Christmas Wrasse Care Guide

Christmas Wrasse

Scientific NameHalichoeres claudia
Minimum Tank Size55 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

The Christmas Wrasse is a mid-sized, color packed wrasse with a peaceful personality. They are frequently available but also in high demand, making getting one a bit difficult. Consider speaking with your local fish store about ordering or reserving a Christmas Wrasse if you really want them. Otherwise you may be stuck waiting for quite a few months before you get one.

While young the Christmas Wrasse will have a white/light green body with red stripes along their body and fins and a single black dot on their dorsal fin. Over time they will develop a mostly red body with green patterns running along their body, giving them a very Christmas feeling look. They will also have blue highlights accenting the tips of their fins.

They will grow to be six inches in length, making them a large fish for small tanks and a mid sized one for bigger tanks. They are very peaceful, making them great overseers for small tanks with semi aggressive little fish.

Is the Christmas Wrasse Reef Safe?

The Christmas Wrasse is reef safe. They will rarely show any interest in the smallest inverts and do not bother coral. When adding them to an established tank that has well grown inverts you should see absolutely no aggression towards any inverts from the Christmas Wrasse. New, young invert additions may be picked at, so try to add all the inverts you want to the tank before introducing the Christmas Wrasse.

These wrasse do not try to steal food from corals and are not aggressive swimmers. They should not cause any stress to corals and will not knock down any new corals that have not rooted themselves in the tank.

If you see any aggression towards your inverts from the Christmas Wrasse it is likely they are not getting fed often enough. The hungrier the Christmas Wrasse gets the more they will broaden their definition of food, eventually looking to any inverts they can find. More about this in the diet section.

Christmas Wrasse Tank Requirements

As a member of the Halichoeres family the Christmas Wrasse requires a sand bed at least one inch deep. Due to their slightly larger size I would recommend one and a half inches. The Christmas Wrasse will usually bury themselves in the sand at night or when they feel unsafe. A tank without a sand bed will make them stressed and increase the food they need, as burrowing saves them a lot of energy over night.

Most fish will expend a great deal of energy over the night, as they have to swim in place and stay alert for predators. Others will make a cocoon for the night and place themselves in rocks. By burrowing the Christmas Wrasse spends the least amount of energy sleeping.

It is important that you pick non abrasive sand for their tank. Anything above 4mm gain size is a risk to the wrasse. Rough sands can cut their scales and skin, making them prone to infections and illness. For such hardy fish this can be a serious issue. Gravel is not an acceptable substitute.

Finally wrasse are used to being deep in the water while sleeping and will think the tank is taller than it is. This will lead to a lot of accidental jumping early on in ownership. It is important that all holes in the top of the tank be sealed. The Christmas Wrasse can slip through cracks left in cut outs left around power cords or filtration tubes. Be sure to cover these with mesh or filter media.

Feeding the Christmas Wrasse

Wrasse have developed a short digestive track. This allows them to swim around and explore as much as they like, not being weighed down by a big belly and remaining sleek. However this means they will need to be fed much more often than most fish. The Christmas Wrasse should be fed no less than three times a day if not four. Doing this without over feeding the tank is difficult, but is one of the challenges we accept by adding wrasse to our tank.

If the Christmas Wrasse is not fed frequently enough they will begin to hunt the tank for food, picking at rocks to find copepods and food scraps left behind by other fish. As they get hungrier they will begin to pick at inverts. The smaller the invert the less time it take for them to consider the invert food. When keeping the Christmas Wrasse with small inverts like the porcelain anemone crab  or cleaner shrimp frequent feedings are essential.

The diet of the Christmas Wrasse includes:

  • Chopped table shrimp
  • Frozen mysis or brine shrimp
  • Cut squid
  • Prepared foods such as flake or pellet
  • Seaweed/nori

Luckily the Christmas Wrasse is very accepting of prepared foods and should switch over to pellet foods right away. Still a varied diet is essential for health, and with such a colorful fish we want the most color possible. Use multiple types of foods with different contents to make sure the Christmas Wrasse gets all the nutrition they need.

Christmas Wrasse Tank Mates

These wrasse are very peaceful and will get along with almost all community fish. They will even tolerate other small wrasse, even of their own family, as long as they are not too similar in color and size. Keeping them with fish that are less aggressive or weaker than the Christmas Wrasse will result in a more colorful wrasse, which is why I highly advise making the Christmas Wrasse your biggest fish in the tank.

This is not to say they will remain colorless when kept with bigger, more dominant fish. As long as the Christmas Wrasse is not subject to bullying they will transform into a male and get the strong coloration they are known for.

Ideal Tank mates for the Christmas Wrasse include:

  • Tangs
  • Dotty backs
  • Clownfish
  • Rabbit fish
  • Small eels
  • Dwarf Angelfish
  • Blennies

The Christmas Wrasse can do fine with smaller, semi-aggressive fish but should not be kept with big aggressive fish. Additionally as the Christmas Wrasse and its tank mates age they will become less accepting of each other. If the tank is large enough where they each have their own established territories after years of being together they should cause no issues towards each other. For smaller tanks you may need to separate fish as they reach four or five years and become more aggressive.

Christmas Wrasse Acclimation

Acclimating the Christmas Wrasse has a few differences from most fish. The general acclimation process is keeping the fish in a small, bare tank and watching them. This ensures that if they fish has any sickness we catch it before adding the fish to our display tank. For the Christmas Wrasse you will need to add a sand bed to the acclimation tank. This could be across the entire tank or in a smaller container, similar to a sand box on a playground. The sand bed is essential, as the Christmas Wrasse will want to burrow almost right away due to shipping stress and being added to a new tank.

Once you are sure the Christmas Wrasse is safe for your tank you will want to add some of the display tanks water to the acclimation tank in a slow and controlled manner. This will help your Christmas Wrasse adjust to the tank before they make the switch. This should be done no shorter than an hour for an entire acclimation tank. Usually this is done in a bag, which lets the water change to the tanks water quicker.

If you are adding the Christmas Wrasse to a tank that already has wrasse or other fish that may be aggressive towards them an acclimation box is recommended. This is a box that goes on the inside of the tank, letting the existing fish look at the Christmas Wrasse as they acclimate to the tank. If you see any excessive displays of aggression you should keep the wrasse in the box for a while and see if the other fish calm,s down. Due to their desire to burrow I would only recommend you do this for a day or two max. Once the other fish do not show aggression you are free to release the Christmas Wrasse.

Breeding & Gender

The Christmas Wrasse has not been bred successfully in the home aquarium. There is contradicting info floating around that they have, but it is actually the Ornamental Wrasse, Halichoeres ornatissimus that has been bred. While the two are often mistaken for one another they are not the same and should not be treated as such. The Ornamental wrasse is bigger and more aggressive than the Christmas Wrasse.

Wrasse begin their lives as female, slowly changing into male as the situation permits. In the wild there will often be one male Christmas Wrasse with several females and a few transitional males in a group. The transitional males are treated as female and can still return to female. If the dominant male Christmas Wrasse becomes weakened or one of the transitional males wishes to challenge for dominance they may turn into a male. Once a wrasse has become male they cannot change back into a female.

Contrary to their wild lives Christmas Wrasse in the home aquarium will always change into males even when kept with a second Christmas Wrasse. This means if you do keep two paired together you will likely need a second aquarium to move the second male into once they change and start fighting. Until then you are free to enjoy having two Christmas Wrasse in the same tank.

Male Christmas Wrasse will have the strong coloration seen in the top picture while females will keep a much lighter color similar to that of a juvenile. The two genders will look like different species of wrasse but will still recognize each other as Christmas Wrasse.

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