News / Species Spotlight / Wounded Wrasse (Halichoeres chierchiae) (06/28/17)

Wounded Wrasse (Halichoeres chierchiae)

Species Spotlight - Wounded Wrasse (Halichoeres chierchiae)
Aquarists dont typically get to see many wrasses form the Eastern Pacific Ocean, but the Wounded Wrasse (Halichoeres chierchiae) is an interesting exception. The name alludes to the prominent black and red marking present along the sides of mature males. It gives the appearance that this lovely labrid has been most brutally stabbed. Aye, who would do such a monstrous thing?!

As is often the case with wrasses, the various life stages present considerable differences in their coloration and patterning. Juveniles are nearly unrecognizable with respect to the adults, having a mottled brown and white body with a dark ocellus in the dorsal fin. As they slowly mature into sexually mature females, the body takes on a more colorful look, with a series of red scale margins forming irregular lines along the flanks. But its the males of the species which are the real showstopper here. They develop a rich green patina throughout, accented by a bright yellow throat and their namesake stigmata.

The colors of this fish are no doubt effective camouflage in its natural habitatshallow, rocky reefs dominated by algae (though it is also reported from as deep as 70 meters). In this easily collected habitat, it is said to be quite abundant. It explains why this is one of the only wrasses sourced from this part of the world for the aquarium trade. The species distribution includes the Gulf of California south to Peru and west to the Galapagos Islands and other offshore reef systems, though it is seemingly rather patchy in its occurrence.

With a maximum size of around eight inches for mature males, this is a fairly significant species to keep in captivity. For it requires a reasonably large aquarium to allow it to fully flex its swimming muscles. But despite gaining popularity in recent years, there are relatively few observations regarding how this fish behaves in captivity. Caution is advised if mixing such a sizable species of wrasse with others from the family, particularly genera with a reputation for being of a more timid disposition, such as Cirrhilabrus, Macropharyngodon, Anampses, or Pseudojuloides. And this would certainly make for an interesting addition to an Eastern Pacific biotope, alongside other native fishes like Canthigaster punctatissima, Chaetodon humeralis, and Holacanthus passer.