Christmas Wrasse (Thalassoma trilobatum): Ultimate Care Guide


Common NameChristmas Wrasse / Ladder Wrasse
Scientific NameThalassoma Trilobatum
OriginIndian Ocean
Temperature72F – 78F
Water pH8.1 to 8.4
Adult Sizeup to 11 inches
DietCarnivore

Christmas Wrasse Facts

  • Christmas Wrasse are stunningly colored fish that are popular for their interesting patterns. They can quickly become the focal point of any home aquarium.
  • It is difficult to tell the male Christmas Wrasse from the female since they can change their color and sex during their lifetime.
  • It can be difficult to purchase these fish online, as they do not ship well and will often stress to the point of death. It is important to inspect this fish to ensure that it is eating before you purchase it.
  • This species can and will jump out of its tank, you will want to make sure that you have a tight fitting lid for a Christmas Wrasse aquarium.

Christmas Wrasse (Thalassoma Trilobatum) are brilliantly colored fish that get their name from their striking red and green coloration. Christmas Wrasse can have other colors on their bodies too. They can have red, pink, blue, and orange. The most distinct marking of Christmas Wrasse, is their unique, ladder-like patterned appearance.

They have a more streamlined shaped body, and big lips. They have small pectoral fins on their sides that they flap up and down to change direction, and they can pull in their dorsal and anal fins tight to their bodies so that they can swim faster.

Christmas Wrasse (Thalassoma trilobatum)
Christmas Wrasse (Thalassoma trilobatum)

Christmas Wrasse Care

It is recommended that you keep your Christmas Wrasse in at least a 250 gallon tank, they are larger fish that can grow up to 11 inches long, so the more room you can provide them with, the better. It is a good idea to provide them with a heater to help you keep their tank at a consistent temperature of 72F to 78F. Christmas Wrasse also need their tank kept at around 8.1 to 8.4 pH. It is important to monitor their water parameters so that you can correct problems as they arise, and before they begin to affect your fish.

Christmas Wrasse Food & Diet

Christmas Wrasse are carnivorous fish. In the wild, they hunt and eat small crustaceans, small shrimps, snails, and even hermit crabs. In the home aquarium, you can expect your Christmas Wrasse to eat much of the same. Christmas Wrasse will readily accept live foods such as Mysis Shrimp, Brine Shrimp, and even Zooplankton. They will also eat high quality pellet or flake foods. Christmas Wrasse are excellent fish for ridding your tank of pyramid snails, and flatworms.

It is recommended for Christmas Wrasse to be fed a few times a day opposed to once a day. More frequent feedings will keep your wrasse content, and make them less likely to bother Cleaner Shrimp and other small fish in your tank.

Christmas Wrasse Size & Lifespan

At full maturity, Christmas Wrasse can grow up to 11 inches long. Some keepers of Christmas Wrasse have recorded them growing almost 12 inches long. Christmas Wrasse can live anywhere from 5 to 8 years, if they are cared for properly, and maintained in the appropriate setup.

Christmas Wrasse Tank Setup

When setting up an aquarium for Christmas Wrasse, it is best to keep the tank as close to their natural environment as possible. This will make the fish feel more comfortable and happy. When setting up a tank for Christmas Wrasse, you will want to include a nice sandy substrate that is at least 2 to 3 inches deep. Make sure that is deep enough for your Christmas Wrasse to hide itself under. Christmas Wrasse will hide under the substrate when frightened, and stressed. It is important to give them enough substrate so that they can destress if they need to. Stressed out fish are more susceptible to sickness and parasites.

Christmas Wrasse do well in reef aquariums with larger amounts of live rock for them to explore and hide in. Like most fish in the Wrasse species, you will want to make sure that your tank has a secure lid, as they can jump out.

Are Christmas Wrasse Reef Safe?

Christmas Wrasse are considered reef safe, and they are usually in large reef aquariums. Still, you will want to use caution before adding them into a reef aquarium. They will leave Coral and clams alone, but as they grow they may go after shrimp. Christmas Wrasse are great fish at keeping flatworms or pyramid snails out of your tank, but you will want to be sure to pair them with other fish that are around the same size and temperament so that there aren’t any problems.

Christmas Wrasse Tank Mates

Christmas Wrasse are more considered peaceful, non aggressive fish. It is recommended that they share a tank with other Wrasse species, Cleaner Shrimp, and other peaceful fish. You will not want to pair them with fish that are territorial, aggressive, or competitive at feeding time. For best results, you will want to keep only one Christmas Wrasse in your tank.

Are Christmas Wrasses Aggressive?

Christmas Wrasses are not considered aggressive fish, and can be successfully placed in a community tank under the right conditions. You will just want to make sure that you are monitoring any new fish you add to your established home setup so that you can correct any problems as they arise. This is key to the health and happiness of your fish. Christmas Wrasse will hide if they are stressed, and this can make it easier to spot potential issues.

Christmas Wrasse and Cleaner Shrimp

The success of keeping Christmas Wrasse and Cleaner Shrimp together is largely dependent on if the fish are being fed the proper diet. Christmas Wrasse can and have been kept successfully with Cleaner Shrimp as long as their needs are being met.

Christmas Wrasse Breeding

Christmas Wrasse have better successful breeding odds when one male is kept in a harem with several females. If the male dies, one of the females from the harem will change into a male, and he will then take over the harem. Christmas Wrasse spawn during the day. You will be able to tell by observing your Christmas Wrasse when they are ready to spawn. The coloration of the male Christmas Wrasse will deepen, and you will notice them swimming back and forth while waving their pectoral fins a lot.

Christmas Wrasse are not typically bred in a home aquarium, not that it hasn’t been done, it’s just rare. These fish have a habit of changing to male in a home aquarium setting. This can become very frustrating for people who are trying to breed them in captivity. It has been suggested that you purchase an already bonded pair, but even then, you will still have the potential problem of them both becoming male.

Christmas Wrasse Males and Females

Christmas Wrasse are a tricky fish to distinguish male from female, as they may change color or even sex during their lives. When the species is male, it is more brightly colored. The females will display a more dull green body with black lines. Males have a more solid colored head, while the females have more spotted heads. Both males and females will be more dull brown and green colored as juveniles.

Christmas Wrasse Disease

Christmas Wrasse are susceptible to bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections. You will be able to notice your fish behaving differently, scraping themselves on rocks, or hiding under the substrate. Christmas Wrasse dive under the substrate often, and a common injury for them to get is one they sustain when diving under the sand.

Where Can I Find Christmas Wrasses for Sale?

Unfortunately, Christmas Wrasse do not ship well, and can often stress to the point of starvation and eventually death of the fish. It is for this reason that you will want to ensure that you are buying your Christmas Wrasse from a reputable shop or breeder. If you can see that the Christmas Wrasse you are considering purchasing is eating, then the chances are that it will survive the journey to its new home. It can take a while for Christmas Wrasse to acclimate to their new home, so make sure that you give them some time to adjust and destress, while also monitoring their water parameters closely. You can expect to pay around $35 per fish.

Christmas Wrasse vs Melanurus Wrasse

Melanurus Wrasse are very similar to Christmas Wrasse except they are much smaller. At their adult size, they are less than half the length of Christmas Wrasse. Christmas Wrasse are similarly colored to Melanurus Wrasse, they just have a different pattern. Melanurus Wrasse have similar water parameters, diets, temperaments, and tank requirements. In fact, it is even possible to house the two fish together as long as you give them time to acclimate to one another via the acclimation box. An acclimation box does not have to be fancy, but they are extremely helpful when introducing new fish into your community tank.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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