Humphead Wrasse – Incredible Underwater Encounters

Incredible Underwater Encounters – The Humphead Wrasse

Humphead Wrasse

Have you ever encountered a Humphead Wrasse? This beautiful fish is one of the biggest fish found on tropical reefs. The only bigger reef fish are a couple of different species of grouper. This giant green fish is known by different common names throughout the world such as napolean wrasse and maori wrasse.  It’s official Latin name is Cheilinus undulatus. Reaching up to 2 meters in length and 180kg in weight, these fish are very impressive!

They can be found in small groups on coral reefs ranging from the Red Sea and across the Indo Pacific. There is normally one dominant male in an area, with an associated group of smaller females and juveniles. The large male is distinctive due to the large “Hump” on its head. Often confused with bumphead parrotfish, the Humphead Wrasse fills a much different role on the reef. Whereas the bumphead parrotfish has a large forehead and teeth specialized for smashing and eating hard corals, the wrasse is a carnivorous fish. Their diet consists of clams, shells, starfish, urchins, and smaller fish. They hunt in small groups with other carnivores including eels, grouper, and trevally.

These intelligent fish are often well known on particular dive sites. They have a relatively small home territory and become habituated to divers. On sites with a lot of diver traffic, the wrasse is not afraid of divers and it’s possible to get close for photo and video opportunities. These fish are long lived and can live up to 30 years.

Humphead Wrasse VerticalHumphead Wrasse – Endangered Species

Unfortunately, the magnificent humphead wrasse is considered an endangered species and threatened by targeted illegal fishing. This includes capture for the live fish trade as well as for the aquarium trade. In protected areas such as Raja Ampat and the Komodo National Park, these alpha fish are thriving and are a wonderful encounter on a dive or snorkel. We encounter this fish often on dives throughout Indonesia.

If you would like to learn more about this “King of the Reef”, WWF has a great article online with more information. If you would like to see one in person then please join us on a journey to Komodo in 2021. The protected status of this National Park means the reefs are enjoying a good break from divers at the moment and  marine life is thriving. We can’t wait to see one again soon, please join us.


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