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Scott's Wrasse

Scott's Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Wrasse

Family: Labridae Scott's Fairy Wrasse, Cirrhilabrus scottorum, Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Velvet WrasseCirrhilabrus scottorumPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have just purchased a greenback fairy wrasse a month or so ago. It has been a joy to watch in my tank. I was surprised to see that mine had no green to it. It... (more)  Jan Hayes

The Scott's Wrasse is a very beautiful fish, displaying almost every color of the rainbow!

The Scott's Fairy Wrasse Cirrhilabrus scottorum is a large, peaceful fairy wrasse. It reaches up to just over 5 inches (13 cm) in length. This wrass originates in the South Pacific, from the Coral Sea of eastern Australia to the Pitcairn group of islands. It is commonly found on the fore reef areas of outer reefs, and also a few in lagoons. Other common names it is know by include Scott's Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Wrasse, Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Velvet Wrasse, and Multicolor Fairy Wrasse.

This Cirrhilabrus species is a very beautifully colored wrasse fish. Generally the Scott's Fairy Wrasse has a green to bluish green body with a medley of other colors present as well, not only on the body, but on the fins, tail fin, and the under belly. But there are distinct color variations between species from different areas. Those coming from Australia, called the Scott's Greenback Fairy Wrasse, have more reds in the fins and the various color areas tend to flow into each other. Species from the Cook Islands have a bluer body color, yellow fins, and more distinctive breaks between the colors. There are so many other color varieties, that is it thought that some geographic variations may represent separate species.

The Scott's Fairy Wrasse is active, hardy, and easy to care for. This wrasse fish should be kept singly, but it makes a great addition to a community fish only aquarium or a reef tank. They can be kept in pairs, but only if you know you have a male and female.It is generally a very peaceful wrasse that can get along well with many other types of fish, but it can get belligerent with other fairy wrasses. It is considered reef safe because it generally will not bother corals, ornamental shrimp, or other bottom dwelling invertebrates.

Despite being hardy and very attractive with its beautiful colors, a Scott's Fairy Wrasse will need a large aquarium keep it healthy as an adult. A single juvenile can be kept in 55 gallons, but eventually you will want to provide a tank that is 125 gallons or more for a single specimen. Two males will fight unless they have an extremely large aquarium, 240 gallons and up in size.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Labridae
  • Genus: Cirrhilabrus
  • Species: scottorum
Scott's Fairy Wrasse, Fiji
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Several male Scott's Fairy Wrasses (Cirrhilabrus scottorum) from Fiji in a distributor's tank.

These Scott's Fairy Wrasses were collected from Fiji. They have black dorsal and tail fins and are more green than those from Australia. These are 6-7" fairy wrasses and do well with other Cirrhilabrus species of similar size but may intimidate smaller ones, so add any smaller species to the tank first. They will be aggressive toward flasher wrasses, smaller Halichoeres, some small gobies, and other very peaceful fish. Be cautious in a reef as it is said that carpet anemones are known to capture and consume Cirrhilabrus wrasses at night! Since all wrasses are high energy fish keep a tight lid on your tank, they are jumpers. These wrasses adapt very easily to aquarium foods but need to be fed several times a day. They spin a cocoon to sleep in at night within the rock work.

Scott's Fairy Wrasse, Cook Islands
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Scott's Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus scottorum) from the Cook Islands

This Scott's Fairy Wrasse is from the Cook Islands. It is distinguished by the red in the middle part of the body and is lacking the larger amounts of black on the margins of the dorsal and tail fin, though does have some black on the anal fin. All Scott's Fairy Wrasses have black on the anal fin. The specimens from Fiji and Australia have black dorsal fins. The Australian fish is more blue and has black on the tailfin while the Fiji inhabitant is more green, and typically does not have black on the tailfin.

Scott's Fairy Wrasse, Australian
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Australian males of the Scott Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus scottorum) show how Cirrhilabrus species can cohabitate!

This is an example of the Australian Scott's Fairy Wrasse, Cirrhilabrus scottorum. You can see they are more blue and lack the black on the tail fin that the Cook Island specimens have. The tank is 240 gallons, which is what would be needed for this many fairy wrasses! Do not house with flasher wrasses, since fairy wrasses would be aggressive towards them.

Scott's Fairy Wrasse - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 5.2 inches (13.21 cm)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 78.0° F (22.2 to 25.6° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Scott's Fairy Wrasse Cirrhilabrus scottorum was described by Springer and Randall in 1974. They are found in the South Pacific Ocean from the Pitcairn group of islands to the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea of eastern Australia. It was named Scott's Fairy Wrasse by Dr. John E. Randall in honor of Sir Peter Scott, who caught the first described specimens in the Society Islands. Other common names it is know by include Scott's Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Wrasse, Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Velvet Wrasse, and Multicolor Fairy Wrasse.

