News / Species Spotlight / Highly Underrated Fish - Halichoeres chrysus (10/09/14)

Highly Underrated Fish - Halichoeres chrysus

In The Wild

This fish is commonly mislabeled as a "Yellow Coris," which isn't even the correct genus. It is also commonly called "Yellow Chrysus," "Canary Wrasse," "Yellow Wrasse," and "Golden Rainbow Wrasse" among others. It ranges all over the tropical western Pacific Ocean and fringes the eastern Indian Ocean. They can be found around patchy reefs and free standing coral heads, most commonly deeper than 60 feet, but have been seen everywhere from the surface down to nearly 200 feet.

They will group together at all stages of their life, and have been known to forage behind fish that disrupt substrate like goatfishes. They eat just about anything meaty that comes their way, showing a preference for small crustaceans, especially as they age. Juvenile fish can be identified by the presence of one or two spots on their dorsal fin and are known cleaners, a behavior that has been seen in some adults as well.

In The Aquarium

This is one fish that every aquarium owner should have. It is a perfect aquarium inhabitant as it is a voracious predator of pretty much every nuisance an aquarium can have this side of aiptasia (sorry, they don't eat any nuisance anemones). This combination means that they are very willing to take and process a variety of foods, including pellets, very quickly. It also means they are unlikely in the extreme to bother corals or anemones. Most of the fish in the genus will nip at clams, snails, starfish and small shrimp; this is also true for this species, but they are less likely to be able to actually do damage to many of them because of their size. Cleaner type shrimp are less at risk.

They stay a nice small size, with the largest recorded size being just shy of five inches. That being said, the biggest ones you are likely to come across in the hobby are much closer to three inches. They also grow very slowly so it would take a long time to get them up to that four inch plus size.

These are among the most docile of all Halichoeres genus wrasses, and because of this, can be kept in groups which makes a very cool display. Try to add all the fish to the display at one time if you are going to do this. They can also be kept with other fish in the genus, though some of the more aggressive and larger members may harass the Chrysus. Another nifty side note is that the Yellow Chrysus is very resistant to most common aquarium ailments, especially ich. They can also be kept in systems that utilize copper in the display. A final note about display is that these fish all sleep and hide under the sand, so some kind of sand bed is required to keep them in good shape. It doesn't have to be deep sand as an inch or two will do, but the sand does need to be fine grained.


Halichoeres leucoxanthus is a remarkably similar fish in nearly all traits, including having too many common names. Among the most common are "Canarytop, "Yellow & Purple," "White Belly" and my personal favorite "Lemon Meringue."

They stay roughly the same size, also feed in groups, are just as easy to feed and are similarly disease resistant. While the ranges of the two species do have a thin layer of overlap, for the most part this wrasse's range starts on the western edge of the Yellow Chrysus range and goes throughout the tropical Indian Ocean. Regardless of range, this is another excellent fish that is somewhat similar to the Chrysus.

Rudie H Kuiter, Fairy & Rainbow Wrasses and their relatives, 1st ed. (TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK, 2002)
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
Scott W. Michael, Wrasses & Parrotfishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2009).
In House Resources: Adam Mangino, Eli Fleishauer