Cirrhilabrus Complexes: Inferiority Need Not Apply (1st Revision)

evolved

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Cirrhilabrus, the “Fairy Wrasses”, are one of the most elegant, active, and colorful reef fish. Their appeal in a reef tank is common to many, but not all have a well-rounded understanding of the compatibility amongst them. Enter the notion of “complexes”: groupings of very closely related species within a genus.

Complexes create groups in which the species are genetically very closely related. Physically the species in these groupings have similar structure: the body shape, fin shapes/sizes, and maximum length. Coloration is not necessarily a commonality within a group, but patterns are to a moderate degree. From a genetic viewpoint, it is quite likely each complex originated from a common ancestor or perhaps from one species still within the complex. Complexes have large implications on levels of aggression and compatibility amongst other complexes. For the most part, the level of aggression within a complex is similar for all those species it contains (of course, there are always exceptions).

The chart below presents complexes within the Cirrhilabrus genus. The chart can stand on its own to guide a hobbyist in selecting various species for mixing, as it is based on the phylogram of the genetic heritage of the genus. It includes notations on aggression (and exceptions), minimum tank size, and sub-groups within each complex.

The complexes are named simply by the most genetically senior species of the complex. The relationships between the complexes are represented are represented by the solid lines in accords with the phylogram. Within most complexes, there are also sub-groups. These sub-groups are worth distinguishing from the rest of the complex as their relative levels of aggression typically differ. On that note, the color shading of each box represents the general level of aggression relative to the others. Red boxes have the highest levels of aggression, while green have the lowest. A handful of species go against the norm of their respective sub-group, and those are designated by a “+” for those more aggressive and a “-” for those less aggressive.

When seeking to mix two or more species within the same tank, the chart should be used in the following manner. The further removed two complexes are the more likely the odds of compatibility. Additionally, the odds of success also improve for similar levels of relative aggression between two complexes; the higher the aggression levels the less likely this will be successful. Two species within the same sub-group should never be mixed. If the tank is very large (over 200 gallons), it may be possible to mix two species with the same complex but within different sub-groups. There is one notable exception: those two complexes in red (Filamentosus and Scottorum) should not be mixed with any other complexes or amongst themselves unless the system is extremely large, say over 400 gallons.

For example, mixing an Exquisite, Lineatus, and Hooded is rather safe. However, mixing a Conde, Rubriventralis, and temminckii would be problematic at best.

Hopefully with this knowledge, this chart can prevent needless frustration and incompatible additions the next time you find yourself in your local fish store searching for your next Fairy Wrasse addition.

Happy Reefing!
CirrhilabrusComplexes.PNG


If you love wrasses check out the Wrasse Lovers Thread.
For more information on all other types of reef wrasses check out the All About Reef Safe Wrasses in Aquaria Thread.
Featured image courtesy of Eric Zard (zibba).

BRS recording of MACNA 2017:
 
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Husker

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This has been such a great resource for people. When you look at all the old RC threads on keeping multiple fairy wrasses, there is a jumble of anecdotes of successes and failures with people jumping to the conclusion that eventually they will kill each other regardless of the species. This chart seems to have dramatically increased the success rate to the point where fairy wrasse tanks are not an enigma.

I appreciate your recommendations for tanks size in the revision, as it seems there are discrepancies between online retailers in this regard. It also seems like the new chart reflects some of the recommendations and experiences that were not necessarily reflected in the old chart (for example, C. rhomboidalis and C. luneatus).
 

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Lemec

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I would like to give some opposition to the notion that Earlei wrasses are "passive", in my tank, my male was king of all, and would flash and chance any fish that attempted to be aggressive in my tank. He didn't harass anything but was definitely not a "passive" fish.
 
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dgragg

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Thank you Hunter. I'm continuing to collect the wrasses on my list. You have been a tremendous help.
 

jlanger

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@evolved
I can't tell you how many times I've referenced your wrasse charts and articles while I was trying to determine which wrasses I could add and when. By following your advice, I was able to add a couple of different males to my reef with no aggression whatsoever. Thanks.

Congratulations on your talk at MACNA 2017! It was extremely informative and very well presented.
And it was also a pleasure to meet you and briefly talk about wrasses.
 

dwwataz

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Hunter, thank you so much for this and previous wrasse guides. I've been in the hobby since last December and am absolutely, and hopelessly, hooked on wrasses. This is my first time posting here, though I've been creeping for several months now. Your writings have helped me tremendously in planning my current and future slice of the ocean.

