are Vanderbilts Chromis, Blackfin Chromis or Blackfin Damsel.

This species belongs to the Pomacentridae family. This family has about 29 genera and 285 species. The genus Chromis includes nearly 100 species, making it the largest genus in the family. The Pomacentridae family includes the Clownfish and Damselfish.


Chromis vanderbilti is a very nice little Damsel. They grow up to about six centimetres long. The top and bottom of the fish are light blue which fades to yellow on the flank. On this yellow, they show a few rows of blue dots. The dorsal fin has a yellow band. The anal fin is deep blue, almost looking black. The caudal fin is trimmed at the bottom with a black band and at the top with a yellow band. Just below and at the back of the dorsal fin is a very small golden dot.

This species is very similar to Chromis nigrura and Chromis lineata. However, they lack the golden dot and the caudal fin is edged with a black stripe above and below. In the trade, Chromis nigrura are often sold under the name Chromis vanderbilti, so mainly videos can be found on the internet under the incorrect name.


The habitat of Chromis vanderbilti extends from Taiwan and the Izu Islands near Japan, past Indonesia down to Rowley Shoals in Australia. From Rowley Shoals, they occur along the north coast of Australia up to the Great Barrier Reef. More to the east, it stretches across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to the Pitcairn Islands.

The Vanderbilt Damsel is usually found in schools above reefs at depths of two to twenty meters. They always ensure that they remain reasonably close to the reef so that they can withdraw between the coral or rocks in the event of imminent danger.


In the wild, Chromis vanderbilti feeds on Zooplankton with a preference for copepods. Zooplankton is common above the reef. Small amounts of algae are also eaten.

In the aquarium, you can feed them with copepods, brine shrimp, small or finely chopped food such as mysis, fish meat, shrimp, mussels, cyclops etc. You can also give them flake food. Make sure they also get some vegetable food. You can give them flakes which contain some vegetables or spirulina flakes.

The Aquarium

Vanderbilts Chromis is a real schooling fish and should be kept in a group. Think of at least a group of five, but more is better. If the fish are kept in too small a group, they cannot divide their attention and aggression. This often results in the death of the weakest in the group, until only one remains. They usually don’t bother other species. This species does not grow very large so be careful not to combine them with oversized or aggressive species that may eat them.

A group of five can be kept in an aquarium from 250 litres. They need a reef between which they can shelter in case of danger. However, they swim above and in front of the reef during the day, so plenty of open swimming space is definitely needed.

It is a hardy species that is also suitable for beginners. In the reef aquarium, they don’t eat coral or crustaceans, they are reef-safe!


Pay attention! Chromis vanderbilti is a somewhat shy species that is easily startled. Often they shoot towards the reef or coral to take shelter. However, they can also jump above the water. Make sure that the aquarium is well covered with a lid or net.

Breeding Chromis vanderbilti

As far as I could find, Chromis vanderbilti is not bred in captivity.



John de Lange

Copyright images

John de Lange


Cairns Marine

Last Updated on 15 October 2021 by John

Additional information






Pycnochromis vanderbilti

Common names

Blackfin Chromis, Blackfin Damsel, Vanderbilts Chromis


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