Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus): Care Guide

Common Name(s)Melanurus Wrasse
Scientific NameHalichoeres melanurus
OriginWestern Pacific (Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Melanesia, Japan, Samoa, Tonga)
Temperature72-78°F (22-26°C)
Size5 inches (12.7 cm)
Minimum Tank Size100 gallons (455 L)
Food & DietCarnivorous
Lifespan4-10 years
Water pH8.0-8.5
Tank MatesThese are peaceful fish, but they may eat other invertebrates in tank.
BreedingBreeding pair spawn hundreds or thousands of pelagic eggs into the water column.
DiseaseThey are hardy fish, but may be susceptible bacterial and viral diseases.
Melanurus Wrasse
Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus)

Melanurus Wrasse Care

Melanurus Wrasse are an ideal starter wrasse for beginner aquarists wishing to own one of these fish. Their striking colors are beautiful to look at, with their pigmentation becoming more vibrant the older they become. This Western Pacific fish has a healthy appetite, even devouring parasites and pecking their tank mates clean. Melanurus Wrasse are also known as: Hoeven’s Wrasse, Tail Spot Wrasse, Yellow-lined Wrasse, Orange-tipped Rainbowfish, Tailspot Wrasse, and Pinstriped Wrasse. Sometimes Melanurus Wrasse are mistakes for Pink Face, Christmas, or Ornate Wrasses. Generally, this marine fish is peaceful and has the fascinating ability to transition between sexes when young. Their tank set up is simple and acclimatizing them takes 3 hours, although, they will require 7 days (or more) to really settle into their new home. Melanurus Wrasse are on the more expensive side, due to the fact that almost all of them are wild-caught, thus are priced between $40 and $60. Nevertheless, Melanurus Wrasse remain a favorite amongst hobbyists who prefer to focus on the positives of this fish.


Melanurus Wrasse prefer warmer temperatures, given that they habit coral reefs where the waters are tepid. As a general rule, their tank water should settle at a range between 72-78°F (22-26°C)  and anything below this would severely endanger Melanurus Wrasse, consequently leading to their death. An aquarium heater would be ideal for fish keepers to own, but regular monitoring is necessary to ensure the Melanurus Wrasse have a suitable enough environment to live in.

Water pH

Keepers who want their Melanurus Wrasse to have a long lifespan must make sure the tank’s water stays at a healthy pH range between 8.0-8.5.Water Parameters

Because of the Melanurus Wrasse saltwater nature, it is vital that keepers maintain their tank’s water salinity between 1.020 sg to 1.025 sg. Their water must be hard, with a degree of hardness ranging from 10 to 15 (dGH).

Melanurus Wrasse Size

Melanurus Wrasse may start off with a size of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), maturing to the maximum size of 5 inches (12.7 cm).

Melanurus Wrasse Tank Size

Juvenile Melanurus Wrasse will do fine in a tank of 50 gallons (225 L). However, this species typically grows up to 5 inches (12.7 cm). As an adult, Melanurus Wrasse will require a minimum tank size of 100-125 gallons (455-568 liters). Wild Melanurus Wrasse stay in marine waters with a depth range of 1 to 15 m (100 cm to 1500 cm), which is why the tank’s height should generally be larger than its width.  

Melanurus Wrasse Food & Diet

A carnivorous species, wild Melanurus Wrasse feed on small invertebrates and will happily consume any matter of bite-sized meat several times a day, whether in flakes, pellet-form, frozen or fresh. Melanurus Wrasse eat brine, shrimp (e.g. mysis), snails (e.g. pyramidellid), Montipora-eating nudibranches, clams, krill, seafood (e.g. squid), and just about any pests found in aquariums, including bristle worms and flatworms. It is best to cut the fresher food into pieces because the natural act of eating these meaty chunks will feel more familiar for the Melanurus Wrasse. This species needs a varied diet full of vitamins and leaving it to scavenge for food long-term won’t ensure that they are consuming the right amount of nutrients – which impacts the brightness of their scale. 

