Line Wrasses

Line Wrasses are from the genus Pseudocheilinus and are comprised of eight small, colorful species.  All of the line wrasses are relatively secretive, remaining under ledges, in large crevices, among rubble or amid the branches of stony corals. Because of their small size, they are a potential target for many predators, hence their wary natures.  They can be labeled a four line wrasse, six line wrasse, eight line wrasse, blue line wrasse, or even a red line wrasse are often found for sale but others might be found as well.  As always be sure you try to be familiar with the exact species you are getting before purchase as there are subtle differences.

"Four" Line Wrasse
“Four” Line Wrasse

The four and six line wrasse will grow to only about 3″ long, the red line wrasse about 4″, and the eight line wrasse to about 5″ long but they all have a personality that is bigger than their size would indicate.  Generally, the more lines you see the bigger they can get.

Unlike some of the other wrasses, the line wrasses do not usually bury at night or when danger threatens – instead, they hide in reef interstices.  These wrasses will often form a mucus cocoon when they slumber as will other many other wrasses. There is some evidence that it is a hermaphrodite and females will become females like other species of wrasses.

Food habit data is available for two species. The larger Eight line Wrasse feeds primarily on small crabs and other crustaceans, mollusks, tiny sea urchins and fish eggs and is not considered reef safe. The more diminutive Six line Wrasse feeds heavily on small shrimp and isopods, and other small organisms. It may also serve as a facultative cleaner, nipping parasitic isopods and copepods off of the fins and bodies of other fishes.

When it comes to their care, the biggest problem with the line wrasses is that they often suffer from stress related illness during shipping. In part, this may be due to copious slime production in the bag, which may interfere with respiration. If you get a healthy individual to begin with, these tend to be very durable little fishes.  It’s a good idea to take your time and slowly acclimate your lined wrasse into a quarantine tank and keep them there for a while so you can get them eating and so you can monitor them for signs of disease. Getting them out of a tank full of live rock is not fun. Use this time while they are in quarantine to give them highly nutritious fish foods to help them overcome the stresses of shipping.

Feed line wrasses a varied diet that includes finely chopped sea foods, frozen preparations for carnivores and high quality marine flake or pellet food. In a mature reef aquarium, these fishes will only need to be fed once a day as it will forage on micro-invertebrates on the live rock. Other wrasses should be fed more often, at least twice a day.  Once it acclimates to the aquarium, it is an aggressive feeder that can compete with most fish tankmates. However, make sure newly acquired individuals get enough to eat if housed with boisterous fishes.

Six Line Wrasse sleeping in mucous cocoon
Six Line Wrasse sleeping in mucous cocoon

Being a popular Wrasse species, the Six line Wrasse certainly makes a tremendous addition to your home aquarium or fish tanks. The Six line Wrasse is reef safe and has a blue body with six orange horizontal stripes racing from head to tail with a petite “false eye” at the base along with green tail fins. This false eye is structured to confuse predators and gives this intelligent fish a nice chance to escape. The Six line Wrasse is mesmerizing which makesyour aquarium captivating and beautiful to watch. It is a very active fish and loves to wander in the tank with curiosity. The Six line Wrasse loves to spend most of its time swimming and darting in and out the rocky caves. Its active swimming style makes it as popular as its vibrant colored body. The Six line Wrasse is very easy to maintain and does not need any kind of extra treatments or care. It even eats bristle worms and flat worms. The Six line Wrasse has powerful jaws that enable them to crush their food, which includes worms.  They should be kept singly unless it’s in a large tank as it is not that social with other Wrasse species.

Blue Line Wrasse
Blue Line Wrasse

Line wrasses can also be aggressive towards closely related, similarly shaped species or fishes added to a tank once they have become established residents. Even the more diminutive Six line Wrasse can become a bully in the tank if small docile species are added to its domain. This is less of a problem if your tank is large and replete with hiding places. The larger line wrasses may thin out your shrimp and crab stocks. They will occasionally leap out of an open aquarium when the lights are extinguished or when they are harassed by other fish. When selecting a specimen, avoid those that are producing excessive amounts of slime, this usually indicates a parasitic skin infection.  Though they are shy secretive fish in the wild, once they become acclimated to the home aquarium they become quite boisterous.   They are basically reef safe with more semi-aggressive fish such as tangs, angels, and butterflies. They will not harm corals or coral anemones. They can also be kept in a non-reef setting with goatfish, puffers, and squirrelfish.

The larger Eight Line Wrasse
The larger Eight Line Wrasse

For the larger lined wrasses, avoid invertebrates such as small shrimp, or fish that are much smaller than they are as they will become a quick meal. It may be feasible to keep them with larger crustaceans however, as they reportedly are more amiable towards larger cleaner, marble and coral shrimp.  They have been known to go after small snails as well.   Avoid shy fish such as firefish, gobies, grammas, fairy wrasses, flasher wrasses, leopard wrasses, and others.  They will also out compete the mandarins and other fish for food. Slow-moving feeders such as pipefish and seahorses will starve in their presence. On the other hand, large predators such as groupers, lionfish, and scorpion fish will eat even the larger lined wrasses in a heartbeat.

It seems there is a direct correlation between size and sex for the Line Wrasses. The males are generally the largest, with females coming in second and immature fish being the smallest.  The males will show off a more intense coloring during mating.

Behaviorally they may be kept in multiples in larger tanks but may get aggressive with other line wrasses in smaller tanks. Keeping them with other wrasse species is not recommended in smaller tanks (like less than 100 gallons). They should do fine with other marine fish species though but each fish can be different and you’ll need to watch closely when first introducing them to your tank. It is recommended that they are one of the last species introduced to your tank to help limit aggression.

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