Animal Species:Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus (Valenciennes, 1838)

Colouration of the Pearly Wrasse varies with age.  The species occurs in tropical marine waters of the Central and Western Pacific.

Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus

Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus
Photographer: Ian Shaw © Ian Shaw

Standard Common Name

Pearly Wrasse

Alternative Name/s

Pearl-spotted Wrasse, Pink-belly Wrasse, Pinkbelly Wrasse, Reef-flat Wrasse, Saddled Rainbow-fish, Saddled Rainbowfish


The Pearly Wrasse can be recognised by its colouration. Females are brown-green to pinkish above and pale below. They have white blotches on the sides and a pink region on the rear of the abdomen. There is a black spot behind the eye and another on the upper "corner" of the operculum. The middle of the dorsal fin has a yellow or blue-rimmed ocellus. Males are green with orange-red spots. They lack the white and red markings of females.

Size range

The species grows to 12.5 cm in length.

Similar Species

It can be distinguished from the similar-looking Cloud Wrasse, by the shape of the band across the cheek. In the Pearly Wrasse the band rises posteriorly, but in the Cloud Wrasse it descends posteriorly.


It is known from tropical marine waters of the Central and Western Pacific. In Australia it occurs off north-western Western Australia and from northern Queensland to coastal northern New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Halichoeres margaritaceus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Checkerboard Wrasse specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
  3. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  4. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  5. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  6. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Pearly Wrasse, Halichoeres margaritaceus, Labridae, green, brown, 'normal fish', 10 cm - 30 cm, blotches/mottled, countershaded, marine, adult,