Orange Black Fairy Wrasse

Scientific NameCirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis
Minimum Tank Size90 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

The Orange Black Fairy Wrasse makes for a great addition to any non aggressive marine aquarium. They are flashy fish that draw a lot of attention in tanks while also being able to blend into any developed live rocks in mature tanks. They are quick swimmers that like to cross the tank, keeping an eye on everything that is happening. This includes whats going on outside the tank as well.

The Orange Black Fairy Wrasse features a predominately purple body with a yellow top half that does not go onto their head or tail. Their fins are a clear color with blue spines that will glow with whatever color lighting is used on the tank. They have bright red eyes which can be seen flicking around the tank, keeping an eye on their tankmates and scouting the rocks and sand bed for a quick snack.

Is the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse Reef Safe?

These wrasse are extremely reef safe. They will not bother any invert that is bigger than an inch in size and are known to get along with worms in the tank. This includes feather dusters and beneficial flat worms. Anything that is under half an inch, such as newly formed worms or tiny crustaceans will be targeted by the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse. This should only apply to pests in the tank like pyramidellid snails, amphipods, various worms and baby shrimp. Hermit crabs, cleaner shrimp and pom pom crabs will all be safe with this wrasse.

Corals that are seeing harassment from small pests should see near immediate improvement when adding the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse to their tank. Many of the pests stay safe by clinging to the rock, making them difficult for soft mouthed fish to eat. Wrasse can still remove them by scraping the rocks with their small teeth located on the bottom jaw. This action should be slightly apparent as they make spots on rocks that are covered with coraline algae.

The only inverts you should be worried about are new additions to the tank. Make sure they are not small enough to fit inside the wrasses mouth and they should be okay in the tank. Additionally if you add them near the bottom of the tank rather than letting them float down they will not be targeted as much.

Orange Black Fairy Wrasse Diet

Members of the Cirrhilabrus are quick to accept any foods fed to the tank, and this fairy wrasse is no exception. While they do best with foods that are slow sinking, the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse does well when fed:

  • Seaweed
  • Frozen mysis
  • Vitamin enriched brine shrimp
  • Blood worms
  • Chopped shrimp
  • Flake or pellet foods
  • Copepods | Amphipods

The difficult of wrasse keeping comes from their feeding habits. The Orange Black Fairy Wrasse will expect three or four meals a day. Generally they will hunt around the reef all day, eating small bits of food as they scour their surroundings. In the home aquarium the microorganisms they feed on do not replenish themselves quickly enough to feed a wrasse, even when paired with two meals a day. Their short digestive tracts mean they must be fed at least one extra meal per day.

An issue the extra meal or two a day creates is overfeeding, especially with other quick fish that can hold much more food than the wrasse. To combat this you can use multiple automatic feeders set up around the tank. This will distribute the food so that no one fish can get everything while also letting you limit the amount of food going into the tank. As every fish in the tank will be getting an extra meal, reducing the amount of food per meal while keeping the same total amount of food fed to the tank is key.

One last note is to keep your other fish in mind. Things like dragonets and gobies who depend on pods or various foods in the sand or rock may have more trouble eating when kept with wrasse. Keeping something like a green mandarin in the aquarium with a wrasse is nearly impossible with a stand alone tank at 90 gallons. If you wish to do this consider adding a refuguim and a large copepod culture to the tank well before adding the wrasse. Even a larger 150 gallon tank would have difficulty keeping up with the two fish eating pods. This applies to other fish like the Lawnmower Blenny and diamond goby.

Orange Black Fairy Wrasse Tank Requirements

While this wrasse is very hardy they should be treated as a more sensitive fish would be. The reason for this is they tend to lose their colors when stressed, which negates a big part of why we want them in our tanks. Make sure to acclimate them using the drip method and add them during nighttime.

A solid rock formation with tunnels and caverns is highly advised for members of the Cirrhilabrus family. Not only do they enjoy swimming between rocks and the safety they provide, the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse will hide among the rocks at night and form a mucus cocoon to hold them in place. This lets them rest over night while expending almost no energy.

One of the main problems that Cirrhilabrus owners run into is not knowing about the cocoon. When they notice the wrasse missing or find them with strings floating around them as they rest on the rocks owners can panic and try to net the wrasse. While they may look sick or even dead a mucus cocoon using wrasse is actually very happy in the tank. disturbing their sleep is one of the worst things you can do.

This method of sleeping leaves them more vulnerable to both territorial fish and eels. Even small peaceful eels like the snowflake and dwarf eels can take a swing at the self immobilized wrasse. Likewise fish who claim large sections of rocks will limit where the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse can sleep. If you have too many of these rock claiming fish the wrasse may be unable to settle in for the night and instead sleep while swimming in place. This is dangerous in the home aquarium as they will need even more food if they are not allowed to save energy over night.

Finally these wrasse are used to being a few meters under the waters surface. As our tanks are not usually this deep the wrasse may accidentally jump just from swimming upwards quickly. Tanks should be fitted with a tight fitting lid with all holes covered. Additionally over flow boxes should not be able to be jumped into.

Tank Mates

The Orange Black Fairy Wrasse is extremely peaceful. They will get along with other wrasse, often even with their own kind when given a tank large enough. If you are keeping them in a tank under 90 gallons try to avoid similarly sized purple fish. In general good tank mates would be:

  • Clownfish
  • Peaceful Wrasse
  • Tangs
  • Angelfish
  • Gobies
  • Basslets
  • Chromis
  • Butterflyfish
  • Surgeon fish

The main concern with the orange black wrasse is any other aggressive fish. They are so peaceful that even large clowns can often bully these fish into hiding. Absolutely no aggressive fish should be in the tank before adding the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse. Instead try to have the wrasse already settled into the tank before adding more dominant fish to your aquarium. For existing tanks that see conflict you may need to rearrange the tank. This will reset the territories, making older fish less aggressive.

Remember this wrasse will lose its beautiful purple hue when stressed. If you want to get the most out of them do not over crowd their tank and do not keep them in aquariums where other fish will stress the wrasse.

Orange Black Fairy Wrasse Gender

Born as a female the Orange Black Fairy Wrasse is quick to develop its purple colors and yellow back. There is no visible color difference between males and females to the naked eye. This is a mixed good and bad thing as females will be just as brilliant as males but also makes it more difficult to keep a male and female together.

Males will have a slightly darker color, but this is nearly impossible to notice even if two are kept in the same tank. The one true difference between the genders is only seen under specific lighting. Males will glow when placed under ultraviolet lights. This helps them attract females while also deterring potential males from challenging them.

The problem with wrasse is that they change from male to female. In the wild this change is inhibited by other dominant males being present. For some reason this does not happen in the home aquarium, meaning two female wrasse will both become males, even if one is added two years later than the other. If you do plan on keeping two together you should also have plans to remove one of the wrasse in case they begin fighting years later.

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