The razor wrasses Xyrichthys novacula and Novaculops halsteadi are virtually unknown in the aquarium trade, but not for lack of color and interesting habits. Razor wrasses are not the first labrid that comes to mind when the popular wrasses are mentioned, but perhaps that should change. Unlike the flasher and fairy wrasses which truly live on the reef, razor wrasses are more specialized at living in sandy habitats where their compressed body is uniquely suited to diving into fine sand for protection. Belgium marine aquarium store Reef Corner recently received a specimen of each of these awesome wrasse species from totally different parts of the world.
Xyrichthys novacula is a razor wrasse from the Mediterranean and West Coast of Africa where it is known as a cleaver wrasse. The juveniles are mostly drab with some banding, yet adults grow to be a gorgeous salmon pink color with males such as the specimen above displaying intricate fine blue lines all over the body. Reef Corner obtained their Xyrichthis novacula from Ghana and we have occasionally seen this species being imported to the US from West African fish imports.
Novaculops halsteadi is perhaps a more exotic species of razor wrasse which was first discovered in Papua New Guinea. Although once classified as a Xyrichthys species, members of the Novaculops genus are more specifically known as sand wrasses. Sand wrasse display morphological and behavioral characteristics that are intermediate between razor wrasses and dragon wrasses of the Novaculichthys genus. Halstead’s sand wrasse is identified by a black spot on the flank which is usually produced by just four black scales bordered in lighter coloration. Reef Corner obtained their stunning Novaculops from Vanuatu although the rare fish seekers at Greenwich Aquaria also recently received a specimen of this species which was tracked back to Australia.