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Related FAQs: Wrasses In General, Wrasses, Wrasse Selection, Wrasse Compatibility, Wrasse Feeding, Wrasse Diseases,  

Related Articles: Wrasses, Anampses, Hogfishes/Bodianus, Maori Wrasses/Cheilinus & Oxycheilinus, Fairy/Velvet Wrasses/Cirrhilabrus, Coris & Coris gaimard, Bird Wrasses/Gomphosus, Halichoeres, Cleaner Wrasses/Labroides, Tubelip Wrasses/Labropsis, Leopard Wrasses/Macropharyngodon, Pencil Wrasses/Pseudojuloides, RazorfishesPseudocheilinus, Stethojulis, Thalassoma

Over to other Regional Accounts of Wrasses

To: A Fishwatcher's Guide to the Fishes of the Cook Islands

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

Wrasses of the Cook Islands

Part III of three

To Parts  I, II,


Bob Fenner


     Lined Wrasses, genus Pseudocheilinus are numerous and speciose in the Cooks, with five species found here and common (though as reclusive as in captivity). The three most often used species in the hobby, the Six (P. hexataenia), Eight (P. octotaenia) and Four (P. tetrataenia) that could be collected if they weren't cheaper to get elsewhere. Additional to these species P. citrinus and P. ocellatus are reported from the Cooks, though I have not seen them there. 

Pseudocheilinus hexataenia (Bleeker 1857), the Sixline Wrasse (2). A feisty, though small (to 4") a reef tank species. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea in its distribution. Aquarium image.


Pseudocheilinus ocellatus Randall 1999. West central Pacific. To four inches in length. Aquarium image. 

Pseudocheilinus octotaenia Jenkins 1901, the Eight-Lined Wrasse (2) comes in two color morphs, one more orange, the other more pinkish in body hue. Both can become agonistic toward other fishes. Under-crowding, over-decorating and keen observation are called for here, as always.  Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i.. To five and a half inches in length. Both color morphs shown in captivity.

Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia Schultz 1960, take a guess, yes; the Fourline Wrasse (2), is mainly collected out of Hawai'i. It is also a three-incher that like all members of the genus is best kept one to a tank. Western central Pacific. To three inches total length.


    The monotypic genus Pseudodax is present, but not common here.


Pseudodax moluccanus (Valenciennes 1839), the Chiseltooth Wrasse. Monotypic. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to the Tuamotus. Up to a foot in length in the wild. Occasionally imported for the aquarium trade, rarely lives due to captive trauma. A juvenile and adult in the upper Red Sea shown.

   Two Pencil Wrasses, Pseudojuloides. "Pencil Wrasses" are of the "ultra-advanced" reef keeper's domain (3's). These fishes define the word "touchy" with most dying in transit from the wild or mysteriously "overnight". Males of the species are colorful, whereas the females of all species are generally uniformly orangish in color. 

Pseudojuloides atavai Randall & Randall 1981, the Polynesian Wrasse. This is a female of the species. Unfortunately a member of a very touchy aquarium genus (often commonly called Pencil Wrasses). These fishes handle capture, shipping and handling very poorly. Found on the islands of the Pacific Plate, Guam to Society, Tuamotus.

Pseudojuloides cerasinus (Snyder 1904), the Smalltail Pencil Wrasse (3)(male pictured) is the only member of the genus to be offered in any number. Even out of Hawai'i, specimens are difficult to keep alive.


One Stethojulis wrasse is found zooming about in the Cooks. A very wide ranging species.

Stethojulis bandanensis (Bleeker 1851), the Red-Shoulder Wrasse. Indo-Pacific, from eastern Africa to the tropical eastern Pacific coast. To six inches in length. Shown: a male in French Polynesia.


Six species of Thalassoma wrasses can be found in the Cooks. Two find themselves in limited use in the aquarium interest; T. lutescens and T. amblycephalum.

Thalassoma amblycephalum (Bleeker 1856), the Bluntheaded Wrasse. Indo-Pacific. To six inches in length. Occasionally imported for the aquarium trade; not always in good shape (3). Pictured, females, male in the Maldives.

Thalassoma hardwicke (Bennett 1830), the Six-Barred Wrasse (3). Indo-Pacific, to eight inches. The first one in the Maldives, the second in the Cooks.