Melanurus Wrasse Lifespan

Melanurus Wrasse are a hardy species, with their lifespan ranging anywhere from 4 to 10 years, provided that they are healthy and have everything they need to thrive.

All About The Melanurus Wrasse or Hoeven’s or Wardley

Melanurus Wrasse Tank Mates

Aquarists may be surprised to learn that Melanurus Wrasse are quite peaceful, despite their predatory characteristics and penchant for meat. They have the propensity to co-exist with their own kind and other friendly species, however, that does not mean they are completely non-aggressive. Because of their great appetite, Melanurus Wrasse can display bullying behavior towards smaller fish when hunting and aquarist must exercise caution when choosing tank mates. Male Melanurus Wrasse can easily harm their tank mates and each other when they become territorial, which only increases the older they become. Thus, it is recommended that aquariums only house one Melanurus Wrasse at a time.

Melanurus Wrasse have the tendency to devour small crustaceans, worms, and mollusks. Therefore, it is best to limit their numbers for the sake of the ecosystem. Melanurus Wrasse should not live amongst larger fish, as it can cause them stress, as they will be nipped and harassed by the others. Aquarists need to avoid fish such as: Frogfish, Waspfish, Lionfish, Triggerfish, Scorpionfish, Groupers, Soapfish, Toadfish, larger species of wrasse, and puffer fish. Copepod-eating fish should also be avoided, due to their similar diet and with the Melanurus Wrasses’ huge appetite, other fish will end up starving to death. Melanurus Wrasse are generally difficult to house in established community tanks, despite how meek they can be. Some suitable saltwater tank mates for Melanurus Wrasses can include: clownfish, neon goby, and Banggai cardinalfish.

Aquarists wanting to house Melanurus Wrasse with other species of Wrasse must avoid purchasing two male Wrasse, fish that are larger, similar in color/pattern and slow-swimming long-finned species. Wrasse need to be introduced to each other by keeping them in an acclimation box/tank for a minimum of 3 days (maximum a week). In addition, it is best to keep them in a tank with wide-enough space and feed them heavily at first in order to make sure they won’t go after each other. Unfortunately, if there are instances of high-aggression for more than a week, the Wrasse will need to be separated in different tanks or returned to the pet shop.

Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) and Yellow Coris Wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus)

Yellow Coris Wrasse, more commonly known as Canary Wrasse, Yellow Coris, Golden Wrasse, Golden Rainbowfish or Yellow Wrasse, is a species of Wrasse that can be spotted in the Eastern Indian Ocean, Western Pacific Ocean (Solomon Islands), Southern Japan (north), and Australia (New South Wales). Yellow Coris Wrasse are very similar to Melanurus Wrasse, with the exception of their coloration. Like their name suggests, Yellow Coris Wrasse have a striking yellow color, which changes according to their age, while Melanurus Wrasse are bright blue-green with yellow/orange/pink accent lines on their sides. Both Wrasse species have different color/patterns, depending on what gender they are. Melanurus Wrasse and Yellow Coris Wrasse may be kept in the same tank with proper planning. Hobbyists will need a large enough tank, must avoid keeping two male Wrasse together, use an acclimation box for a minimum of 3 days, and must feed them heavily in the first week. With these precautions in place, the two Wrasse species will be able to co-exist peacefully in the same aquarium.

Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) and Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon meleagris)

Common names for Leopard Wrasse include: African Leopard Wrasse, Guinea Fowl Wrasse, Black-Spotted Wrasse, Ornate Leopard Wrasse, Choats Wrasse, Vermiculate Wrasse, Potters Leopard Wrasse, Yellow-Spotted Leopard Wrasse, Geoffroys Wrasse, Eastern Leopard Wrasse, Reticulated Wrasse and Splendid Leopard Wrasse. This species habits coral reefs in the Eastern Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Leopard Wrasse are less hardy compared to Melanurus Wrasse and are prone to starvation if they lack a proper diet. Leopard Wrasse are for more advanced fish keepers, because their care is slightly more complex. Leopard Wrasse don’t do well in small spaces and will stress easily (especially the males), thus a tank of 100 gallons (455 L) or more is required per each fish. pH tests must be conducted on their food to ensure the correct acidity and quality. Leopard Wrasse grow up to 6 inches (15.3 cm), which is slightly larger compared to Melanurus Wrasse. Like the Melanurus Wrasse, Leopard Wrasse have colour variations depending on gender. Unfortunately the two species are not compatible and will most likely fight each other due to territory issues, even with the proper precautions in place.

Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) and Sixline Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia)

Sixline Wrasse, also known as Six Stripe(d) Wrasse, Pyjama Wrasse and Striped Wrasse, live in tropical marine waters from East to South Africa, the Indian Ocean, Western Pacific Ocean, parts of northwestern and southeastern Australia, and the northern areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Sixline Wrasse are as hardy as Melanurus Wrasse, once they are acclimated to an established aquarium. Both Melanurus Wrasse and Sixline Wrasse males are larger than their female counterparts, and display intense violet, orange, blue, and red coloring during mating. Wild Sixline Wrasses are one of the more timid of Wrasse, with a tendency to hide in captivity at first, but will become more active once they become used to their new environment. This species will display aggressive behavior towards smaller fish and will harm them, hence any fish smaller than 4 inches (10cm) remains in danger. Sixline Wrasse are ill-matched with other Wrasse and will bully peaceful fish, should they lack places to hide and a good diet. A tank of no less than 100 gallons (455 L) is recommended if fish keepers want to house Sixline Wrasses with others, though they are better off by themselves.

Melanurus Wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) and Mandarin Fish (Synchiropus splendidus)

Mandarin Fish are members of the dragonet family, contrast to Melanurus who belong to the Labridae family. Both are brightly colored, with Mandarin Fish displaying vibrant blue-green coloration with orange swirls and stripes. Mandarin Fish are also referred to as: Mandarin Dragonet, Mandarin Goby, Striped Dragonet, and Psychedelic Mandarin Fish. Unlike Melanurus Wrasse, they are slow-moving, grow to a mere 2.4 inches (6cm) and are picky eaters. Mandarin Fish consume isopods, ostracods copepods, harpacticoids, gastropods/polychaete worms, and fish eggs during daytime. Both species are saltwater in nature, but Melanurus Wrasse have an easier time in aquariums, while Mandarin Fish sometimes perish in captivity because they will only eat fresh amphipods and copepods. Despite their fussy eating habits, the Mandarin Fish that do survive are very disease-resistant, due to their lack of scales and their thick, pungent, aposematic, slimy mucus-layered skin – which wards off parasitic invasions and predators. Melanurus Wrasse are generally unsuited with Mandarin Fish, because they will be seen as prey due to their smaller size. Wrasses belonging to the Cirrhilabrus and Paracheilinus genus are more ideal for Mandarin Fish, since they possess a diet of zooplankton and will not try to eat their tank mates.

Melanurus Wrasse and Shrimp

 If a Shrimp is smaller in size compared to the Melanurus Wrasse, then they will be seen as prey. The two species become incompatible if the smaller shrimp lack safe spaces to hide from predators, in addition to the Melanurus Wrasse not being fed enough. It is advised that hobbyists do their research and take safety measures to ensure the welfare of their fish.

Will Melanurus Wrasse eat Cleaner Shrimp?

Cleaner Shrimp are theoretically safe from Melanurus Wrasse, provided that they have enough hiding places. The Wrasse will need to be well-fed in, otherwise they will go after its smaller tanks mates (including Cleaner Shrimp) to replenish their nutritional needs. Hobbyists will need to consider the risks of housing these two species in one tank.

Will Melanurus Wrasse eat Peppermint Shrimp?

Melanurus Wrasse will typically devour Peppermint Shrimp, therefore it is best to keep these two separate for their safety. Peppermint Shrimp may carry parasites and bacteria, which can infect Melanurus Wrasse if they consume them.

Melanurus Wrasse and Clams

Melanurus Wrasse who are underfed and possess an aggressive temperament will harass nearby clams, and even eat them. Thus, aquarists will need to be careful when putting these two species in the same tank.

