Clown Wrasse Identification

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The clown wrasse can be difficult to identify because it has so many different color phases. Identify the adult clown wrasse by three red lines that appear over the top of the head with help from a scuba diving instructor in this free video on fish identification and marine life.

Part of the Video Series: Caribbean Fish
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Video Transcript

The marine organism we're going to identify now is the clown wrasse. Like the parrot-fish family, wrasses are oftentimes difficult to identify as they have so many different color phases. This holds true for the clown wrasse. As the juvenile, the clown wrasse has a light colored almost white lower half of its body and a dark upper half. The upper half is bisected by a yellow stripe that starts in a V shape on the snout and then goes down both sides of the fish just below the dorsal fin to the tail. As they get a little older, three red lines appear and cross over the top of the head between the eyes. As they continue to mature, their coloration changes dramatically. Their bodies become mostly green to greenish yellow with red markings. The final color change is to the terminal phase adult at which time they become blue and yellow with violet highlights. The red markings on the head remain and a dark body blotch appears about mid-body. Terminal phase clown wrasses may also sport a dark spot on the forward part of their dorsal fin. Depending on your location in the tropical waters of the Americas, clown wrasses can be quite common or quite rare. But they are found throughout this range. Adult clown wrasses can reach a length of over six inches but most are observed as three to five inch specimens. They can be found at depths from ten feet to forty feet. Clown wrasses swim almost constantly and swim just above the bottom of the reef, rarely rising more than a foot or two above the bottom. As they swim, they are constantly searching under ledges in coral heads for food. Their diet consists of a variety of small shrimp, crabs, mollusks and worms. Clown wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites. This means that all fish start out life as females and turn into males as they mature and reach their terminal phase. During spawning, males will gather a harem of females and spawn with several from the harem every day during the breeding season. Eggs are fertilized externally and allowed to drift with the currents until they hatch. That's the clown wrasse.

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