Yellowtail Coris Wrasse Fish

A Fish That Changes Its Spots

Yellowtail Coris (Wrasse)
Jones/Shimlock-Secret Sea Visions/Getty Images 

The Yellowtail Coris Wrasse and Red Coris Wrasse are the same species, which begs the question "which color is this fish: yellow or red?" In fact, the answer is "both." As juveniles, these beautiful saltwater fish are bright red with white spots outlined in black. As adults, however, they are multicolored fish with bright yellow tails. If you decide to add a Yellowtail Coris Wrasse to your aquarium, you'll get to experience the pleasure of watching this fascinating fish literally change its spots.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Red Coris Wrasse, Yellow Tail Coris Wrasse, Clown Wrasse, Red Labrid Wrasse, Gaimard's Wrasse

Scientific Name: Coris gaimard

Adult Size: To about 14 inches

Life Expectancy: Several years


Family Labridae
Origin Southeast Asia and the central Pacific
Social Semi-aggressive
Tank Level All levels
Minimum Tank Size 100 gallons
Diet Carnivore
Breeding Egg layer
Care Moderate to difficult
pH 8.1–8.4
Temperature 22 - 26 C; 72 - 79 F

Origin and Distribution

The Yellowtail Coris Wrasse is a reef-dweller that lives on most reefs in the Indo-Pacific, the Red Sea, Fiji, and the Hawaiian Islands. A carnivore, it feeds on the mollusks and other small invertebrates found on the reefs; as a result, it is not considered to be a "reef safe" fish to keep in an aquarium.  

Colors and Markings

These fish start life as small red fish with black-rimmed white spots along their dorsal rim. As juvenile wrasse develop into adulthood, they change appearance completely. Their bright red bodies darken, blue specks appear, the fins gain decorative yellow, red, and blue markings, the face gains orange and green stripes, and they develop a bright yellow tail.


Yellowtail Coris Wrasse can be aggressive toward others of its own species, so it's wisest to keep just one in a tank (or a mated pair). Other fish that can make good tankmates include Blennies, Butterflies, Boxfish, Clownfish, Hawkfish, Rabbitfish, and Angelfish. 

Yellowtail Coris Wrasse Habitat and Care

Most aquarium owners buy their Yellowtail Coris Wrasse fish as juveniles that have already developed to some degrees. That's because tiny juveniles typically do not fare well in captivity. It is not unusual for them to waste away and starve to death due to the lack of accepting food, and thus not taking in the high caloric diet they require to survive. It is best to obtain a sub-adult specimen of more than two inches in size, and one that is already eating well to help avoid problems with starvation.

Aquarium owners will want to house this species in a large tank (100 gallons or more) to provide their pets with plenty of swimming room. The substrate should consist of a two to four-inch bed of soft sand, as Yellowtail Coris Wrasse like to bury themselves in the sand to sleep at night and for protection when frightened or harassed. It's important to be aware that this species searches for food by turning over pieces of live rock and coral. Large individuals are very adept at this task, and thus can easily move objects around, which may cause aquarium rock formations to become unstable. This species prefers a brightly lit aquarium, and requires a tight cover as they can and will jump.

While the species is generally hardy, they are prone to developing internal bacterial infections associated with the bladder due to poor substrate environment in an aquarium.

Yellowtail Coris Wrasse Diet

A carnivore, the Yellowtail Coris Wrasse possesses two prominent teeth in the front of each jaw that are used for feeding on its favorite prey: nails, hermit crabs, crabs, shrimps, mollusks, and sea urchins. It will eat nuisance bristle worms, but other beneficial worms as well, including decorative tube species. These fish should be fed three times a day on a hardy diet of suitably bite-sized pieces of meaty foods that includes fresh or frozen seafoods, live or frozen brine and mysid shrimp, live glass or ghost shrimp, live black worms, and flake food.

Sexual Differences

Unlike many fish, the male and female look quite different from one another. Juveniles of both sexes are red with black-rimmed white "saddles." As adults, males are dark gray with a green bar behind the gill. Females, however, are dark blue with a red fringe.  

Breeding of the Yellowtail Coris Wrasse

Yellowtail Coris Wrasse develop mating pairs, and lay eggs in nests. It is very unusual for this species to procreate in an aquarium environment.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

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