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Related FAQs: Coris Wrasses, Coris gaimard, Wrasses, Wrasse Selection, Wrasse Behavior, Wrasse Compatibility, Wrasse Feeding, Wrasse Diseases,  

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  Wrasses of the Genus Coris

Bob Fenner

  Coris juveniles in captivity

The tough fishes of this genus are largely misunderstood, and therefore largely mis-used. The two dozen or so Coris species range in size, but mainly are bigger than hobbyists realize. Some get to more than two feet in length. All species are tough to the point of being mean, and predators of many invertebrate groups, making them really only suitable for fish-only systems. Males, females and juveniles are often strikingly differently colored and marked. Only small individuals (a few inches) of the smaller species ought to be tried, and those provided with a soft substrate to bury and sleep within and a solid top to prevent loss from jumping. We'll list the most common few Coris that are regularly available, but all follow the same general rules for selection and care... just remember to adjust for their ultimate size.

Coris auricularis (Valenciennes 1839), the Western King Wrasse. Eastern Indian Ocean; Australia.  

Coris aygula Lacepede 1801, the Twinspot or Clown Coris (2), is oh-so-cute when little; at about 3-5 inches it starts to transform into a light in the front, dark in the back female. But as they say on late night TV, "Wait, there's more". At a foot or so in length females change again to darkish green with a white body band males that grow to three plus feet in length! Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea to the Line Islands in distribution. Below are a three inch juvenile, a six inch female and two foot male in the Red Sea.

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
 
Coris ballieui Vaillant & Sauvage 1875, the Sand Wrasse. Known from Hawaii's islands in the central Pacific. To thirteen inches. Rarely imported and this is a great shame. A good-looking smaller member of the genus that would probably do well for aquarists. This one photographed at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Coris batuensis (Bleeker 1856), the Batu Coris. Indo-Pacific, but not the Red Sea, to Tonga. Another mid-size species, to seven inches in length, that would do well for aquarists. Rarely collected for the trade. At right, initial and terminal individuals in N. Sulawesi. Below: One in the Maldives, and Australian waters.

Coris caudimacula (Quoy & Gaimard 1834), the Spottail Coris. Indian Ocean, including Red Sea, to Australia. To eight inches in length. A female and male in the upper Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba. 

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
 
Coris cuvieri (Bennett 1829), Cuvier's Coris Wrasse. Western and central Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea. Another "Coris gaimard" look-alike. Rarely seen in the west. To eleven inches in length. Shown below, juvenile, initial/female and terminal/male phases in the Red Sea.

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
Coris dorsomacula Fowler 1908, the Pale-Barred Coris. Western Pacific. To eight inches in length. This one off of Queensland, Australia. 

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Coris flavovittata (Bennett 1828), the Yellowstriped Coris.  Eastern-Central Pacific; Hawaiian endemic. To 50 cm, 20 inches in length. A large female off of Kailua Kona.  

Coris formosa (Bennett 1830) , is most often sold as the Formosa Wrasse in the west, but as the Queen or Indian Sand Wrasse (2) elsewhere (in reference to it's Indian Ocean distribution). In the wild this fish grows to two feet in length. Below are a juvenile of three inches length, initial/female phase individuals in captivity, and an eight inch long adult/terminal phase male in the Red Sea.

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Coris gaimard (Quoy & Gaimard 1824), the Yellowtail Coris or Gaimard's Wrasse is THE Coris Wrasse to most hobbyists (1). Depending on life stage this fish also goes by the common appellations as the Red (as young) and Yellowtail Coris. To a mere sixteen inches in length. Indo-Pacific out to Hawai'i. where these images of a juvenile, female and male were made.

Coris hewitti Randall 1999. Eastern Central Pacific; Marquesas endemic. Found over rock and sand bottoms. To 14 cm. Male/terminal phase individual Nuku Hiva pix. 

Coris julis (Linnaeus 1758), the Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse. Eastern Atlantic; Sweden to Gabon, including the Mediterranean. To a foot in length. Rarely seen in the trade in the West. Aquarium photo. http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=58&genusname=Coris&speciesname=julis

Coris marquesensis Randall 1999. Eastern Central Pacific; Marquesas endemic. Found over rock and sand bottoms. To 23 cm. Initial phase Nuku Hiva pix. 

Coris picta (Bloch & Schneider 1801), the Comb Wrasse. Western Pacific. To ten inches in length. An occasional import to the hobby, generally from Australia. Typically hardy and gluttonous as other Coris species. This one in an aquarium. 

Coris roseoviridis Randall 1999. Eastern Central Pacific; French Polynesia and Cook Islands. To eight inches in length.   
Coris variegata  (Ruppell 1835), the Dappled Wrasse. Red Sea endemic. To eight inches in length. One off of Hurghada, another a bit further north in Nuweiba.

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
 
Coris venusta Vaillant & Sauvage 1875, the Elegant Coris. Hawaiian endemic. To about seven inches in length. Yet another Hawaiian Coris that could/should be used in our interest. A hardy beauty that can be found in good numbers in shallow rocky settings. A terminal/male one in Shark's Bay in Oahu and a juvenile off of the Big Island.

Bigger PIX: The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.



There are, as previously stated, several other Coris species, and a few of these make it into the trade from time to time. All are great diggers, flippers of decor, and only moderate in their average survival, (2's), even the three endemic species coming out of Hawai'i.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Campbell, Douglas. 1980. Marines: their care and keeping; wrasses: part one. FAMA 12/80.

Debelius, Helmut & Hans A. Baensch. Marine Atlas. MERGUS, Germany. 1215pp.

Hoover, John P. 1995. Hawaii's wrasses, part II. FAMA 6/95.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1996. Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. NY. 600pp.

Randall, John E. 1996. Shore Fishes of Hawai'i. Natural World Press, OR. 216pp.

Randall, John E. 1999. Revision of the Indo-Pacific Labrid fishes of the genus Coris, with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Stratton, Richard F. 1989. The red wrasse: Coris gaimard. TFH 11/89.

Tinker, Spencer W. 1978. Fishes of Hawaii; A Handbook of the Marine Fishes of Hawaii and the Central Pacific Ocean. Hawaiian Service, Inc. Honolulu, HI. 532pp.


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