Fish Identification: Humphead Wrasse

The humphead wrasse is also called the Maori wrasse, Napoleon wrasse, and even Napoleon fish. You can call yourself lucky if you run into one of these relatively rare fish underwater.

Physical description

Humphead Wrasse
Humphead wrasse are the largest members of the wrasse family, with males reaching over 6 feet (2 meters) and females over 3 feet (1 meter) in length.

It has two distinguishing characteristics. The first, of course, is the large hump on its head, above the eyes. This protrusion becomes more noticeable as the fish ages. The other characteristics is the fish's thick, Charles Laughton lips. Angelina Jolie wishes she had lips like these!

Female humpheads and juveniles are a red-orange color on top, and red-orange to white on their bellies. Juveniles may also be a light green color. Males, however, range in color from bright blue and green to purple.

Despite the abnormalities, humpheads have a normal, albeit larger, shaped wrasse body. This includes the fanned caudal fin.

Humphead Wrasse

Geography and habitat

Humphead wrasse are found in coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific oceans.

Adults maintain an open habitat at pretty much all depths, while juveniles like to maintain their privacy in seagrass or inside of dense coral.


Humphead wrasse are declared rare by the World Wildlife Foundation, and in many countries they are protected.

Further reading

World Wildlife Foundation
Dive the World

Photos by Electric Images