The African wrasse (Coris cuvieri) is also known as the African Coris and False Clown wrasse. They are not a common wrasse on Tanzanian reefs but neither are they uncommon. As with many wrasses the colouration changes from the adults to the juveniles and the sexes. The images below document the changes from a small juvenile below all the way through to an adult male.
The juveniles pictured above and below have an orange body with five white saddles ringed in black. At the juvenile stage from a distance it is very easy to confuse them with the Queen Coris ( Coris formosa). The easiest way to distinguish them is that on the African wrasse the middle saddle does not extend all the way down onto the belly of the African wrasse. This can be seen in the two images below. The African wrasse is in the upper image.
The Queen Wrasse (Coris formosa) below is of similar age to the African wrasse above. Note the middle white bar extends onto the belly and there is an eye spot on the dorsal fin. The caudal fin also has a vertical a black and white line rather than a blue and black line. As the African wrasse ages so the blue becomes more predominant.
In the next stage the body of the African Wrasse begins to go purple on the rear dorsal area as in the image below.
The white vertical bars disappear and the whole body darkens.
The background colour goes a green brown colour and the black bars surrounding the white slowly fade away. The caudal, anal and dorsal fin darken and develop blue spots.
Green lines develop on the face and the body also develops blue spots. Light blue dots and a line develop on the anal fin. The first spine of the dorsal fin elongates and goes orange. At this stage the fish is a mature female.
Dependent on social cues some of the larger females change into males as pictured below . The males are not common and are shy in Tanzanian waters.
AFRICAN WRASSE IN THE WILD
The African Wrasse is an active fish at all stages of its life, constantly feeding. The males are difficult to approach and even more difficult to photograph. The juveniles being brightly colored are easy to spot but always remain close to cover.
The African Wrasse, is found across the Western Indian Ocean from the Red Sea down to South Africa and across to India and Sri Lanka including parts of Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius as well as Western Indonesia and Western Thailand.
The African Wrasse feeds exclusively on benthic crustaceans, mollusks tunicates and other small invertebrates.
The African Wrasse is a Protogynous hermaphrodite, they first develop into females. Some specimens based on social cues transform into males. They are Oviparous, with the dominant male running a harem or possibly several harems of females. Little is known of their breeding habits but occasionally a male pictured above will be seen pursuing a female.
African Wrasse juveniles make an attractive addition to aquariums and are easy to keep and feed. However given the size of an adult at 38 cm one needs a large tank for them to grow into.