Halichoeres leucoxanthus – Canarytop Wrasse

Halichoeres leucoxanthus is a wrasse with a yellow top and a white belly. They hunt for small pests in your aquarium.

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Halichoeres leucoxanthus – Canarytop Wrasse

Halichoeres leucoxanthus was first described by Randall & Smith in 1982. The genus name Haichoeres can be divided into two ancient Greek words. “Als or Alis” means salt and “Choiros” means pig.

Their common name is Canarytop Wrasse or Lemon Meringue Wrasse.


Halichoeres leucoxanthus is yellow in colour with a white belly. In some specimens, the white of the abdomen tends to be more of a purplish colour. The juvenile animals and the females have two or three black dots in the dorsal fin and one on the caudal peduncle. As the fish ages, the spots fade a bit. They are usually no longer visible in the male.

All Lemon Meringue Wrasse start their lives as females. They live in groups, always with one male with several females. When the male dies, the largest and strongest female will change sex. She becomes the male of the group. The adult male gets a fluorescent mask of pink / green stripes on their head.

An adult specimen can reach a total length of about 12 centimetres. Apart from the white belly, they resemble Halichoeres chrysus – Canary Wrasse. The very young animals look almost identical, they both start completely yellow. As they grow up, the belly of Halichoeres leucoxanthus turns white.


The habitat of Canarytop Wrasse extends over the Indian Ocean and the North Australian Plateau. They occur along the east coast of Africa, Madagascar, along India and Indonesia to the north of Australia.

They inhabit the reefs at depths of 7 to 60 meters, but are most common at a depth of 15 to 50 meters.


In the wild, Halichoeres leucoxanthus is a micro-predator. They are constantly looking for small invertebrates, molluscs (such as snails), echinoderms and worms. In the aquarium, they constantly search for the pests from among the corals. Small snails that irritate your coral, small bristle worms are quickly eaten. Feather Fans are also not always safe. The larger snails and invertebrates usually are left alone, as long as the Canarytop Wrasse is fed enough.

You can feed them with Mysis, brine shrimp and other live or frozen food, along with flakes and granulate. In general, they are not very picky about what they eat.

The Aquarium

You can keep Halichoeres leucoxanthus in a reef aquarium or in a fish-only aquarium. Just make sure there is enough rock or coral for them to look for food. The substrate should consist of a layer of sand at least 7 to 10 centimetres deep. When they go to sleep or when they are startled, they bury themselves in the sand.

Note: After purchasing Halichoeres leucoxanthus it is quite normal that they have suddenly disappeared. In the aquarium, they bury themselves under the sand and remain there for a few days. From the shock and stress, they stay there until they feel more comfortable. So do not panic if you can not find them after purchase. That is quite normal.



John de Lange

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John de Lange



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