Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

Español  Contact

Species: Thalassoma bifasciatum, Bluehead wrasse

All Families:   All Genera:   All Species:

IP yellow & white + dark stripe
IP brown + pale bars above, white below
TP blue head & green body separated by black, white bars
juv: yellow + black stripe all body, front D black blotch

Thalassoma bifasciatum (Bloch, 1791)

Bluehead wrasse

Elongate, compressed, fusiform body; mouth protrusible, opens at front, thick lips; rear of top jawbone not visible on cheek; toothed grinding plates in throat; 1 pair canines at front of top and bottom jaws, none at rear of jaws; preopercle edge smooth; gill membranes fused under throat; dorsal fin with VIII, 13, not obviously notched between spiny and soft parts; anal fin III, 11; tail straight in smaller fish, strongly concave in large males; lateral line unbroken, but bends abruptly down near end of soft dorsal fin; scales large, 26 (25-27) with pores on lateral line, smooth; head scaleless.

Initial phase variable: Pattern 1. upper half of head and body dark grey-brown, that area on body interrupted by 4-5 white bars; a purple blotch before eye, 2 blotches behind eye; lower head & body white. Pattern 2. upper head and body black, with a yellow stripe from eye to tail; lower head and body white. Pattern 3. almost entirely yellow except for a purple blotch before eye, 2 blotches behind eye. Terminal phase: head blue; a bright white triangular saddle with broad black edges just behind pectoral fin; remainder of body greenish. Juvenile: yellow above, white below; a black stripe from snout, through eye to end of tail base; dorsal fin with a black blotch at the front.

Maximum size to 15 cm.   

Forms aggregations on shallow reefs that feed on plankton, also eats benthic invertebrates; the young sometimes "clean" parasites from other fishes.

Depth: 0-53 m.

North Carolina to the S Caribbean.

High Resolution Map Download

Species Data Create Report Export as Word File Export as Excel File
  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Inshore Only
  • Inshore
Water Column Position
  • Near Bottom
  • Bottom + water column
  • Bottom
  • Rocks
  • Reef and soft bottom
  • Corals
  • Water column
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Sponges
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
  • Sea Urchins
  • Soft bottom (mud/sand/gravel/beach/estuary/mangrove/seagrass)
  • Sea anemones
FishBase Habitat
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Planktivore
  • Ectoparasite cleaner
  • Data
  • Ectoparasites
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic worms
  • Data
  • Sea-stars/cucumbers/urchins
  • Zooplankton
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
  • All species.
Regional Endemism
  • GC endemic
  • Continent
  • Island (s)
  • All species..
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 15
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 53