Halichoeres chrysus: A Hardy Little “Banana with Fins” That’s Just Right for Beginners

Yellow coris wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus)

Yellow coris wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus)

Known by a variety of common names—banana wrasse, canary wrasse, golden wrasse, yellow coris, et al—Halichoeres chrysus is hardy, readily available, reasonably affordable, well suited to modest-sized systems, and among the better choices for beginners. Of course, owing to all these positive attributes, this wrasse is justifiably popular among many seasoned salties, as well.

Physical traits

I like to describe the typical wrasse body shape as akin to a banana with fins, which is especially apt for H. chrysus given its coloration. That color, as most of its common names imply, is bright yellow to orange-yellow overall with one to several dark ocelli, or eyespots, in the dorsal fin. Faint green streaks may also be visible on the head. Maximum length is around 4½ inches.


In nature, H. chrysus feeds on small invertebrates—crustaceans, worms, mollusks. Aquarium specimens will accept a variety of small meaty foods, such as mysids, chopped crustacean/mollusk flesh, live black worms, etc. This species will predate heavily on amphipods, copepods, and other microfauna in the system, so other fish that depend on these populations for their sustenance, such as mandarins, may not be the best choice for tankmates.


As mentioned, H. chrysus can be kept in modest-sized aquariums, with 30 gallons being about the minimum. Wrasses are prone to jumping, so be sure to cover the top of the tank, especially when a specimen is newly introduced and hasn’t yet settled in completely. Also, H. chrysus does bury itself at night and when stressed/startled, so a sand substrate of at least a few inches in depth should be provided.

When first introduced, the banana wrasse can disappear under the substrate for an extended period of time

When first introduced, the banana wrasse can disappear under the substrate for an extended period of time

A note on burying: Upon introduction to a new system, it’s not uncommon for this and related species to remain hidden in the substrate for several days to weeks. This behavior is often disconcerting to hobbyists because they don’t know whether their specimen leapt from the tank or is lying dead somewhere in the rockwork. In time—and assuming they aren’t ill, stressed by poor tank conditions, getting bullied by tankmates, etc.—most specimens will get bolder and begin to show themselves more and more frequently.


H. chrysus is a peaceful wrasse that will coexist with most other live-and-let-live species. These wrasses also do well kept in conspecific groups (in suitably sized aquariums, of course), which is always a plus in our hobby.

As far as reef-friendliness is concerned, H. chrysus is a fairly safe choice. Though small crustaceans, worms (including fan worms), and mollusks are likely to become meals, potentially reducing the biodiversity of the system, corals and other sessile invertebrates will generally be left alone.

Photo credit: Patrick, Bonnie Masdeu


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. These are must haves as a pest controllers in coral tanks. Very active and bright but more passive than something like the 6 line wrasse.

  2. Matt Bowers (Muttley000) says

    Nice write up Jeff! I think I will talk to my LFS about getting me one for my 40b!

  3. I love yellow fish. I don’t know why, it’s just the cutest color!

  4. I just love fish almost more than anything else. Thanks for writing such a wonderful article on my loved topic. I am also writing such pieces of stuff.

  5. While searching for some saltwater stuff I stumbled upon your blog. You guys wrote so many awesome posts since 2013! I am going to read lots of them to enrich my knowledge regarding reef tanks. By the way I also have a blog on aquarium hobby. I would really appreciate if you visit my blog sometime.

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