Ask the WWM Crew
|Please visit our Sponsors|
Of the more commonly available Wrasse species that
stay small, the Pseudocheilinus appear to have much going for them. But
though they're good-looking, intelligent fishes, they can be too
aggressive to other fish tankmates, and if ever there were poster
children/fishes for shyness, these Labrids would be top contenders.
Often quite common in their natural ranges, with the exception of P.
ocellatus, divers miss seeing them about as much as anxious reef
aquarists who have placed them in their systems. Despite their tendency
to be little terrors and propensity for hiding these fishes can make
engaging, albeit fleeting additions to many types of marine
All told there are seven scientifically described species of Pseudocheilinus (Randall 1999, and Fishbase.org). Of these, two are rare as hen's teeth in the trade, hailing from restricted ranges. In fact I have yet to come upon P. citrinus (from the Pitcairn Islands to Rarotonga), or P. dispilus (from the Mascarene Islands) in the trade in the U.S.. The other five species, listed below, are often available however. Their collective distribution covers the Mid-Pacific (Hawaii and the Polynesia, the west Pacific to East Africa's coast and the Red Sea) . These are shallow water reef fishes, again w/ the exception of P. ocellatus which is rarely found in water shallower than 100 ft.. They are all found in and amongst rocky rubble and its associated attached life.
Aquarium Available Species:
As noted, these fishes are shy to the point of invisibility; spending their daylight periods skulking about in crevices and stony skeleton corals on the bottom. This full-time activity serves them well in seeking out their favoured food items as well as avoiding predators.
I should mention that these Wrasses are 'cocoon' makers/sleepers, not under-the-sand types'¦ that exude body mucus and sleep in a bag-type arrangement much like many Parrotfishes. Like them this material is thought to aid in avoiding predators. You may see yours ingesting this mucus on waking in the morning.
A disturbing behavior to guard against is their jumping out of their
system. These little Wrasses can launch themselves up and through small
openings. Do make sure you have your top completely screened.
All can become agonistic toward other fishes, particularly species that inhabit similar (between-rock spaces) habitats. Under-crowding, over-decorating and keen observation is called for here, as always. Unless your system is at least a hundred gallons, some five-six feet in length, fish families like the Dottybacks (Pseudochromidae), Dartfishes (Microdesmidae), Grammas, Liopropoma and small Clownfishes should be avoided. These way too often fall prey to harassment from even smaller individuals of Pseudocheilinus.
Reciprocally, other overly-territorial fishes that are reef-rock territorial can work Lined Wrasses woe. Hawkfishes, Mandarins, Lizardfishes, larger-more aggressive Wrasses, Damsels and Clownfishes'¦ should not share their tank spaces.
Pseudocheilinus wrasses are Coral 'reef safe', leaving stinging-celled life be, though you may occasionally find yours picking around 'corals' and such looking for small worms, crustaceans and the like that they feed on. Very little damage is done by this picking. Small hermits and shrimps (Peppermints, Cleaners, Thor'¦), especially while soft-bodied/molting might tempt your wrasse, as well as small snails and Tridacnid Clams have been nipped by these species on occasion; possibly in their quest for Pyramidellids. Oh, and though they leave hard and soft corals alone, Pseudocheilinus have been consumed by Sea Anemones in captivity.
Can you place more than one specimen in a given display? Perhaps. Space for all is needed, and placement simultaneity is encouraged. Even then there are no guarantees; other than if you only place one that it will get along!
IF there are 'real troubles', you may need to separate the
contenders, no fun in a fully set-up reef system'¦ though
sometimes leaving the lights off for a few days, rearranging (sigh)
rock/dÃ©cor can alleviate aggression. As usual, the onus is
upon you to carefully observe and care for your livestock.
For being such small, reclusive species the Lined Wrasses are remarkably good shippers. Look for the quality of 'brightness' in prospective buys; that they're alert, looking about for food. Unless the one you're seeing/evaluating for purchase is obviously damaged (split fins are okay), it is likely good to go.
