Write-Up Wednesday: Four Years with Several Leopard Wrasses

My Leopard Wrasse

My female Leopard Wrasse

I remember the first time I saw a Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon meleagris) in a saltwater tank because when I saw it, I immediately wanted one. Never before had I seen a fish with such unique patterns mixed with a contrast of two simple colors – black and white. At the time the fish was in a fellow hobbyist’s tank and he wasn’t interested in selling it which was likely a good thing as I was forced to go home and read up on my new found bucket-list fish.

My initial research was a heartbreaking. The fish had a reputation for not doing in well in captivity due mainly due to a refusal to take prepared foods. After purchasing the leopard wrasse I saw in the hobbyist’s tank and after acquiring, quarantining and conditioning several of these fish for clients, my experience with them has been 100% opposite of what I read.

Note: Leopard wrasses sleep in the sand bed and will hide in the sand when scared. Therefore, if you keep a bare bottom tank, this fish is not for you. Also, while in quarantine, I will place a larger plastic container of sand in the tank for the fish to seek cover. This is one of the few times I’ll allow sand in a quarantine tank.

Every fish I put in my tank gets quarantined and besides disease prevention, I love using the quarantine time to get a fish onto not only prepared foods, but also onto the prepared foods I feed. I use live brine for all my new arrivals and the live brine trick works really well with leopard wrasses. 100% of the time within two days the fish are accepting live brine and within seven days the fish are on frozen food. Once the leopard wrasses accept frozen, they eat anything I place in the tank. Flakes, pellets, nori, mysis, etc. You name it, they eat it.

I’ve found they also tolerate medications quite well as I’ve treated several with copper (Cupramine) and they don’t blink an eye. Disclaimer: treating with copper requires you understand the diseases you are treating for as well as proper quarantine procedures. Please don’t grab some copper and start medicating your fish without doing your homework

These fish are fantastic hunters as they are very agile swimmers. They can hover in one place, back up and get into small nooks and crannies in your display tank to eat one of their favorite meals: copepods. These fish will decimate your pod population so if you have other pod eating fish like mandarins, I would not place a leopard wrasse in the tank.

Besides out competing fish for food, the leopard wrasse is a good citizen and gets along well with other fish. Clients who have placed trios of leopard wrasses report that two of the wrasses often pair up and will harass the remaining leopard wrasse.

The Leopard Wrasse will catch your eye and hold your attention as watching this skilled hunter is awe inspiring. They are very athletic fish and they eat like it too. I plan on placing two leopard wrasses in my 450g tank as my tank matures.

Finally, know your skill level. If you aren’t willing to quarantine this fish properly including finding live brine to help it start eating, please don’t attempt this fish. Also, the above is my experiences with the Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon meleagris). There are several other types of leopard wrasses – Choat’s Red Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon choati), Potter’s Wrasse (Macropharyngodon geoffroyi) – that are difficult to keep. Therefore, if you attempt a leopard wrasse , make sure it’s a Macropharyngodon meleagris.


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Comments for this article (8)

  • Chris says:

    Can you put a leopard wrasse in with an established Sixline in a 75?

  • Andrew says:

    Would one of these do well in a 60 gallon cube, or is that too small?

  • JasPR says:

    Stereotypes exist for a reason. Its not all ‘parrot talking’ one mistruth to the next pair of ears. In truth, most of the ‘information’ in the hobby is antidotal based on one’s experience. And that ‘experience’ can be deep ( in the case of a thirty year hobbyist) or an enthusiastic experience reported as fact by a person in the hobby for one year but with a high tendency to Utube post! But in the end, it is compiling of massive useless information that forms a body of truth! Regal angels ARE difficult to keep. Easier to keep if you have a large established system with the right invert growth and dedicate the 120 gallon aquarium to that one species. so what I just posted there, are two stereotypes, one experienced hobbyists opinion and serval other — ‘depending on conditions’ type comment. What I’m saying here is we need to : Respect the generalizations of the past 2) realize that time, equipment and understanding in other areas can turn tradition on its ear and 3) don’t hate beginners innocent observations, we were all there once- raw beginners . At one or two years in the hobby you are a humble enthusiast and at the three to five year make you ‘know everything’ and at the 10 year mark you become open minded again. Its fun. Jasper

  • Jack Shellsea says:

    I also would like to hear about compatibility with other wrasses. In my case a yellow coris.

  • Joe hunt says:

    I have 4 differnt types of leapord wrasse in my tank with a marandon and 2 scooter Bennie s and they’ve been in my tank for over a year and I love them and they are very hardy fish once they get adaptive in your system you just got to watch their stomic s to make sure they all are eating good. I would recommend that you have a good established refuge to grow copopods in. I was putting in a new pack once a month for 4 months and I have not been adding to the system for 8 months now and they all are doing great. If you have a chance I would get one or more

  • Drew says:

    My leopard wrasse is an awesome member of his tank. I have had him for over a year and he does just great. He is going to 29 gallon biocube paired with the seahorse and they are buddies. I love this fish

  • geoff says:

    i have a leopard and a six-line in a 150g tank. The sixline will sometime chase the leopard, then leave it alone after a few minutes. If i had to do it again, i would not have added the sixline.

  • Alex says:

    I have a leopard wrasse with a yellow coris and mandarin, have had them for about a year. The wrasses both eat anything I throw in there, rods food, brs reef chili, mysis, flake food or even pellet foods. I rotate through almost all of them during the week. I also add amphipods and copepods about once a month. Everyone is always looking fat and happy, no fighting whatsoever.

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