Humphead Wrasse

"Humphead Wrasse" by Bruno Gore (digital)

The Humphead Wrasse is a fascinating and intelligent large fish, with a mesmerizing colorful robe.
— Bruno Gore

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The humphead is found in the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea to South Africa and to the Tuamotu Islands (Polynesia), north to the Ryukyu Islands (south-west Japan), and south to New Caledonia. They live in giant reefs in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

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Family life

Adults are usually solitary, spending the day roaming the reef and returning to caves or ledges to rest at night. Adult females can change sex. Pairs spawn together as part of a larger mating group that may consist of over 100 individuals. The planktonic eggs are released into the water and once the larvae hatched, the young are on their own.


Humphead wrasse are known to survive for at least 30 years.

Hunting Habits/Diet

Napoleon fish are carnivorous and eat during the day. They can be seen feasting on shellfish, other fish, sea stars, sea urchins and crabs, crushing the shells to get at the animal within. They also crush large chunks of dead coral rubble with peg-like teeth to feed on the burrowing mussels and worms. This fish is also immune to the toxic spines of animals like the crown-of-thorns starfish.


This species is rare in the wild and has seen a 50% loss just in the last 30 years. 

Fun Fact

Humphead wrasses, like most wrasses, are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that they can function as members of both sexes over their reproductive lives and that they will start as females. Later in life they may transition to males, but in some species not all individuals will transition. They are so one of the largest reef fishes in the world.

Why are They Endangered

This enormous, colorful coral-reef dweller is slow to reproduce, making it vulnerable to overfishing. Consequently, th flesh of this fish has been highly prized and has become one of the most highly sought species of the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT), a luxury food industry that has undergone an increase in popularity in eastern Asian countries. Additionally, cyanide is typically used to catch this fish, because live fish are difficult to take any other way, and this devastates coral reefs bringing about other issues. 




Humphead Wrasse