Rockmover Wrasse (Novaculichthys Taeniourus)

Rockmover wrasse

Last updated on July 3rd, 2022 at 02:11 pm

A rockmover wrasse, or dragon wrasse as it’s often called, is an interesting and beautiful saltwater fish species that can be kept in your aquarium if you follow simple steps to take care of them. They are also called the dragon wrasse because of their appearance and the fact that they often move around on the reef like a lizard, hence the term rock mover (rather than rock breaker). The rockmover wrasse belongs to the Labridae family of wrasses and is native to Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa.

The rockmover wrasse is an exotic and uncommon saltwater fish that hails from the Pacific Ocean’s Hawaiian Islands. These fish are popular in marine aquariums, due to their strange, colorful appearance and their ability to live harmoniously with other fish in most aquarium environments. However, they require specialized care and maintenance in order to thrive under human care.

Tropical fish hobbyists will be delighted to learn that, unlike most wrasse species, the rockmover wrasse can tolerate cooler water temperatures and even survive in fully marine environments. However, this doesn’t mean that they are easy to care for — they still need plenty of space and plenty of meaty food to thrive in captivity.

Origin and descriptions

Rockmover wrasse

The Rockmover Wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus) or commonly called Dragon Wrasse are hardy and somewhat aggressive fish. They have a large home range and will attack other fish in their area. The Dragon Wrasse is an omnivore and eats meaty foods such as brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, etc., or flake food and pellets.

Also, they enjoy algae wafers, seaweed sheets, and small crustaceans like krill, glassworms, and amphipods if offered by hand.

Dragon Wrasses can be kept with most types of fish that do not look too similar to them, except obviously those that are very close in coloration. Some small gobies could be ok but would need tank mates that can keep up with them and pose some threat.

Fish that are more peaceful than your dragon wrasse will more than likely get picked on by it! They have also been known to eat small ornamental shrimp if available and decide they like them. If you have snails or crabs in your aquarium, beware, as they might become lunch for a hungry dragon wrasse!

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These fish will grow quickly if conditions are good and they are offered foods 3 times per day or more.

Species profile

A hardy fish, known as a rockmover wrasse, is often one of the first marine fish sold at pet stores. These fish are not difficult to keep in an aquarium once they’ve adjusted and feel comfortable in their new home.

The key is acclimating them gradually so they get used to their new surroundings, and feeding them properly. They are voracious eaters that can grow very large; it’s important to watch out for fins being nipped by tank mates if there are other aggressive species present.

Also, be mindful when moving your rockmover wrasse, because these fishes have lots of small bones that could fall apart easily. In addition, all their scales will come off when touched aggressively which could cause serious damage to tank linings, especially silicone-based ones.

If you do plan on getting a rockmover wrasse, remember they require lots of rocks and caves and provide plenty of places to hide during rearranging since these guys need more room than your average reef fish.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the rockmover wrasse is Novaculichthys taeniourus.


Rockmover wrasses naturally inhabit outer reef drop-offs and rocky inshore regions in their native range, so providing an artificial environment that resembles their natural habitat is crucial for successful long-term care.

A good rule of thumb when choosing tank décor is to provide as much hard substrate as possible, ideally, a combination of sand or fine gravel and large pieces of coral rubble. The more room you give your wrasse to work with, the better it will be able to disguise itself among its surroundings.

Dragon wrasse size

The rockmover wrasse is a big fish, reaching a maximum size of 12 inches (30 cm) in length.

Dragon wrasse tank size

Due to their size, the minimum recommended tank size for an adult dragon wrasse is 100 gallons (379 liters)

Tank requirements

Rockmover wrasses prefer tanks over 100 gallons, so make sure you have plenty of room for one in your fish tank.

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They are extremely active fish and will require a large tank that they can swim in comfortably. Ideally, you’ll want a larger aquarium, with plenty of room for swimming as well as spots to rest.

You’ll also need an efficient filtration system, especially if you plan on keeping multiple rockmover wrasses in your tank. These fish are messy eaters and often bathe in open water during the day. Be sure to change at least 20 percent of your tank water every week; more frequent changes will be necessary if there is any disease present in your tank.

A strong skimmer is another must; these small fish produce lots of waste in their tanks and without proper filtration, it’s likely to accumulate quickly. If you have only one rockmover wrasse in your tank, changing 15 percent of your water will be sufficient.

In addition to weekly cleaning, watch out for any foul odors coming from your aquarium; while odd smells don’t necessarily mean something’s wrong, they should raise suspicion. Likewise, constantly cloudy water indicates poor filtration.

