Related FAQs: Halichoeres
Compatibility, Wrasse Feeding,
Related Articles: Halichoeres
Diversity of Wrasses, Family Labridae,
Cook Islands Wrasses,
/The Best Livestock for A Marine Aquarium
Outgoing and Beautiful, The Checkerboard Wrasse,
What are you looking for in the way of a
mid-sized fish specimen or car for that matter? Something compact,
sporty, good-looking, easy to handle? All of these qualities fit the
member of the super genus Halichoeres we're going to discuss here.
The Checkerboard wrasse is a looker that can hang with the best of
rough and tumble reef livestock (perhaps with the exception of worms
and crustaceans...) and gets along with most all fish life as well.
This readily available species is more outgoing than an average Labrid,
and due to its widespread distribution and ease of capture, it
generally is very reasonably priced.
Within the family of Wrasses (Labridae) there are
two large polytypic genera... The Thalassoma and our genus here,
Halichoeres... All told there are some 75 described species with the
genus, and I suspect a few more to be found still... Of the Halichoeres
there is quite a range in size, personality and apropos for our
purposes here, suitability for aquarium use. Not to be disingenuous,
all of these species are "reef associated", found on and
about corals and sandy, rocky areas in shallow tropical seas... but
depending on how crowded, kept in small circumstances, they have a
variable adjustment or not to captive conditions. The Checkerboard
Wrasse is a "tween" species... not as easy-going, compatible
with small reef organisms as some of the smaller members of the genus
(e.g. Halichoeres chrysus, H. iridis, H. ornatissimus...), but
certainly easier going, more amenable to captivity than some of the
even larger, more free-ranging Halichoeres (e.g. the Puddingwife, H.
Some larger Halichoeres develop heavy jaws and
muscles with age and growth, reflecting their hard-shelled food
preferences and practices. The Checkerboard is conservative in this
regard, preferring to consume smaller crustaceans, molluscs and worms,
as well as smaller urchins. Smaller fishes might be at risk if very
slow or introduced to a smallish system where the Checkerboard is
already established, but by and large this good-sized Wrasse (Up to
eleven inches in length) leaves most all alone.
Like most Wrasses, the Checkerboard is best
housed either alone, one to a tank or in "pairs"... It is as
usual a synchronous protogynic hermaphrodite... Progressing from being
sexually undifferentiated to become an "initial phase"
(female), and later... if conditions permit, including the absence of
other males, to become a male itself.
Lysmata wurdemanni's killer/Shrimp Compatibility
I'm from Italy so pardon me for my English...
<Much better than from many English speaking queriors.>
I'm trying to win the war against the Aiptasia (Glass Anemones)
that infested my LR/LPS/SPS/Fish 60g tank.
I've tried different solutions (Red-Sea AiptasiaX, Salifert one,
vinegar, etc..) without success.
I've bought 4 Lysmata wurdemanni but after 3 weeks they suddenly
disappeared. One of them I saw in the claws of my Stenopus hispidus,
but I really don't know if the Stenopus killed the wurdemanni or
someone else in the tank did the job and the Stenopus simply had the
<The Coral Banded Shrimp is aggressive toward other shrimp including
it's own kind unless a mated pair.>
Before introducing other, and so expensive, wurdemanni I was wondering
which tank inhabitant(s) take out from the tank to avoid the wurdemanni
to be killed again.
The tank inhabitants are:
1 Halichoeres Hortulanus - Checkerboard Wrasse (15 cm)
<Larger specimens have been known to attack/eat shrimp.>
1 Lo Vulpinus (12 cm)
4 Amphiprion Ocellaris (from 3 to 7 cm)
3 Chromis Viridis (3/4 cm)
2 Pseudanthis squamipinnis (4/5 cm)
1 Zebrasoma flavescens (7 cm)
1 Paracanthurus Hepatus (6 cm)
1 Stenopus Hispidus (6 cm - only the body)
<I would remove the hispidus.>
1 Blennius Gattorugine (8 cm)
6 Enctmea <Entacmaea > quadricolor (red BTA)
<Another good possibility, especially with six BTAs present.
You did not state your nitrate level and Peppermint shrimp will not
tolerate high nitrate levels and do require an iodine/dide
I know that the wrasses have shrimps in their diet, but I'm very
afraid to take him out from the tank and not be able to see his amazing
livery anymore... :(
Could be the Stenopus the wurdemanni's killer instead? In this
case, say goodbye to a Stenopus will be not so painful to me.
<I would definitely start by removing this shrimp. The
Nudibranch, Berghia verrucornis, is also known
to eat Aiptasia as well as (depending on their eating
Copperband and Raccoon Butterflyfish, but your tank is a bit small for
the later two. You may want to read here as well.
Thanks in advance for any suggestion and for the great job all the Crew
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Lysmata Wurdemanni's killer/Shrimp Compatibility
Thanks a lot for the prompt reply and for the precious suggestions.
