Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse: Care, Diet, Breeding, Tank Mates…

    red head solon fairy wrasse

     Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse Care Guide

    The red head solon fairy wrasse is the perfect choice if you’re a novice to the world of saltwater tanks or if you’re a reef enthusiast in general.

    You will end up thinking of your feisty school of fairy wrasses as a permanent mini-rainbow!

    Also called tricolor fairy wrasse, this fish is categorized as being part of the Cirrhilabrus genus. With a variety of other wrasses sharing many of its physical traits, it can be difficult to identify.

    This red head solon fairy wrasse care guide aims to give you a comprehensive view of what owning a school of fairy wrasses might look like.

    It’s also going to shed some light on the myth that the fairy wrasse is a picky eater! Once you get past the initial hurdle of introducing your red head solon fairy wrasse to a variety of food, it’s smooth sailing ahead.

    Also known as the tricolor fairy wrasse, these beautiful fish have a lot more perks to offer other than their superb coloration. They grow to an average length of 4.3 inches (totally manageable even for novice aquarists!) and have a peaceful, easy-going temperament.

    Pairing the red head solon fairy wrasse with the right tank mates can make a big difference, so be sure to check out our tried & tested fairy wrasse tank mate suggestion list.

    A fairy wrasse tank, where it lives as a single species, is rarely recommended as they are more prone to have conflicts with their own kind, rather than other species.

    Red head solon fairy wrasses are typically disease-free when offered the right tank and water conditions. Scarce feedings, overcrowding, and poor water quality are the 3 main no-nos of caring for fairy wrasses.

    Category Rating
    Care level Easy
    Family Labridae
    Size 4.3 inches on average
    Tank setup Saltwater
    Tank size 39 inches long / 30-70 gallons
    Temperament Peaceful with the right tank mates, but aggressive with its own species
    Diet Carnivore
    pH 8.1-8.4
    Temperature 720F to 780F

    About the Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse

    Cirrhilabrus solorensis.
    Cirrhilabrus solorensis. Photo Credit: Rickard Zerpe (Flickr)

    The red head solon fairy wrasse is recognized by fishkeepers under a rather long list of names:

    • Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse;
    • Tricolor Fairy Wrasse;
    • Redheaded Fairy Wrasse;
    • Red-eyed Fairy Wrasse.

    Scientifically, it is identified as Cirrhilabrus solorensis, and it belongs to the Labridae family.

    Although quite difficult to distinguish from other closely related wrasses, the red head solon fairy wrasse has one unique trait that sets it apart. The fairy wrasse has a particularly adapted eye!

    The cornea (the transparent layer covering the eye) has a two-lens feature, with the central lens acting as a close-range detection system of their rather small prey. Fairy wrasses are among the few genera of wrasses to have this valuable evolutionary adaptation.

    The red head solon fairy wrasse is native to Indonesia and Christmas Island, inhabiting the Western Central Pacific Ocean. Fairy wrasses can be found swimming along the coral reefs, on coastal and outer reef lagoons at depths of 16 to 115 ft. However, they do typically prefer moderately shallow areas.

    The fairy wrasse may have a wider distribution, but it is usually exported from Indonesia, adapted to reefs and lagoon habitats. The tricolor fairy wrasse spends its lifespan inhabiting outer reef faces and fore-reef slopes, coastal to outer reef lagoons, on coral and rubble.

    Red-eyed fairy wrasses will reach a max size of 5 inches, with few individuals surpassing that length. Therefore, they are perfect for community tanks of variable sizes!

    Even when engaging in schooling behavior, the red head solon fairy wrasse has a practical size for tanks ranging between 30 and 70 gallons.


    The general consensus on the red head solon fairy wrasse’s lifespan is that you can expect them to be active and healthy for at least 5 years.

    That number can be stretched to up to 10 years when kept in captivity, especially when their basic needs are met. You can push the upper limit of the fairy wrasses’ lifespan by making sure they inhabit a tank alongside species that won’t prey on them or bully them into a stress-ridden state.

    They can become a nervous bunch if larger predatory fish or rowdy tangs harass them.

    Tank-wise, you can expect the red head solon fairy wrasse to prove itself to be a hardy saltwater fish. Here are some tank parameters to keep an eye on, so you can enjoy your tricolor fairy wrasses for as long as possible:

    Temperature 720F to 780F
    pH 8.1-8.4
    dKH (water hardness) 8-12
    Salinity 1.020-1.025

    Fairy wrasses are relatively slow growers, so you can start housing a school of these rainbow-like fish in a 30-gallon tank. As they approach maturity and reach sizes of up to 5 inches, you will need to upgrade your wrasses to at least a 70-gallon tank to avoid overcrowding.

