Wrasses are a very well known family of fish brought into this hobby, however one species that isn't known about as well but we often recommend for small tanks is the stunning Pseudocheilinops ataenia. These are a small species of wrasse, often maxing out around 2 inches, now one of their biggest traits is the big bug eyes that look too big for their bodies. Only issue many find with these wrasses is actually hunting one down. Everything I have briefly mentioned will be more in depth below so don't worry.
Now, I'm sure many of you are probably wondering why I'm doing this about the 'Pink-Streaked Wrasse' and the reason why is due to how recently I have acquired a trio of this species if you didn't know. Previously, I have had a fair share of experience with this species of Wrasse both in an LFS environment as well as a reef environment. Anyway, I feel like I have rambled on enough so lets get into this.

Firstly, let's start with the genus and their habitat, Pseudocheilinops ataenia is the only known species of it's genus which is not to be confused with a more aggressive genus - Pseudocheilinus. The biggest differentiator of Pseudocheilinops compared to the Pseudocheilinus genus is the aggression. Pseudocheilinus often won't be recommended to mix with other wrasses, or depending on the size even just other fish, due to aggression.


(Left) Pseudocheilinus spp. - hexataenia (Right) Pseudocheilinops ataenia - adult. Photos by I Cant Think.

This species is found at depths of 5 to 15 metres (Or, 16 to 49 feet) around brittle corals. They often occur in small groups to feed on the micro-fauna, among the lower or dead parts of coral. They tend to hide in or stay close to their shelter at all times, which tends to be the reason for one of their many common names (The Cryptic Wrasse). In captivity it isn't common to have your wrasse hide for what may feel like the whole day.

(Left) Pseudocheilinops ataenia - adult showing the cryptic behaviour they are known for (Right) Pseudocheilinops ataenia - juvenile hunting. Photo by I Cant Think.

Now that I've shown some photos and said a bit about this species, your next question may be something along the lines of 'Is it reef safe?' Well, yes this species of wrasse is completely reef safe. Due to the size of this species, chances of them taking out a large cleaner shrimp (Or even a small Lysmata spp.) is slim. They can help to keep numbers of certain 'pests' in check, so for example if you had an out break of vermetid snails then this species of wrasse could help to potentially eradicate them. Small worms, snails and other 'pests' may be on the menu for this species of wrasse. My first specimen I owned managed to help with a bristleworm outbreak. This species is highly unlikely to nip at coral polyps and shrimp, or many of the wanted invertebrates we own such as clams, feather dusters and snails.
So now I'm sure you've decided whether this fish is a good addition or not however you may be left with the question of 'what tank size would be best for this species?' It's often said this wrasse can be kept in a 10 gallon (40 litre) tank however I would personally aim for a minimum of 20 gallons (75 litres) due to their activity and need for hiding spots. For a pair, I would personally try to get a 25-30 gallon tank (95 litres to 110 litres). And for a trio I would aim for a 40-50 gallon tank (150 to 190 litres). Any more than that and I would aim for a 75 gallon (400 litre)+ depending on how many you want. Now, you may see that I've used standard sizes so if your tank is like my nano and has awkward dimensions (for example mine is a 3'x16"x1' tank) then I would focus on the length and compare it to the standard tank sizes above.


Pseudocheilinops ataenia - juvenile showing off the big bug eyes. Photo by I Cant Think.

Now, I'm sure many of you have tried to source this species in the past and found it very difficult. The first thing I have noticed with Pseudocheilinops ataenia and their availability is they appear to be seasonal. Or they have a specific time as to when they're more likely to be found, which is usually around the beginning of the year in March through to April and then later on in the year in September through October. Outside of those four months, I have seen it to be quite hard to source this specific species of wrasse. The good news is, when you find them they're often rather cheap and come in in a decent number. I have personally found the average number of pink streaks in a Local Fish Store to be anywhere from 5 to 8. During the seasons they seem to be harder to find, the numbers seem to range from a single specimen to two.
So, now you know when the best times may be to source this species, how do you know if they're healthy? Often times Pseudocheilinops ataenia will come in and one of the biggest signs they are not doing too well is lethargy. Pink Streak Wrasses do not always ship too well, and often you will find that they become lethargic and do not eat. This tends to result in death however, if you find one that looks to be healthy and not lethargic, the next thing you will want to see is if the fish is eating. If that specimen eats then you will most likely find that specimen to be recovering from shipping stress.

Pseudocheilinops ataenia - Juvenile hiding in the caves of the rock scape. Photo by I Cant Think.

So, Now you're certain your tank is ready for one of these guys and you've found one that is healthy and recovering from shipping stress nicely. How do you acclimate this species? Well, usually I would suggest a float and drop acclimation for fish however due to these guys being rather more sensitive than most wrasses I personally recommend drip acclimating these for 30 minutes. If you don't know what a drip acclimation is, it's where you get a line of tubing and tie a knot in one end. The knot will reduce the water that gets into the container and slow down the drip so that it's a gradual acclimation into either the bag you got them in or a container. You can also get drip tubing however if you just use normal tubing and do the knot it works the same way (I have acclimated with both ways and never noticed a difference personally). When introducing, make sure they have a peaceful introduction and do not get bullied. Bullying may result in the death of these guys due to stress.

My new Trio of Pseudocheilinops ataenia being drip acclimated - For size comparison, they are with <1" Trochus snails. Photo by I Cant Think.

If your pink streak is like mine (Seen in the photo above) then you will probably be thinking what to feed them. Well, these guys during the day feed on copepods on the rockwork so you will want to try and get as big of a population as you can and just add to it every few weeks or so. If possible also find out what they are feeding on from your Local Fish Store. If you already feed a varied diet then it shouldn't be too hard to add whatever they'll be feeding on to the list. Mine were already feeding on pellets I feed to my tanks so I have just continued to feed what I usually feed and they have already began to feed on mysis. I have found that this is a species that isn't too hard to ween onto foods you feed so it should not take long for them to feed on frozen and other foods you may feed.

Pseudocheilinops ataenia - adult in the middle, Cirrhilabrus naokoae - terminal-phase male to the left, Macropharyngodon bipartitus - female to the right. Photos by I Cant Think.

And now I shall leave you with this beautiful new fish to consider adding to your reef.

And a grand farewell from two of the stars in the photos, two of my three Pseudocheilinops ataenia juveniles.