Maori Wrasse: The Vibrant Underwater Personality of the Great Barrier Reef

Meet the Maori Wrasse, one of the Great Barrier Reef‘s most charismatic and visually captivating residents. This guide will introduce you to this remarkable fish, providing insights into its distinctive features and place in the vibrant reef ecosystem.

Maori Wrasse

The Maori Wrasse, also known as Cheilinus undulatus, earns acclaim for its vibrant colours, distinctive markings, and friendly and approachable nature. It approaches scuba divers and snorkelers, adding to the allure of under water encounters.

It’s a beloved figure in the under water world of the Great Barrier Reef.

Characteristics of the Maori Wrasse

  • Maori Wrasses are easily recognizable by their striking electric-blue bodies and intricate green and black markings.
  • They can grow to impressive sizes, with some individuals reaching lengths up to 2 metres.
  • These fish have a distinctive hump on their foreheads, which becomes more prominent as they mature.


You can see Maori Wrasses in various coral reefs throughout the Great Barrier Reef.

They prefer coral rich areas with plenty of hiding spots among the crevices.


The Maori wrasse is famous for its friendly nature, often approaching divers and snorkelers, which adds to the excitement of underwater encounters.

One of the most endearing qualities of the Maori Wrasse is its friendly and curious nature.


These omnivorous fish have a varied diet, including small fish, crustaceans, and marine invertebrates. They use their strong jaws to forage for food among the reef’s nooks and crannies.

Role in the Ecosystem

Maori Wrasses play an important role in maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef. They help control populations of reef damaging organisms and contribute to the overall balance of the ecosystem.

Interesting Facts

Maori Wrasse

  1. Colour Transformation: Maori Wrasses undergo a remarkable colour transformation as they age. Juveniles display different colours and markings compared to adults, making them a subject of scientific interest.
  2. Sociable Creatures: Maori Wrasses are famous for their friendly, social behaviour. They are often spotted alongside scuba divers and snorkelers, earning them the nickname “the puppy dogs of the sea.”Conservation Status: Although Maori Wrasses are not endangered, they enjoy protection in numerous regions to guarantee their ongoing presence in the Reef.

Life on the Great Barrier Reef for a Maori Wrasse

scuba dive with Maori Wrasse

The Maori Wrasse, known as Cheilinus undulatus, thrives in the vibrant underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. These magnificent fish exhibit striking blue-green colours and captivating patterns, making them a true spectacle for scuba divers and snorkelers.

Maori Wrasse roam the coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef, growing to impressive lengths of up to 2 metres or more. Their friendly and curious nature often leads them to approach snorkelers and divers, creating fantastic encounters.

These inquisitive fish play a vital role in the Reef ecosystem. They are known for their appetite for sea urchins and other herbivorous creatures, helping maintain the coral ecosystem’s delicate balance. By controlling the population of these herbivores, Maori Wrasse contributes to the health and diversity of the reef.

When visiting the Great Barrier Reef, you can witness Maori Wrasse in action. Local operators offer exciting snorkeling and diving experiences, allowing you to get up close and personal with these remarkable fish.

Partnering with experienced reef operators can enhance your visit to the reef, as they provide valuable insights into the Maori Wrasse’s behaviour and habitat. Exploring the under water world of the Great Barrier Reef and meeting these friendly giants is an experience that will leave a lasting impression on any visitor.

FAQ’s Maori Wrasse

Q. What is a Maori Wrasse?

A. Maori wrasse, also known as the humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), is a large and colourful fish species around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and other tropical regions. It’s known for its distinctive appearance, with a prominent hump on its head.

Q. Why are they called Maori wrasses?

A. The name “Maori wrasse” likely comes from the distinctive facial markings of these fish, which may resemble traditional Maori facial tattoos. Their other common name, “humphead wrasse,” is derived from the prominent hump on their heads.

Q. How big do Maori wrasses get?

A. Maori wrasses can grow to impressive sizes, with some individuals reaching up to 6 feet (about 2 meters) in length. They are among the largest members of the wrasse family.

Q. What do Maori wrasses eat?

A. These fish have a varied diet that includes a range of marine life. They feed on prey, including small fish, molluscs, crustaceans, and sea urchins. Their role in controlling sea urchin populations is important for the health of coral reefs.

Q. Are Maori wrasses colourful?

A. Yes, Maori wrasses are renowned for their vibrant colours. Juvenile Maori wrasses often have green or olive-coloured bodies, while adults can display a dazzling array of hues, including blues, greens, and pinks. Their striking colours make them a favourite among underwater photographers.

Q. Can Maori Wrasses change their colour like some other reef fish?

A. While they don’t change colour like some species, Maori Wrasses undergo a significant transformation in colouration as they mature.

Q. Are Maori Wrasses a threatened species?

A. They are not currently listed as threatened, but their protection is crucial to maintaining their presence in the Great Barrier Reef.

Q. Can you swim with Maori Wrasses while snorkelling or diving in the Great Barrier Reef?

A. Yes, encountering Maori Wrasses while snorkelling or diving is a common and wonderful experience, as they are known for their friendly approach.

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