Animal Species:Variegated Wrasse, Coris batuensis (Bleeker, 1857)

The Variegated Wrasse occurs in tropical marine waters and can be recognised by its colouration, which varies as the fish grows. It inhabits sandy areas and feeds on crabs and gastropods.

Standard Common Name

Variegated Wrasse

Alternative Name/s

Batu Coris, Batu Rainbow-wrasse, Pallid Wrasse, Schroeder's Coris, Schroeder's Rainbow Wrasse, Variegated Rainbowfish, Yellow Wrasse


The Variegated Wrasse can be recognised by its colouration, which varies as the fish grows.

Juveniles are olive-green above and white below. They have bright orange spots on the head and belly. There is a dark brown stripe from the mouth to the eye. A series of narrow white bars extend from the dorsal fin onto the top of the body and there are three black ocelli on the front, middle and rear of the dorsal fin.

Female Variegated Wrasse have a grey-greenish body and irregular blackish bars on the back. There are irregular pink bars on the face, a vertical elongate black spot behind the eye and a black bar on the pectoral fin base. They also have three black ocelli on the dorsal fin.

Males are similar to the females, but have a greener body and may lose some of the ocelli in the dorsal fin.

Size range

The species grows to 17 cm in length.


The Variegated Wrasse occurs in tropical marine waters of the Indo-Pacific, from the Maldives, north to Japan, throughout Micronesia, south to Australia and east to Tonga.

In Australia the species is known from the north-western coast of Western Australia and from the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland to the northern coast of 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.

Coris batuensis

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Variegated Wrasse specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


The Variegated Wrasse inhabits sandy areas of coral reefs and protected lagoons. This fish is usually found at depths between 1 m and 34 m.

Feeding and Diet

It feeds on crabs and gastropods.

Life cycle

The lower image (above, right) and movie, below, show juveniles of the species.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 220.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 2002. Fairy and Rainbow Wrasses and their Relatives. A Comprehensive Guide to Selected Labroids. TMC Publishing. Pp. 208.
  3. Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. Coral Graphics. Pp. 222.
  4. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 415.
  5. Randall, J.E., 1999. Revision of the Indo-Pacific labrid fishes of the genus Coris, with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes (29):74.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Batu Coris, Coris batuensis, Variegated Wrasse, Labridae, silver, white, black, 'normal fish', 10 cm - 30 cm, blothes/mottled, countershaded, coral reef, marine, adult,


Mark McGrouther - 2.06 PM, 29 June 2009
Thanks for your message Joshua. Juvenile wrasses are sometimes quite difficult to identify, especially from photos, because their colouration is often different from the adults. Wrasses often display sexual dimorphism, so not only are the juveniles different from the adults but the males and females often look dissimilar. The joys of fish identification!
peppercorn - 11.06 AM, 29 June 2009
What a great way me peppercorn putting it into words mark that you wrote that the juveniles was a great photo shot because of the brightly recognised olive green above on back and white below varied colours thanks bye mark reply back please.
Sascha Schulz - 12.06 PM, 27 June 2009
Shelly Beach is a great spot for finding the juveniles of fish species that are more common in tropical waters. The larvae of these species can drift south on the East Australian Current for weeks, covering many hundreds of kilometres. The geomorphology of Shelly Beach means it acts as a larval trap, accounting for the relatively high abundance of tropical juveniles. The vast majority of these "vagrants" do not survive the cold winters.
Mark McGrouther - 8.06 AM, 15 June 2009
That's a great shot of the juvenile. Thank you Jonathan.
Jonathan - 5.06 PM, 12 June 2009
Juvenile Coris batuensis at Shelly Beach, Manly. Depth 7m.

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