Cirrhilabrus scottorum - Scotts Fairy Wrasse
Stunning Coloration and Hardiness Make this Fish an Aquarium Favorite
The Scott’s fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus scottorum) is a beautiful species from the group of wrasses commonly called fairy wrasses. Characterized by their stunning coloration and general hardiness, the fairy wrasses of the genus Cirrhilabrus are amongst the most sought-after fishes in the marine aquarium hobby, and the Scott’s fairy wrasse is one of the most desirable marine aquarium fishes of all.
Fairy Wrasses in General
Closely related to the wrasses from the genera Paracheilinus (flasher wrasses), Pseudocheilinus (lined wrasses), and Pteragogus (secretive wrasses), the fairy wrasses constitute the second largest wrasse genus (Halichoeres is the first—at least for now). They can be found in tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific where most seem to prefer coastal reef habitats. A few of the fairy wrasses are found on oceanic reefs, and many prefer deep reef ecosystems. Fairy wrasses in the wild tend to shoal above reef rubble zones, macroalgae beds, soft corals, and large-polyped stony corals where they can easily rise into the currents and feed on zooplankton or rapidly retreat to safety.
Sexual dichromatism is common amongst these wrasses, meaning, quite simply, that males and females are easily identified by way of their color. Fairy wrasses begin life as asexual individuals before developing female reproductive organs. Many will then transform into males after they have reproduced, although some may never develop fully functioning ovaries and instead transform into males directly. Technically, this means that fairy wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites. There is at least anecdotal evidence that some species can transform from males back into fully-functioning females. In most natural groupings, female individuals outnumber the more effervescently-colored males.
Interestingly, individual Scott’s fairy wrasses from different geographical regions can display remarkably dissimilar coloration, especially the males. The males from Australia and the Cook Islands, for example, are known for a distinctive red stripe or splotch (this is especially the case with the Cook Islands males).
Scott’s Fairy Wrasses in the Wild
The Scott’s fairy wrasse is one of the larger fairy wrasses (to about 13 cm) and is indigenous to the Pacific Ocean from the Great Barrier Reef to the Pitcairn Group. The ones that enter the marine aquarium trade are commonly collected from Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, and Tahiti, where they are commonly found shoaling not far off the bottom on outer reefs in waters as deep as 40 meters or as shallow as 3 meters. The shoals are dominated by females and juveniles (recognizable by way of a dark spot on the caudal peduncle), and, as mentioned above, coloration can vary greatly based on geography and even amongst individuals within the same area (e.g., the Scott’s fairy wrasse from Tonga).
Scott’s Fairy Wrasse Husbandry
In the aquarium, the Scott’s fairy wrasse has a reputation for being relatively hardy, albeit somewhat belligerent. As is the case with most of the fairy wrasses, only one male should be kept in an aquarium unless the aquarium is very large (240 gallons or larger). It is most desirable to keep one male with a group of females (either one or three), as this will increase the chances that the male will maintain his eye-catching coloration over time. Dominant males may harass other fairy wrasses, especially if they are similarly colored. In fact, the Scott’s fairy wrasse is one species of fairy wrasse that can be successfully kept in a moderately aggressive community tank (most fairy wrasses should be kept in a peaceful community tank).
In terms of husbandry, the Scott’s fairy wrasse is an undemanding fish that, once acclimated, will readily feed on most commercially available foods and finely diced fresh table seafood (e.g., raw table shrimp). For optimal health and coloration, feed a varied diet, and consider soaking foods in a vitamin supplement. It is important that fairy wrasses are well-fed with two or three meals a day being appropriate in most cases. A connected, mature refugium can also help immensely when it comes to keeping these fish well-fed and healthy.
The ideal aquarium for a Scott’s fairy wrasse is a tank of at least 55 gallons with plenty of live rock and hiding places. This is generally considered a reef compatible wrasse. Brisk water movement is preferred, and a beefy filtration system (including a robust protein skimmer) should be installed to handle the twice-a-day (or more!) feedings. Fairy wrasses will jump, and all tanks housing them should be covered.
A Fantastic Saltwater Aquarium Fish
Overall, the Scott’s fairy wrasse is an ideal marine aquarium animal, especially when a group of one male and one or three females is kept together. It is beautifully colored, hardy and can be kept in a small group of one male and several females in a moderately aggressive community reef tank. With the exception of twice-a-day feeding (and the associated need for a good protein skimmer and the maintenance that goes with it), the Scott’s fairy wrasse is one of the most undemanding, brightly colored shoaling fishes frequently available to the beginning marine aquarist.