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Related FAQs: Anampses Wrasses 1, Anampses 2, & FAQs on: Anampses Identification, Anampses Behavior, Anampses Compatibility, Anampses Selection, Anampses Systems, Anampses Feeding, Anampses Disease, Anampses Reproduction, Wrasses, Wrasse Selection, Wrasse Behavior, Wrasse Compatibility, Wrasse Feeding, Wrasse Diseases,  

Wrasse Regional Accounts: Cook Islands

Related Articles: The Diversity of Wrasses, Family Labridae

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

The Touchy Tamarins, Wrasses of the Genus Anampses

Bob Fenner

  Anampses lineatus, Red Sea

Genus Anampses:

The thirteen species of Anampses are commonly labeled as Tamarin Wrasses in reference to all but ones colorful appearance. Unfortunately the members of this genus rate an overall (3) or the lowest score in survivability. For a few reasons, mostly rough handling and shipping stress Anampses wrasses come in beat from collection and never recover. If you're determined to try to keep one, take extra care to select a specimen that is in exemplary condition, with no bloody markings or raw marks around the mouth, that is up and swimming. And follow through with making sure it's getting enough food (mainly interstitial fauna... i.e. benthic and between sand grain invertebrates). to sustain itself, and has an adequately deep and fine substrate to sleep within (as in under the surface) at night. Due to their frailty and inherent food-picking behavior I encourage you to look at hardier and less-burrowing species of wrasses, though I have seen Anampses kept successfully in full-blown reef systems (mainly for the control of pesky pyramidellid snails that predate hobbyist's Tridacnid clams). Note: these wrasses are infamous "jumpers".

Anampses caeruleopunctatus Ruppell 1829, the Blue-Spotted Wrasse, is often sold under the notorious "miscellaneous" moniker. Most likely you will find females offered and at way too small a starting size of a few inches. Even the best initial size ones of 4-5 inches rarely live for more than a few weeks. Grows to almost a foot and a half overall length. Female and male shown in the wild.

Anampses chrysocephalus Randall 1958, whose females are typically sold as Red Tail and males as Psychedelic or Psych-Head Wrasses. Gorgeous, but a radical swimmer and jumper that frequently "just dies" overnight. Only found in the Hawaiian Island chain. Juvenile off of Puako, Big Island Female in captivity and male underwater.

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Anampses cuvier Quoy & Gaimard 1824, the Flag or Pearl Wrasse named in honor of Georges Cuvier is amongst the heartiest species of the genus, but still rates a dismal for survivability. This fish readily consumes fresh or prepared meaty foods, but must also regularly have natural greens. Male and female in Hawai'i shown.

Anampses femininus Randall 1972, the Blue-Striped Orange Tamarin Wrasse. Here at Interzoo 2010

Anampses geographicus Valenciennes 1840, the Geographic Wrasse. Indo-West Pacific. A giant of the genus at more than a foot in maximum length. Variable in color, but generally not a great beauty, and no hardier than the rest of the Anampses. A rare import into the ornamental trade.

Anampses lennardi Scott 1929, the Blue and Yellow Wrasse. NW Australia. Here at Interzoo 2010

Anampses lineatus Randall 1972, the Lined Wrasse. Indo-West Pacific; Red Sea to Indonesia. To a little under five inches in length. 


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Two very similar Anampses, the White-Spotted Wrasse (Anampses melanurus Bleeker 1857) and Yellowtail Wrasse (Anampses meleagrides Valenciennes 1840) are often mixed-up in identification in the trade (both sold as Yellowtail Wrasses). Both have yellow tails, but the White Spotted lacks the bold black margin of the Yellowtail. Both these and the less frequently encountered but also similar White-Dashed Wrasse (Anampses lineatus Randall 1972) ship and do poorly (3's) in captivity.


Anampses melanurus, aquarium       Anampses meleagrides, Red Sea

Anampses melanurus Bleeker 1837, the White-spotted Wrasse. West-Central Pacific; Indonesia to Marquesas throughout Micronesia to S. Japan. To 12 cm. Similar to A. meleagrides, but never has a completely yellow caudal. Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, Polynesia pic. 

