Lyretail Wrasses

An Ancient Lyre
An Ancient Lyre, hence “Lyretail”

The Lyretail Wrasses are from the genus Thalassoma and are also sometimes called the banana wrasses due to their banana like shape.  The term “Lyretail” is commonly used in fish names to refer to types of fish with a tail shaped like the lyre, an ancient harp like instrument.

Wrasses from the genus Thalassoma are also identifiable by way of their banana or cigar-like shape, their unique way of swimming and their generally striking coloration. Like most wrasses (Family Labridae), they possess a protrusable jaw, which aids in foraging in nooks and crannies on the reef. Originating from the Greek and translating roughly as “the color of the sea,” there are roughly 30 species in the genus that inhabit tropical and subtropical reefs in every major ocean.

The Lunare Lyretail Wrasse

The Lunare or Moon Wrasse
The Lunare or Moon Wrasse

The Lunare Wrasse is the definitive lyretail wrasse and is sometimes called “The Lyretail Wrasse.”  The Lunare Wrasse is also named the Moon Wrasse because of its yellow caudal fin shapes like crescent moon with long upper and lower lobes. They are easy to maintain and have a longer life span in the aquarium. With their beautiful coloration, the Lunare Wrasse fish can make a great addition to an aquarium. The Lunare Wrasse does not even bother corals but they consume crustaceans and invertebrates and so are often not considered reef friendly. When frightened, the Lunare Wrasse will hide in the rock work or may bury themselves in the sand. They get along with the other tank mates quite well and can consume any prepared food that are provided to them. The Lunare Wrasse has striking pink and green coloration and when it moves in the water gracefully. They are a gorgeous fish and are very good at jumping, therefore it is advised to keep them in a closed aquarium that prevents them to come out of the aquarium just like with other wrasses.   The Lunare wrasse will get up to a hefty 10 inches and need at least a 100 gallon tank.

The Bluehead Lyretail Wrasse

lyretail wrasse blue
Bluehead Lyretail Wrasse

The most striking in coloration of all the Lyretail Wrasses is the bluehead wrasse.  The head is deep blue, the posterior half of the body green, sometimes taking on a yellow tinge. A slim but active little fish, it paddles its way about the tank with the pectoral fins only. It inhabits the reefs of Florida, Bermuda, Bahamas and West Indies.  The Bluehead is a bit smaller than the lunare wrasse at about 7 inches full grown in an aquarium.

Lyretail Wrasses Care and Maintenance

An adult male Lyretail Wrasse will usually have a different coloration as compared to juvenile. As an adult the lyretail wrasse fish can become aggressive and become territorial in nature.  Although they feed on anything that is given, sometimes the lyretail wrasse even feeds on snails, brittle stars, and Mantis shrimps. Breeding is not yet achieved in captivity. They usually have powerful jaws that enable them to feed over meaty foods such as worms and shrimps. We also suggest you keeping a few live rocks and sand bed in your home aquarium.  The adults will usually be between 7″ to 10″ long and need an aquarium 80-120 gallons.  They can be kept with Tangs, Angels, Triggers , larger Clowns and Hawkfish and generally any decent sized fish that aren’t too passive.

It is wise to add any Thalassoma species close to the end of your planned stocking, as these fishes can become quite territorial and display aggressive behavior toward any similar or smaller sized fish which you add later. While fairly hardy, these fishes—especially larger specimens—are notoriously poor shippers like with other wrasses. As juveniles, some Lyretail Wrasses will clean parasites off of other fish.  A few of the species will host in anemones as juveniles.

Lyretail Wrasses can only be considered reef safe “with caution,” as they are known to eat both nuisance and ornamental invertebrates. They should leave coral alone, but your small fishes may not be so lucky. While Lyretail Wrasses do not absolutely need a sandbed (like some other wrasses), they prefer a tank that has one, as they will burrow when frightened. At night they will sleep on the sandbed or amongst rockwork and coral branches.

Plan on keeping only one male per aquarium unless the aquarium is very large. While these fishes live in harems in the wild, a male female pair should only be attempted in an aquarium that is 135 gallons or larger. They are protogynous hermaphrodites–females can become males if the dominant male dies. There is often significant color and size difference between the sexes, but, unlike some other protogynous hermaphrodites, Lyretail Wrasses require another Thalassoma wrasse to be present in order to change sexes.

Finally, these fishes are neither picky about their diet nor are they especially susceptible to disease and parasitic infestation. Lyretail Wrasses are carnivores and will appreciate marine flesh, especially shrimp, mussels, clams, and oysters. They will also happily accept frozen carnivorous foods, pellets and flakes.

Some of the other Lyretail Wrasses

Gold Bar Wrasse
Gold Bar Wrasse

Gold bar Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma hebraicum) come from the Indian Ocean and may reach nine inches in length in the aquarium. Of the many species in this genus, this is one of the best suited for aquarium life.



Hardwick Lyretail Wrasse
Hardwick Lyretail Wrasse

Hardwick’s Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma Hardwicke), also called six-bar wrasses, come from the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea and usually reach eight inches in length in the aquarium. Ohhh, Mr. Hardwick!



Jansens lyretail wrasse
Jansens lyretail wrasse

Jansen’s Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma jansenii) come from the Indo-West Pacific and grow to about seven or eight inches in the aquarium. This is a particularly hardy member of the genus.

Klunzinger’s Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma rueppellii) come from the Red Sea and grow to about eight inches in the aquarium.

sunset lyretail wrasse
Male Thalassoma lutescens lyretail wrasse


Male Thalassoma lutescens, aka Lime green wrasses, yellow moon wrasse, sunset wrasse, or Banana wrasse



Lime green Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma lutescens), sometimes called the yellow moon wrasse or Banana wrasse, come from the Indo-Pacific and will grow to close to ten inches.  Females are more yellow and males look a bit more like a Lunare wrasse.

Female Thalassoma lutescens lyretail wrasse


Female Thalassoma lutescens, aka Lime green wrasses, yellow moon wrasse, sunset wrasse, or Banana wrasse



paddlefin lyretail wrasse
Paddlefin lyretail wrasse

Paddlefin Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma lucasanum), also known as Cortez rainbow wrasses or lollipop wrasses, come from the eastern Pacific and grow to about half a foot in length. Very hardy.



Rainbow lyretail wrasse
Rainbow lyretail wrasse


Rainbow Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma quinquevittatum) come from the Indo-Pacific and may grow to about six inches. Not as hardy as other members of the genus.



Surge lyretail wrasse
Surge lyretail wrasse

Surge Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma purpureum) come from the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea and can reach eighteen inches in length.  You’ll need a BIG tank for this big boy!



Saddle lyretail wrasse
Saddle lyretail wrasse


Saddle Lyretail Wrasses (Thalassoma duppery) come from the Hawaiian Islands and reach ten inches in length.



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