Exquisite Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus exquisitus)

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Exquisite Fairy Wrasse
Cirrhilabrus exquisitus
Exquisite Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus exquisitus)
Name Exquisite Fairy Wrasse
Name Lat. Cirrhilabrus exquisitus
Family Wrasses
Family lat. Labridae
Order Wrasses & Relatives
Order lat. Labriformes
Origin Indo-Pacific
Habitat Reefs
Diet Planktivore
pH 8,1-8,4
Hardness 8-10 °KH
Behavior Peaceful
Keeping Pair, group
Reef Compatible Yes
Care Level Moderate
Life Span 2-3 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 12 cm
Temperature 24-28 °C
Salinity 33-36 ‰
Aquarium ~ 400 l
US Units
Size 5"
Temperature 75-82 °F
Salinity 1.020-1.025 sg
Aquarium ~ 100 gal

Distribution and habitat

The distribution area of Cirrhilabrus exquisitus is the Indo-Pacific, from the East African coast through Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines to the Tuamotu Islands. They live there over rock or rubble on reefs and outer reef edges to depths of 40 m.


They require a well-structured aquarium with plenty of swimming space and a reef structure (hiding, resting and retreat possibilities) with living stones that act like a biological filter as well as a substrate of sand or fine gravel. Only substrates rich in lime and free of heavy metals may be used as substrate.

Filters, skimmers and heaters are necessary to ensure water quality, as well as pumps to simulate tides, swells and bottom currents. Lighting must match the species-appropriate day-night rhythm of the animals

Salinity: 33-36 ‰ pH value: 8.1-8.4
Carbonate hardness: 8-10 °KH Nitrate content: 2-8 mg/l
phosphate content: 0.01-0.1 mg/l nitrite content: 0.0-0.05 mg/l

For salinity, an average value should be aimed for, which may only vary slightly by +/- 0.5 ‰. Ammonia and ammonium must not be measurable. Special attention must be paid to constantly good water quality.


In nature they feed mainly on zooplankton. The feed changeover does not always succeed without problems. The food supply for these slow eaters should consist of a commercially available, vitamin-enriched, frozen special food mix for plankton eaters or a combination of chopped shrimp and crab meat with live and frozen foods, such as mysis, krill, bosmids, cyclops and Artemia. High quality flake and granulated foods are also often accepted after a period of acclimation

It is recommended to feed small portions several times a day (3-5 times). This also reduces intra-species aggression. Regular and varied feeding promotes health and increases resistance.

Behaviour and compatibility

The young fish, mostly females, are peaceful among themselves and can be kept without problems. With the sex change to male the aggression increases. They should be kept in pairs or in a group of at least 5 animals. Several animals can be socialized well, if they are put into the aquarium at the same time. They behave peacefully towards other fish.

Sex dimorphism

They are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that most males develop from functional females. The  females are less colorful than the males, which have bright red spots

Reproduction and breeding

There are no known reports of successful breeding in the aquarium.


Their coloration is very variable according to origin and mood (blue, green, orange, purple, red or yellow). Especially during the acclimation they often jump, so make sure the aquarium is well covered

They can be kept very well in a reef aquarium with corals and invertebrates and should not be kept in a fish-only aquarium.

If different species are kept together, care should be taken to match the fish in terms of water quality and temperature requirements and social behavior, and to ensure that the setup meets the needs of all species kept together. New fish to be introduced must be acclimated slowly to the water in the aquarium

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Werner Winter; Image: petdata

Source: KUITER, DEBELIUS (2007): Atlas der Meeresfische: Die Fische an den Küsten der Weltmeere, Kosmos Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF