Bluehead Wrasse

Family: Labridae Picture of a Bluehead WrasseThalassoma bifasciatumPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Katie Lifsey
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Hi, it is a lunar wrasse, when they get older they lose their black dot and become green and bright blue in colour  Anonymous

   Once the male Bluehead Wrasse attains its adult coloration it is one colorful fish, and either sex does well in a marine aquarium.

   Like all the Thalassoma wrasses, the Bluehead Wrasse is a high energy fish and does best with frequent daily feedings to keep up with its energy expenditure. It is very active during the day, enjoying a lot of rockwork with nooks and crannies for retreating as well as for sleeping at night. It also enjoys resting on a sandy substrate and may burrow into it when frightened.

   The Bluehead Wrasse makes a wonderful addition to the right marine aquarium and can live for many years.They are easy to keep but they are sensitive to poor water conditions. Provide good water filtration and keep up on frequent water changes. This wrasse doesn't bother corals but it will eat crustaceans and invertebrates. A good inhabitant for the community aquarium with tank mates of a similar temperament.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Labridae
  • Genus: Thalassoma
  • Species: bifasciatum
Bluehead Wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum in the wild
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Male Blue Headed Wrasse attracting females.

This male Blue Headed Wrasse is trying to attract the yellow females below him. This is one of the FEW Thalassoma wrasses that work in a reef. They get to be about 6" and love to swim! They are great at getting rid of larger Bristle Worms and may eat small hermit crabs once they get older, but will not bother corals.

Blueheaded Wrasse, Thalassoma bifasciatum in captivity
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Blue Headed Wrasse in a 100 gallon saltwater aquarium

Typical behavior of a Blue Headed Wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum). They only grow to 6" in length, and work great in reef settings that need the Bristle Worm population taken down! Unlike Coral Shrimp, they don't completely decimate the populations by eating the eggs, rather they only eat the larger creepy crawlies.

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Habitat: Natural geographic location:

   Bluehead Wrasse are found in the Caribbean Sea and the tropical Atlantic. They are found at depths of 10 to 131 feet (3 - 40 meters) and inhabit reefs, inshore non-reef areas, and are also found in beds of seagrass. Juveniles and initial phase fish are seen swimming in dense groups above reefs, while secondary males are territorial, defending an area with a small group of females from conspecifics.


   These fish are not endangered.


   The Bluehead Wrasse has the most notable coloration in the adult male phase. As the name suggests this mature male has a blue head followed by two black cross bands that are lighter in the center, and a blue-green body. Initial phase individuals, both male and females have a yellow coloration with a black stripe along the side of the body. This stripe usually fades to just a shadow as the fish ages.

Length/Diameter of fish:

   Bluehead Wrasse adults can grow to 15 cm (6 inches).

Maintenance difficulty:

   The Bluehead Wrasse is easy to keep but they are sensitive to poor water conditions. Provide good water filtration and keep up on frequent water changes. Feed young specimens several times a day, and even as adults they will need to be fed 2 to three times a day. Generally not considered totally reef safe. Though they will not bother your corals they will eat your small crustaceans and invertebrates.


   The Bluehead Wrasses are carnivorous, in the wild they eat primarily zooplankton and many small benthic organisms including various crustaceans. They have also been know to eat ectoparasites on other fish (making them a good cleaner fish in the home aquarium) and even the eggs of other small fish. Sea urchin eggs are a favorite! Feed a varied protein diet strong in small crustacea, formulas and frozen foods such as mysis and brineshrimp, and thawed chopped raw fish, and even flake foods. They are heavy eaters that will eat anything and need to be fed 2 or 3 times a day.


   Normal water changes at 10% biweekly or 20% monthly.They will sleep in holes in the rock or reef, so provide some cover.
   For more information see, Marine Aquarium Basics: Maintenance

Aquarium Parameters:

  This fish needs to have a large aquarium with lots of space for swimming, a sandy substrate and, lots of rockwork for hiding and sleeping.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 40 gallon aquarium is recommended, although a larger aquarium (70+ gallons) if kept with other fish.
Light: Recommended light levels
   Prefers sunlight.
   No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74° and 79° F (23 - 26° C).
Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong
   No special requirements.
Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom
   Will spend time in all parts of the aquarium, but usually spending most of the time in the rockwork.

Social Behaviors:

   These fish live singly or in groups. Juveniles and females can be housed together in a group and with other fish. Adult males, both primary and secondary, become territorial and aggressive. They should be kept with other aggressive natured fish and can be kept with a female in a very large aquarium, 125 gallons or more. Do not keep these fish with invertebrates as they will snack on them, but otherwise they are generally reef safe as they don't eat corals or live plants.

Sex: Sexual differences:

   Males, both primary and secondary will develop the notable "bluehead" coloration, while females retain the initial phase yellowish coloration, though with a more faded horizontal stripe as they age.


   Has not been bred in captivity.


   This fish is available from time to time.

Authors: Clarice Brough, CFS; and David Brough, CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Bluehead Wrasse

Anonymous - 2006-05-15
Hi, it is a lunar wrasse, when they get older they lose their black dot and become green and bright blue in colour

Alexandria - 2010-03-20
I have had both, and the picture shows a bluehead, not a lunar wrasse

Steve\'o - 2010-12-06
Have read your article on blue head wrasse, I have a question the past
week I have noticed my wrasses head area has faded from blue to very pale
with slight markings on head could you tell me is this some bacterial infection
or is this some other disease? There are no other markings on body fins all
look good fish still active and eating. Could this also be a form of lateral head disease? If so what is best treatment? Thanks for any help.

  • Clarice Brough - 2012-05-08
    Wrasses can be quite variable in color. Males can be so deeply blue on the head that they almost look black, all the way to a pale gray. These wrasses will actually change color if there is more than one in the tank... with the less dominant fish turning female, and female coloration. But of course, do keep an eye on it and make sure your fish is eating and acting normally, and doesn't show any other sign of illness. As long as color is the only change you see, it is probably fine.
Anonymous - 2008-09-19
In response to previous comment: This is definitely a bluehead and not a lunar wrasse. Lunar wrasse bodies are predominately green with red or purple lines on the face and the tail is many times yellow.
A note about bluehead: they will bury themselves in the sand when frightened, and this is where they like to sleep.
Editor's Note: To see what a Lunar Wrasse (also known as the Moon Wrasse) looks like, visit the "Moon Wrasse" page.