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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 I of three

To Parts II, III

Bob Fenner

Bodianus anthioides

Wrasses, family Labridae. The Cooks are ?Wrasse rich? with fifty described species. These are a mix of some used in the trade that shouldn?t, should be, others that could, would be if enough we?re popularly known about them. Let?s elaborate on these ideas by genus and species.

            There are two Anampses here, and as with the genus everywhere, they almost never live in captivity? even given the best capture, holding and shipping techniques. The touchy ?Tamarin Wrasses? should be left in the sea, or only tried by the more/most advanced reef aquarists. 

Anampses caeruleopunctatus Ruppell 1829, the Blue-Spotted Wrasse (3), 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. Male and female shown in the wild.

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. Here in a wholesalers facility in Fiji. 

            Four species of Hogfishes, genus Bodianus could come out of the Cooks. Two get too big for most aquarium use, Bodianus bilunulatus, the Black Spot Hogfish or Tarry Hogfish at twenty two inches maximum, and Bodianus loxozonus, the Blackfin Hogfish at about eighteen. The other two are entirely suitable for easygoing fish only systems and reefs lacking mollusks and crustaceans (which they gladly eat); Bodianus anthioides, the Lyretail Hogfish, and Bodianus axillaris, the Axilspot Hogfish. 

Bodianus anthioides (Bennett 1832), the Lyretail Hogfish. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea (where this picture was made) out to the Tuamotus. To nine inches in length. A gentle beauty as the genus goes. Here, three  and six inch specimens in the Red Sea.

Bodianus axillaris (Bennett 1832), the Axilspot Hogfish. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea (where this picture was made) out to the Tuamotus. To eight inches maximum length. Two inch juvenile in captivity and six inch subadult in the Maldives shown.

Bodianus bilunulatus (Lacepede 1801), the Black Spot Hogfish or Tarry Hogfish to science, is often offered retail. Punctuated distribution in the Indo-west Pacific including Hawai'i, where these images were taken. Three inch juvenile and six inch sub-adults shown. Grows to twenty two inches in length in the wild.

Bodianus loxozonus (Snyder 1908), the Blackfin Hogfish. Western Pacific: Japan, New Caledonia to Polynesia. To nearly nineteen inches in length. Rarely imported.  Like other members of the genus, feeds primarily on hard shelled benthic invertebrates (mollusks and crustaceans). Juvenile of about three inches and six inch specimen at  WSI in Fiji, eight inch one underwater in Fiji.

    The rarely used Maori Wrasses of the genera Cheilinus and Oxycheilinus ought to get more attention, especially the ones in the Cooks, as they have a few of the smaller species, and are found in good numbers in small sizes here? yes, on the reef.  Cheilinus chlorourus, the Floral Wrasse and the Redbreasted, Cheilinus fasciatus, are both very hardy and pleasing to look at. Cheilinus trilobatus, the Tripletail Wrasse  at two feet, and the world?s largest wrasse species, the Humphead or Napoleon Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus  at more than seven feet are too big for aquarium use.

Cheilinus chlorourus (Bloch 1791), the Floral Wrasse (1). Hardy, but not as good-looking as some of its congeners. To twenty inches long in the wild; much smaller in captivity. Indo-Pacific out to the Tuamotus. The first one a small juvenile in Australia, the other in the Cooks.

Cheilinus fasciatus, (Bloch 1791), the Redbreasted Wrasse. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, East Africa to Samoa. To sixteen inches overall length. Australian juvenile and Red Sea adult

Cheilinus trilobatus Lacepede 1801, the Tripletail Wrasse (2) we'll list as it is occasionally sold in the business. This is another aquarium-tough, medium-shipper that gets big (about two feet). Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to the Tuamotus. Here are images from the Maldives, Red Sea and Malaysia.

The Humphead or Napoleon Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus Ruppell 1835 (2) looks like a tropical ornamental in photographs that lack visual size clues, but it gets the size of your couch! To seven feet (2.3m) and more than four hundred pounds. at one foot in captivity and a five foot "pet" in French Polynesia's Moorea

            Oxycheilinus digrammus, the Cheeklined Wrasse is probably the most commonly offered member of the genus. It and Oxycheilinus unifasciatus, the Ring Tail or One-Banded Wrasse might do better collected closer to the West, shortening in-bag times. (Show images of all).

Oxycheilinus digrammus (Lacepede 1801), the Cheeklined Wrasse (2) is probably the most commonly offered member of the genus. Initially healthy specimens do well, but most are received from the wild in poor condition. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea, out to Samoa. To sixteen inches in length in the wild. Here are some images taken in (the first) in the Maldives, the other two in the Red Sea to illustrate how varying this species appears.

Oxycheilinus unifasciatus (Streets 1877), the Ring Tail or One-Banded Wrasse (2) is the widest ranging member of the genus. Found across the Pacific's Oceania through the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, and growing only to about a foot, it still does poorly in captivity. Formerly placed in the genus Cheilinus. One on the reef in Roratonga 

Genus Cheilio: I'll mention the seagrass-dwelling Cigar Wrasse, Cheilio inermis (Forsskal 1775) (3), only because it occasionally is offered in pet-fish markets, and rarely lives in captivity. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea, out to Hawai'i. To twenty inches in length. Here is one in the Gilis, Indonesia in a typical flanking behavior, disguised with a Goatfish.


     Only one species Fairy or Velvet Wrasse (genus Cirrhilabrus) is found in the Cooks but it?s a winner. Cirrhilabrus scottorum, Scott's Wrasse. Here is one in a cubicle at Chip Boyle's collection business in Roratonga, Cook Islands, the other at a S. Cal. retailers.

Cirrhilabrus scottorum Randall & Pyle 1989, Scott's Wrasse. South Pacific. To five inches in length. Here is one in a cubicle at Chip Boyle's collection business in Roratonga, Cook Islands, the other at a S. Cal. retailers.


     Do they have Coris Wrasses? Of Coris! (sorry about that). There are three species in the Cooks, including the Coris to many, C. gaimard. The other members here are all about the same suitable? for rough and ready fish only marine systems. Besides the ever-active (except at night when it?s asleep below the sand), there?s Coris aygula, the Twinspot or Clown Coris for fish only marine aquarium species. (Show both through development)

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 in captivity, and a six inch female and two foot male in the Red Sea.

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 roseoviridis Randall 1999. Eastern Central Pacific; French Polynesia and Cook Islands. To eight inches in length. 

no image imago

To Parts II, III

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