    As other Cirrhilabrus wrasses, the red head solon fairy wrasse is not particularly prone to disease. They have a strong resistance to the most common infectious diseases.

    The fairy wrasse secretes a mucus cocoon around its body during nighttime, which is believed to prevent them from getting parasitic diseases.

    They are susceptible to white spot disease, as is the case with most wrasses. Luckily, this affection is easily treatable with medicine or a copper drug.

    One particular behavior of the fairy wrasse that can negatively impact its lifespan is its tendency to hide in the substrate when scared. This can cause injuries and later infections.

    You can take a precautionary approach to this issue by making sure you choose finer sand as the uppermost layer of your tank’s substrate.


    Cirrhilabrus solorensis
    Cirrhilabrus solorensis. Photo Credit: Rickard Zerpe (Flickr)

    The red head solon fairy wrasse has an outstanding and alluring appearance. Its vibrant colors have earned it informal names such as the “clown fairy wrasse”, or the “solar wrasse”.

    Individuals within the red head solon fairy wrasse species have such highly variable colors that they end up causing confusion among marine biologists. Identifying specimens both in the wild and when shopping for fairy wrasses can be a hassle.

    Here are some pointers that can help you identify a tricolor fairy wrasse:

    • A fairy wrasses’ color may change depending on its mood;
    • The body of the fairy wrasse is mainly blue, with bright red streaks covering its spine;
    • The tricolor fairy wrasses’ face is a striking yellow-orange color, with a much duller yellow shade running along its belly;
    • Male fairy wrasses have the most vibrant coloration during breeding;
    • Unlike other wrasses, the red head solon fairy wrasse female will not influence the male’s appearance;
    • Red-eyed fairy wrasses are on the larger side of the size spectrum among other fairy wrasses.
    • The tricolor fairy wrasse averages lengths of 4.3 inches when mature and has red eyes to accentuate its rainbow-like appearance.

    Differences between males and females

    Sexing a red head solon fairy wrasse is thankfully easier than telling them apart from other closely related wrasses.

    The male tricolor fairy wrasse has a distinctly colored orange head with an almost white belly. The upper flank of the male’s body is iridescent blue, and it descends into a deep purple shade across its dorsal.

    The colors of the red head solon fairy wrasse female vary more than those of its male counterparts. The most distinct variable is which shade of orange the female shows off.

    Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse Care and Tank Setup

    Here is a nice video on basic information and care tips for the red head solon fairy wrasse.

    There are only a few requirements you have to consider when setting up a fairy wrasse tank.

    • Live rock

    Hook your fairy wrasses up with plenty of live rock when mapping out your tank’s aquascape.

    They need various hiding spots to explore during the day retreat to during nighttime.

    Live rocks will also aid in supplementing the tricolor fairy wrasses’ diet by supporting the development of natural plankton populations.

    • A glass cover or lid

    Though you might be accustomed to the open-top design of modern reef aquariums, it is highly recommended that you use a glass cover or a lid to prevent your fairy wrasses from jumping ship.

    The red head solon fairy wrasse has a reputation for escaping its tank.

    • Fine-sand sandbed

    Fairy wrasses will thrive when offered a 2-inch sandbed. This small detail can make a big difference in their behavior.

    The layer of sand will mimic their natural habitat, and they will take advantage of it by burrowing into it when feeling in danger or getting startled.

    Choose finer sand for the fairy wrasses’ sandbed to avoid injuries. Also, if you prefer bare bottom tanks, compromise by adding a container of sand to substitute the sandbed.

    • A shaded area

    They aren’t particularly affected by strong lighting, but arranging a shaded area away from bright lights can be beneficial.

    • Sufficient space

    Being an extremely active fish during the daytime, the tricolor fairy wrasse needs plenty of space to fulfill its natural drive to swim and explore.

    A good place to start with determining if you have enough space is to make sure your tank is at least 39 inches long.

    A 70-gallon aquarium is the average tank size a school of fairy wrasses needs when all individuals are mature. Juvenile and adolescent specimens may give you time to size-up your saltwater tank.


    Fishkeepers generally consider the red head solon fairy wrasse to be a fussy eater. And although, as a species, fairy wrasses are carnivores/ zooplanktivores, they can display picky-eating behavior.

    The good news is that you can teach your school of tricolor fairy wrasses to accept almost any type of food. The perfect timing for this is before introducing them to your community tank, or when first acclimating them to their new habitat if living as a single species.

    Using either a quarantine tank or your fairy wrasse-dedicated tank, make sure your school of fish is hungry enough to make your first picky-eating avoidance attempt a success.

    Introduce a hungry red head solon fairy wrasse to a tank with plenty of live tanaids to munch on. You can then gradually move on to mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, and live plankton.

    Within a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to feed fairy wrasses any commercial food, as the expectation of variety will become ingrained in their feeding habits.