So I start with taken the hispidus out of the tank. I didn't
understand the relationship between BTA's and nitrates.. :0
<Was relating to the Peppermint Shrimp although BTAs appreciated
water low in nitrates.>
In my tank the nitrates are always not-detectable..and the BTA continue
Do you think that I may leave the wrasse in the tank?
<It's your risk to take. At 15cm (6 inches) in length it
would be very well capable
of making a meal out of a Peppermint Shrimp if not well fed.
I'd try adding one Peppermint Shrimp and observe. Since
shrimp have a hard exoskeleton, I'm not so sure now that a
BTA's sting would be powerful enough to kill/stun a shrimp.
The shrimp are generally smart enough to avoid these creatures.
I will ask Bob for his valuable input on this.><<From
ayer's mail, I see this is a Halichoeres hortulanus... will get
bigger and VERY likely consume any shrimp in time. I would not place
these together. RMF>>
<Ditto. James (Salty Dog)>
Most specimens of this species arrive at dealers
in good condition, save for the usual wear and tear of capture (most
are fence-netted against a barrier net hung in the water... some are
sieved through a net dug into the substrate where they've interred
themselves. Do be on the look out for more than nominal/minimal damage
to their mouths... as this is the largest area of trouble with captive
Labrids... Their protrusible jaws and apical jaws are easily damaged by
netting, being new to clear-walled confines and being shipped in
too-small bags... and such injury can lead to secession of feeding, and
its subsequent ills.
Most all specimens offered in the trade are of
appropriate size (3-5 inches overall), and this species readily adapts
to suitable captive settings.
The family name for Wrasses, Labridae, is thought
by some to derive from the Greek word "Labros" for
"greedy"... And these fishes are by and large big messy
eaters and waste makers... This behavior, as well as their active, busy
swimming nature calls for large, well circulated and filtered systems.
Add to this some substantial decor and a suitable substrate to dive
into, and their world is replete.
A few notes re the issue of sand use with this
and other burrowing Labrid species. This needs to be "soft",
the best, small (1 or 2 mm.) coral sand... of depth. A few to several
inches ideally... to allow these fishes to "dig in" if
frightened, and often to sleep within... A behavior that they employ in
the wild largely to avoid predation.
"A fish that eats is a fish that lives"
is a useful, almost-always true axiom... Getting this Halichoeres to
feed is almost-never a problem... indeed, leaving food for its
tankmates may be more of an issue.
Small individuals may be sustained on a mix of
dried (pelleted, freeze- and sun-dried) foods, but larger specimens
need fresh and frozen-defrosted meaty items to sustain them. Whole or
shelled molluscs, crustaceans and worms are welcomed, as well as
prepared mixes, mashes that are cohesive, large enough to be recognized
Once or twice daily feedings are fine... but of
course, having a live sump, aka refugium, delivering occasional live
treats through-out time is non-paralleled for health and instigating
natural foraging activity.
Knowing how active this species is, it should
come as no surprise that it can/does suffer occasional mechanical
injuries from dashing into the side, top of the system, against hard
decor items... This often expresses itself as dark (neuronal reaction)
and bloody (petecchial) areas. These "miscellaneous" markings
should no cause for alarm or overt action... removal, treatment... As
the vast majority of cases resolve themselves with "general good
care and maintenance" over a week or two's time.
The usual protozoan complaints can be treated
with common chemical remedies... Copper compounds (chelated are
better), with testing daily at regular dosages for Cryptocaryon, and
Quinine compounds for Amyloodinium are fine.
Though it gets a bit large for many home hobbyist
set-ups (I would not place this Halichoeres in anything under a hundred
gallons), the Checkerboard Wrasse has much to recommend it for a hurly
burly fish-only, fish-only-with-live-rock or rough and tumble reef
system (with no crustaceans or desired worm livestock). It is
beautiful, intelligent, active, and relatively easygoing for a
Michael, Scott W. 1997. Beautiful wrasses. The unique species of the
genus Halichoeres. AFM 3/97.
Michael, Scott W. 2006. Halichoeres wrasses. They can be beautiful,
but some are predatory feeders with hearty appetites. AFM 8/06.
Recommend me a wrasse please -- 7/30/08 Hey there
"Crew". <Grant> Quick and hopefully easy question
for you, I'm just wondering on what type of wrasse you
personally would put in this tank if you had the choice. It is a
210g with 150 lbs of live rock and a 1 inch aragonite sand bed,
250w 14K MH light over the center, 55g sump with a 24" x
12" by 6" deep sand bed and Gracilaria, 40 lbs of live
rock in the sump. My tank has the following fish... 5"
Emperor angel 2 x 3" Semilarvatus B/F Purple tang Male blue
throat trigger, the Hawaiian type, not the Red Sea endemic ones.