Dragon wrasse tank mates

Though they are relatively peaceful fish, they are very territorial towards their own kind and should not be housed with other Rockmover wrasses or similarly sized Wrasse species. You can keep them with other peaceful fish as long as they don’t intimidate each other or crowd out living space.

The best choices include medium-sized schooling fish like Angels and smaller Wrasses such as Sailfin Wrasse. They also seem to do well with similar types of bottom dwellers like Puffers or flatfish. If you want even more interesting bottom-dwelling options, feel free to pair them up with Triggerfish!

Dragon wrasse breeding

Rockmover wrasse

Rockmover wrasses are not particularly difficult to breed, but they do require specific conditions. If you wish to breed your pair, make sure that you have plenty of live rock and a mature reef for them to spawn on. You will also need two or more flat-surfaced areas in their tank—they will use these flat surfaces as cleaning stations during courtship.

A successful male/female pair will clean each other with peduncle rubs, pectoral fin shimmies, tail flicks, and nose nudges. Once both fish are prepared to mate, they’ll ascend to one of their flat surfaces and begin flaring at each other while releasing gametes into open water above; fertilization usually occurs within minutes.

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The resulting fry can be fed rotifers or baby brine shrimp immediately after hatching; once they’re large enough to eat crushed flakes, you can start weaning them onto larger foods like krill and artemia nauplii. I recommend raising fry (when possible) in bare bottom tanks with no substrate to avoid any potential ingestion issues caused by sifting substrate material. Fry grow rapidly!

Are rockmover wrasses peaceful or aggressive?

Rockmover wrasses are known for being pretty peaceful when they are young, but they have more aggressive personalities as adults.

Dragon wrasse care

Rockmover wrasse

A healthy, well-cared-for fish can live for several years. Its lifespan will be largely determined by its environment, however.  Well-lit tanks with moderate water flow are ideal; you don’t want to have too much or too little current in your tank, as extreme can stress your fish and negatively impact its health.

Novaculichthys taeniourus are generally calm, peaceful creatures that adapt quickly to their surroundings. They respond best to peaceful tank mates such as cardinalfish and gobies. Avoid housing them with aggressive species such as cichlids and triggers.

They should not be kept alone; they thrive when kept in small groups (two females per male is fine). These wrasses also appreciate plenty of nooks and crannies where they can hunt algae—you’ll see them rooting around rocks and coral during feeding time.

Dragon wrasse food

Their favorite foods include copepods, amphipods, Mysis shrimp larvae, krill, and brine shrimp.

In aquariums, rockmover wrasses will eat any type of meaty food, including frozen brine shrimp, pellets, and flakes. However, in their natural environment, they live on a diet mainly consisting of small crustaceans and worms.

In your tank, feed them one or two times per day depending on their size. Rockmover wrasses are bottom dwellers that tend to stay in one place, so you shouldn’t worry about overfeeding.

Dragon wrasse  lifespan

Rockmover wrasse

The average lifespan for Novaculichthys taeniourus is 10–12 years. However, many experts believe that fish living in home aquariums tend to live much longer than those in their natural habitats.

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Parasites and diseases

Rockmover wrasses are susceptible to both external and internal parasites, which can lead to death if not treated immediately. In addition, they are prone to disease. As with any fish in your tank, routine water changes are required for optimal health, and you should always ensure that your wrasse is eating regularly.

In an aquarium, parasites and diseases are generally less prevalent than in wild fish because captive-bred fish are raised in controlled environments. However, it is still possible for wild-caught fish to have diseases or parasites that do not affect them in their natural environment but can be fatal in your aquarium.

Rockmover wrasses are generally resistant to many diseases, but they can be prone to them if they’re not cared for properly. If you suspect your fish has an infection, immediately quarantine it and seek help from an experienced marine veterinarian. Your pet store or fish seller may be able to recommend someone in your area.

Fish who appear pale and lethargic should also be quarantined, as they may have been exposed to deadly parasites like Cryptocaryon irritans or Vibrio bacteria.

Do rockmover wrasses make good pets?

Rockmover wrasses are not ideal aquarium fish. While they are colorful and have a distinctive appearance, these fish require specialized care that few aquarists are prepared for.

If you want to keep one in your home, it’s important to know that novaculichthys taeniourus requires a special diet and some thought should be given before purchasing one.

Even more importantly, make sure that you meet all of their nutritional needs as they will be prone to disease and may even die if unable to receive adequate nutrition. Take into account all of these factors before bringing a rockmover wrasse into your home.