There’s always something about rare fish that really gets me going, regardless of species. I have however, a soft spot for wrasses and I secretly moonlight as a Cirrhilabrus nerd. For those living under a liverock, the quintessential genus, more commonly known as “Fairy wrasses”, boasts of more than fifty species, many of which have piqued the interest of casual and professional hobbyists alike. While many species have been offered in the hobby, a hand few remain so rare that almost no pictures exists anywhere unless you happen to own one of these. Species like Cirrhilabrus blatteus, C. randalli, C. cenderawasih, C. walshi, and the super elusive C. claire etc will probably never live to see what a home aquarium looks like.
Here’s five of my all time favorite fairy wrasses, beauty wise, that most can only dream of owning. The lanceolatus fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus lanceolatus) you see headlining this article and to the left, is one of the most spectacular. What strikes me the most about this species is the gorgeous emerald green highlights that trim the edge of its fins and the extremely long sword like tail that it bears. This Japanese endemic fish has only been caught a few times and the one on the left was from BlueHarbor, pictures on the top by Pisces kazu. The lanceolatus fairy wrasse is one of the larger species in the genus and can grow up to 15cm from snout to tail. The very similarly colored rose-banded fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus roseafascia) is a more obtainable alternative.
Here’s a rather low quality video of two lanceolatus fairy wrasses in Japan and you can roughly make out the incredible sword like tail that it drags heavily behind as it swims, almost in an arowana-esque fashion! The second video attached depicts a young pair in the wild, not nearly as nice as they can be though.
Cirrhilabrus sanguineus is another dramatically colored species. This Mauritian endemic is very very rarely collected and the one above is owned by Dr. Hiroyuki Tanaka, the go to guy for all things wrassey. I remember when I first saw this species, I was floored by the red patch it possessed on it’s body, very aptly suited for its common name, the blood stained fairy wrasse.
Number three on the list is Cirrhilabrus katoi, the kato’s fairy wrasse. Although plain looking in appearance when sombre and un-excited, the nuptial coloration of the Kato’s fairy wrasse is almost unmatched by any species. A simple google search will yield many awesome pictures of this species, with flared fins studded with shiny spots. However this precious video of two males in the wild squaring off is just simply amazing and will put any wrasse lover at the edge of their seats. The picture above is from Koji Wada, the man behind BlueHarbor.
The wrasse above is a relatively new one and is still undescribed as of now. Tentatively named Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus, the splendid or pintail fairy wrasse is rarely seen in the trade and can be found in the waters of Japan and Cebu. The first photo above is a shot taken by Koji Wada, and was sharing the same tank as the Kato’s fairy wrasse. Second photo of a nuptial male by Pisces kazu. The studly male on the left is the first of few pieces that LiveAquaria offered on the Diver’s Den. The pintail fairy wrasse at one point was trickling into the hobby in small numbers but lately we’ve not been seeing any offered for sale. The one on the left was one of the first few pieces to hit the U.S market and credit goes to Kevin Kohen for the wonderful photo.
We’re now almost at the end of my top five pick and the last species may not be as flamboyant as the rest, but it’s one of my favorites. Cirrhilabrus marjorie used to be pretty uncommon in the trade but is now occasionally available with the opening up of Fiji fish collection facilities. Founded in 2003 and named after Bruce Carlson’s wife, the Marjorie’s fairy wrasse is a two toned red and white species that is endemic to the Fiji region. The fish is part of the “flavidorsalis complex” of fairy wrasse as can be seen my its general shape and appearance. Females of this species and the others in the complex are all red with a black peduncular spot and are super difficult to distinguish from each other. Although nowhere near as colorful as any of the species i’ve chosen above, the marjorie’s fairy wrasse is certainly one to look out for. A big thank you to Dr. Hiroyuki Tanaka, Brad Syphus and Jim Gryczanowski for sharing their passion and knowledge with me on Cirrhilabrus.
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