Sea Fish

Napoleon fish

  • Scientific name:  Cheilinus undulatus
  • Common Name:  Wrasse Fish, Humphead Fish, Maori
  • Aquarium size:  Minimum 200 liters
  • Temperament: He  is calm, but can be aggressive towards others of his kind
  • Temperature:  Between 23º and 28ºC
  • pH: Between 8.2 and 8.4
  • Diet:  Carnivore
  • Length:  Up to 2 meters


The Napoleon fish is a wrasse from the Indo-Pacific, with waters that range between temperatures of 23ºC and 28ºC. Present in reefs with depths of up to 60 meters.

It belongs to the kingdom animalia, type of phylum Chordata, Class Actinopterygii, of the order Perciformes, it belongs to the family Labridae, it
belongs to the species of Cheilinus undulatus and its habitat is coral reefs.

It is easy to find in aquariums in America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
It is a highly valued and persecuted fish, due to this it
is currently in danger of extinction.

It is also known as the
Humphead or Maori Fish.


The Napoleon fish is a fish with an attractive and striking coloration, perhaps that is one of the reasons why it is so appreciated and persecuted for aquariums.

This fish
has a hump or hump on the front of its head, similar to the hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte, from whom it received its name. The hump of the Napoleon fish has a triangular protrusion shape , which grows and becomes taller and more prominent as time passes and the fish gets older.

However, the age of a fish of this type cannot be calculated, because there are young wrasse fish and other very old ones but with similar sizes.
its age should not be calculated based on the magnitude of the prominence of its hump.

One of the main characteristics of this fish is its mouth.
has a pair of fleshy and huge lips , as well as small and very sharp teeth, which it uses to feed on hard-shelled animals.

The colors of the napoleon fish are truly a true marine spectacle, as their exquisite variety attracts the eye of those who observe them.

A characteristic originated by having
scales of electric blue, purple or even intense green, tones more typical of the male Napoleon fish, while on the other hand, the females have less striking colors such as gray or brown coffee.

The napoleon fish when it is young, for its part, has reddish, orange or greenish scales.

Sexual dimorphism

You can differentiate the males of the Wrasse from the females, not only by their coloration, the size is a decisive factor.
The Napoleon fish weighs between 90 and 190 kilograms , being the males those that manage to achieve greater proportions, due to their large size compared to the females.

These fish have a characteristic that helps them resist against their danger of extinction, they
are protogynous hermaphrodites , this allows them to change their sex as they reach maturity.

Frequently certain females of this species transform into males, since from their birth, they have both sexual organs, male and female.

Distribution and habitat

The Napoleon fish or Cheilinus Undulatus is one of the largest fish of the labridae family that inhabits the Indian Ocean.

It is only possible to find it naturally in the
Red Sea and Madagascar, close to the central Pacific Ocean, approaching the waters surrounding the Polynesian islands.

It is also found in Japanese waters (especially in the southeast of the Japanese nation) and has rarely been seen in southern waters of New Caledonia.

the risk of extinction of the wrasse is centered in Philippine waters and off the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Humphead wrasse can also be found in areas near northwestern Australia.

The custom of this marine specimen is to live in coral reefs with depths that can reach up to 100 meters, where it will often take refuge, to hide from its predators.

As the wrasse grows and develops, its habitat changes, selecting even deeper locations over the years.

The habitat of the Napoleon fish in which it develops are dark spaces with very dense vegetation, where there is the presence of large volume algae.
These algae around it protect it from fishermen and from the reach of its predators.

Aquarium Conditions

The aquarium of a wrasse should have a minimum capacity of 200 to 250 liters of water. Ideal water quality conditions for Napoleon Wrasse are:

  • The temperature of the water in the aquarium should range from 23ºC to 28ºC.
  • pH 8.2 to 8.4
  • Density between 1.023 to 1.026

It is recommended to
place some corals or stones that can serve as a shelter, since at night, they usually look for safe areas to hide.


The feeding of the wrasse is based on animals that habitually despise, or avoid other marine fish.

Most of the other marine species do not have the ability to avoid the poisonous effects and defense capacities that some animals have, such as
sea ​​urchins.

The wrasse
has the ability to devour species and grind them with its powerful teeth without doing the least damage.

Other fish such
as Bull fish or Cofre fish are also part of their menu , as well as mollusks with hard crusts, including clams, crabs and also snails .

Another marine species that is part of their menu is
theStarfish , in any of its classes, for example the blue starfish and the red starfish, the Napoleon fish spends most of the day feeding.


The adult wrasse is generally solitary. His day is spent moving around the reef, looking for food, and then resting during the night, for which he seeks refuge in his caves or particular ledges.

It is a sedentary species, it
does not usually move to other latitudes; only those that you know or have already visited. For this reason, it generally stays within its known limits.

It would be very unusual for a wrasse to be found far from the reefs.

Napoleon fish are not an aggressive or dangerous species, except among their congeners when they reach adulthood.

Due to their way of living
, they tend to stay in places that are familiar to themin which it is easy for them to identify the fauna and flora that are found around them.

This way of behaving has a greater reason, because this class of fish seeks a way to protect itself from potential predators.

The wrasse, if threatened by any predator or danger,
can quickly hide and disappear from its predator.

The reason the wrasse prefers reefs is that they undoubtedly serve as hiding places and provide security and confidence.

As for sharing space with other fish:
two wrasses should not be placed together unless they are a couple, their intraspecific relationships are quite complicated.
You cannot introduce crustaceans or mollusks together with the Napoleon fish in the same marine aquarium , you already know that they will be part of their diet.

Smaller fish cannot be introduced either, they run the risk of being chased and cornered.
They may not kill them, but they will make life very difficult.

In this sense, you
have to look for larger species, with which you will not look for problems.


Wrasse spawns from 5 to 7 years of age. This is the total period of time that it takes for this species to reach full sexual development or maturity, it is already suitable to generate new offspring. Based on this, it can be concluded that the Wrasse has a very slow procreation process.

It is hermaphroditic, that is, at the time of its birth it presents both organs, both that of the males and that of the female.

For example, if a Napoleon fish was born female, but the anatomical development is superior, it
can change gender and transform into a super-male.

The super-male is the most striking fish in a group of wrasse fishes.
The colors of its skin are brighter, and it is also the largest fish.

Images and photos of the Napoleon fish

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