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Related FAQs: Marine Life of the Tropical West Atlantic, Tropical West Atlantic 2

Related Articles: TWA Invertebrates, Algae, Vascular Plants, Introduction to Fishwatcher's Guide Series Pieces/Sections, Lachnolaimus maxiumus/Hogfish, Hogfishes of the Genus Bodianus

The Tropical West Atlantic: Bahamas to Brazil, Part 7

To: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11,


Bob Fenner  

Wrasses, Labridae. Mirroring their importance and abundance on the reef, the wrasses of the TWA make up a sizeable part of the pet-fish shipped from there. These stalwarts are amongst the hobby's "best" and "most popular" animals.

Ecotype: Several; mainly in shallow to mid-depth reefs, associated with the bottom.

Hogfish is the name we apply to a group of the wrasses as an affectionate moniker describing their appearance (and eating habits). Three of the best "hogs" in the trade come from here; The Spotfin or Cuban Hogfish, Bodianus pulchellus (1); Spanish Hogfish, B. rufus (1), and Highfin or "just" Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus (1). The first two are facultative cleaners when small, picking off ectoparasites and dead tissue from grateful hosts. Be aware that these fish-only system wrasses get to be rambunctious when larger (to 1,2 and 3 feet respectively).

Bodianus pulchellus (Poey 1860), The Spotfin or Cuban Hogfish. Tropical West Atlantic; South Carolina to Venezuela.  To about eleven inches total length. Exemplary aquarium species. Small (3"), medium (5") and large (8") images of Bodianus pulchellus (Poey 1860), the Cuban (Spotfin to science) Hogfish. All aquarium images.

Bodianus rufus (Linnaeus 1758), the Spanish Hogfish. Western Atlantic; Bermuda to Brazil. To sixteen inches maximum length. In the wild eats mollusks, urchins, Brittlestars, crustaceans, and juveniles act as facultative cleaners. Hardy aquarium species. Below: Medium (5") and a large (16") and about same size mute-colored images of Bodianus rufus. Bahamas images.  One inch juvenile at right in Cancun.

Lachnolaimus maximus (Walbaum) 1792. Most often sold as the Long-Fin Hogfish is a real beauty from the western Atlantic. It is unmistakable, distinguished by it's first three greatly prolonged dorsal spines. Be aware if you pick one of these up that they get BIG; Randall lists the largest he collected at 32 inches and 14.4 pounds. Here are images of a ten inch juvenile in captivity and a two foot specimen in the Grand Bahamas Channel.

The Bluehead Wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum (2) is a staple item in our livestock arsenal. This is actually the last or terminal phase of the species; the yellow undifferentiated and female members that turn into these green and blue bolts are rarely offered in the trade. In the wild they exist in harems with one alpha male (photo), with the next strongest female converting to a Bluehead for replacement.

There are several wrasses of the genus Halichoeres found in the TWA that are suitable for aquarium use (especially when small). A few are "old-timers" to the trade like the Pudding Wife, (H. radiatus) (2) and Slippery Dick (H. bivittatus) (2). Others are welcome newbies, like the Lightning or Yellowcheek (Halichoeres cyanocephalus) (2) and Neon or Yellowhead (H. garnoti) (2). There are others long-deserving of our attention.

Halichoeres bivittatus (Bloch 1791), the Slippery Dick Wrasse (2), is a standard item offered out of the tropical western Atlantic and an anomaly to me. This fish is neither really very attractive or relatively hardy in captivity. To almost nine inches in length. Bahamas, Cozumel, St. Thomas pix of juvenile and initial phase individuals below. Terminal/male phase at right in Bonaire.

Halichoeres cyanocephalus (Bloch 1791), the Yellowcheek Wrasse. West Atlantic. To six inches in length. This terminal phase individual off of Cozumel. 

Halichoeres garnoti (Valenciennes 1839), the Yellowhead Wrasse (1) is another new choice out of the tropical western Atlantic. To about seven inches long. More and more available in the trade, and a beauty. At right a terminal phase individual in Cozumel. Below are images of  juvenile, initial and terminal phase/male individuals. Second in Cozumel, all others Bahamas.
Halichoeres maculipinna (Muller & Troschel 1848), the Clown Wrasse. West Atlantic; Carolina to Brazil. To 18 cm. Initial phase individual off of Cozumel and St. Thomas. 

Halichoeres pictus (Steindachner 1867), the Rainbow Wrasse. Tropical west Atlantic; Florida to northern South America. To 13 cm. in length. An initial phase individual and pair in Bonaire.

Halichoeres poeyi (Poey 1860), the Rainbow Wrasse. Tropical west Atlantic; Florida to northern South America. To 13 cm. in length. Found in shallow muddy bays and grass beds. Photo at right of an intermediate phase individual in the Bahamas. Below: Juvenile, intermediate and terminal phases in St. Thomas. 

Halichoeres prosopeion (Bleeker 1853), the Two-tone Wrasse. Western Pacific. To five inches in length. An occasional import from a few countries. N. Sulawesi, Fiji and Australian photographs of very young, juvenile and adult.

Halichoeres radiatus (Linnaeus 1758), the Puddingwife Wrasse (2), is another old standard from the tropical west Atlantic. Good looking when young, keep in mind this fish grows to twenty inches in the wild. Juveniles in Cozumel, sub-adults in St. Lucia and Cancun, Initial Phase off Cozumel. 2, 3, four, five and twelve inches respectively, and one off Bonaire. No terminal phase pic?

This is a wrasse? The genus Clepticus:

Genus Clepticus: Here is another species we'll mention, the Creole Wrasse, Clepticus parrae (Bloch & Schneider 1801) (3), simply because it (mis)enters the trade from time to time. This reef roamer is not often identified as a wrasse at all, as it cruises above the reefs of the tropical western Atlantic. The Creole Wrasse almost always dies in route from being shipped from the wild. To one foot in length. This one in Cancun, Mexico.

Lastly, a quick mention of the wrasses, like the Pacific Dragon or Rock Mover, called Razorfish. The ornamental marine livestock industry generally sells these TWA sand divers as generic "Razorfish", Xyrichtys sp. (2). These need a thick sand bottom to dig in.

Xyrichthys martinicensis Valenciennes 1849, the Rosy Razorfish. West Atlantic; Florida to South America. To six inches in total length. A terminal phase (male) individual here off Cozumel, and initial and terminal phase individuals below in Bonaire. 

Xyrichthys splendens Castelnau 1855, the Green Razorfish. Tropical West Atlantic; Bermuda to Brazil. To a mere seven inches in length. Commonly found in seagrass beds and surrounding sandy areas. Terminal phase aquarium image at right. Below, juvenile, initial phase/female and terminal phase/male off of Cozumel Island, Mexico. 4-30 feet. 

To: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11,

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