Anampses meleagrides Valenciennes 1840, the Yellowtail Wrasse. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, eastern Africa to the Tuamotus. To nearly nine inches in length. Females off Gili Air, Lombok, and N. Sulawesi Indonesia, and a male below in the Red Sea. 

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Anampses neoguinaicus Bleeker 1878, the New Guinea Wrasse (3) is a real beauty but fares no better than the rest of the genus. Shipping stress and traumas like mouth damage claim almost all of them. Pictured: a juvenile initial phase aquarium specimen and one of about the same development and a male in Australian waters. Western Pacific. To eight inches in length.

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Anampses twistii Bleeker 1856, the Yellow-Breasted or Twist's Wrasse. From the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but best out of the Red Sea from which it still rates a dismal. Below: Half-inch Juvenile and adult live ones in S. Sulawesi and this damaged one in captivity (see especially the mouth), doomed. http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=4893&genusname=Anampses&speciesname=twistii

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Geographical Range

Tamarins are tropical to sub-tropical in the Indo-Mid Pacific; Red Sea to the Tuamotus, Hawai'i, in shallow  rocky/coral reefs.


Most Anampses Wrasses max. out at about three-four inches. The large species attain half a foot in total length. 

Selection: General to Specific

These fishes are very hard to access in terms of likelihood of surviving, most are doomed on-arrival. You should look a prospective purchase over carefully, and leave on site for at least the first few days (better a couple of weeks) after your dealer receives them, to assure they are going to make it past this phase. With Anampses, the most important deciding criteria is appearance of damage, then feeding. Re behavior; they should be out and about, looking over, sampling their environment, and aware of your presence.

    Look at the mouth especially for signs of wearing, tearing (any marking, sign of bloodiness should disqualify the purchase). Any reddening on the body, especially at the origins of the unpaired fins should disqualify your purchase. After they settle in, offer some sort of meaty food, fresh or defrosted. A healthy specimen should react/eat.

Environmental: Conditions

Anampses as a whole require reef-tank conditions. Live rock systems that are under-crowded and well-established.


A broken rocky reef area where your specimen can hide out and skulk, with some finer substrate with life in it to root around in is called for.


As stated, optimized, stable reef water quality is necessary. Touchy to temperature changes, higher nitrate concentrations.


Tamarins should not be kept with other larger fishes; they are definitely only for reef set-ups. Large, coral containing systems with vigorous water movement are ideal. 


Unless the system is huge (hundreds of gallons), I'd keep them one to a tank; they are almost always solitary, territorial as adults in the wild and captivity.


These fishes are almost always beat and prone to infectious and parasitic disease when imported;  I would quarantine/harden new introductions for a good two-three weeks before placing them in a main/display tank.

Predator/Prey Relations

Anampses wrasses are generally "live and let live" with other fishes, but may consume snails and crabs (including the False Crabs called Hermits).

Feeding/Foods/Nutrition: Types, Frequency, Amount, Wastes

Finicky feeders of all but acknowledged, fresh, frozen, prepared or natural meaty foods. Some sort of meaty food should be offered twice daily as these are active fishes. Ideally, their system will involve a living sump/refugium that produces copious amounts of crustacean and worm life for their consumption.

Disease: Infectious, Parasitic, Nutritional, Genetic, Social

As reef fishes go Anampses wrasses are disease prone,  typically the first to show signs of bacterial, protozoal or parasitic problems. Look to them to show evidence of poor water quality.


Tamarin wrasses are indeed beautiful, interesting behaviorally, dynamic in their movement and other behavior, but tragically poor shippers and survivors in captive systems... They must be kept individually by collectors, covered to prevent jumping, shipped in large bags that lack corners, with lots of water and oxygen... and fine sand to make them feel at ease and prevent "rubbing" damage... and then carefully maintained in reef conditions to survive and hopefully thrive.

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