Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Richardson 1840)

Other Names: Blue Wrasse, Kelpie, New Zealand Banded Wrasse, Parrotfish, Purple Parrotfish, Saddled Wrasse, Southern Purple Wrasse, Southern Wrasse, Winter Bream, Yellow-saddled Wrasse

A Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola, at Eaglehawk, Tasmania, February 2017. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


Adults are greyish to greenish with a purple hue, and have five yellowish blotches along the back extending onto the dorsal fin, and often a yellow band at the back of the head behind the gill cover.

Juveniles are reddish-brown, greenish-brown or greyish-green with greenish and orange mottling.

Unlike most wrasses, which usually change sex from female to male during their life, all Purple Wrasses start life as females, and some change sex to become males before they mature. So, both large males and females are present in the population, which is relatively rare in the family Labridae.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Notolabrus fucicola in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/253

Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Richardson 1840)

More Info


Found in southern and eastern Australia from Sydney Harbour, New South Wales to Kangaroo Island, South Australia, and coastal Tasmania; also the Lord Howe Province. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in coastal waters of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.

Inhabits kelp beds on exposed and moderately exposed rocky reefs in depths of 1-90 m.


Dorsal fin IX, 11; Anal fin III, 10; Caudal fin 12; Pectoral fin 14; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 24-26.


45 cm TL (total length)


It is easily distinguished by the four or five regular short yellow blotches along the top of the body at the base of the dorsal fin. The body colour ranges from uniform grey, green to purple in mature males.


Feeds on a range of hard-shelled benthic invertebrates including gastropod and bivalve molluscs, crabs, chitons, limpets and sea urchins. Juveniles feed mostly on small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods.


The Purple Wrasse is a hermaphrodite and may change sex during the life cycle. The species is a secondary gonochorist - all individuals initially develop as females and some individuals change sex to males before they mature.

The species is an asynchronous spawner, meaning that only a portion of the eggs in the ovary mature at any one time. Eggs and larvae are pelagic.


  • IUCN Red List : Least Concern
  • Remarks

    May bite divers, and has been known to cause a scraping bite wound on the face.

    Similar Species

    Adults differs from those of Notolabrus gymnogenisNotolabrus parilus and Notolabrus tetricus in having five yellow blotches along the side, and in lacking vertical bands and/or a white lateral stripe.


    The species name fucicola is from the Latin fuscus, meaning 'seaweed', and cola meaning 'dweller', in reference to the fact that this species lives amongst algae.

    Species Citation

    Labrus fucicola Richardson, 1840, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond 8: 26, Type locality - Port Arthur, TAS


    Bray, D.J. 2022


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Purple Wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Richardson 1840)


    Allan, R. 2002. Australian Fish and How to Catch Them. Sydney : New Holland Publishers (Australia) 394 pp.

    Denny, C. & Schiel, D. 2001. Feeding ecology of the banded wrasse Notolabrus fucicola (Labridae) in southern New Zealand: prey items, seasonal differences, and ontogenetic variation, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35: 925-933.

    Denny, C. & Schiel, D. 2002. Reproductive biology and population structure of the banded wrasse, Notolabrus fucicola (Labridae) around Kaikoura, New Zealand, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 555-563.

    Edgar, G.J. 2000. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 544 pp. [Revised]

    Edgar, G.J., Last, P.R. & Wells, M.W. 1982. Coastal Fishes of Tasmania and Bass Strait. Hobart : Cat & Fiddle Press 175 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. 810 figs.

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

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

    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.

    May, J.L. & J.G.H. Maxwell, 1986. Trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research, Tasmania. 492 pp.

    Richardson, J. 1840. On some new species of fishes from Australia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 8: 25-30.

    Richardson, J. 1844. Description of Australian Fish. (Part 2). Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 3(art. 5, pt. 2): 133-185, Pls. 7-11 See ref at BHL

    Russell, B.C. 1988. Revision of the labrid fish genus Pseudolabrus and allied genera. Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 9: 1-72 https://doi.org/10.3853/j.0812-7387.9.1988.95

    Russell, B.C. 2015. Tribe Julidini and Tribe Pseudolabrini. pp. 1374-1403 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.

    Waite, E.R. 1910. Additions to the fish fauna of New Zealand. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 1910(1): 25-26 (as Pseudolabrus pittensis)

    Waite, E.R. 1911. Scientific results of the New Zealand government trawling expedition 1907. Pisces. Part 2. Records of the Canterbury Museum 1(3): 157-272 figs 1-3 pls 24-57 (as Pseudolabrus pittensis)

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37384021


    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Depth:1-90 m

    Fishing:Recreational & commercial fish

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:45 cm TL

    Species Image Gallery

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map