Flasher Wrasse

The species in the genus Paracheilinus are appropriately called flasher wrasses and they are very closely related to fairy wrasses.  Their name is derived from their grandeur “flashing” behavior observed during courting or mating where the male will make quick, exaggerated lateral moves while intensifying his colors and erecting his fins to attract a mate.  The genus is composed of over a dozen species that have been kept by many aquarists around the world.  They do not have quite the variation of the fairy wrasses but there is still a good bit of variation.

They are often overlooked because of their small size and because they are often placed in holding tanks where they hide or do not show off their true beauty. The flasher wrasses are not a threat to invertebrates, with the possible exception of small anemone shrimp. As a result, they are welcome introductions to the invertebrate tank. They are also great for reef tanks because they spend most of their time in the water column and can encourage shy fishes to spend more time in the open.

Flasher Wrasse Care

The Flasher Wrasse shows different morphology during its juvenile stage and adult stage. With its stunning color, the Flasher Wrasse makes a great choice and colorful addition to any tank. It is very good jumper, so an aquarium with a closed lid is necessary to prevent it coming out of the tank accidentally. Sometimes, the Flasher Wrasse can be harassed by other species so it should be introduced first, especially the female Flasher Wrasse. The colors of the adult male Flasher Wrasse intensifies during courtship, whereas the females coloration is subdued. Although the male Flasher Wrasse may chase other zooplankton feeders, it is a medium maintenance fish and requires 30 gallon or larger aquarium. It is not that aggressive toward non related species, and is best to keep the Flasher Wrasse with peaceful tank mates, and usually only one male is advised to keep in a tank to avoid aggressive behavior. The Flasher Wrasse should feed on finely chopped meats and live on frozen brine and Mysis shrimps. It thrives well in a temperature range of 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit, and pH of 8.1-8.4, standard for saltwater aquariums.

A Female Flasher Wrasse with Less Flamboyant Fins and Color
A Female Flasher Wrasse with Less flamboyant fins and color

Since they are closely related to the fairy wrasse, males might result from a female that has undergone a sex change, also known as a “protogynous hermaphrodite.”  It is better to house a dominant looking male with less dominant and colorful looking females to minimize aggression.  Flasher wrasses are often kept with fairy wrasses or other types of small wrasses.   Make sure you add all of them at the same time or put the less aggressive females in before the male. It is best to only house one male flasher wrasse per tank.

Male Flasher Wrasse with more elaborate fins and color
Male Flasher Wrasse with more elaborate fins and color

If you have a larger male and a similar looking but smaller male, the smaller male is likely to be bullied. This usually leads to the demise of the other male. but if you keep multiple males it is best to make sure they each have plenty of space … at least 40 gallons per male. One of the most rewarding things about keeping flasher wrasses in groups is that the males will display more if females are present. These colorful displays are important in courtship. Solitary males will occasionally “flash” at their reflections in the aquarium glass.

They are more delicate than fairy wrasses and need to be housed with more passive fish in general.  Their enemies can include aggressive pygmy angelfishes, dottybacks, damsels, large wrasses of other species (especially if these wrasses are introduced before them), and of course any fish that can swallow them such as frogfishes, scorpionfishes, groupers. They are particularly vulnerable to combative species in smaller aquariums like aggressive damsels. If they are persistently harassed when introduced to a tank, they will hide and never come out to feed. Therefore, if you are going to keep them with potentially quarrelsome fish, they should be the first fish added to the tank after it has cycled.  Flasher wrasses can also fall victim to really large hermit crabs (golfball size or bigger,) large elephant ear corals, or anemones.  Flashers should be kept with smaller angelfishes, chromis, smaller wrasses of different genera, cardinal fish, butterflyfishes, and other passive and non-aggressive fish.

Flasher Wrasse Diet

Flasher wrasses should be fed two or three times a day in order to maintain their body weight. Since they feed on zooplankton and rarely pick at organisms on live rock, they will not thrive in the reef tank if they are fed infrequently.  Avoid purchasing specimens that show signs of emaciation, like a pinched-in stomach or atrophied dorsal musculature. Although they can contract ich, they are not especially susceptible to this infection. Like all your newly acquired specimens, they should be quarantined before they are added to the display tank.

The flasher wrasses are plankton feeders and are very easy to feed in the captive environment. They feed well on variety of foods including wet or freeze-dried brine shrimp, flake foods, fresh small clams and a variety of other meaty foods. With proper care, they can live long in captivity. Remember, that like fairy wrasses they can be jumpers in non-covered tanks and need many crevices for hiding and also plenty of open space to swim freely. For adult flasher wrasses a tank size of at least 30-50 gallons is best. Unlike some other wrasses that sleep in the sand, they do not need a sand bed as flasher wrasses create a mucus cocoon over their bodies for sleeping. Otherwise, they generally require the same care as the related fairy wrasses. If you are lucky enough to find several individuals of the same species at a retailer, you should choose the largest specimen first and then select other, smaller males or females. Introduce all of them into the tank at the same time or release the younger or smaller specimens first in order to minimize the larger fish from picking on the smaller ones.

