Reef Wrasse: Aquarium Duty

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Every fish has its reasons on this planet. Some are designed to control fish populations. Other fish have evolved into algae grazers. There are even fish who are designed to keep specific coral safe from predators or threats. Today’s topic is the group of reef safe wrasse and their duties in the aquarium.

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Tamarin wrasse image via reef2reef member @gparr

Anampses: The “Tamarin” wrasse is a hardy wrasse once established. They are often injured in transit or during capture. Make sure they are eating before you buy them and that their mouths are not damaged. Often times they may be torn or busted and cannot eat. These fish also require a sand bed to bury in at night.

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Labout’s Fairy Wrasse – Male (Cirrhilabrus laboutei) image via reef2reef member @Aloha Corals

Cirrhilabrus: The “Fairy Wrasse” is a diverse species that is very hardy, but still at risk of injury during transit. They are very bold and love to swim. They are also very colorful and a very sought after fish for the reef aquarium. This species will sleep in the rockwork (sometimes in weird spots) and encapsulate itself in a cocoon of a protective mucus. Yes, they drool in their sleep!

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checkerboard wrasse image via richard-seaman.com

Halichoeres: There are at least 75 types of Halichoeres, but only a few in the hobby. Most are reef safe, some with caution, but they are all sleep in the sand. They spend their day controlling pod and pest populations and are capable of starving out pod-dependent fish like mandarins. These sleep in the sand.

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cleaner wrasse and kole tang image via reef2reef member @Mike&Terry

Labroides: “Cleaner Wrasse” are debatable. Some have had success with this species but the majority of people have not been able to support their diet requirements. In the wild they spend their days eating parasites and dead fish scales off other reef fish. There is no easy way to supply this fish with what it needs in the average aquarium so try to avoid these guys unless you have a huge tank that is thriving.

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leopard wrasse image via reef2reef
sponsor Pacific Island Aquatics


Macropharyngodon: “Leopard” wrasse are on the delicate end of the wrasse family. They are very prone to stress induced illness and injury. They are very tough to ween onto prepared foods and should only be kept by experts. If you can locate a healthy specimen that is eating like it should then you still have the risk of transport stress. Be very cautious on your way home. They require sand as well.

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flasher wrasse photo via reef2reef member @gparr

Parachellinus: The “Flasher” wrasse is quite a character. They are a little smaller than Fairy Wrasse but are very alike. They are very active and sleep in the rock, so bare bottom tanks are fine for a Flasher! No pun intended.

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sixline wrasse image via reef2reef member @swannyson7

Pseudocheilinus: Hobbyists have a love/hate relationship with these wrasse. These include the various lined wrasse like the four and six line. The issue is not in hardiness or efficiency as pest exterminators but in their attitude towards new additions. They make it very hard to add new fish to a tank when a Pseudocheilinus has established himself. Adding them as a last fish is usually ok. They are another rock-dweller.

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possum wrasse image via reef2reef sponsor Pacific Island Aquatics

Wetmorella: “Possum” wrasse are shy and small. They are known to play dead and when bullied too much will cause it to die of stress. They are also rock dwellers. Only keep them with peaceful fish who will not stress them out.

Wrasse can be a great addition to your tank and if you know your wrasse from your foxface you can have yourself an amazing display of movement and color that everyone will be hypnotized by. Nothing beats a nice wrasse flashing itself to you for entertainment.

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