Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus (Valenciennes 1839)

Other Names: Pearl-spotted Wrasse, Pinkbelly Wrasse, Pink-belly Wrasse, Reef-flat Wrasse, Saddled Rainbowfish, Saddled Rainbow-fish, Weedy Surge Wrasse

A Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus, at North Solitary Island, New South Wales - 18 October 2008. Source: Ian V. Shaw. License: CC by Attribution

Females (intermediate phase) are a mottled brown-green to pinkish above, pale below, with white blotches on the sides, a pink area on the rear of the abdomen, a black spot behind the eye and one at the upper "corner" of the gill cover, and a  on the middle of the dorsal fin. Males (terminals phase) are green with orange-red spots, and lack the pinkish and white markings of females.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Halichoeres margaritaceus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Dec 2022,

Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus (Valenciennes 1839)

More Info


Shark Bay, Western Australia, to Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, and the northern Great Barrier Reef to northern New South Wales; also reefs in the Coral Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the western-central Pacific. 
Inhabits shallow reefs and rocky shores, commonly in shallow areas exposed to wave surge. 


Dorsal spines (total): 9; Dorsal soft rays (total): 11; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 11.


Females olivaceous on back, the scale edges dark brown, pale ventrally, with whitish blotches of unequal size and a large pink area posteriorly on the abdomen; a black spot on opercular flap, small one behind eye, one at front of dorsal fin and a large one rimmed in yellow or blue in middle of fin; no black spot at upper base of pectoral fins; males green with orange-red spots, some linked to form irregular markings, the white blotches and large pink area on abdomen lost, and the black spots lost or reduced. Males are distinguished by different cheek patterns.


Caranivore - feeds on benthic crustaceans, molluscs, polychaetes, forams, fishes and fish eggs.

Similar Species

Differs from the similar Cloud Wrasse, Halichoeres nebulosus, in having the band across the cheek slightly rising posteriorly vs, descending posteriorly in the Cloud Wrasse.

Species Citation

Julis margaritaceus Valenciennes 1839, Hist. Nat. Poiss. 13: 484. Type locality: Vanikoro.


Dianne J. Bray


Australian Faunal Directory

Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus (Valenciennes 1839)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384113


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-15 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:12.5 cm SL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map