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Wrasse Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

This care sheet covers a variety of wrasses, including:

  • Dragon wrasse
  • Red coris wrasse
  • Yellow and purple wrasse
  • Bluehead wrasse
  • Banana wrasse
  • Lunar wrasse
  • Hardwicke wrasse
  • Paddlefin wrasse


Scientific names: Novaculichthys taeniourus, Coris gaimard, Halichoeres leucoxanthus, Thalassoma bifasciatum, Thalassoma lutescens, Thalassoma lunare, Thalassoma hardwicke, Thalassoma lucasanum.

A larger wrasse can bring a touch of bright color and activity to a fish-only aquarium. Numerous species of wrasse like to borrow in a soft substrate and will benefit from a sandy bottom. Wrasses have thick lips and protractile teeth, which assist with catching their food. The wrasse family is diverse, consisting of 600+ species. Some wrasses can get too large for the average aquarium, like the humphead wrasse, which can reach an adult size of 6+feet. Although some wrasse species school as juveniles, as adults, they can be very territorial and aggressive. Some wrasse species have a torpedo shape and are capable of swimming at incredible speeds.

Table of Contents

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Many wrasses like to bury themselves in the substrate to sleep, protect themselves or escape predators
  • Wrasses are very energetic and active, but you can also find wrasses relaxing under branches, in rock cracks or on top of the substrate
  • They are generally good eaters and eat a diverse carnivorous diet consisting of meaty foods, crabs, worms, shrimp and snails
  • Typically living a solitary adult life, large wrasses can be aggressive and territorial and should be the last fish added to the aquarium
  • Some species of wrasse are outstanding jumpers, so a secure cover is recommended
  • Male wrasses are generally larger and brighter than females; many can change their colors and designs when showing off for females or warning other males


Care difficulty Beginner to advanced, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 8 years with proper care, depends on species
Average adult size 5–24+ inches long, depending on species
Diet Carnivorous
Minimum habitat size 50+ gallons, depending on species
Water temperature 74–80°F
Specific gravity 1.020–1.025


Habitat size

A minimum of 50+ gallons is recommended for smaller adult wrasses, and 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
    • Moderate to strong water circulation, based on species, should be provided to mimic water currents found in the 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 and ensure 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
  • Décor
    • 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 wrasse diet consists of:

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

Things to remember when feeding your wrasse:

  • Feed 1–2 times daily with 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

Wrasse care

  • Water care: Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your 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 and online. Wrasses are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local 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
  • Other wrasse species of different shapes and sizes in a larger aquarium, if introduced at the same time

Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually.

Large wrasse species are not considered reef safe and will consume crabs, snails, shrimp and other sessile invertebrates


Signs of a healthy 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 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


  • What do wrasses eat? Wrasses can be provided a varied diet of flakes, pellets, freeze-dried and frozen foods.
  • Can you keep multiple wrasses together? As juveniles, some species may be introduced to the aquarium at the same time. Avoid placing two males of the same species together as they will fight.
  • How big does a wrasse get? The size of a wrasse will vary by species and can range from 5 to 24+ inches, although the humphead wrasse can reach an adult size of 6+ feet.

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.