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.

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.

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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, grammas, 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 that 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.

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!

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