Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Symphodus melops

Corkwing wrasse

Corkwing wrasse, Symphodus melopsCorkwing wrasse, Symphodus melops
Photos by Andy Rapson


Symphodus: Greek, syn, symphysis = grown together.
 Greek, odous = teeth

General Notes:

Adult corkwing wrasse commonly reach 20cm (8in) and they they are active swimmers so a spacious aquarium is going to be required of at least 250 litres. Corkwing wrasse are quite shy and prefer to be near to the cover of weedy rocks. Set up their aquarium with subdued lighting and a dark sandy substrate with some open swimming areas but provide some cover too so that the fish will settle down faster and feel more secure. Within a day or two the fish will be out and about looking for morsels of food to eat.


Corkwing wrasse are generally quite peaceful but they are also very shy and even a little timid, they won't appreciate the company of large boisterous fish as tank mates so keep them with fish of a similar size or smaller which have a similar disposition. Although corkwing wrasse are a little territorial they do live in small groups.

Food and feeding:

Feeds on molluscs, worms and various crustaceans. Easy to feed once settled. They will accept a whole range of suitably sized frozen meaty food. Some individuals may even accept flake food, but this shouldn't be relied on to provide a balanced diet for these fish.


All corkwing wrasse begin life as female. The larger fish in the group will change sex and become a fully functioning male if anything happens to the dominant resident male. Males are larger and more colourful when adult.


Symphodus melops is a nest builder where the male builds a ball shaped nest from seaweed with a small entrance which he vigorously defends. Small but fully mature males which have the appearance of a female are known to enter the nests and fertilise the eggs themselves without the risk of being attacked. These small males have very well developed and large gonads.

Wild status:

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists Symphodus melops as Least Concern. The overall population is thought to be stable.

Further Information:

Symphodus melops is a species on the move. As the global temperature rises it is becoming rarer at the southern edge of its range but it is becoming more abundant at the northern end of its range.

Symphodus melops is used commercially as a cleaner fish for farmed fish. Symphodus melops picks off the parasites which can be problematic to fish farmers.

Information at a glance

pH: 8.2 - 8.4
dGH: 8 - 12
Salinity: 1.021 - 1.025
Temperature: 5 - 20°C (41 - 68°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 20 - 28cm (8 - 11in)
Min tank size: 250 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Corkwing wrasse, Symphodus melops

Origin: Eastern Atlantic: Norway to Morocco and the Azores. Also known from the western Mediterranean and Adriatic seas.

Habitat: The littoral zone, near rocks and eel-grass beds, also in lagoons


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae
Genus: Symphodus
Species: S. melops, (Linnaeus, 1758)

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