Six Line Wrasse

The popular and (sometimes) pugnacious six line wrasse

Pseudocheilinus hexataenia, commonly known as Six Line Wrasse or Six Stripe Wrasse, is one of the most popular saltwater fish you can find in stores and online. One look at them and it isn’t hard to see why they are so popular. This article will cover some of what makes this fish so interesting and answer a few of the most common questions about keeping them in a reef tank.

Feel free to jump ahead to review some of the most frequently asked questions:

Six line wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia)

Whether the 6 line wrasse is blue with orange stripes or orange with blue stripes, I’m not quite sure, but the bottom line is that they are very attractive fish.

My favorite thing is watching their eyes–their eyes dart around and remind me of a chameleon that way. They are generally inexpensive and widely available and are perpetual motion machines zooming around the tank without a care in the world.

Want me to send you a free eBook and Newsletter?

* indicates required


How big does a six line wrasse get?

The typical size to see a 6 line wrasse at a local fish store is in the 1-2 inch range, but they will grow to between 3 and 4 inches in total length when fully grown.

6 line wrasse near gorgonian coral

Ideal habitat

The 6 Line Wrasse originates in the Central and Indo-West Pacific Ocean, and the Red Sea as well. These fish can also be found in the northern part of New South Wales, the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, and areas around northwestern Australia.

Indo-Pacific biogeographic region map-en

They are hardy fish that are relatively easy to keep in a saltwater aquarium. A relatively small fish, they tend to stay under 3 inches long, which means you can keep them in a tank that is 20-30 gallons in volume.

While the 6 line wrasse is a naturally bold fish, they do best when kept with a moderate amount of live rock. They will dart in and out of the aquascape for protection and will scour the rock looking for a tasty morsel to eat.

Six-line wrasse

Is the 6 line wrasse reef safe?

6 Line Wrasses are considered reef-safe and would leave corals and most invertebrates alone. They might even act as cleaner fish and peck parasites or algae off larger fish, rocks, or plants. They are even able to keep a pyramid snail population in control.

Do six line wrasses eat coral?

No, six line wrasses don’t generally eat coral. You may see them picking around the base of corals, but they are likely looking for tiny invertebrates like worms, copepods, or other meaty foods to eat.

6 line wrasse in reef tank

Feeding the 6 Line Wrasse

The 6 line wrasse is a carnivorous fish, spending most of their time picking at live rocks in search of small worms (like bristle worms), parasites, and crustaceans.

Most individuals will accept standard saltwater fish food, like flakes, pellets, or tablets, but what they would appreciate most is frozen food and even small live food.

These are very active fish. If possible, try to feed them 2-3 times a day.

Do six line wrasses eat flatworms?

Yes, six line wrasses do eat some flatworms and segmented worms like the bristle worm but a single fish is not likely to rid your tank of these pests. There also appears to be variability in how eager an individual fish is to eat them. Some eat them voraciously, others seem to ignore.

P1020259

Behavior and tank mates for the 6 line wrasse

Compatibility is one of the biggest issues with keeping the six-line wrasse because they can be aggressive and have a tendency to pester other fish, especially other members of the wrasse family. They can stress out a shy fish so much they may succumb to parasites or even die.

Smaller and shy fish like the marine betta, fairy wrasses, firefish, Royal gramma fish, or leopard wrasses won’t make good tank mates, as they run the risk of constantly being harassed by the six-line wrasse. Also, slow swimmers like mandarin gobies, seahorses, and pipefish are very likely to starve in their presence.

 

It is always better to introduce a 6 line wrasse last to the tank, as newly arrived wrasses tend to be more peaceful than those already inhabiting and defending the tank.

Six Line Wrasse - Pseudocheilinus hexataenia

Are six line wrasses jumpers?

There is some risk that a six line wrasse will jump out of the tank when startled if you do not have a tight-fitting lid or another way to prevent the jump.

Share your experiences and see what others are saying

With saltwater fish like 6 lines, it can be tricky sometimes to figure out exactly what semi-aggressive means. Please share your specific experiences with keeping this fish so that we can share, over time, exactly how often and with which fish or invertebrates problems occur. After you submit your response, you can see what your fellow hobbyists are saying about this fish!

Pros and cons to consider before adding a 6 line wrasse to your tank

These fish are extremely popular, but like any good decision, there are some pros and cons you should consider before adding them to your tank.

six line wrasse close up eye

 

5 reasons to keep them

  • Beautiful
  • Inexpensive
  • Hardy
  • Will eat parasitic pyramid snails, flatworms, and bristle worms
  • Can be kept in reasonably small tanks (about 20-30 gallons or so)

2 reasons not to keep them

  • Can be aggressive fish
  • May out-compete shy fish for food

For more information

Check out this short video to learn more about the six line wrasse:

Here are a few other articles about semi-aggressive saltwater fish similar to the six line wrasse:

Or perhaps you would rather check out these other peaceful, hardy fish instead:

Conclusions

It is no surprise that the six-line wrasse is one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fish. Have you ever had one in your tank? If so, please share your experiences below by leaving a comment. Thanks!

