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Melanurus Wrasse Care & Info | A Rainbow For Your Tank

Melanurus wrasse care | Halichoeres melanurus

If you’re just starting out in the world of marine fishkeeping, the choice in fish can be pretty overwhelming. There are so many beautiful species out there, but many are difficult to keep if you’re not experienced in the hobby.

May we introduce the Melanurus wrasse? A great starter wrasse, this species is peaceful, mostly reef safe and eats annoying pests. Does it get any better?! Keep reading for everything you need to know about Melanurus wrasse care.

Name (Common, Scientific) Melanurus wrasse, tail-spot wrasse, Hoeven’s wrasse, Halichoeres melanurus
Minimum tank size 55 gallons
Minimum group size 1
Temperature 72-78 °F
Salinity 1.020-1.025
pH 8.1-8.4
Difficulty level Easy

Melanurus wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) description

If you’re looking for a pop of color in your aquarium, you’ve definitely found it with the Melanurus wrasse. These elongated fish feature an almost psychedelic pattern of horizontal stripes: reddish-green and bright blue. Juveniles sport slightly duller colors with eye spots on the tail and dorsal fins to confuse predators.

With a maximum size of around 5”, this species is pretty manageable in size.

Fun fact: Melanurus wrasses are hermaphrodites. In the wild, one male manages a harem of females. If he is at one point no longer present, one of the females will start behaving like and slowly turning into a male to replace him. It may take a few weeks, but eventually she’ll end up fully biologically male!

Melanurus wrasse

Melanurus wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) aquarium

If you’d like to keep a Melanurus wrasse, go for an aquarium of 55 gallons or up to give it plenty of space to dart around in search of food. A sandy substrate is appreciated, since like many wrasse species this one likes to burrow. Try to use enough sand that the fish is able to completely bury itself: that’s when it feels safe and comfortable.

Lots of nooks and crevices make ideal hunting grounds and you’ll see your wrasse patrolling and foraging throughout the day. The species is very entertaining to watch while they stalk and hunt copepods and any other small critters they can find. Do keep in mind that you’ll have to make sure your aquarium has a lid, as wrasses are prone to jumping when they feel threatened by some perceived danger.

The Melanurus wrasse is generally listed as reef safe ‘with caution’, although it usually doesn’t bother corals too much. Small inverts won’t be safe, though, so make sure you don’t combine them with your prized shrimp, snails or the smaller crab species.

Melanurus wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) compatibility

The nice thing about Melanurus wrasses is their peaceful attitude towards tankmates. Unlike some other wrasses, like the six line wrasse, they generally won’t bother other fish.

One thing that does have to be noted is that Melanurus wrasses don’t appreciate the presence of similar species in their territorium. Unless you have a very sizeable aquarium, it’s best to stick to only one wrasse per tank. If you do want multiple Melanurus wrasses, try to avoid keeping multiple males, instead going for a pair or harem.

Melanurus wrasse

Melanurus wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) diet

The reason most aquarists end up acquiring a Melanurus wrasse is because of the species’ diet. It hunts small invertebrates, many of which are nuisances in the aquarium. They’ll make quick work of pyramidellid snails, Montipora eating nudibranches and any other pesky critters you’d rather not see in your tank.

Although buying a fish to act as plague clean-up can turn out disastrous, this is usually not the case with this gentle species. Once it eradicates any pests that might be present it’ll usually switch readily to commercial fish foods rather than turning to eating its tankmates.

Feed a meaty diet with plenty of frozen or live foods like mysis, along with regular pellet or flake options. You can also offer the occasional clam or shrimp, which will usually be devoured with gusto.


A beautiful saltwater aquarium with colorful fish like the Melanurus wrasse is a joy to see, but not everyone has the time or knowledge to start and maintain one.

If you want your own reef but aren’t ready to invest hours into set-up and maintenance, you can contact us: FantaSEA Aquariums designs, builds and maintains custom tanks.

Photo of author

Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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