Dragon Wrasse

Rockmover Wrasse ~ Red-belly Wrasse

Family: Labridae Picture of a Dragon Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse or Red-belly Wrasse - Novaculichthys taeniourusNovaculichthys taeniourusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Seth Weintraub
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I Love Dragon Fish. For me, this fish has a special character, besides as a rock mover, this fish knows time very well. I have 2. They only appear at 6 in the... (more)  Suen Ze

   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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Labridae
  • Genus: Novaculichthys
  • Species: taeniourus
Dragon Wrasse juvenile, Novaculichthys taeniourus
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Juvenile Dragon Wrasse going under the sand, right on time!

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!

Dragon Wrasse adult, Novaculichthys taeniourus
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Dragon Wrasse 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.

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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.

Foods:    All kinds of protein foods, formulas and flakes.

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.

Sex: Sexual differences:    Not known.

Light: Recommended light levels:    Likes plenty of light. Usually found in sunlight areas with algae growth.

Temperature:    No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Dragon Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse, or Red-belly Wrasse adults can grow to 30.0 cm (11.8 inches). They are usually about 2 or 3 inches long at the pet stores.

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 40 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    They are accustomed to water movement and wave action. Strong currents are appreciated.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    They are a bottom feeder and will spend most of the time near the bottom of the aquarium.

Availability:    This fish is available from time to time.

Lastest Animal Stories on Dragon Wrasse

Suen Ze - 2006-01-01
I Love Dragon Fish. For me, this fish has a special character, besides as a rock mover, this fish knows time very well. I have 2. They only appear at 6 in the morning until 5 at evening. So it's useless for me to find them at night. I love this fish, they move the rocks and the sand keeps clean, by moving them

melissa - 2009-05-13
Dragon Wrasse size, almost 12 inches. Its scientific name is Novaculichthys Taeniourus (Lacepede, 1801) but it may also be found listed as Hemipteronotus Taeniourus. Thought to be a different species because of its juvenile phase appearance, this fish when young was at one time described under the name Novaculichtys(Lay & Bennet, 1839). Other common names: juveniles - Reindeer Wrasse, Adults -Rockmover Wrasse, Rock Mover Wrasse. Juveniles are suitable for a comunity tank at first but as they grow they become very aggressive. Distributation: Extends from Hawaii southward to central Polynesia, westward through Micronesa and Melanesia, through the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa. Diet and Feeding: They are carnivores that posses two prominent teeth in the front of each jaw that are used for feeding on its favorite prey-- small fish, all types of desirable crustaceans and motile invertebrates, which includes serpent and brittle starfishes, bad bristle as well as beneficial worms, shrimps, hermit crabs, crabs, and snails. Should be fed a diet of bite sized meatfoods like fresh or frozen seafoods, silversides, live or frozen brine and mysid shrimp, live grass or ghost shrimp, live black worms, and flake food.

douglas hutchings - 2007-07-31
The dragon wrasse shows up here on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, M

Carrie - 2006-03-20
Working in a fish store for a short time educated me that the young dragons ABSOLUTELY NEED TO BE FED SEVERAL times a day. I do not mean flake! Chopped......chopped small silversides or any other shrimp/fish is necessary because they do not like to try to rip large pieces apart when young. (at least not the prima donnas at the store!) They LOVE young baby mollies and live saltwater feeder shrimp! This is especially helpful if they are not eating chopped items; due to weakness from hunger or stress of the shipment; since it entices them to eat if they ignore frozen meat. (not newborn mollies, more like 1 or 2 months depending on the size of the dragon, so feeder guppies would work temporarily) Like a mandarin, look at the bottom of the fish behind the gills and that area should be full, not thin or concave. If it is, then start feeding! They will starve to death without enough food. Their metabolism is very fast. In the wild they constantly turn rocks looking for food, so like the anthias, the young really need many small feedings a day and will stop eating when full. Hope this helps!