Possibly getting a female in the next month or two, haven't
decided yet. <Mmm, saw one washed up on the beach ayer at
Mauna Kea> I'm wanting to add some sort of wrasse to the
equation. I love the shape and activity of the fish, they
don't look anything like my current fish. If this was your
tank and you were able to pick a wrasse or multiple wrasse to put
in your tank, which ones would you choose? I like the Canary
wrasse (commonly called the Yellow Coris) quite a bit, but with
only a 1" sand bed I don't know how they would do. I
like the C. gaimard BUT I've heard they get real aggressive,
I'd worry about my not too aggressive B/F. <Agreed... I
would not use this species> Anyway, thanks for your help. This
is purely just wanting an opinion from people who work with fish
for a living, I'm hoping for an interesting, fun to look at
and watch fish and you guys seem like you would be the ones who
would be in the know! For what it's worth, I was trying to
stick with a Red Sea theme but the triggers ruined that. If you
know of a good Red Sea wrasse that wont cost an arm and a leg to
purchase, I'd prefer that over a wrasse from another part of
the globe. Grant <Mmm... if you could find a Maori/Splendour
species this would be ideal... see WWM re the genera... but if
not sticking with the Red Sea theme, maybe a Halichoeres
hortulanus, Coris gaimard... even a Gomphosus (likely varius)
though caeruleus would be great if you could find it...
Otherwise, let me check... Mmm, nope, don't have posted my
pc. on Labrids of this region... though you can/could peruse
"Fishwatcher's Guide..." v. 1, or go over the bit
of it on the Wrasses of the Red Sea archived on WWM. Bob
Re: Recommend me a wrasse please, F' fixing,
7/30/08 Hey Bob, thanks for the reply. I actually have looked
over your web page already dealing with wrasses. I read about the
Maori/Splendor wrasses but to be honest, none of them really
"do it for me" so to speak. <There are some beauts,
and occasionally available in the west... but to each their own
as they say> I do like the H. hortulanus, I'm glad you
recommended that one as it was one I have already seen and
thought was a pretty fish. As far as I could tell, there is no
"Wrasses of the Red Sea" page on WWM. I've been
reading over WWM on wrasses for the last 2 days and I just
checked again after getting your email, I cant find it. <An
outline here: http://wetwebmedia.com/redseafwgv1.htm> I'm
looking on http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/index.htm for
it. BTW, there are two identical lines there under the wrasse
section dealing with Maori. About a quarter of the way into the
wrasse section, it says "The Maori or Splendor Wrasses,
genera Cheilinus, Oxycheilinus by Bob Fenner & FAQs on:
Oxycheilinus," And then about two thirds of the way down it
says " The Maori or Splendor Wrasses, genera Cheilinus,
Oxycheilinus by Bob Fenner & FAQs on: Maori Wrasses,"
<Thanks... some code troubles from years back... will try to
fix... Oh! Tis the fact that this common name group includes both
genera... can't think of a less-confusing way to list.
RMF> You can see it is worded a little differently, but both
links go to the exact same spot. Anyway, not a big deal but I saw
it two days ago when I started researching wrasses and forgot to
mention it in my last email to ya. Thanks again for the help,
I'll probably end up with a H. hortulanus. I've seen
those in LFS here in Alaska, I really did like the way they
looked. They were only about 3" when I saw them, but the web
sites I've read state they get up to about a foot. However,
they are supposed to be peaceful when compared to something like
say a C. gaimard, which sounds great to me. Do you think the H.
hortulanus compares to a C. gaimard in personality? <Mmm, I
do> I want a good, active fish that shows a fishy
intelligence, but stays peaceful so my B/F don't stress out.
My other question regarding that wrasse is that LiveAquaria
states they need a 2-3" sand bed to hide in... I don't
have that in my tank. Will the wrasse not survive well without a
2-3" sand bed? <Very likely so... not as much as a
burrower as other genera, species of Labrids> I don't want
to get a fish that will survive but basically wont be
"happy" in the tank as I have it set up. Also, can I
possibly keep 2 or 3 of these wrasse in the tank at the same time
or is this a species that I need to keep only one to a tank.
<If there's room...> I think I would like 2 or 3 of
them swimming around in there. Grant <I really like the
Re: Recommend me a wrasse please 7/31/08 Alright, well
H. hortulanus (I'd hate to have the word anus in my name but
oh well, I bet the fish are OK with it) sounds like the wrasse
for me. <Ah, good> You said they would be OK kept as a pair
IF there was enough room... How much is enough? <Hundreds of
gallons> About 4 or 5 other medium to large fish in a 210 with
a 55g sump and a refugium. I'd say around 250g total water
volume, about 150 lbs of live rock in the 210. I'd really be
OK with just one wrasse in there if you think there is potential
for problems. <There is some... but starting them of
discernibly different size should be fine> Would this wrasse
be OK with a Candy Cane hogfish? <Yes> Or do you call it a
Peppermint hogfish? <Either, both> Bodianus sepiacaudus I
think is the scientific naming of it? <Mmm, there are a few:
Bodianus izuensis is more common> This wrasse as a pair or
else a single wrasse and a single hogfish would be the last 2
additions to my tank. <Okay> And lastly, do the H.
hortulanus or the B. sepiacaudus not handle a 5-10 minute
freshwater formalin dip well? <Yes> That is my standard
procedure before placing fish into quarantine but I know some
species have a harder time with it than others. <Yes... do
provide aeration during. BobF> Grant Gray