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Orange Back Fairy Wrasse Care ( A Fairy In The Fish World )

The orange Back fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus Aurantidorsalis) is a very attractive little fish. They have a brilliant orange-colored back with a magenta-colored stripe covering the head and extending the entire length of the fish to the tail.

The lower part of their body is blue.  The combination of different colors gives it a compulsive appearance and it looks like a fairy when it swims around. The orange back fairy wrasse can change its color up to a certain extent depending on its mood. They are native to the reefs of eastern Tomini Bay, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Orange Back fairy-wrasse

It is marine water fish and favors to gather in small groups near the coral reefs in depth to about 25m. They are an ideal match for a marine aquarium due to their beautiful appearance, peaceful temperament, and easy care for and feed even for a beginner.

As the name implies, the Orange back fairy wrasse belongs to the wrasse family Labridae. They belong to the genus Cirrhilabrus and sixty species are now categorized under this genus. All of them exhibit vibrant colors with exciting striking patterns that make them look so stunning.

In addition to their vibrant and exotic color, they also have a very active personality and a modest size that makes them so popular. They have two clever adaptations which other wrasses does not have. All species of fairy wrasse have double pupils in their eyes. This is the division of the cornea into two segments and this adaptation allows them to magnify their vision. 

The other adaptation is their teeth. They have three sets of canines and recurved teeth which makes them easy to catch, grasp and mince zooplankton. Take your fish knowledge to the next level with our comprehensive guide to wrasse fish

How big do Orange Back fairy-wrasse get?

This species is a quite small fish and it grows up to 11.5 cm ( 3.5 to 4.5 inches ) in length. The  maximum length in captivity is 9 cm as per the records. 

Are they aggressive?

They are a very peaceful species. They usually dwell as small groups in their natural environment. 

Orange Back fairy-wrasse behavior

Fairy Wrasses are typically happy fish that don’t necessarily need to stay in schools. They can live alone. They are peaceful and active species. Like other fairy wrasses, they swim using their pectoral fins. The orange back fairy wrasse is a diurnal species and it prefers to swim around near reefs. However, be careful when keeping two males together as they are very territorial. The best way to keep a group of them in the same aquarium is to put one male and several females together.

How long do Orange Back fairy-wrasse s live?

Usually, they live for a period of 5 to 8 years in captivity. In the wild, they are a target of other fish and this significantly affects their lifespan.

Orange Back fairywrasse care


They are small size fish that grow up to three to six inches in length. They have slender bodies. However, the size of the different specimens may vary with their aquarium conditions. And we have to assume that they have ideal conditions throughout their life.

Tank size

The recommended tank dimensions for fairy wrasses are 48 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 21 inches tall.  This is equal to 55 gallons in volume. This is the minimum tank size for fairy wrasses and it is the size for a single wrasse.

In practice, they need a large aquarium size as these fish are extremely active fish that need plenty of space to swim around. However, make sure to include relevant hiding places where they can rest and sleep.

How many of them should be kept together?

Aquarists suggest keeping only one wrasse in an aquarium unless there is a male and female pair. If there are two males, they require a quite large space preferably 300 gallons as they tend to be very territorial and potentially harm or kill each other.  

Tank setup

Though they are quite small species they need ample space because sometimes they show terrestrial behavior. Usually, five to six Orange back fairy wrasses are recommended for a 275-gallon tank. They are good jumpers and hence it is important to install a tight-fitting canopy or screen cover to prevent them from jumping out of the aquarium. The Orange back fairy wrasses can jump even from a small hole and therefore the canopy should be free of any holes. 


As they need large tanks, a lot of water needs to clean regularly and there is a need for a good water filter. A Canister filter is the most suitable filter for seawater filtration as it is more powerful than the internal  filter or a hang on the back filter system. Make sure the model of the filter is compatible with the flow rate of the aquarium.


The substrate is not a big issue for fairy wrasse or rather any species of the Labridae family. It is better to put a sandy substrate preferably with a fine to a medium-grained sand substrate for them.

This is mainly because their natural habitat consists of lots of corals with sandy substrates and it will make the aquarium similar to their natural environment. 


It is important to add lots of live plants and rocks that serve as hiding spots which will make the wrasse feel at ease and keep them relaxed and stress-free. Orange back fairy wrasse does not need a very well-planned decorative tank and the only requirement is replicating their natural environment.

As their natural environment is coral reefs and rocky environments, putting multiple rocks and coral bodies is good. However, you should do the tank decorations without limiting the space of the aquarium as they need lots of space. 

As this is a saltwater tank and you should choose appropriate plants for the aquarium. Some suitable saltwater plants are Red Gracilaria Algae,

Mermaid’s Fan (Halimeda Udotea), Sea Lettuce (Ulva Lactuca), Tufted Joint Algae (Cymopolia Barbata), Halimeda, Green Finger Plant (Codium Spongiosum), and Red Mangrove Propagule (Rhizophora Mangle)


The lighting of tanks is also an important factor as it affects the growth of the corals in the tank.  In addition, It also ensures that a regular cycle of night and day is followed. The amount of lighting to the aquarium depends on the amount of lighting a fish gets in its natural environment.

