The Cheek-lined wrasse Oxycheilinus digramma is also known as the Cheeklined Maori wrasse, Cheeklined wrasse and Bandcheek wrasse. They are relatively common inhabitants of the reefs in Tanzania. They obtain their name from the lines on the lower cheek. In some areas they are called the Cheek-lined Maori wrasse because of the resemblance of the facial markings to Maori tattoo’s.
In Tanzanian waters there is considerable variation in coloration between both between the juveniles and the adults and between the various specimens. The only common identifying features other than the shape are the lines on the lower cheek which are fairly distinctive. These lines form at an early age.
The other identifying feature are the pelvic fins which mainly across all the colour versions seem to be white with an orange splotch across them. The fins are slightly off white in the red colour variation but are never the less quite distinctive. The dorsal fins when raised have similar colouration. There is almost always a tinge of yellow on the end of the caudal fin. There are reports of colour change abilities but we have personally not noted and quick colour changes on this species. Given the wide variety of colours it is possible they have the ability to change colour.
The juveniles start of with a white background and a series of either brown or reddish brown dots on them . In full grown adults the colour varies from red and green to red with white lines, a pinky colour and grey with red blotches. They grow up to 40 cm in length.
CHEEK-LINED WRASSE IN THE WILD
The Cheek-lined wrasse is the least reclusive of the larger wrasses in Tanzanian waters. The adults appear curious and will often swim up to a diver to inspect him. Because of this habit it is relatively easy to photograph them. They are fairly common especially on the deeper reefs.
The Cheek-lined wrasse is found across the western Indian Ocean down to southern Kwa-Zulu Natal and across to New Caledonia in the west Pacific. They are mainly seen on the rubble and sandy areas between corals and tend to swim low close to the bottom. They seem more common around the 18 to 25 meter range in Tanzania but have been seen down to 30 meters.
The Cheek-lined Wrasse feeds on small fish, crustaceans, sea urchins and mollusks. They usually feed on their own but will sometimes follow a shoal of goatfish feeding across the reef.
The Cheek-lined Wrasse is Oviparous, with distinct pairing during breeding.
Cheek-Lined Wrasse are sometimes kept in aquariums but because of their size are not popular in the aquarium trade. A large tank with suitable tank mates would be necessary and it may be difficult to wean them onto prepared foods.