Pseudocheilnus hexataenia - Sixline Wrasse -Approx. 1" Specimen


Wrasses are a diverse and beautiful group of fishes, and many make excellent additions to aquariums. The vast majority of the species common to the aquarium trade are hardy, generally peaceful, and adapt well to captivity. Many undergo striking color changes as they mature, and change dramatically over time.

Wrasses come from the family Labroides, with about 60 genera and over 500 species identified thus far. They range in size from just a few centimeters to several feet in length. Most of the smaller species that occur in the aquarium hobby attain a size of 10 inches or less, with the vast majority less than 4 inches.

Many wrasses are suitable for keeping in reef aquariums, as they do not pick at corals or sessile invertebrates. However, there are quite a few species that, although displaying no interest in corals, will pick at snails, small shrimp, and small crustaceans.

Most wrasses acclimate well to prepared foods, and will generally do quite well in captivity. Exceptions, such as some of the Leopard Wrasses and some Fairy Wrasse species, require careful handling and a lot of attention in order to get them to eat prepared foods. Meaty marine foods, such as mysis, enriched brine shrimp, and chopped seafoods are accepted by the vast majority of wrasses found in the hobby.

Wrasses in general like to bury themselves in the sand at night, or wedge themselves into rocks for protection when they sleep, so an aquarium for wrasses should have an abundance of rock and sand for the fish to forage among and sleep in. Some species are secretive in their habits, such as the Mystery Wrasses (Pseudocheilinus species). Others, such as the Coris family, are extremely outgoing, and even slightly aggressive, fishes.

any wrasses may be kept in small groups, or “harems”, with one male and multiple females. This type of arrangement works particularly well with Fairy Wrasses and some Halichoeres species.Other wrasses prefer a more solitary existence, such as many Wetmorella and Pseudocheilinus species.

Some species, such as Halichoeres chrysus, and Pseudiocheilinus ocellatus are adept predators of flatworms, and are very useful in the reef aquarium. Some species also engage in cleaning behavior at some stages in their life cycle.

The aquarium for wrasses should have some sort of cover to prevent these fishes from jumping out of their aquariums. They are, unfortunately, very adept jumpers and will definitely “find the floor” in an uncovered aquarium. It is also an excellent idea to keep filter overflows screened off. Some of the smaller species of Wrasses, most notably the smaller Pseudochielinus species, are notorious for getting sucked down overflows.

Wrasses are colorful, endearing fishes that are perfect for many different aquarium systems.