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Selecting Reef Safe Community Wrasse

Wrasse undoubtedly is among one of the most colorful of all marine fishes and each individual species from the family has their very own distinctive pattern seen on their bodies.  The group is made up of diverse collection comprising different types of fish which are scattered everywhere from tropical regions to temperate waters; and they can be found adapting to different living conditions. Because of their diversity, wrasses also come in different sizes, with some as small as only few inches in length to those over a foot but usually only the smaller ones are adopted as pets in home aquariums. Most wrasses are bad community fish and they are often identified as the main culprit that causes destruction to the established marine reefs. But having said all that, most aquarist still adamant on their dreams of keeping the fish as part of their collection mainly because of the attractive blend of coloration.

In this article, we shall discuss some of the recommended reef-tolerant, modestly sized aquarium wrasses which you can consider including some of which you should avoid with precaution. A simple rule of thumb is that most of the hogfish family will be fine but beware of those cleaner wrasses as these are extremely difficult species to keep. Bear in mind however, that success in keeping them as pets relies mainly on the factor related to how long the fish has been acclimatized to live in captive artificial aquarium environment. It is very rare, (to the extent almost impossible) to find wrasses which are home aquarium-raised or those bred in aquaculture industry because the success rate to actually nurture them from young to become adult fish is extremely low, thus making it not viable.

Cuban Hogfish (Bodianus pulchellus) - Reef Safe
cuban hogfishIf there’s anything worth mentioning here, the Cuban Hogfish (also called spot-fin hogfish) should be on top of the list. The have a unique blend of red plus yellow with a discerning thin white line running parallel from the tail to the mouth region which makes them easy to identify and distinguished from the other species. Some people called them the “spot-fin” because of the presence of a particular black spot appearing just at the tip of the frontal dorsal fins which they use to flap for navigation. Overall, they are considered a very active fish. When young, they are more tolerant of the presence of the other community fish but as they grow older, somehow they develop the sense of alertness which causes uneasiness with the other members of the community. Being a carnivorous species that can crack open hard shells with their teeth, they certainly enjoy constant supply of meaty foods like crabs or shrimps which can be kept frozen and then defrost before slowly feeding these to your pets. Thus, be wary if you have intention to keep marine invertebrates because in this case your fish will not get along well with them and instead turn them into a meal. Other than the Cuban Hogfish, some of the other species in the same Bodianus genera like the Spanish Hogfish, Coral Hogfish (expect for Diana’s Hogfish which can be fairly aggressive), they all qualify as potential friendly candidates in your marine aquariums. Basically I’ve seen before Cuban Hogfish joining the likes of Angelfish (juvenile Queen Angelfish to be exact), Clownfish, Damselfish (blue devil) living together and co-exist without any problem.

Six-line Wrasses (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia) - Reef Safe
six-line wrasseIt’s only fair that the Six-line wrasse should also be given the same attention as the hogfish and to justify that, they ought to be included in the list of names to watch out for. This fish is particularly sought after by those keeping Tridacna clams (especially those in the Tridacnidae subfamily) as the fish will perform an excellent job to clean up parasitic pesky marine snails which could engulf the clams. This particular fish species is characterized by the presence of alternating 6 pairs of blue and yellow stripes running parallel along the body (which explains how it got its name). There are different variants of the fish whereby most of the wrasses found sold in pet shop have a green tail while there are others which are bluish in color particularly the tail fin. Also, if you observed carefully at the caudal peduncle region which is the area close to the tail fin, you will notice a tiny black spot which appears to be like an eye staring at you. Although missed out by most people until I pointed out to them, it just kept everybody thinking that perhaps, the presence of this particular spot is actually a natural biological defense mechanism meant to confuse the predators that there might be another bigger fish lurking around and thus, it actually discourages the predator from approaching further. The dietary requirement of these wrasses is very much similar to the hogfish and unlike their cousins, the six-line can be quite shy and is often found hiding most of the time at the corner of the tank until it has fully acclimatized to the environment. One thing that makes this fish famous is their unique cheerful personality. When it is in good mood, your pets will actually perform a very slick dance move, turning from sides to sides and then bending their body to show off their skill. You wouldn’t want to miss that for sure. Apart from the dance, do not be alarmed if you see your pets sleeping quietly while being surrounded by a layer of thin mucous cocoon because this jelly-like secretion is actually used by them as part of the defense mechanism to deter predators.

Harlequin Tuskfish (Choerodon fasciatus) - Reef Status Doubtful
harlequin tuskfish wrasseThis is perhaps the odd one because unlike the other wrasses family which has a very noticeable similar elongated shape and ends with a snout, the Harlequin Tuskfish’s body obviously lacks this particular feature. If you observe carefully the fish, it actually has a much wider and broader body width compared to other wrasses family. Harlequin Tuskfish can burrow deep beneath the substrate and on top of that, they also like to turn over stones with their strong teeth and then rearranging them to their liking. The fish can be very territorial depending on their mood and somehow they are best left to live alone in their own tank instead of trying to mix them into a community setup. When it comes to feeding, they will just devour any marine invertebrates which they can find. As for the aquarium owner, some precautions should be taken when changing tank water because there are incidences of hand getting bitten and injured by their strong protruding jaw. With that in mind, if you are not the kind of person having the patience or tolerance, especially with your pet’s behavior, then I would suggest that it is best that you skip having the Harlequin Tuskfish and opt for the other wrasses.

Canary Wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus) - Somehow Reef Compatible
yellow canary wrasseIf you are a fan of yellow colored pet fish then the golden or some would call it the canary wrasse should make excellent addition to your marine tank. They are among the smallest of all the wrasses (the other being the six-line wrasse) and they rarely reach more than 4 inches in length when kept in captivity. Although in the open ocean, the fish is generally found living very near to or within the boundaries of reef sanctuaries, care and caution must still be taken if you decide to trust and leave them alone with your reef community. When they are well fed, you probably won’t find them bothering about the corals but when the opposite happens, their destructive behavior will return. They are fond of burrowing in the sand during night time when the lights are out and when there is presence of other fish species around, they can do excellent job of getting rid of dead cells on the body, hence come the term “cleaner wrasse”. However, just like their other wrasses cousins, all the invertebrates will often end up becoming a victim of their insatiable appetite and they particularly love hunting down small shrimps, feather duster (tube worm), bristleworms, starfish and will attack anything with shells including clams and lobsters. In terms of compatibility, they will get along very well with any other non-aggressive similar sized marine aquarium fish species like tang (even yellow tang), clownfish and I hardly ever hear people comparing about the Golden Wrasse not getting along with the others.

More about different community wrasse: Bicolor cleaner fish
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My fascination and interest towards aquarium fish has led me to devote my time towards caring and learning about this wonderful pet.

Aquarium fish keeping is a very challenging and exciting hobby. When I first started, I never knew much or have the necessary guidance back then because none of my family members were actually a keen hobbyist. And because of that, I’ve encountered numerous failures and the worst part is having to deal with dead fish every time when you started to grow fond and getting attached to my pets. However, I persevered and took steps to find out and search for information from other hobbyist, apart from the knowledge gained and learned from my own experience and research. The blog that I’ve created here is meant to share useful information and tips about aquarium fish keeping so that new hobbyist will not make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past."

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