Mystery wrasse Pseudocheilinus ocellatus.
The wrasses of the genus Pseudocheilinus appear to have much going for them. They are commonly available and stay relatively small, plus they’re good- looking, intelligentfishes. Theyare
shrinking violet terrors, however. While they
can be extremely aggressive to tankmates,
these labrids are also top contenders for
being the poster fish for shyness. Although
quite common in their natural ranges, with
the exception of P. ocellatus, divers have
as hard a time seeing them as the anxious
reef aquarists who keep them. But despite
their tendency to be little terrors and their
propensity for hiding, these fishes can make
engaging, albeit fleetingly seen additions to
many types of marine systems.
All told, there are seven scientifically
described species of Pseudocheilinus. Of
these, two hail from restricted ranges and are
extremely rare in the trade. In fact, I have yet
to come upon P. citrinus (from the Pitcairn
Islands to Rarotonga) or P. dispilus (from the
Mascarene Islands) in the United States trade.
The other five species are often available,
however. Their collective distribution covers
the mid-Pacific (Hawai‘i and Polynesia, the
West Pacific to East Africa’s coast and the
Red Sea). These are shallow-water reef fishes,
again with the exception of P. ocellatus, which
is rarely found in water shallower than 100
feet. They live in and among rocky rubble
and its associated attached life.
P. evanidus is usually called the pinstriped
or striated wrasse, but I prefer two of its
other common names: the disappearing
or vanishing wrasse. It grows to a size of
only 3 inches. P. evanidus has a wide range
covering the Indo-Pacific, including the
Red Sea and Hawai‘i.