The Divided Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon bipartitus) is also known as the Vermiculate Leopard Wrasse, African Leopard Wrasse or simply the Divided Wrasse. They are fairly common in Tanzanian waters.
They say a Leopard doesn’t change its spots, however the Divided Leopard Wrasse can change its spots. In the juvenile or terminal female stage the coloring is as in the image above. A mainly orange colored background with a blackish forward belly, covered in blue spots on the belly and white spots on the rest of the body. The nose is yellow at the adult stage. There are two small eye spots on the dorsal fin and one on the anal fin of the juvenile females. These seem to disappear as they age. As with most fishes in the family Labridae, if there is no male around the dominant or largest female will change into a male. In so doing he loses his spots and adopts the coloration below.
In the terminal male phase the background color is a brown orange color on the belly moving up to a dark purple on the upper body with series of green lines starting from the nose going back into irregular lines and dots. Some specimens have distinctly blue green lines rather than green and on the specimen below the dots are more blueish on the rear. Some have only this blue color and these are very attractive looking fish.
IN THE WILD
The Divided Leopard Wrasse is fairly common in Tanzanian waters, both on reefs themselves and on surrounding rubble. The females are commonly seen in groups of four to five for most of the year, often swimming with Goatfish or other wrasses. In spring in Tanzanian waters they form aggregations of forty to fifty females. The males are always seen solitary often moving between the groups of females and are not that commonly seen.
The Divided Leopard Wrasse is found across the western Indian Ocean down to southern Kwa-Zulu Natal. They mainly prefer the rubble and sandy areas between corals.
The Divided Leopard Wrasse feed on small crustaceans and move around the reef feeding with other Wrasses and Goatfish.
The aggregations of females in spring are thought to be mating related. Males have harems of females and in any given area there is likely to only be one male.
Divided Leopard Wrasse are kept in aquariums. As with many wrasse they will bury themselves in the sand when threatened and will only emerge once the are comfortable. They should preferably be introduced to a tank before larger tank mates and be allowed to settle in. It can be difficult to get them onto a diet of prepared foods and only experienced aquarists should keep them. They may also jump and the tank top should be covered.