These wrasse fish are usually found at depths of 10 to 132 feet (3 to 40 m). They most often inhabit the fore reef areas of outer reefs. They will also inhabit reefs in sheltered lagoons, but are more often found in the outer reef areas. Juveniles are found on rubble substrates close to sea beds. In their natural habitat, they live in small groups made up primarily of females and juveniles, with a secondary male, They feed on planktonic matter just above the ocean bottom.

This species is often confused with the similar species, the Black-fin Fairy Wrasse or Blackedge Fairy Wrasse C. melanomarginatus . The Black-fin Fairy Wrasse comes from the northwestern Pacific and is distinguished by the black outer margin of its dorsal fin.

  • Scientific Name: Cirrhilabrus scottorum
  • Social Grouping: Groups - In the wild, they live in groups consisting of a secondary male and numerous females.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern - This wrasse is relatively common throughout its large geographical range.


Different specimens of the Scott's Fairy Wrasse can vary greatly in color. Mostly it has a head that is green, shading to dusky blue-green in the middle, and brighter blue anteriorly. The lower part of the body is red and the upper half of the body is speckled with black. The middle of the body is a deep purple, often with a large blotch in the center that can be red, orange, or even a dark blue. The ends of the fins can be yellow or pink. Males and females are very similar in color markings, though the male will become more intensely colored to attract the female during breeding. Colors can also vary by mood. They reach up to 5.2" (13 cm) in length and are said to have an average lifespan of 3-5 years.

Beyond the basic description, there can also be all sorts of color combinations present on different specimens, not only on the body, but on the fins, tail fin, and the under belly. In fact, there are so many other color varieties, that some geographic variations may represent separate species.

Scott's Fairy Wrasse, Cirrhilabrus scottorum, Greenback Fairy Wrasse, Scott's Velvet Wrasse
Photo Courtesy: Karel Castro

Of the many color variations, there are some definitive distinctions in specimens from different areas. Those coming from Australia, called the Scott's Greenback Fairy Wrasse, have more reds in the fins and the various color areas tend to flow into each other. Species from the Cook Islands have a bluer body color, yellow fins, and more distinctive breaks between the colors.

  • Size of fish - inches: 5.2 inches (13.21 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 years - This wrasse is believed to have an average lifespan of 3-5 years, but there are some fairy wrasse species that can live between 5 - 12 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Scott's Fairy Wrasse is easy to keep. These fish are generally very easy to care for and are hardy, but they do require a large tank as adults, and should be kept singly. They are notorious for jumping out of an open aquarium, so be sure you have a lid. When adding a new large male, it needs to be introduced into a peaceful tank and given "quiet time" with lights off for about day to adjust.

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. They are generally disease free when kept and maintained in the proper environment. Avoid overcrowding, underfeeding, and poor water quality.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy - When introducing a new speciman, keeping the tank very quiet with the lights off for the rest of the day will help in acclimation.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner - Although they are hardy, they require a large aquarium as an adult.

Foods and Feeding

Like all members of the  Cirrhilabrus genera, the Scott's Fairy Wrasses are planktivores, adapted to feed and survive from eating mostly plankton. They eat meaty foods. Start with brine shrimp, live or frozen, and offer other protein foods as well, such as mysis, shaved shrimp and fish flesh. Feed all kinds of live and frozen foods such as squid, shrimp (the same kind people eat), mussels, and all kinds of chopped up fish.They love fresh uncolored uncooked raw salmon. A good commercial formula for wrasses is Pro-salt marine. Flake and pelleted food can also be occasionally offered. Pelleted food can be presoaked to remove any possibility of air. They will also help themselves to the copepods living in your live rock.

They have a high metabolism and require regular feedings during the day. It is best to feed small amounts several times a day. Young specimens should be fed at least three times a day to ensure proper growth and health, and adults at least two times a day. Feeding several times a day will help keep the natural copepod population going, or you can add copepods every 6 weeks.

You can use prepared liquid garlic to soak food in for optimum immune health. Tubifex worms soaked in garlic is a great treat. It is worth noting that many people have reported success with feeding garlic supplements, to both combat and prevent parasitic infections such as the common marine "ich" or "white spot" (also referred to as 'crypt' spots). Garlic, known to have therapeutic qualities for humans is suggested to also be useful for fish, helping the fish's immune system recognize and react to parasites.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes - Yes If they will accept.
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Is appreciated, but not necessary. Brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, as well as other protein sources can be offered occasionally.
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - They have a very high metabolism and need regular feedings.

