Monsoon Fairy-wrasse, Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus Allen & Hammer 2016

Live male holotype of the Monsoon Fairy-wrasse, Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus, from the eastern Timor Sea, Northern Territory, depth 20m - photographed in an aquarium, NTM S.17975-001 (54.1 mm SL). Source: Michael Hammer / Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. License: All rights reserved

Males are mostly blackish above, white below, with the upper half of head yellowish-orange, a mostly blackish dorsal fin, a scarlet-red anal fin with row of blue basal spots, scarlet-red pelvic fins with a black basal area, and a prominent black pectoral-fin base. 
Females have the upper two-thirds of head yellowish-orange, becoming scarlet red on the body, a white belly, breast and lower part of the head, four narrow lavender stripes on the head, a dusky red dorsal fin with a yellowish basal area, and often a blackish or grey membrane between the first two dorsal-fin spines; reddish-orange to pinkish anal and pelvic fins, and translucent pectoral fins with a conspicuous yellow base.
Video of Monsoon Fairy Wrasse in an aquarium.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 May 2022,

Monsoon Fairy-wrasse, Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus Allen & Hammer 2016

More Info


Known only from a single reef area in the eastern Timor Sea, approx. 200 km NE of Darwin, Australia. It was collected and observed in depths of about 18–37 m. The habitat appears to be localized to sloping rubble bottoms with scattered, low outcrops of rock or coral and occasional large coral outcrops.


Dorsal fin XI,9; Anal fin III,9; Pectoral fin 15; Lateral-line scales 15–17 + 4–8; Median predorsal scales 4–5; single horizontal scale rows on cheek below eye; Gill rakers 11–14 (usually 13).
Body depth 3.3–4.0 in SL; head length 2.7–3.0 in SL; snout length 3.5–4.5 in HL; dorsal fin more or less uniform height except for elevated pennant comprised of membranous extension between first two spines, well-developed in mature males, 1.4–2.2 in HL; pelvic fins of male moderately elongate, reaching posteriorly to about base of first soft anal-fin ray, 2.6–3.2 in SL; caudal fin rounded. 


Male in life mainly blackish on upper half of body and white below; upper half of head yellow orange; dorsal fin mainly blackish, anal fin scarlet red with row of blue spots at base; pelvic fins scarlet red with black area at base; pectoral fins with prominent black base. Female in life yellow orange on upper two-thirds of head, grading to scarlet red on body; lower part of head, breast, and belly white; head and body with four narrow, lavender stripes; dorsal fin dusky red, yellowish basally, often with blackish or grey membrane between first two spines; anal and pelvic fins red-orange to pinkish; pectoral fins translucent with conspicuous yellow base.

Similar Species

Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus is most similar to C. humanni and C. morrisoni, and the three species have apparently allopatric distributions in the Timor Sea-western Sunda Islands region. They all share a uniquely shaped dorsal fin with an anterior elevated, spike-like pennant. They can be separated by differences in colour patterns of the TP (terminal phase) male - mostly on the head, upper body, and on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. 
C. hygroxerus can be distinguished by a combination of a yellow-orange upper head, blackish upper body, a mostly blackish dorsal fin, and scarlet-red pelvic and anal fins. Female C. hygroxerus are most similar to those of C. morrisoni, in sharing a yellowish head and yellow pectoral-fin base.


The specific name hygroxerus is from the Greek hygros, meaning wet, and xeros, meaning dry, in reference to the monsoonal cycle of wet and dry seasons of northern tropical Australia. The name is also intended as an acknowledgment of Monsoon Aquatics, the aquarium fish company that supplied all of the type specimens and continues to be an excellent source of specimens for NTM.

Species Citation

Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus Allen & Hammer 2016, J. Ocean Sci. Found. 22: 43, Figs 1-5. Type locality: eastern Timor Sea, Northern Territory, Australia, 20m, approx. 10°42.0’S, 129°18.6’E.


Dianne J. Bray

Monsoon Fairy-wrasse, Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus Allen & Hammer 2016


Allen, G.R. & Hammer, M.P. (2016) Cirrhilabrus hygroxerus, a new species of fairy wrasse (Pisces: Labridae) from the Timor Sea, northern Australia. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation 22: 41–52, Figs 1-5. doi: PDF Open access

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384223


Depth:18-37 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:56 mm SL


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