Having your own coral reef tank is perhaps one of the most exciting science projects you can undertake, whether you’re a kid or a grown-up. There are many perks to it. One is simply knowing that you get to keep a piece of coral safe from harm (considering how they will probably go extinct in a few decades). Another is the excitement of building your own combo by collecting the species that look awesome and do something useful for the ecosystem.
Also, it’s great to see just how well the tank’s ecosystem self-regulates, as long as you give it the conditions it needs to thrive. You have algae that feed themselves on the light, fish and other animals that feed on them, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide and so on. Fascinating stuff, right?
But speaking of collecting only the best species for your reef tank, the fish are by far the most interesting. The vivid colors, the way they move through the underwater jungle and the darting motions, almost when you least expect them – you could watch the life in a tank for hours and not get bored.
While diversity is great and you should have several kinds of fish in order to achieve esthetic and functional balance, the best type of reef fish is by far the melanurus wrasse.
Melanurus Wrasse 101
The melanurus wrasse (sometimes also named Hoven’s Wrasse) is a species of saltwater fish native to the Philippines region but bred all over the world today. As a popular choice for aquariums and reef tanks, they are easy to find for sale, and also very easy to care for.
These fish are known for both their vivid colors and their rounded pout mouths, perfectly shaped for stripping things up from hard surfaces. They have been attested for several hundreds of years, and there is even a beautiful medieval Italian picture of them in a woodcut volume comprising the fish knowledge of the times.
The melanurus wrasse goes through several stages of development and arbors different colors as it matures, going through various combinations of orange, blue, green, silver, white, silver-green and silver-blue. There are also significant color pattern differences between the males and females of the species, but all of them are vividly colored and nicknamed ‘the rainbow fish’ precisely for this explosion of saturated pigment.
In their juvenile stage, they are best described as being covered in long red stripes, with a black dot towards their dorsal fins. In their mature stage, they are mostly blue-striped, with a bit of red still visible between the stripes. Their presence is majestic and fascinating; as long as you have a melanurus wrasse fish in your tank, you aren’t very likely to look at the other species for too long.
The average size of a mature melanurus wrasse is 5 inches. As adults, they are among the coolest fish in the tank. They are both highly energetic, thus making them fun to watch, but they are also very friendly and peaceful towards all other fish in the tank.
Why Are Melanurus Wrasse Fish So Popular in Reef Tanks?
First of all, obviously, the species is so popular due to its vivid colors and looks. There are few species of tank fish which sport a good look in all of its stages, without becoming dull in adulthood.
Second of all, these fish are also highly useful in any reef tank because of their waste-picking function. Their role in the tank’s ecosystem is to clean the reef of any parasites, which is why you will be able to admire your melanurus wrasse spending a lot of time darting in and out of every nook and cranny of the reef.
They provide the element of pest control in the water tank, making them as useful as they are gorgeous. With a few of these in your tank, you can be sure the reef and the entire tank environment with remain healthy with minimal effort on your behalf.
How to Care for Your Own Melanurus Wrasse
First of all, remember to place a lid on your tank, if it has an open design. As we mentioned, the melanurus wrasse is a highly energetic sprinter, and when a tank is open these fish can even jump out and land on the carpet.
As far as food is concerned, there isn’t anything special to be done about it: anything you feed to your other fish is also appropriate for the melanurus wrasse. For a treat, you can always offer the fish in your tank a fresh clam, as long as you scrub it well and open it beforehand, in order to avoid introducing residue or bacteria foreign to what the ecosystem is used to.
Beyond these basics, there isn’t anything particular to expect when accommodating melanurus wrasse fish into your reef tank. They are beautiful and effective pest-hunters, and you will have a blast admiring them!
Picture sources: ExoticSeaLife.net and Pinterest.com.