Castelnau's Wrasse, Dotalabrus aurantiacus (Castelnau 1872)

Other Names: Castelnau's Parrotfish, Ornate Wrasse, Pretty Dolly, Pretty Polly

A male Castelnau's Wrasse, Dotalabrus aurantiacus, at Cape Patterson, Victoria, November 2018. Source: Wayne Martin / . License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


A small variably coloured wrasse endemic to south Western Australia. Juveniles and females are greenish to pale red with five irregular vertical bars on the sides and a spot at the rear of the dorsal and anal fins. Males are variable in colour, reddish to yellowish brown, orange or greenish, with an irregular broad dark stripe above the lateral line, and/or 4-5 broken dark bars along the sides, dark margins to the dorsal, anal and caudal fins, and dark lines radiating from the eye.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Dotalabrus aurantiacus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024,

Castelnau's Wrasse, Dotalabrus aurantiacus (Castelnau 1872)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia from South of Point Hicks, Victoria, including eastern and northern Tasmania, to Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Elsewhere the species occurs in New Zealand. 

Although the species mostly inhabits seagrass beds, it also occurs on macro-algal covered reefs, in sheltered bays and estuaries, and possibly deeper sandy areas. 

Like most wrasses, Castelnau's Wrasse is territorial or has a home range. Individuals are active during the day, swimming almost vertically in a characteristic bobbing fashion. They seek shelter at night by bury in the sand.


 First dorsal spine 3.7-4.9 in head length; pelvic fins greyish; 


To a total length of 15 cm, most smaller.


Juveniles and females: greenish or pale reddish with 5 irregular dark brown or black bars on the sides; blackish markings radiating from the eyes; a large black ocellus at the rear of the dorsal and anal-fin bases, especially in juveniles; outer two-thirds of pelvic fin dusky brown.

Males: variable in colour from pale reddish brown, yellowish brown, bright green to orange with 5 irregular dark brown or greyish bars on sides, or a dark irregluar band on the back; black spots or markings radiating from the eyes; dorsal, anal an dcaudal fins with black edges and markings; outer two-thirds of pelvic fins black.


A generalised carnivore with well-developed canine teeth in the jaws and robust pharyngeal teeth. The anterior canines are forwardly curved, the anterior teeth in the upper and lower jaws are enlarged, recurved canines.


IUCN Red List: Least Concern


Often seen swimming almost vertically in short bursts, bobbing up and down amongst the seagrass or algae.

Similar Species

Differs from the Little Rainbow Wrasse, Dotalabrus alleni, the only other species in the genus, in colour pattern, and in having dusky pelvic fins and a moderately long first dorsal-fin spine (vs clear pelvic fins and a moderately short first dorsal-fin spine).


The specific name aurantiacus is from the Latin aurantium (= orange) and -acus (= of, pertaining to), presumably in reference to the orange colour of the type specimens of this species.

Species Citation

Cheilinus aurantiacus Castelnau 1872, Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vict. 1: 245. Type locality: Adelaide, St. Vincent Gulf, South Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Castelnau's Wrasse, Dotalabrus aurantiacus (Castelnau 1872)


Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 2. Note on some South Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 243-248 

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2nd edn, 624 pp.

Gomon, M.F. &. Russell, B.C. 1994. Family Labridae. pp. 675-699 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp. 

Herzenstein, S.M. 1896. Ueber einige neue und seltene Fische des Zoologischen Museums der Kaiserlichen Akadamie der Wissenschaften. Annuaire du Musée Zoologique de l'Académie Impériale des Sciences. St. Petersbourg1: 1-14 (described as Labrichthys macleayi, type locality St. Vincent Gulf, South Australia)

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270.

Hutchins, J.B. 2005. Checklist of marine fishes of Recherche Archipelago and adjacent mainland waters. pp. 425-449 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I. & Kendrick, G.A. (eds). Proceedings of the Twelfth International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Esperance, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers pp. I-xvii + 1-434.

Kuiter, R.H. 2002. Fairy and rainbow wrasses and their relatives – a comprehensive guide to selected labrids. TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK.

Kuiter, R.H. 2010. Labridae fishes: wrasses. Seaford, Victoria, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 398. 

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

McCulloch, A.R. 1913. Studies in Australian Fishes, No. 3. Records of the Australian Museum 9: 355-389 (as Pseudolabrus elegans)

McCulloch, A.R. & Waite, E.R. 1918. Some new and little known fishes from South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum (Adelaide) 1(1): 39-78 figs 26-31 pls 2-7 (as Pseudolabrus aurantiacus)

Russell, B.C. 1988. Revision of the labrid fish genus Pseudolabrus and allied genera. Records of the Australian Museum Suppl. 9: 1-72, plus addendum after plates., col. Pls. 1-4.

Russell, B.C. 2015. 202 Family Labridae, Tribe Julidini pp. 1374-1395, Tribe Pseudolabrini pp. 1396-1403, in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds). The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748.

Russell, B.C. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Labridae. pp. 638-659 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Russell, B., Pollard, D. & Choat, J.H. 2010. Dotolabrus aurantiacus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187457A8540761. Downloaded on 12 March 2016.

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs.

Steindachner, F. 1883. Ichthyologische Beiträge (XIII). Anzeiger der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 20(22): 194-197 (described as Labrichthys elegans, type locality St. Vincent Gulf, South Australia)

Steindachner, F. 1884. Ichthyologische Beiträge (XIII). I. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Fische Australiens. II. Caranx africanus n. sp. III. Macrones chinensis n. sp. Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Classe 88(1. Abth.): 1065-1114, Pls. 1-8. (as Labrichthys elegans)

Waite, E.R. 1921. Illustrated catalogue of the fishes of South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum (Adelaide)2(1): 1-208 293 figs pl. 1 (as Pseudolabrus macleayi)

Whitley, G.P. 1930. Five new generic names for Australian fishes. The Australian Zoologist 6(3): 250-251

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384018


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-47 m

Habitat:Reef associated, seagrass

Max Size:15 cm TL

Native:Endemic to Australia

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map