    Here’s a list of recommended food choices for well-fed and healthy fairy wrasses:

    • Mysis crustaceans;
    • Raw table shrimp;
    • Krill;
    • Squid;
    • Clam;
    • Mussel;
    • Frozen, flaked, freeze-dried, and pelleted commercial food.

    The red head solon fairy wrasse feeds on zooplankton when in its natural habitat. Its tiny mouth and small-prey chasing adapted eyesight greatly influence its diet.

    You should feed fairy wrasses at least twice a day and avoid having them share a tank with predatory plankton-eating fish. You don’t want your fish competing for food.

    Behavior and temperament

    The red head solon fairy wrasse adapts easily to captivity, especially when you encourage its natural behaviors: schooling, burrowing in the sand, eating off live rocks, and an active daytime routine.

    They are rarely aggressive, but fairy wrasses do have a couple of triggers for hostile behavior.

    You can prevent having aggressive individuals of this species by not housing more than one male within a school of fairy wrasses and making sure they don’t have to compete over food with other predatory carnivore fish.

    Outside of these two instances, the red head solon fairy fish tends to be a target for notorious bullies.

    The fairy wrasse uses rocks and sand burrowing to hide when feeling in danger, or even for protection during nighttime sleep.

    An interesting fun fact about the red head solon fairy wrasse is that it secretes a mucus-like cocoon around its body during the night. This natural-armor disguises its scent, protecting it from nighttime predators, as well as protecting it from parasites.

    They are curious and active fish, and you can expect the tricolor fairy wrasse to end up eating right out of your hand. In addition, they are easy to care for and an ideal choice even for novice marine aquarists.

    Tank Mates

    pygmy yellowtail angelfish
    Pygmy angelfish are great tank mates for red head solon fairy wrasses!

    It might sound odd, but the one definite “no” on the list of tank mates for the red head solon fairy wrasse is themselves!

    They are more likely to have a hostile attitude against other wrasses than they are when housed with any other species. As a result, a significant trigger for fights can occur in the presence of two male fairy wrasses in the same tank.

    Fairy wrasses are otherwise sociable, peaceful, and a popular choice among fishkeepers.

    As long as you opt for fish species that resemble the fairy wrasses’ size, they will share their habitat with a large variety of tank mates.

    With tank mates larger than themselves, a gorgeous rainbow-colored fairy wrasse can become just a colorful meal for a determined predator. Yikes!

    Keeping wrasses away from fish that tend to harass and startle their tank mates will make for a calm and healthy school of red head solon fairy wrasses.

    Another key thing to consider when choosing compatible tank mates is that competing for food will stress-out your tricolor fairy wrasses!

    Check-out our list of tried and tested tank mate suggestions for the red head solon fairy wrasse:

    Compatible Not compatible
    Pygmy Angels Lionfish
    Blennies Puffers
    Gobies Groupers
    Cardinals Tangs
    Damsels Cleaner Shrimp
    Apolemichthys Dottybacks
    Chaetodontoplus Basslets
    Bottom Dwelling Invertebrates Seahorses

    The red head solon fairy wrasse is reef-friendly and coral-safe, as it won’t nibble on corals or any bottom level invertebrates.

    Red Head Solon Fairy Wrasse Reproduction and Breeding

    Sexing fairy wrasses can prove to be difficult because of the fact that males and females share quite similar patterns. The variation in their coloration (known as dichromatism) is the only gauge you can use to tell them apart.

    The males of the species will exhibit vivid color, they will often be larger than the females and may have longer pelvic fins. Mature male red-eyed wrasses also show a dark shading along the end of their gill cover.

    In the wild, red head solon fairy wrasses can live in small or large groups. Also, they can even cohabitate with other types of wrasses.

    The natural behavior that they clearly replicate when in captivity is that they form a harem. In the wild, larger females occasionally form aggregations.

    The red head solon fairy wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites, similar to most other wrasses. This means that each individual of this species starts out as female and can change when habitat conditions allow it.

    Transitioning from one sex to the other is largely influenced by the structure of their harem. If a small group of females loses its (only) dominant male, the most dominant female will undergo a sex change.

    The reproduction cycle of the red head solon fairy wrasse in the wild follows the next pattern:

    • A single male dominates a small group of females
    • He has priority breeding rights within the harem
    • The dominant fairy wrasse male engages in rapid flashing (color intensity changes) during the spawning process
    • The dominant male fertilizes the majority of the eggs
    • “Satellite” males may fertilize some eggs.

    Captive red head solon fairy wrasses have yet to be bred in captivity.


    Peaceful, curious, active, and remarkable in any marine aquarium, the red head solon fairy wrasse is an easy-to-care-for fish that any aquarist can appreciate.


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