Yellowhead Wrasse: 19 Facts You Won't Believe!

Learn more amazing yellowhead wrasse facts here on Kidadl.

The yellowhead wrasse (scientific name: Halichoeres garnoti) as known as neon wrasse is a small fish of the Labridae or the wrasse family. This fish is a predator species feeding on small invertebrates. Even though they change appearance and sex in their life, they are mostly yellow in color making them the easiest wrasses to identify. There is a blue color stripe along the length of their body. These wrasses too start their life as females before turning into males. The Hallichoeres genus fishes or wrasses are found in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Currently, there are 80 recognized species in Halichoeres. The Labridae family is largely diverse, with 81 genera consisting of 600 marine species that are divided into nine tribes or subgroups. The term 'wrasse' is a derivation of the Cornish word 'wragh,' an alteration of 'gwargh,' which means an old woman or hag; wrath in cornish dialect. This term is also related to Breton gwrac'h and gwarch. Research data shows that some of the wrasse species can use tools or 'tool use,' like making use of rocks to smash open sea urchins.

If these facts about the yellowhead wrasses interest you, then do check out facts about the rockmover wrasse and wrasse on Kidadl.

Yellowhead Wrasse

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small invertebrates

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?


How long are they?

7.4 in (19 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Yellow, blue, and gray

Skin Type

Wet, slimy scales

What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Shallow and deep coral reef, sandy reef, rocks, and small cavities


Western Atlantic: Bermuda and southern Florida, Caribbean sea, Venezuela, and the Gulf of Mexico





Scientific Name

Halichoeres garnoti





Yellowhead Wrasse Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a yellowhead wrasse?

The yellowhead wrasse (scientific name: Halichoeres garnoti) is wrasse fish of the order Labriformes and phylum Chordata. This wrasse is the easiest wrasses to identify among others. In their juvenile phase, they have the tendency to behave like cleaner fish. This fish is an aquarium species. They control pests in saltwater aquariums. This fish can be easily attracted by divers as they are always on the move.

What class of animal does a yellowhead wrasse belong to?

The yellowhead wrasse (scientific name: Halichoeres garnoti) belongs to the class Actinopterygii of the animals.

How many yellowhead wrasses are there in the world?

The exact number of the yellowhead wrasse (Halichoeres garnoti) fish is not yet known.

Where does a yellowhead wrasse live?

The native habitat range of the yellowhead wrasse (Halichoeres garnoti) or neon wrasse is the Caribbean Sea and extends from south of the Gulf of Mexico to the north of Venezuela. The yellowhead wrasse distribution also extends to Bermuda and southern Florida in the western Atlantic.

What is a yellowhead wrasse's habitat?

The habitat range of the yellowhead wrasse (Halichoeres garnoti) or neon wrasse includes shallow and deep coral reefs, sandy reefs, rocks, and small cavities. They can be found at a depth up to 200 ft (60 m).

Who does yellowhead wrasse live with?

The yellowhead wrasse (Halichoeres garnoti) or neon wrasse lives in schools.

How long does a yellowhead wrasse live?

The yellowhead wrasse or neon wrasse lives up to three to five years.

How do they reproduce?

Similar to many wrasses, the yellowhead wrasse or neon wrasse starts life as a female and then turns male (protogynous hermaphrodite). In the breeding season, the adult males are territorial as they gather in a lek. These fish species migrate daily to spawning grounds from feeding grounds and males monopolize mates. The reproduction takes place before sunset every day. The exact number of eggs is unknown. Their body color is the brightest in the breeding season to attract mates and the intensity of this color decreases when they are feeding.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the Halichoeres garnoti is Least Concern. However, they face the threat of aquarium trades. They are not an interesting fish species to anglers and usually catch and release these wrasses.

Yellowhead Wrasse Fun Facts

What does yellowhead wrasse look like?

The yellowhead wrasses are small wrasse fishes and it is easy to spot them. The coloring at each phase of their life and sex change is variable. They have thin and long bodies with terminal mouths. When these fish are in the juvenile phase they are yellow-colored with a bright blue stripe along the length of their body. This stripe extends from their eyes and stops near their caudal fin. The caudal fin is gray-colored and the yellow extends to the mid-dorsal fin. They have a round caudal fin and there are 13 rays on the pectoral fin. When they are female in the initial phase, the back is dark in color and oftentimes with the yellow underside and blue shadings. On their front head, two wavy dark lines shine from the hind side of their eye containing dark spots. In the adult phase, the front part and head are yellow and the hind half is silver-gray, and the broad black blue stripe and vertical black and the blue bar appear along the border length of the dorsal fin. Three more longitude lines are visible from this dark blue line, which are green, blue then change to pink and to mauve.

The yellowhead wrasse is found in all waters across Mexico.

How cute are they?

Halichoeres garnoti is vibrant yellow-colored and is considered rather beautiful.

How do they communicate?

Halichoeres garnoti communicate through visuals, body language, and chemical release.

How big is a yellowhead wrasse?

This wrasse fish grows up to 7.4 in (19 cm) in length. The humhead wrasse is way bigger in length measuring up to 3.3-6.5 ft (1-2 m).

How fast can a yellowhead wrasse swim?

The exact swimming speed of the yellowhead wrasse is not yet known.

How much does a yellowhead wrasse weigh?

The exact weight of these wrasse species is not yet known.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name given to the male and female yellow head wrasse.

What would you call a baby yellowhead wrasse?

There is no specific name given to the yellow baby wrasse fish. They are usually referred to as juvenile fishes.

What do they eat?

This wrasse fish feeds on small invertebrates like worms, sea urchins, brittle stars, crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms they find on substrates or in the sand. They can easily grasp and hold crustaceans due to their prominent front teeth.

Are they dangerous?

No, this marine fish is not dangerous is human beings.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes, the wrasses would make a great aquarium pet. The wrasses need a 40-50 gal (151-189 l) size aquarium. They can be bought easily on the internet. They can be fed invertebrates. Coral and sandy reefs can be placed in the aquarium using caution.

Did you know...

Of the 70 wrasses species in the Halichoeres genus, nine species are found in the Pacific Ccean, 10 species in the Western Atlantic ocean, and 19 species in Mexican water.

Some natural predators of this marine species are spiny dogfish, barracuda, and lionfish. This fish uses sand and ledges of rocks to escape these predators.

The depth of the compressed bodies of these wrasses is 24-28% of their standard length.

The fishes of the Labridae family are a host to 338 parasites, as per data given by Diaz and Munoz in 2015.

The fish species of Centrolabru, Labrus, and Symphodus of the Labridae family provide brood care.

Cleaner wrasses were observed to be the first fishes to pass the mirror test, as per the 2019 study.

Does the yellowhead wrasse have teeth?

This aquarium fish has thick lips with three pairs of canine teeth in the front, that is, two on the bottom and one on top. While invertebrates like crustaceans, this fish uses the front teeth to catch and hold them.

How to spot yellowhead wrasse

In the juvenile phase, the wrasses have a yellow color with a bright blue stripe along the length of their body. This stripe extends from their eyes and stops near their caudal fin. The caudal fin is gray-colored and the yellow extends to the mid-dorsal fin. In the adult phase, the front part and head are yellow and the hind half is silver-gray, and the broad black blue stripe and vertical black and the blue bar appear along the border length of the dorsal fin. The wrasses have 12 rays and three spines on their anal fin, 13 rays on their pectoral fin, and 9-11 rays and nine spines on the dorsal fin.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fishes from our salmon facts and shark facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring on one of our free printable fish coloring pages.



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