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Reef-Safe Wrasse

Reef-Safe Wrasse Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

This care sheet covers a variety of reef-safe wrasses, including:

  • McCosker’s flasher wrasse
  • Carpenter’s flasher wrasse
  • Labout’s fairy wrasse
  • Scott’s fairy wrasse
  • Leopard wrasse
  • Six-line wrasse
  • Blue throat fairy wrasse
  • Melanurus wrasse
  • Blue flasher wrasse
reef safe wrasse fish


Scientific names: Paracheilinus mccoskeri, Paracheilinus carpenteri, Cirrhilarus laboutei, Cirrhilabrus scottorum, Marcropharyngodon meleagris, Pseudocheilinus hexataenia, Cirrhilabrus cyanogularis, Hoichoeres melanurus, Paracheilinus cyaneus.

Reef-safe wrasses are a grouping of wrasse species that will not bother corals or most invertebrates. Wrasses have some of the greatest displays of bright colors within the fish kingdom. Some species of wrasse remove dead tissue, scales and parasites from other fish, often larger, predatory species. Wrasses have thick lips and protractile teeth, which assist with catching their food.

Table of Contents

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Many wrasses like to bury themselves in the substrate to sleep, protect themselves or escape predators
  • Most wrasses are energetic and active, making use of every inch of the aquarium
  • They are generally good eaters and eat a diverse diet composed of frozen, freeze-dried and live foods, pellets and some aquarium pests
  • Typically living a solitary adult life, wrasses may be peaceful with different species of wrasse if introduced at the same time when juveniles; however, two males of the same species should not be housed together as they can become aggressive
  • Male wrasses are generally larger and brighter than females and can change their colors and designs when showing off for females or warning other males
  • Wrasses can change from female to male and vice-versa
  • Wrasses are a diurnal species


Care difficulty Beginner to advanced, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 8 years with proper care, depending on species
Average adult size 2.5–10+ inches long, depending on species
Diet Carnivorous
Minimum habitat size 10+ gallons, depending on species
Water temperature 74–80°F
Specific gravity 1.020–1.025


Habitat size

A minimum of 10+ gallons is recommended for smaller-sized adult reef-safe wrasses; however, a larger aquarium is recommended for larger species.

Building your habitat

  • Water health -
    • Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health
    • Provide moderate to strong water circulation, depending on species, to mimic water currents found in the reef-safe wrasse's natural habitat
    • Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life
    • If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing
    • A protein skimmer can help maintain great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels
    • An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than +/-2 degrees in a 24-hour period
    • The specific gravity should remain stable; do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than +/-0.001 in a 24-hour period.
  • Provide rock and décor for hiding places and plenty of room for movement
  • Live rock can provide a natural food source while also enhancing biological filtration


A well-balanced reef-safe wrasse diet consists of:

  • Flakes, pellets, freeze-dried, frozen and live foods
  • Varied foods to ensure proper nutritional balance

Things to remember when feeding your mollusk:

  • Feed 1–2 times daily, only as much as they can eat in 1–2 minutes; some species may need 2–3 feedings per day
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding

Reef-safe wrasse care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your reef-safe wrasse healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature, specific gravity and other equipment
    • Weekly: Check water quality at least once a week.
    • Monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly

Where to buy

In store & online. Reef-safe wrasses are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local Petco Pet Care Center location, please call ahead to check availability.


Tank mates

  • Dwarf and large angelfish
  • Anthias
  • Blennies
  • Butterflyfish
  • Basslets
  • Clownfish
  • Damsels
  • Dragonets
  • Dartfish
  • Cardinals
  • Foxface/rabbitfish
  • Filefish
  • Gobies
  • Hawkfish
  • Pseudochromis
  • Tangs
  • May be compatible with other reef-safe wrasse species of different shapes and sizes in a larger aquarium, if introduced at the same time

Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually.


Signs of a healthy reef-safe wrasse

  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy appetite
  • Bright, even coloring
  • Fins completely intact and undamaged
  • Free of parasites or disease

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Erratic swimming
  • Labored breathing
  • Cloudy eyes or pop-eye
  • Weight loss
  • Frayed or discolored fins
  • Bloating
  • Elevated scales

Common reef-safe wrasse health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Fin rot Frayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens Improve water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Marine ich or marine velvet Cysts on fins, gills and skin, labored breathing, excess skin mucus or pale skin Quarantine fish immediately and use a commercial parasite remedy; complete a water change; freshwater dips can dislodge the parasites; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Bacterial infections Cloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin Improve water quality; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Viral infection (lymphocystis) White nodule growths on fins or body Improve water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment


  • Which wrasses are reef-safe? There are several reef-safe species, including Carpenter’s flasher wrasse, McCosker’s flasher wrasse, Scott’s fairy wrasse, the leopard wrasse and six-line wrasse, to name a few.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.