As far as likelihood of getting along/mean-ness index, the
Disappearing/Evanidus and Fourline species are by and large
easier-going, with the other species, particularly the Eight and
Six-line, tending to be most antagonistic.
Observing these species in the wild, one can see that though they are slow-moving, they can and do get about over a surface area comparable to all but the largest hobbyist systems. Hence the admonition re crowding them with other rock-dwelling fish species including conspecifics and congeners to discount aggression. I have seen four and six-lines kept in volumes of only a few tens of gallons, BUT they were the only fish life present. Better by far to stock these fishes in large/r full reef settings.
We've mentioned these fish's penchant for jumping out of their systems. If you leave your tank 'open top' do devise a screen (plastic door type, Louvre'¦) to prevent yours exiting 'stage up'.
Lighting, filtration, circulation'¦ matters are 'reef'
In the wild, Pseudocheilinus feed on small invertebrates, mostly worms, crustaceans and snails, found on rock or on the sand near it. In captivity they have proven to be eager acceptors of most all suitably sized meaty foods. The very best arrangement for them food-wise is to have both a good deal of live rock in their system to pick off of, and a large, vibrant refugium that generates copious quantities of 'pods'.
I would offer this genus' members other foods twice a day as well;
copepods, Cyclops, Mysids et al. are great choices.
In addition to the common Protozoal parasites that most reef fishes are subject to, this genus suffers more than its share of physical traumas. Launching themselves out of tanks or against tops, lights, and into hard surfaces in the tank results in many mouth and eye injuries. One way to fight this trend is to do what you can to slowly, vs. all at once, turn on and off lighting, even making provision for some 'outside light' to be on at all times. Another has to do w/ only stocking them in large volumes; to grant a sense of security among other things.
Another type of physical injury that occurs often enough to mention is these fishes getting 'spiked' by Polychaete ('bristle') worms'¦ in the course of eating them. If yours appears to have notopodial spines sticking out of its mouth or around the face, don't panic. These generally work themselves out in days to a couple weeks.
Cryptocaryon and Amyloodinium can be cured by the usual means'¦ pH-adjusted freshwater dips/baths to rid the hosts, subsequent treatment w/ copper (0.2-0.3 ppm free cupric ion) for two, three weeks, and elevated temperature (85-90 F.) in the fallow main/display tank to run up the metabolism of the parasites, speeding their deaths in the absence of food (host fishes).
Altogether though, these fishes are hardy, disease-resistant; some
known to have lived more than a decade in captivity.
Like other Labrids, Pseudocheilinus spp. are protogynic synchronous
hermaphrodites'¦ becoming females first, then male. As far as
I've observed they live singly once mature, with only brief
'meetings/liaisons' between individuals; i.e. they are not
haremic species. There are no discernible differences (structural,
color-wise) between the sexes and as far as I'm aware none of the
species has been spawned, reared in captivity.
The diminutive wrasses of the genus Pseudocheilinus have much to recommend them other than staying small. They are unique, interesting characters that if you can train them to stay out a bit, make for endless fun and discussion points. Just do be sure of the likely compatibility you'll have with your given mix of livestock species in their system.
Michael, Scott W. An aquarist's guide to the Wrasses of the Genus Pseudocheilinus. FAMA 9/90
Randall, John E. 1999. Revision of the Indo-Pacific Labrid Fishes of the Genus Pseudocheilinus, With Descriptions of Three New Species. Indo-Pacific Fishes. Bernice P. Bishop, Hawai'i.
Scheimer, Gregory. 1997. Wrasses for the reef aquarium, pt.s 1, 2. FAMA 11, 12/97.
Schultz, Henry C. Four, Six, Eight; Genus Pseudocheilinus. Marine World Magazine (UK) 6,7/08
Randall, John E. 1999. Revision of the Indo-Pacific
Labrid Fishes of the Genus Pseudocheilinus, With Descriptions of Three
New Species. Indo-Pacific Fishes. Bernice P. Bishop,