Aquarium Care

Provide basic marine aquarium care of a 20% water change monthly or 10% twice a month unless there is presence of ammonia and/or nitrites, then an immediate water change is necessary. In a non-reef situation, they can handle higher nitrates like most fish.

  • Water Changes: Monthly - Water changes of 10% bi-weekly or 20% once a month.

Aquarium Setup

A minimum of 55 gallons can house a juvenile, but as an adult the Scott's Fairy Wrasse will need 125 gallons for a single specimen. Make sure there is open space for free swimming and many crevices to hide in. It does not need a sand bed as it does not burrow, but rather it will produce a cocoon while it is sleeping among or under rocks or corals. It does not harm any live corals or small invertebrates over about 2" in size. Lighting and water movement are not really significant conditions. Basically they do well under any lighting and can tolerate fast or slow water, but slow-moving water is desirable for feeding.

Like all wrasses, the Scott's Fairy Wrasse may jump from an open tank when going for food, or if scared. So a lid of some kind is a must. Rock work, or live rock in a reef tank, with holes to swim in and out and around are appreciated. Substrate is inconsequential, since the Cirrhilabrus genus will spin a cocoon at night. They do not hide or sleep in the sand like the Halichoeres genus.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places - Crevices are appreciated to hide in and to sleep in at night.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 78.0° F (22.2 to 25.6° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 0.0° F
  • Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any
  • Water Region: Middle - They are a plankton feeder and will spend most of the time near the middle of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

A good community fish, the Scott's Fairy Wrasses are generally not aggressive towards other fish or bottom dwelling invertebrates. Smaller and non-aggressive fish as well as wrasses of other genera can be kept, if these are as active or larger. Dwarf angelfish can be good mates as well as the more docile angelfish genus, including Centropyge , Apolemichthys , Genicanthus , Chaetodontoplus and Pygoplites .

Larger and rather territorial angelfishes like Pomacanthus and Holacanthus are not recommended even when these angelfish are juveniles. This wrasse may not be compatible with some of the more aggressive, similar sized basslets, dottybacks, and longfins. They are also too busy and too aggressive in feeding to be put with seahorses or pipefish. Do not house them with eels, sharks, rays ,or groupers either, as these fish will eat your wrasse.

They should be kept singly unless you are certain your pair is a male and female. Two males will fight unless they are in an extremely large aquarium, 240 gallons or more. They can also be kept with other Cirrhilabrus species, yet they are one of the more aggressive fairy wrasses and may bully other fairy species. Introduce them at the same time or change the rock arrangement when introducing new Cirrhilabrus wrasses. There may possibly be tiffs, with a circular chasing on and off for the first few weeks. Feeding twice a day will also help reduce aggression.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - A pair can be kept in 100 gallons or larger, but only if you know they are a male and female. Males are intolerant of their same species, and will fight unless the tank is extremely large, 240 gallons or more.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Threat
    • Anemones: Safe
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Safe
    • LPS corals: Safe
    • SPS corals: Safe
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Safe
    • Leather Corals: Safe
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Safe
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Safe
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Safe
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor - While safe with larger shrimp like peppermint or scarlet cleaner shrimp, they may take out small shrimp that are under 2" in length.
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Monitor - Will eat copepods when one presents itself, so having a strong copepod population before adding your wrasse is a good idea. Many people just add copepods every 6 weeks.

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are larger and more intensely colored the the female. Their ventral fins are elongated the the tail fin is pointed. The colors become iridescent during courtshi.

Breeding / Reproduction

Unknown in captivity as of yet. It may be the same as other members of the genus, where a male will move rapidly with more gorgeous coloration to attract and invite its mate to spawn and push out sperm in the water column.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Fish Diseases

These fish are usually disease free unless very stressed or injured. Cirrhilabrus wrasses in general are not prone to disease. As with all Cirrhilabrus members, these wrasses are hardy against most infectious diseases. They spin a cocoon at night so most parasites don't get a chance to attach, but on occasion they suffer from "ich" (white spot disease). They can be treated successfully with medicine or a copper drug. At times, they may injure themselves and get an infection at the site of the injury if the water is not in good condition.

To learn all about fish problems and find specific answers, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Scott's Fairy Wrasse is available on line and in stores and are moderately priced.  The price may be higher than typical for Cirrhilabrus wrasses, but the hardiness makes them worth it. Large males are most often seen in the aquarium trade.


Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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