Carpet Wrasse, Novaculichthys taeniourus (Lacépède 1801)

Other Names: Bar-cheeked Wrasse, Olive-scribbled Wrasse, Reindeer Wrasse, Rockmover Wrasse

A Carpet Wrasse, Novaculichthys taeniourus, at Barracuda Point, Pulau, Sipadan, Malaysia. Source: Bernard Dupont / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Juveniles are often swept back and forth with the tide as they imitate floating debris such as leaves and algal fronds. 

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Novaculichthys taeniourus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Dec 2022,

Carpet Wrasse, Novaculichthys taeniourus (Lacépède 1801)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from Coral Bay and offshore reefs of north Western Australia, and Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef and reefs in the Coral Sea, Queensland, to the Solitary Islands, New South Wales; also at Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea.
Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical and subtropical Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea and East Africa in the Western Indian Ocean, to the Galapagos Islands in the Eastern Pacific.
Inhabits sandy and rubble areas in reef lagoons, on semi-exposed reef flats and on seaward reefs. Juveniles prefer shallow rubble areas near large bommies or protected areas on reef crests, often mimicing leaves and debris being swept back and forth by the swell. Adults are territorial and often occur in pairs over rubble areas, typically moving rubble or debris to reveal prey items.


Dorsal fin IX, 12-13; Anal fin III, 12-13. 
Juveniles have long dorsal fin spines.


Feeds on benthic invertebrates including molluscs, echinoderms, polychaete worms and crabs. Adults often move pieces of coral rubble with their mouths while searching for food. 


Collected for the aquarium industry.

Species Citation

Labrus taeniourus Lacépède 1801, Histoire Naturelle des Poissons Vol. 3: 448, 518, pl. 29(1). Type locality: Great Equatorial Ocean (Madagascar).


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Carpet Wrasse, Novaculichthys taeniourus (Lacépède 1801)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp.

Coleman, N. 1981. Australian Sea Fishes North of 30°S. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 297 pp.
Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2

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

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

Kuiter, R.H. 1997. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers I-xvii, 434 pp.

Lacepède, B.G. 1801. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : chez Plassan Vol. 3 558 pp. 34 pls.

Oxley, W.G., Ayling, A.M., Cheal, A.J. & Osborne, K. 2004. Marine surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Sciences 64 pp.

Pollard, D., Yeeting, B. & Liu, M. 2010. Novaculichthys taeniourus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Downloaded on 17 November 2012.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Westneat, M.W. 2001. Labridae. pp. 3381-3467 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384140

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:30 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map