Rockmover Wrasse ~ Red-belly WrasseFamily: Labridae Novaculichthys taeniourusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Seth Weintraub
The Dragon Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse, or Red-belly Wrasse is a very interesting and beautiful fish in any aquarium. They get their name "rockmover" because they like to rearrange shells and stones!
Dragon wrasses will often bury themselves in the gravel and they like plenty of caves and hiding places. In the wild they feed by turning over rocks and eating things like the mussels, urchins, and starfish that it finds under the rocks! The young Dragon Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse, or Red-belly Wrasse are much different looking than adults. As youngsters it is thought that they are colored to resemble algae growth and sway back and forth in much the same way.
For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium
Dragon Wrasse juvenile
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Juvenile Dragon Wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus) going under the sand, exactly at bedtime
This fish can keep time! According to this aquarist, her juvenile Dragon Wrasse turns in at the same time every night. It needs several inches of sand to sleep under. The sand must be free of sharp objects and no crushed coral, or they can be lacerated and get an infection. As juveniles they have a high metabolism and need to be fed up to 6 times a day. They also like to turn over rocks, corals (glue them down!) and other things looking for food. Once the Dragon Wrasse is full grown, which will be about 12", all inverts are on the menu along with any small fish. Adult Dragon Wrasses have a very different look. They loose the cute "antennae" and trade their spots for checks!
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Adult Dragon Wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus) with a sand substrate in its aquarium
This adult Dragon Wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus) has a tank with the best substrate. It has sand, and only sand. Sand with no crushed coral is the only acceptable substrate for this beautiful fish! Anything sharp in the sand can result in lacerations, infections and death. They grow up to 12" and need a tank that is at least 75 gallons. They are quite lively with a very high metabolism, so also need lots of food. Do not house with small fish since they will become lunch! Although they do not bother corals, they will flip anything, including corals, to find a juicy morsel. They will love being fed hermit crabs, snails, bristle worms, serpent starfish, and mantis shrimp. Gluing your corals to larger rocks is a good idea.
Maintenance difficulty: The Dragon Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse, or Red-belly Wrasse is easy to keep. Wrasses are not challenging if you feed young specimens several times a day. Start with brine shrimp, live or frozen, and offer other protein foods as well.
Maintenance: This fish will dive into the gravel if startled and therefore likes at least 10 cm. of fine gravel on the bottom of the aquarium. Feed all kinds of live, frozen, and flake foods. Best to feed small amounts several times a day. We generally feed squid, shrimp (the same kind people eat), mussels, and all kinds of chopped up fish. A good formula for wrasses is Pro-salt marine.
Habitat: Natural geographic location: Dragon Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse, or Red-belly Wrasse are found in the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea to Panama, Japan, Lord Howe Island, and Tuamotu. They are found at depths of .5 to 14 meters.
Social Behaviors: As young fish they are peaceful and are colored like the algae found in the environments they are native to. They are rather shy and will dive into the gravel at the first sign of danger. As adults they live in pairs. These pairs will forage as a team, with one fish turning over rocks and debris while the other will grab whatever is underneath. They will alternate duties regularly.