Mystery Wrasse

Whitebarred Wrasse ~ White-barred Pink Wrasse<br /> White Banded Wrasse

Family: Labridae PIcture of a Mystery Wrasse or Whitebarred WrassePseudocheilinus ocellatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

   This magnificent Mystery wrasse makes a stunning addition to either a reef environment or a fish only marine aquarium!

   The beautiful Mystery Wrasse, also known as the Whitebarred Wrasse, is distinctly different from the other lined wrasses. Rather than sporting the horizontal lines that this group of fish are recognized for, this wrasse has slender vertical white bars that get even thinner as it matures, sometimes even fading on the adult. Divers and scientists have been familiar with this wrasse for a couple of decades, but it is newer to the aquarium hobby than most of the wrasses. It was first described by Randall in 1999. Though not as much information has been gathered on this wrasse, comparing it to the other lined wrasses is a logical way of determining the husbandry of these very expensive and small wrasses.

   The Mystery Wrasse has all the characteristics to make it a great addition to the marine aquarium. It is not only attractive, hardy, and easy to maintain, but is also compatible with many other species of fish and many types of invertebrates. Though small in size, they are also quite capable in competing for food and quite adept at munching on pyramidellid snails, bristleworms, and commensal flatworms.  Mystery Wrasses are diurnal, which means they are active by day and sleep at night. They are very secretive in the wild, preferring dark areas of the reef. They do not bury themselves in the sand and will use a cocoon if they feel threatened when they sleep.

  Though lined wrasses are a shy fish in the wild, once they become acclimated to the home aquarium they are quite boisterous. They are fine in a community setting but may become aggressive towards new fish added to their established territory. In general, it is best to keep lined wrasses with larger or more aggressive fish and to make a single lined wrasse the last addition to the aquarium. They do not co-habitat well with other lined wrasses.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Pseudocheilinus ocellatus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Labridae
  • Genus: Pseudocheilinus
  • Species: ocellatus
Mystery Wrasse

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Mystery Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus ocellatus) cruising in the aquarium.

The Mystery Wrassewas not discovered until 1999, so is a relative newcomer! It is in the same genus as the Fourline, Sixline, Eightline and Pinkstriped Wrasse, but has very thin vertical bars instead of the thicker ones the others possess. They can get along with larger peaceful fish or other semi-aggressive fish, but not fairy and flasher wrasses, other lined wrasses, or docile fish. They are initially very shy, but as they grow they become more aggressive. They feed on pyramidellid snails, bristleworms, and commensal flatworms and will be a threat to ornamental shrimps and crabs. At night they spin themselves in a cocoon within the rock work.

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    The Mystery Wrasse or Whitebarred Wrasse is found widespread in the waters of the West to Central Pacific; the Coral Sea and Great Barrier reef to the Northeast Australian shelf and the Pacific ocean in general. They inhabit clear coastal areas to outer reefs and slopes at depths of 65 to 189 feet (20 to 58 meters), dwelling in caves or crevices among rubble and live coral where there is abundant invertebrate growth.

Status:    These fish are not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:    The Mystery wrasse has a brilliant reddish-pinkish "pin striping" body color with five white slender vertical lines. The top of these lines starts just into the dorsal fin and extend about 3/4 of the way down the side of the body. As this wrasse matures these lines will get thinner, possibly even fading on some adults.    There is a distinct ocellus on each side of the caudal peduncle, sometimes surrounded with yellow..The head is yellow from the gill to the nose sporting irregular thin purplish-red lines. The fins are clear with a purple to burgundy hue. Their life span is unknown.
   Juveniles are similar to adults but with orange vertical lines rather than white, and the head is yellow-green with very thin orange and blue pin-striping.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Mystery Wrasse adults reach up to a maximum length of about 4.7 inches (12 cm).

Maintenance difficulty:    The Mystery wrasse is a hardy fish that can be attempted by any level of aquarist. During shipping this fish tends to suffer from stress-related illnesses, forming excessive slime which contributes to an interference with respiration. Be sure to acquire a healthy fish, and it will be a durable fish for your tank
   When choosing your wrasse make sure it is not forming excessive mucus, as this is an indication of a parasite or illness. Choose only those that are eating well and moving about the tank looking for food.

Foods:    The Mystery Wrasses are carnivorous, eating small crabs and mollusks, tiny sea urchins, fish eggs and other bottom-dwelling crustaceans in the wild. Provide a diet rich in all kinds of protein foods, formulas and flakes with an emphasis on small crustaceans.Feed daily, or if in a reef with a lot of the above mentioned foods, every other day. As with other lined wrasses they benefit from productive live rock, picking on the rock eating the micro fauna it provides.
   Like all members of this genus, the Mystery Wrasse has been known to eat the parasitic worms of Tridacna clams called Pyramidellid snails. However these tiny snails are nocturnal, spending the day hidden in the base or between the scutes. So the likeliness of this diurnal wrasse eradicating any infestation is slim. Some of the species of this genus have been known to pick parasites off of larger fish. It is unknown if this wrasse has that tendency.

Maintenance:    These fish are hardy, disease resistant, and easy to care for. Provide basic marine aquarium care with a 20% water change monthly or 10% twice a month.
   For more information see, Marine Aquarium Basics: Maintenance

Aquarium Parameters:
   This fish needs to have plenty of good quality live rock with plenty of cracks and crevices for retreating into to feel comfortable, especially in a smaller aquarium. Using a lid is a good idea as the lined wrasses have been known to jump out of the aquarium.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 30 gallon (113.5 liters) aquarium.
Light: Recommended light levels
   Prefers moderate light.
Temperature:
   No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74° and 79° Fahrenheit.
Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong
   No special requirements.
Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom
   They will usually spending most of their time in the rockwork.

Social Behaviors:    The Mystery Wrasse should be kept singly as this genus in general does not co-habitat well with other lined wrasses. They are basically reef safe, but due to their diet could be described as "predator" reef safe, or they can be kept in a non-reef setting. In a community setting they are passive with most popular reef fish, including other wrasses. The lined-wrasses in general become more boisterous after acclimating to their home, the Mystery Wrasse is no exception. They may harass new tank mates or munch on ornamental shrimp that are introduced after the wrasse is established.
   In general, lined wrasses do best with semi-aggressive or larger, less aggressive tank mates like tangs, angelfish and butterflyfish, surgeonfish, puffers, goatfish, filefish, and squirrelfish.  Avoid shrimp, gastropods, smaller fish, small urchins, or crabs as lined wrasses often eat them happily! Larger dottybacks, hawkfish, and triggerfish do not make good tank mates as they may pick on the lined wrasse. Predators such as groupers, lionfish, and scorpion fish will eat the lined wrasses in a heartbeat.

Sex: Sexual differences:    Like the other lined wrasses, the males may show off a more intense coloring during mating.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Has not been bred in captivity.

Availability:    The Mystery Wrasse or Whitebarred Wrasse is a rare import, eliciting a high price of around $175.00 to $225.00 USD.

Author: Carrie McBirney
Additional Information: Clarice Brough. CFS
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