The native place of Orange back fairy wrasses is coral reefs where considerable sunlight is available. Therefore, the aquarium lighting also adjusts to get substantial lighting in the daytime. If they are exposed to light at a higher intensity, then this will tend to harm them. 

Water quality condition

The ideal water temperature for Orange back fairy wrasse is between 72 0 F to 780 F(22 to 26 0C). As they are found near the coral reefs where the temperature is usually high than in other areas of the ocean, they need warm water. If the aquarium is set in a  cold area, getting the help of a  water heater is necessary.

The pH level is a critical facor for fairy wrasses and a change of pH range adversely affects the fish and could potentially also shorten the lifespan of the fish. The preferred pH range for them is 8 to 8.4. The recommended water hardness for a tank that is to house Orange back fairy wrasse is a value that lies between 8 to 12 dKH.

Orange Back fairy-wrasse breeding 

Male or female identification 

The Orange back fairy wrasses show sexual dimorphism which means the male and female of this species can be identified by looking at them.

The male fairy wrasses are larger and display more vibrant colors on their bodies as compared to the females. The head of males gets red when they become mature or change their gender. The important factor of this species of fish is like many other wrasses they can change their gender multiple times over their life span. 

Orange Back fairy-wrasse breeding

The breeding of Orange back fairy wrasse in captivity is considered a difficult task and according to the literature, only a few success cases were recorded. There are no male juveniles of Orange back fairy wrasses available even the in wild. Like other wrasses all Orange back fairy wrasses also born as females. The dominant female of the fish group will transform into a male in a case of loss or death of a previous dominant male. 

The best thing to do to encourage the breeding of the fish is to put a single male with many females in a harem. The spawning phase of this species is nice to watch.  There is a  flurry of activity that is coupled with their vivid color.

However, putting many males with single females will lead to fights between the males. They spawn in the water column and the eggs are pelagic.  Experienced aquarists can collect the eggs and set up a tumbler or Kreisel tank for hatching. However, it is not an easy task. Nothing other than the above description was reported on the breeding of this species and perhaps this is something that is best left to the experts.


The Orange back fairy wrasses are hardy fish that are very easy to keep even for beginners. As they cannot breed in captivity, only the wild-caught individuals are available. Therefore, make sure to quarantine them before introducing them to the tank. In addition, they are an easy victim of shipping stress. However, some diseases may affect their health.

Fin rot 

This is one of the common diseases that affect fish disregarding their habitat. It is easily identified by degraded fins and the tail of a fish. The infection begins with the end of the tail or fin and once it spreads to the base, the fish can not regenerate new fins. 

Pop eye 

Popeye is another common disease of fish and it occurs when fluid builds up either behind the eye or in the eye. It causes bubbles in the skin surrounding the eye, eventually causing the eye to bulge out of its socket. The fish may lose sight if it is not identified and treated in time. 

White Spot (Ich) 

The disease is caused by external parasites and easily avoid by quarantining the new fish before introducing to a community tank.

Feeding behavior of Orange Back fairy-wrasse 

What do they eat

They are carnivores and feed in meaty food items. Orange Back fairy-wrasse are active hunters who will not sit back and wait to be fed but rather walk around looking for food. They prey on plankton in open water and invertebrates that live on the substrate like flatworms in their natural habitats. In the aquarium, they usually accept any kind of meaty diet even fish food pallets without any hesitation. 

It is good to first introduce brine to a fish that is newly introduced to the tank. After, when they are used to the tank their feed can be changed into Mysis shrimp or zooplankton. Make sure to feed them with a balanced diet.

How often should you feed

The Orange back fairy wrasses are highly active fish who has short digestive tracts.

Therefore they need food multiple times per day. The aquarists suggest feeding them 5 to 6 times a day in small quantities. Usually, their diet plan consists of pallets and flakes three times a day and live food about twice a day. 

However, need to be careful about the food amount when they are in a community tank because frequent feeding can lead other fish to overfeed. 

When should you feed

As they are diurnal fish they love to eat in the daytime.

How long they can go without food

They cannot live longer without food as they have a short digestive tract and they need food frequently.

Orange Back fairy-wrasse tank mates?

Unlike many other types of wrasses, they can live well with a lot of other species that are not their own. However, make sure the other species are not carnivores. In addition, the sequence of introducing different species also affects the behavior of the fish which are already established in the aquarium. Certain fish species like Frogspawn Corals, damsels, gobies, blennies, pygmy angels, and cardinals can be kept along with Orange back fairy wrasse.

Though they are comparatively peaceful it is important to avoid fish with a similar color or pattern like the Orange backs. Also, keep in mind not to add two males of the same species as they become very territorial and aggressive. The large predatory fish also avoid such as groupers, lionfish, puffers, other species of wrasse that are bigger, and many species of triggerfish.

Is Orange Back fairy-wrasse aggressive?

No, they are not aggressive and they are peaceful species

How big do  Orange Back fairy-wrasse get?

The maximum length of this species reaches 3-6 inches. 

Can Orange Back fairy-wrasse live in a pond?

Yes only if the environmental conditions are suitable for them. 

Credit to : Tim’s Tank
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.