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Marine Aquarium Fish Genus Profile: Wrasses of the Genus Halichoeres

Introduction to the genus Halichoeres

There are over 80 fascinating species of Halichoeres wrasse. Most species fall into the 4” to 6” size range requiring larger aquariums to accommodate their active swimming and foraging behaviors. Halichoeres wrasses are typically not known to bother stony corals or soft corals. However, larger adult species may eventually attempt to dine on any ornamental shrimp or crabs. If you think a crustacean may be safe because it is larger in size or too big to fit in the mouth of a wrasse, think again! Many wrasses have learned the art of “bashing”, meaning, the wrasse will grab a crustacean with its mouth and bash it against rock or coral in order to break it up and consume the smaller remnants.

Do Halichoeres wrasses eliminate pests in aquariums?

Most species of Halichoeres wrasse can provide the helpful service of eradicating pests in the aquarium. Tridacna clams can benefit from the presence of Halichoeres wrasses in the aquarium since Halichoeres wrasses are not known to nip at the clam’s mantle. Should you notice any species of Halichoeres giving a clam an inspection or nipping at the shell or near the underside of the clam, the wrasse is more than likely picking off harmful Pyramid Snails. Pyramid Snails are parasites that pierce the clam’s mantle or flesh and then proceed to suck nutrients out of the clam. Therefore, an infestation of Pyramid Snails can be harmful and even detrimental to a clam. Halichoeres wrasses can help keep these small snail pests at bay.

Many Halichoeres wrasses will also help with other marine aquarium pests like polychaetes. Unfortunately, the wrasses do not know “good” polychaetes from “bad” polychaetes. Halichoeres wrasses may eliminate smaller nuisance Fire worms and Bristle worms. However, they may also eat or pick at smaller ornamental fan worms or feather duster worms. Halichoeres wrasses may also eat echinoderms (good and bad) and smaller coral-eating nudibranchs. The same goes for snails. Halichoeres wrasses will not differentiate between parasitic snails like the aforementioned Pyramid Snails and beneficial algae-eating snails or Stomatella Snails. Small hermit crabs are often plucked from their shells and subsequently bashed by Halichoeres wrasses.

Popular Species of Halichoeres Wrasses

Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus)

If you want a Halichoeres wrasse that boasts a rainbow of colors, the Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) will not disappoint. Male Melanurus Wrasses have an intricate color design that starts on their head, face and chin then streams with blue, orange, yellow and green horizontal stripes along the length of the fish and eventually forms a diagonal striped pattern in the tail. The color and pattern of female Melanurus Wrasses are like the males aside from her being slightly more subdued in overall coloration. Both sexes display phenomenal coloring and will complement each other nicely in the aquarium. Melanurus Wrasses will grow to almost 5” as adults.

Yellow & Purple Wrasse (Halichoeres leucoxanthus)

There is something to be said about simplicity in color. Even though the Yellow & Purple Wrasse (Halichoeres leucoxanthus) looks more yellow and white, its vibrant, simple coloring makes a statement. The yellow pop of color prominently displays the wrasses’ four dark ocelli, or eyespots. This wrasse is mostly bright yellow overall with a white underside that displays a soft purple sheen from chin to tail. Like its cousins, the Yellow & Purple Wrasse has excellent vision and is quite active during daytime hours. This attractive wrasse will grow to approximately 5” in length.

Radiant Wrasse (Halichoeres iridis)

Experts only! If you are a wrasse aficionado with an expert care level in search of a challenging yet rewarding species, look no further than the Radiant Wrasse (Halichoeres iridis). This alluring wrasse will captivate you with its interesting color scheme and beauty. The head of the Radiant Wrasse is luminescent yellow with more mature specimens exhibiting near chartreuse and blaze orange markings below the eye. The body is a dark ruby to deep red wine color that transitions to pearlescent white on the dorsal side. As with any species of Halichoeres wrasse, there can be slight variation in color depending on the locale and region from which the wrasse originates. A necessity for the Radiant Wrasse and almost all other species of Halichoeres wrasse is a soft sand bed of at least 2” deep in the aquarium for the wrasse to burrow into for sleeping or when it feels the need to hide or disappear. The Radiant Wrasse should not be housed in a new or uncycled aquarium. The Radiant Wrasse requires an established aquarium with a healthy population of copepods and optimal water quality. Not only will the copepods help with the transition to frozen/thawed foods, but they will also provide enrichment for the wrasse and stimulate its natural foraging and hunting behavior.

Husbandry for Halichoeres

The genus Halichoeres showcases diverse and hardy species with only a few exceptions. Most Halichoeres wrasses readily adapt to aquarium life while offering a myriad of colors, movement and activity. The sharp eyesight of these wrasse combined with independent eye movement makes them masters at seeking out small crustaceans and invertebrates to prey upon. Diet should include enriched brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, small krill and other prepared marine carnivore foods and quality marine pellet food. Since all wrasses are jumpers, protect your finned friends with an aquarium cover or lid.
Hopefully you have gleaned something new about Halichoeres wrasses or they have piqued your interest if you were not familiar with them until now.

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