 

Six line wrasse aquarium care guide

Comments

  1. Love my six line wrasse! He darts all over the tank all day and never seems to bother any of the clownfish, cardinals or shrimp that he shares a tank with.
    He’s beautifully and keeps to himself, perfect fish

    1. Author

      Hi Bobbie, thanks for sharing your individual experience with keeping the 6 line wrasse. It is a helpful reminder that there are no absolutes in this hobby. We’re dealing with animals and dynamic living systems. Individual results will vary. Definitely appreciate your contribution here.

      Regards,
      Al

  2. This is a great article. I have had a 6-line for many years and this fish is wonderful. (and a photo bomber) I have the wrasse with a firefish and also mandarin, but I also cultivate my own coepods and that is critical, as they will diminish the coepods for the mandarin. While the 6-line will eat other foods, most mandarins don’t. My first mandarin lived a very long time and would eat bloodworms right from my pipet. I haven’t had such luck with my second mandarin. He only goes for the live coepods…so I began cultivating them for him. He is worth it. I think the key is to have enough of their primary food source so they don’t need to pick on their tank mates.

    Thanks,
    Pam

    1. Author

      Hi Pam,

      Thanks for the great comment and for sharing your experiences with the 6-line and the Mandarin. Sounds like the 6 line is very well behaved. How do you culture the copepods? that sounds interesting and helpful?

      1. I cultivate the coepods and live plankton in separate 3 gallon drink dispensers I purchased on Amazon. I have piped aeration to both. I learned all the tips on how to set this up from videos on YouTube and reef blogs.

  3. My Six Line recently nipped at an upside down snail who apparently then snapped shut trapping my wrasses top lip/jaw. I discovered my Six Line struggling to release himself from the snails grip. I tried everything to get the snail to open up and let go. Eventually my Wrasse was freed but he is now missing his top lip/jaw. He seems to be doing fine so far though he seems to have some trouble eating with his unfortunately revised mouth. Will his mouth heal? Is there anything I need to or can do to assist him? I have been trying to figure out what I should feed him to make it easier for him to eat as he can no longer pick his food out of the water like he used to. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Pam

    1. Author

      Hi Pam,

      So sorry to hear about your Six Line + snail trouble. Got stuck in the cookie jar. Regarding the lip/mouth/jaw, it’s hard to say. I have never experienced this, specifically, but have seen minor mouth injuries heal on otherwise healthy fish. I have also seen more problematic injuries not heal. Are you able to remove the fish to a hospital tank to ensure you can adequately feed and keep the wrasse out of harms’ way?

      1. Hi Al,
        Thanks for the reply. My little Six Line was doing well in spite of his injury and I had just gotten some meds and food to try to nurse him through recovery when I found him dead in the tank. I had really hoped he would make it as he lived a few weeks post injury. He was an incredibly entertaining little guy!
        Pam

  4. My six line won’t let me have a lawnmower blennie. He will not let them eat,so they starve.

  5. I’ve gone through two six-line wrasses over the years. I love watching them. I always have a mandarin, a tail spot blenny, dracula goby pair with a pistol shrimp, cardinal or two, firefish, and an assortment of other gobies. So the six-line is always my most aggressive. With both, they started off peaceful and would cruise the tank, occasional just hanging out next to other fish, watching them. After about a year or so with each wrasse, they because aggressive and bullied the gobies and blenny, so they would not come out to eat. I own a fish trap and sold them each after they became aggressive. They are easy to trap, because of their curious nature. I’d love to keep one, but my tank is so peaceful that after two, I have stuck to more peaceful, similar ones like the pink-streaked wrasse, which is what I currently have in my tank.

    1. Author

      Kevin, thank you so much for sharing your experiences there. It’s particularly helpful to read about how the territoriality/aggressiveness increased over time and what the consequences were. Appreciate your sharing here, as advice to anyone looking to learn more about this fish.

      Regards,
      Al

  6. i have just bought a six line wrasse a female. any one have any ideas on how to keeping them
    i read up on it on Google. it says that there not egressive and get along with most fish
    i read thay good at eating snails and eggs so hopefully it will as got a lot of them In my marine tank at momment.

  7. yes i have a six line wrasse its a female. he harassing my file fish is that normal for a wrasse to do that with a file fish the wrasse is the new fish i jist put it in Tuesday.

Leave a Comment