Monday, July 28, 2008


OK loyal gobies to grizzlies purveyors - how about some wallpaper? I have been using this one on my own monitor for a while and really love this fish! Just click on the photo above and set it as desk top background. (Please - use it for your computer or send it to a friend.)

It is, of course, Pseudocheilinus ocellatus, the whitebarred, tailspot or mystery wrasse. The first one of these beautiful fish that I saw was in a holding tank in Hawaii in 1991. Richard Pyle had collected it for his girlfriend (now wife's) father while diving in Japan. I was mesmerized by the colors of this then undescribed labrid. It was not until 1999 that Dr. John Randall described the beautiful little beast. The color is somewhat variable. Some are more pink overall, while others exhibit a purple base color. The presence or boldness of the white bars on the body is also variable. The whitebarred wrasse has been reported from Cocos Keeling Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Fiji Islands, Japan, the Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Pitcairn Island and Johnston Atoll. It tends to prefer greater water depths than its congeners, having been reported at depths of 20 to 58 m (65 to 189 ft.).

If you have a chance to get one of these beautiful fish for your reef tank, I would. You can even place one of these fish on its own in a larger nano-reef (e.g., 20-gallons). There is only one downside with P. ocellatus. As with others in the genus, it can be a bit of a bully. It is especially hard on smaller fishes added to a tank after it - larger P. ocellatus are especially prone to thuggery. On the other hand, I have had whitebarred wrasse that were the recipient of heterospecific-labrid aggression. For example, I had a medium-sized individual that was incessantly chased by a crescenttail hogfish (Bodianus sepiacaudus). The hogfish did not bother any of the other fishes in the tank, including fairy wrasses and a small pinkstreaked wrasse (Pseudocheilinops ataenia), but for some reason, the hogfish “hated” the P. ocellatus!

Provide this fish with plenty of overhangs and caves for refuging. But, it will usually acclimate to the aquarium quickly and begin spending much of its time in full view. I have had P. ocellatus leap out of an open aquarium when they were being harassed by other fish. They might also jump out of the aquarium when the lights are turned-off. The whitebarred wrasse will scan live rock as it searched for smaller prey items. It is a minimal threat to ornamental invertebrates, including crustaceans. I have kept it with several different species of cleaner shrimps without incident. That said, I should point out that larger P. ocellatus might eat ornamental shrimps and crabs, especially when these crustaceans are molting.

Copyright (2008) Scott W. Michael

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