I currently have a male Lubbock's(I think, though he is FAR more striking than photos I've seen of other tricolor/Lubbock's online), a transitioning African exquisite, and a female Melanesian hooded wrasse. I have a female pintail coming Thursday and will continue collecting, and adoring, these tremendous animals.
 
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evolved

evolved

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Wish I could have been at MACNA for the talk. Any chance of a Youtube posting?
Yes, BRS was there for filming, and I agreed to be recorded. (side-note, but all speakers had the option to opt out of recording if they so chose. Therefore, it's possible that some MACNA presentations will not be posted.)
Looks good, much better than the old. Newer species included. Very nice Hunter.
Thank you! All species known to date are included.
This has been such a great resource for people. When you look at all the old RC threads on keeping multiple fairy wrasses, there is a jumble of anecdotes of successes and failures with people jumping to the conclusion that eventually they will kill each other regardless of the species. This chart seems to have dramatically increased the success rate to the point where fairy wrasse tanks are not an enigma.

I appreciate your recommendations for tanks size in the revision, as it seems there are discrepancies between online retailers in this regard. It also seems like the new chart reflects some of the recommendations and experiences that were not necessarily reflected in the old chart (for example, C. rhomboidalis and C. luneatus).
Thanks! And yes, this chart should provide a lot more clarity than the prior one. I certainly tried to make the chart stand entirely on it's own this time.
Such a cool chart- much needed in all areas of the hobby! LOVE it! Thanks for posting!

-Scott
Thanks a bunch Scott! I will happily take those compliments coming from you. :)
I would like to give some opposition to the notion that Earlei wrasses are "passive", in my tank, my male was king of all, and would flash and chance any fish that attempted to be aggressive in my tank. He didn't harass anything but was definitely not a "passive" fish.
In this context, that is still passive. It's a big spectrum within the Cirrhilabrus genera of aggression, and on top of that there's even specimen to specimen variation within a species. However, any species that simply postures but doesn't cause any actual physical harm is pretty passive. Being an aggressor is WAY different in behavior.
Thank you Hunter. I'm continuing to collect the wrasses on my list. You have been a tremendous help.
My pleasure; I love hearing this kind of feedback. :)
@evolved
I can't tell you how many times I've referenced your wrasse charts and articles while I was trying to determine which wrasses I could add and when. By following your advice, I was able to add a couple of different males to my reef with no aggression whatsoever. Thanks.

Congratulations on your talk at MACNA 2017! It was extremely informative and very well presented.
And it was also a pleasure to meet you and briefly talk about wrasses.
Jason - the pleasure was entirely mine with receiving those outstanding cookies! :D But thank you for the kind words. :)
Thanks for the chart and the talk, @evolved. Favorite talk of MACNA! My new tank hasn't even been delivered yet and I'm starting a list of wrasses that I want.
Love to hear that; thanks!
Hunter, thank you so much for this and previous wrasse guides. I've been in the hobby since last December and am absolutely, and hopelessly, hooked on wrasses. This is my first time posting here, though I've been creeping for several months now. Your writings have helped me tremendously in planning my current and future slice of the ocean.

I currently have a male Lubbock's(I think, though he is FAR more striking than photos I've seen of other tricolor/Lubbock's online), a transitioning African exquisite, and a female Melanesian hooded wrasse. I have a female pintail coming Thursday and will continue collecting, and adoring, these tremendous animals.
Thank you!
Female lubbocki is mostly pink in coloration; quite different from the males. If yours is flashy with lots of color(s), than it's certainly a male. :)
Best of luck.
 

OrionN

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Thanks Hunter. I was searching on your posts regarding Fairy Wrasses and eventually got to this page. It is a lot of help for wrasse beginner like me. I call back to a LFS to buy a Sailfin Fairy wrasse (for sale as Tono's wrasse) after searching over night and cannot find the species. Not exactly an impulse buy but close.
 

Nicky 1212

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my first salty tank arriving this autumn, had tropical for 30 years, I was all about tangs.... but I cannot stop thinking about wrasses, and how beautiful they are, I've found your information interesting, and thought changing, I've saved your information for future reference. Thank you for giving your time to educate us, its fascinating.
 

eatbreakfast

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So based on the diagram I should be okay with an Exquisite and Orange Back Wrasse in the same tank?
Yes, those 2 should be fine.
 
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