Ringtail Maori Wrasse

Cheilinus Unifasciatus
Ringtail Wrasse - Marinewise © 2023 MarineWise

Quick Facts

Scientific name Cheilinus Unifasciatus
Other names Tailband Maori Wrasse, Whiteband Maori Wrasse
Size Up to 46 cm (18 in)
Weight Up to 1.4 kg (3.08 lb)


Habitat & AU Distribution Coastal waters amongst inshore/offshore coral reefs
Depth Range 2 - 30 m (98 ft)
Ringtail Maori Wrasse Distribution

Interesting Info

  • The Ringtail Maori Wrasse is widely distributed across Australia’s coastal waters. Including Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and down through New South Wales.
  • These fishes are characterised by their distinctive colour patterns, often displaying a variety of hues including blue, green, and pink, with intricate patterns resembling those seen in Maori art, hence the name. They have a single black band running from the top of the head, through the eye, to the bottom of the face.
  • They are omnivores and feed on a variety of marine invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans, and sea urchins. They are also known to consume fish eggs and small fish when available.
  • Ringtail Maori Wrasses use their vibrant coloration and patterns not only for mating displays but also for threat avoidance. When threatened, they can quickly change their colours to confuse predators, providing them an opportunity to escape.
  • Their mating season occurs during the warmer months, generally from October to March. During this time, males display vibrant colorations to attract females and often engage in aggressive displays to maintain territories.
  • Like many wrasses, Ringtail Maori Wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they have the ability to change their sex from female to male during their lifecycle. This usually happens when there is a lack of males in their vicinity.
  • Estimated lifespan is between 15 – 20 years.
Species Interaction

Recreational Fishing, Snorkeling & Diving

Ringtail Maori Wrasses are not typically targeted by recreational fishers, primarily due to their size and habitat. However, they may be occasionally caught unintentionally. Due to their vibrant colours and intriguing behaviour, Ringtail Maori Wrasses are a popular species among divers and snorkelers. They are known to be quite bold and may approach divers out of curiosity.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Perciformes

Family: Labridae

Genus: Cheilinus

Species: Cheilinus Unifasciatus

Conservation Status

According to the IUCN Red List, the Ringtail Maori Wrasse is classified as “Least Concern” in Australia. However, populations are closely monitored due to pressures from overfishing and habitat destruction, particularly damage to coral reefs.

Fish Taste Quality

Ringtail Maori Wrasse are edible but rarely consumed due to the potential risk of ciguatera poisoning which is common with larger reef fish.

Taste Rating: 1/5

How to catch
Ringtail Maori Wrasse

Catch Difficulty: Easy

Tackle: Running Sinker Rig

Bait: Crab, Fresh cut flesh baits, Pilchards, Prawns, Squid, Worms, Yabbies

Technique: Keep bait close to the reef/structure

Popularity: Not targeted - Bycatch

Recreational Viewing
- Snorkeling & Scuba

Finding: Easy

Temperament: Curious

Location: Inner Reef, Outer Reef, Lagoon

Danger: None

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