For hardcore wrasse lovers, Cirrhilabrus lanceolatus needs no introductions. For the less avid wrasse aficionados, here’s a little short intro before we dive into the story proper. Cirrhilabrus lanceolatus is a deepwater japanese endemic not to be confused with Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus (Pintail Fairy Wrasse). The latter shares a similar temporary scientific name chiefly for the similarities in its lancet shaped tail, and nothing more. Genetically, the pintail fairy wrasse is closely allied to Cirrhilabrus lunatus, and is a member of that complex, with a few other closely related species all attaining a maximum length of around 10 centimetres. For all purpose of standardisation and unnecessary confusion, “Pintail fairy wrasse” should if possible, only refer to Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus, and not the actual C. lanceolatus.
Cirrhilabrus lanceolatus however, is a large species which in its full adult form cannot be confused with any other species, except for Cirrhilabrus roseafascia (Rose-banded Fairy wrasse); for which it is most closely related to. Both species can reach lengths of up to 17 centimetres with inclusion of the tail rays, which may account for up to 1/3 the total body length. In the juvenile and female stages, both C. lanceolatus and C. roseafascia are nearly identical. The adults differ chiefly in the ventral fins being blue all the way to the fin edge in C. lanceolatus, and blue only on the inner section in C. roseafascia. The females of Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus (Pintail Fairy wrasse) on the other hand, is orange and marked with transverse blue bands, in the exact same way as those of C. lunatus. The two species despite their rather confusing scientific names, should never be confused with each other. In future when Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus is described and receives its permanent latin name, the confusion should clear up.
Going back to topic, we discuss the debut of Cirrhilabrus lanceolatus in Singapore. This species is very rarely offered for sale even in the domestic japanese markets, but do appear from time to time. It has made its appearance in the U.S before but in Asia, Singapore is the first country outside of Japan to receive this species. In fully developed male specimens, the unpaired fins and tail are bordered in emerald green. The very long tapering lancet shaped tail gives the species its namesake, and of course, is the main highlight for the species.
While rare in the trade, C. lanceolatus appears quite frequently in Japanese diving and photography blogs. The nuptial coloration for this species is also quite well documented, such as the individual above photographed by Kenyu. I don’t think enough can be stressed on how beautiful the fins light up in an emerald fire as the fish whizzes about in its nuptial display.
The alpha male specimen to make its way to Singapore came from Deep Sea Challengers, a powerful japanese entity which as its name suggests, regularly offer very rare and very deepwater fish endemic to Japan. The short video above shows the fish fresh from arrival, with gorgeous coloration and a glimpse of that stunning tail. Needless the say, as with all properly collected Cirrhilabrus, feeding and care is not an issue. The only regret of this whole story is that I was unable to personally photograph the fish during its arrival, as I was overseas at the time. However, a big thanks to Digiman for his best efforts using his cellphone camera.