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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 II of three

To Parts  I, III


Bob Fenner  

     The Pacific Bird Wrasse, Gomphosus varius, I've never seen look better from anywhere. The males here are spectacularly colored and seemingly friendlier than Gomphosus everywhere else I've been. 

Gomphosus varius Lacepede 1801, is the much more common Bird Wrasse (1) in the west. Its males are lighter green over-all, and females transversely white to black front to back, with an orangish upper "beak". The common Bird Wrasse is found in Hawai'i to the tropical western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean. Female in Hawai'i, male in the Cooks.

Genus Epibulus: The Sling-Jaw Wrasse, Epibulus insidiator (Pallas, 1770) is showing up more and more in the industry, and is a real winner looks-wise, though I'll still have to rate it a moderate score (2) in historical hardiness. Females are golden yellow over-all, while males are blackish in the back, pale on the face, with an orange-brown "coat" on their back.


The huge genus Halichoeres, the Rock Wrasses, have five species in the Cooks. Halichoeres hortulanus, the Checkerboard Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus, the Pink-belly Wrasse, Halichoeres melasmapomus, the Cheekspot Wrasse, Halichoeres melasmapomus, the Cheekspot Wrasse, Halichoeres ornatissimus, one of the three " Christmas Wrasses", aka the Ornate Wrasse to science, and Halichoeres trimaculatus, the Three-spot Wrasse could all be used in the ornamental interest, though only the first and fourth are currently.

Halichoeres hortulanus (Lacepede 1801), the Checkerboard Wrasse (2), comes in two varieties, the more common one from the Pacific and a more colorful color morph in the Indian Ocean into the Red Sea. Pictured: A juvenile of about two inches length, and a "pair" in the Maldives. A larger Halichoeres at ten or so inches in an aquarium..

Halichoeres margaritaceus (Valenciennes 1839), the Pink-belly Wrasse. Indo-Pacific. To five inches in length. Fiji and aquarium images.

Halichoeres melasmapomus Randall 1981, the Cheekspot Wrasse. Indo-West Pacific. To ten inches total length. Occasionally shows up in our interest, often sold as a "miscellaneous" wrasse. This juvenile photographed in the Cook Islands.

Halichoeres ornatissimus (Garrett 1863) is (one of) the three " Christmas Wrasses" (2), aka the Ornate Wrasse to science. This can be a very hardy fish should you secure an initially healthy specimen. Unfortunately, way to many are doomed from the trauma of rough handling through the collection process. To six inches. Aquarium photo. Indo-Pacific to Hawai'i, where it is best imported from.

Halichoeres trimaculatus (Quoy & Gaimard 1824), the Three-spot Wrasse. Indo-Pacific. To eleven inches in length. Adults in the Cook Islands and Fiji. This species used as food and occasionally in the aquarium trade.


     Genera Hemigymnus and Hologymnosus. Way too often I see the Barred Thicklip  (Hemigymnus fasciatus, Ring and Pastel Ringwrasses,  (Hologymnosus annulatus and H. doliatus) offered to hobbyists as juveniles. They shouldn't be. All are too touchy and get too large to be aquarium specimens

Hemigymnus fasciatus (Bloch 1792), the Barred Thicklip Wrasse (2). Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea, east to Tahiti. To thirty two inches long in the wild. Pictured are a six inch juvenile in an aquarium, Fiji, and a two foot adult in the Maldives.

Hologymnosus annulatus (Lacepede 1801), the Ring Wrasse (2). Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea east to the Marianas. To sixteen inches in length. Here are images of a juvenile (3"), female and male in the Red Sea.

Hologymnosus doliatus (Lacepede 1801), the Pastel Ring or Candycane Wrasse (2). Indo-Pacific east to the Line Islands. To eighteen inches. Images: juveniles and adult female in an aquarium. 


    Three species of Labroides Cleaner Wrasses call the Cooks home. The too-popular common Bluestreak (L. dimidiatus), the Bicolor (L. bicolor) and Redlip (L. rubrolabiatus)? all have dismal survival histories in captivity and are needed to do their ?barbering? in the wild. Leave them there.

Labroides bicolor Fowler & Bean 1928, the Bicolor Cleaner Wrasse (3), easily recognized, easily lost Indo Pacific beauty. Indo-Pacific, east Africa to Micronesia. To five and a half inches in length. Here are images of a juvenile and adult in Maldives and Fiji respectively.

Labroides dimidiatus (Valenciennes 1839), the common or Blue Cleaner Wrasse (3). Thousands will be collected today and thousands will die. One out of thousands lives for a year in captivity. Indo-Pacific, east Africa, Red Sea to the Marquesas. To four and a half inches in length. Juvenile in Bunaken/Sulawesi/Indonesia. Adult, for a short while, in captivity.

Labroides rubrolabiatus Randall 1958, the Red Lip Cleaner Wrasse (3), of the Pacific's Oceania ought to be left in the sea as well. To four inches in length. On a Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) in Moorea, French Polynesia and in Fiji.


     Labropsis. The Tube-Lip Wrasse, Labropsis polynesica Randall 1981 is reported from here as part of its Eastern Central Pacific range. 


      Genus Macropharyngodon. Two Leopard Wrasse species are found here. The most commonly offered member of the genus, the Blackspotted Macropharyngodon meleagris and less often seen Yellowspotted M. negrosensis. These fishes rarely live for any time in captivity.

Macropharyngodon meleagris (Valenciennes 1839),  the most common species offered in this genus to the aquarium trade, is either THE Leopard or Guinea Fowl Leopard Wrasse (3). Indo-Pacific; Cocos Keeling to the Western Pacific. To six inches in length. Aquarium image. 

Macropharyngodon negrosensis Herre 1932, the Black Leopard Wrasse (3) is usually offered as a "miscellaneous" item. Only the ones from Australia generally live. Indo-Pacific; Andaman Sea to Samoa. To nearly five inches in length. Aquarium and Redang, Malaysia images.


    Razorfishes. The Rock Mover, aka the Dragon Wrasse, Novaculichthys taeniourus is found here in good numbers, all good-sized adults that I've seen. Definitely not ?reef-safe? this fish can be too rambunctious for any but the most rough and tumble fish tankmates. Another Razorfish from here is Cymolutes praetextatus, the Knife Razorfish. 

      Novaculichthys taeniourus (Lay & Bennett 1839) the Rock Mover, Dragon or Indian Wrasse (2) is a very hardy fish that is more often killed by aquarists than dies from other influences. As an aquarium specimen this species requires regular "beefy" feedings of animal-based foods. It is a gluttonous feeder that quickly starves if underfed. Not for reef tanks, Razorfishes are territorial and aggressive fishes. To about a foot in length.  Juvenile in captivity and adult in Hawai'i shown. One other species in this genus. Not used in the trade.

To Parts  I, III

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