News / Species Spotlight / Species Spotlight - Pelicier's Wrasse (Halichoeres pelicieri) (10/25/17)

Species Spotlight - Pelicier's Wrasse (Halichoeres pelicieri)

Species Spotlight - Pelicier's Wrasse (Halichoeres pelicieri)
From the remote island of Mauritius comes an exceptionally elusive wrasse which few have had the good fortune to keep in an aquarium, Halichoeres pelicieri. The species was only described to science in 1982, and the very first specimen ever collected was from a hook and line set at 85 meters by Daniel Pelicier, for whom this fish is now named. This should give a pretty good idea for why this species is so uncommon; it only occurs in deeper waters. The shallowest this fish is ever encountered is at around 20 meters, and these have to be collected in open, sandy habitats. The difficulties of successfully corralling such an active fish at these depths and in this sort of habitat is immense.

Most of the specimens that do find their way into the aquarium trade are female, as these are naturally far more abundant than the males in this haremic species. Females sport a bright yellow band that runs from tip to tail, ending in a small black spot (far smaller than what is seen in H. gurrobyi, a similar species from this region which was only recently described). Below this band, the body is mostly white, while the back increasingly develops a rosy hue with age.

The rarely seen males are even more attractive to look at, though it seems that no two individuals ever look quite alike. This might have to do with how few images of this fish we actually have, coupled with the differences brought about by the relative age of a given specimen and its level of sexual excitement. The yellow band typically expands to a greater extent than in the females, sometimes seeming to fill most of the fishs back and even onto the head. The body appears to take on a greenish-blue tone, at least in the very largest individuals, and a sooty black color pervades through the dorsal fin, and, in some, along portions of the yellow band.

As with any of the larger and more active wrasses, a sizable, rectangular aquarium is recommended to accommodate its swimming needs. This species reaches at least six inches in length, and perhaps a bit larger still, though most specimens available to aquarists will be the smaller females, which are typically closer to half this size. Certainly it is possible to keep multiple specimens together, though its again quite uncommon to see even a single specimen for sale, let alone a whole group. But this could make for an exciting and exotic display, especially if made to mimic the mesophotic sand flats that this species calls home.