Most wrasses are small, but some, like the humphead wrasse can be quite large. They are efficient carnivores, feeding on a wide range of small invertebrates. Many smaller wrasses follow the feeding trails of larger fish, picking up invertebrates disturbed by their passing. Some juveniles of some species are known as cleaner fish.

Click the arrow symbol under each fish for more information.

Cheilinus undulatus, Humphead Wrasse

    • Adults develop thick lips and a prominent bulbous hump on the forehead. Two black lines posteriorly from eye
    • Juveniles pale-greenish with elongate dark spots on scales tending to form bars
    • Acropora corals abound
    • Primary foods are mollusks, fishes, sea urchins, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. They are one of the few predators of toxic animals such as sea hares, boxfishes, and crown-of-thorns starfish
    • Oviparous, distinct pairing during breeding
    • Low resilience, minimum population doubling time 4.5 – 14 years. Vulnerable.
    • IUCN status: endangered

Thalassoma purpureum, Surge Wrasse

    • Max length 46 cm
    • Females best distinguished by ‘V’ mark on the snout
    • Initial phase with a vertical dark red line below front of eye usually with a branch to the front of the snout
    • Found almost exclusively in the surge zone of outer reef flats, reef margins, and rocky coastlines, down to a depth of about 10 m
    • Occur in groups of females that are spread out over large reef sections and dominated by few males
    • Males grow much larger than females
    • Feed on small invertebrates (crabs, sea urchins, brittlestars, and mollusks), small fishes, starfish, sea urchins, and worms
    • Protogynous (sex changing, female first)
    • Medium resilience, minimum population doubling time 1.4 – 4.4 years. Moderate to high vulnerability

Thalassoma quinquevittatum, Fivestripe Wrasse

    • Max length 17 cm
    • Males display with brilliant colors, red lines turning purple and often a bright yellow abdomen
    • Two uneven red stripes on dorsal half of body, one from below dorsal-fin origin onto upper caudal lobe, the other from above the pectoral fin base to the caudal penduncle
    • Abundant in shallow exposed areas with surge channels, large Acropora plates and algae bottom
    • Males often in small loose numbers, swimming over reef sections where small groups of females stay close to the bottom
    • Juveniles are secretive in shallow gutters
    • Feed mainly on benthic crustaceans (crabs, shrimps), small fishes, mollusks, and sea urchins
    • High resilience, minimum population doubling time less than 15 months. Low to moderate vulnerability