Thalassoma lutescens (Lay & Bennett 1839), the Yellow Moon Wrasse (2). West Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean, to ten inches. Easily confused with the more common Moon Wrasse, T. lunare. Here are images of an initial phase individual and male in the Cook Islands.

Thalassoma purpureum (Forsskal 1775), the Surge Wrasse (3). Indo-Pacific, to more than one foot long. This one in the Seychelles.

Thalassoma quinquevittatum (Lay & Bennett 1839), the Red-Ribbon Wrasse (3). Indo-Pacific, to six inches. Aquarium image.

Thalassoma trilobatum (Lacepede 1801), I wish was called the Three-Line Wrasse, but it's another of the Christmas Wrasses (just how many Labrids are green and red anyway?)(3). To twelve inches overall length. This image taken in Hawai'i.


     Did you imagine there was such biodiversity of this one fish family in such a small island group? The Cooks are indeed "Wrasseland", with numerous species of Labrids in abundant numbers of individuals. Given time, demand, the Cook Islands could support much more ornamental marine livestock industry... an under-developed, sustainable fishery for the country.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Burgess, Warren E. 1977. The dragon wrasse. TFH 8/77.

Burgess, Warren E. 1981. The genus Labroides. TFH 2/81.

Burgess, Warren E., Herbert R. Axelrod & Raymond E. Hunziker III.1990. Atlas of Aquarium Fishes Reference Book, v. 1 Marine Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, NJ. 768pp.

Campbell, Douglas. Marines: their care and keeping; wrasses, parts 1,2. FAMA 12/80, 1/81.

Edmonds, Les. 1989. Wrasses. FAMA 4/89.

Emmens, Cliff W. 1985. Wrasses. TFH 7/85.

Engasser, Sandy. 1971. Fish of the month; wrasses. Marine Aquarist 2(4):71.

Esterbauer, Hans. 1992. The twinspot wrasse in nature and in the aquarium (Coris aygula). TFH 7/92.

Fenner, Robert. 1995. The conscientious marine aquarist; with notes on cleaner wrasses. TFH 5/95.

Fenner, Robert. 1996. The wrasses we call hogfishes. TFH 10/96.

Fenner, Robert. 1997. The Razorfish, family Labridae. SeaScope v. 14, Fall 97 

Fenner, Robert. 1998. The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Microcosm, VT. 432pp.

Friese, U. Erich. 1977. Wrasses. Marine Aquarist 7(8):77.

Hoover, John P. 1995. Hawaii's wrasses, parts 1,2. FAMA 5,6/95.

Michael, Scott W. 1990. An aquarist's guide to the wrasses of the genus Pseudocheilinus. FAMA 9/90.

Michael, Scott W. 1992. Leopard wrasses. SeaScope vol.9, Spring 92. & AFM 8/99

Michael, Scott W. 1995. Fishes for the marine aquarium, part 9,10; wrasses- fairy wrasses (Cirrhilabrus); flashers, lined and Maori. AFM 6,7/95.

Michael, Scott W. 1997. Beautiful wrasses. The unique species of the genus Halichoeres. AFM 3/97.

Michael, Scott W. 1997. Hogfish. A mysterious common name. AFM 5/97.

Michael, Scott W. 1997. Fairy Wrasses. You can't go wrong by choosing among the species in this group. AFM 12/97.

Michael, Scott W. 1998. Wrasses. The good, the bad and the lovely. AFM 6/98.

Michael, Scott W. 1998. Coris Wrasses; Hardy, but not for reef tanks. AFM 7/98.

Myers, R.F. 1989. Micronesian Reef Fishes: A Practical Guide to the Identification of the Coral Reef Fishes of the Tropical Western Pacific. Coral Graphics, Guam. 298pp.

Parker, Nancy J. 1975. A demon dressed in scales (dragon wrasse). Marine Aquarist 6(6): 75.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the World. 3rd Ed. Wiley. 600pp.

Randall, John E. 1996 Shore Fishes of Hawaii. Natural World Press, OR. 216pp.

Scheimer, Gregory. 1997. Wrasses for the reef aquarium, pt.s 1,2. FAMA 11,12/97.

Stratton, Richard F. The red wrasse: Coris gaimard. TFH 11/89.

Stratton, Richard F. 1996. The broomtail wrasse. TFH 7/96.

Tepoot, Pablo & Ian. 1996. Marine Aquarium Companion (Southeast Asia Volume). New Life Publications, Homestead FL. 358pp.

To Parts  I, II,

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