Melanurus Wrasse and Snails

Melanurus Wrasse and smaller snails do not do well in one tank, as they are likely to get eaten by the wrasse. However, Melanurus Wrasse usually won’t bother larger snails, especially if they are added to the aquarium at a time that the Melanurus Wrasse are hiding/sleeping.

Melanurus Wrasse and Nudibranch

Nudibranches are classed as aquarium pests, and if a peckish Melanurus Wrasse spots a Montipora-eating Nudibranch, then they will predictably ingest them.

Melanurus Wrasse Tank Setup

A tall reef tank is a good choice for Melanurus Wrasse, who will need a tank of no less than 100 gallons (455 L). Being the avid jumpers that they are, a tight-fitting, gapless lid or screen cover must be secured on top, which will keep the Melanurus Wrasse from accidentally jumping out of their tank. Belonging to the Halichoeres genus, Melanurus Wrasse will require soft sand substrate the size of sugar grains, of at least 2/3 inches (5/7.5cm). They use this to cover themselves when sleeping or feeling unsafe. It is important to acclimate any new coral that will be added to the saltwater tank, which will minimize stress and decrease the likelihood of invasive pests crossing into the water. Corals and Melanurus Wrasse must be acclimated to the tank’s water parameters in order to ensure a danger-free transition for their ultimate comfort.

Are Melanurus Wrasse Reef Safe?

Melanurus Wrasse are reef safe and will not disturb coral or anemones, however, they may eat smaller copepods and crustaceans, being the enthusiastic, carnivorous feeders that they are.

Melanurus Wrasse Breeding

Melanurus Wrasse are protogynous hermaphrodites and are born as females, with the ability to change into males on a molecular level. Natural sex change occurs in non-captive Melanurus Wrasse who organize their school with one half remaining as the designated female breeders, while the other half mate with the females. If the male leader perishes or no longer has control of their school, then a dominant female will transition into a male, changing their color and taking the position of leader.

Most juvenile Melanurus Wrasse will transition into a terminal male if there are no males present in their tank. Captive Melanurus Wrasses are incredibly difficult to breed and although they are able to mate successfully with little trouble, the issue lies with the young fry, who tend to perish in tanks.

Melanurus Wrasse Male vs Female

Female Melanurus Wrasse posses ocelli markings (eye spots) on their dorsal and caudal fins, while their male counterparts are more intense in coloration and will flash females, similar to how peacocks show off their plumage.

Melanurus Wrasse Disease

Melanurus Wrasse are described as hardy and disease-resistant, nevertheless this species is wild-caught and may carry bacteria or viruses. Aquarists must be careful with new Melanurus Wrasse and keep them separate from community aquariums. The fish will need to be observed for any signs of contagions/injuries, so that proper medical treatments (such as copper sulfate) can be given. Bulging eyes in Melanurus Wrasse indicates an eye injury and will generally heal on its own, however, antibiotics must be administered if this does not go away. Torn/frayed fins is evidence of fights with other fish or bacterial infections (e.g. fin rot), which will also require antibiotics. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) and Velvet disease are signs of parasitic infections that need copper-based medication to fight it.

Melanurus Wrasse Behavior

Once Melanurus Wrasse become comfortable in their new environment, they are found to be extremely active, zooming around and scavenging for food near the rocks and reef. They are ‘cleaner fish’ and will remove any parasites from other fish or snack on invasive species in the tank. Melanurus Wrasses like to hide in their sandy substrate if they are nervous or sleeping, and will readily flash their vibrant colors.

Why is Melanurus Wrasse hiding?

All Melanurus Wrasse are wild-caught, meaning that they have been taken out of their natural habitat. They might have been shipped elsewhere, so stress can cause this species to instinctively want to hide themselves in sand. New Melanurus Wrasse will cover themselves in sand and might stay there for a week (or longer), which is normal behavior. Fish keepers should not attempt to dig them out, instead they should allow the fish to get used to their new surroundings. Melanurus Wrasse will emerge on their own when they are ready to explore the 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.

Recent Posts