Flasher Wrasse Species

Carpenter’s Flasher Wrasse (Paracheilinus carpenteri)

Carpenter Flasher Wrasse
Carpenter Flasher Wrasse

The Carpenter’s Flasher Wrasse, also known as the Carpenter’s Wrasse, or Redfin Flasher Wrasse, is orange with blue vertical stripes as a juvenile. As the fish matures and becomes an adult, the coloration becomes yellow with a series of broken blue horizontal stripes. The dorsal fin features three elongated rays and is red in color accented with yellows and blues. The colors of the adult males intensify when in courtship, whereas the females coloration and overall appearance are more subdued. The females also do not feature the large dorsal and anal fins.

The Carpenter’s Flasher Wrasse requires a 55 gallon or larger aquarium with a tight-fitting lid since it is a jumper. A grouping is acceptable and often recommended, since the females will encourage the male to perform colorful displays. The females should be introduced into the tank first. It is often harassed by other fish so the Carpenter’s Flasher Wrasse should be the first species introduced into the aquarium. It is best to keep it with peaceful tank mates.

McCosker’s Flasher Wrasse (Paracheilinus mccoskeri)        

McCosker's Flasher Wrasse
McCosker’s Flasher Wrasse

The McCosker’s Flasher Wrasse is an attractive reef-safe wrasse. This hardy wrasse species adapts well to established home aquariums, making it a beautiful and active addition. The vibrantly colored male McCosker’s Flasher Wrasse is predominantly red/orange with blue, horizontal stripes that complement its yellow stomach. The orange dorsal fin is accented with red, yellow, and blue and features a single elongated ray. A gorgeous, red band across the orange anal fin creates an impressive and bold color palette. The female coloration and overall appearance is more subdued. The females also do not feature the large dorsal and anal fins.

The McCosker’s Flasher Wrasse requires a 55 gallon aquarium (or larger) with a tight-fitting lid since it is a jumper. Often found along reef slopes and rubble zones, the McCosker’s Flasher Wrasse will often swim near the bottom and tends to form small groups where a male swims back and forth between groups of females. The colors of an adult male intensifies during courtship and he may flare or “flash” his fins to attract females. We recommend only one male per aquarium display.

Blue Flasher Wrasse (Paracheilinus cyaneus)        

Blue Flasher Wrasse
Blue Flasher Wrasse

The Blue Flasher Wrasse is a dazzling species that exemplifies the beauty of the genus Paracheilinus. This gorgeous wrasse invigorates peaceful marine aquariums with amazing color, spectacular finnage and dynamic activity. In fact, the boisterous activity of the Blue Flasher Wrasse can embolden shy fishes to spend more time in the open. Posing little threat to most invertebrates, the Blue Flasher Wrasse is a highly-desirable addition to the peaceful community reef aquarium.

The Blue Flasher Wrasse sports a vibrant coloration that immediately catches the eye. The predominant red coloration provides a striking background for the stitching of blue coloration that runs across its body in layers. Demonstrating sexual dichromatism, the coloration of male and female Blue Flasher Wrasse is distinct in difference. The female is more uniform in coloration, demonstrating a subdued elegance. In contrast, the male Blue Flasher Wrasse can exhibit a wild array of color. When the male Blue Flasher Wrasse develops its display coloration, it is easy to understand why it is also known as the Peacock Flasher Wrasse. The back develops a spectacular metallic blue coloration that is simply electrifying. The 8 elongated dorsal fin filaments and a pair of tail filaments add to the showy visual display of the male Blue Flasher Wrasse.

The Blue Flasher Wrasse will benefit from rockwork aquascaped with plenty of caves and crevices where a quick retreat is possible if threatened. If possible, the Blue Flasher Wrasse is best kept in small harem groups of a male and a couple of females. To maximize success introduce all the Blue Flasher Wrasse at the same time or introduce the females before the male. A tight-fitting canopy is also recommended.

Yellowfin Flasher Wrasse (Paracheilinus flavianalis)        

Yellowfin Flasher Wrasse
Yellowfin Flasher Wrasse

Like most of the other wrasses, the color of the female is subdued when comparing it to the brilliance of the male. The male during courting will change colors very rapidly, giving it its common name. Colors may vary depending on the fish’s mood, and the exact locale of collection, and age of the fish, but most adult male Yellowfin Flasher Wrasse are vivid red in color, with subtle blue running at the base of the dorsal fin. Oftentimes there is a faint blue stripe running down the length of the body through the center of the caudal fin (tail). These fish are unique in having one to four red/orange filaments off of the dorsal fin, which can change coloration to white or yellow during their courting display.

These are just some of the species of flasher wrasses often found available for sale.  They can look similar to one another and are sometime mislabeled.  If you can find a dominant looking make and a couple or a few of less colorful and dominant looking females they should make for a great group in a mid size reef aquarium and can be housed with other passive fish for a fantastic looking community reef aquarium.  Just be sure to have an enclosed canopy, have a mature live rock system with lots of copepods for them to snack on as needed and feed often.