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Harlequin Tusk – Complete Care Guide

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harlequin tusk showing teeth

Harlequin Tusk Facts

Harlequin Tusk fish (Choerodon fasciatus) is a species of saltwater wrasse that can be found in the Indian Ocean and Australia. They are very similar in appearance in both regions however, the Australian Harlequin Tusk has more pronounced blue streaks running vertically throughout its body. This fish species always gets heads turning because of its eye-catching coloration. On top of the beautiful colors on this fish, it also sports blue pointy teeth that will make you think twice before putting your hand in the fish tank.

Choerodon fasciatus will be 10 inches when it is fully grown. You should also be very cautious if you plan on keeping this fish in a reef tank. This guide will discuss why and also how to care for Harlequin Tusks. If you know all about the Harlequin Tusks, consider checking out 5 Unique Predatory Fish for Saltwater Aquariums!

Aquarium Requirements

Because of how large Choerodon fasciatus becomes, it is recommended for fish tanks that are 125 gallons or larger. The aquarium itself should have plenty of rockwork that creates different sized caves for the Harlequin Tusk. Juveniles of this species are often very timid so it is great to provide hiding spaces.

Most saltwater fish have similar water parameter requirements. That is not any different with Harlequins. This fish does best under the following water parameters:

  • Temperature: 72°-78° F
  • DKH: 8-12
  • pH: 8.1-8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020-1.025 sg

From my experiences and research, it does not seem like Harlequin Tusks are known to be jumpers. However, a well-fitted lid is always recommended because you never know with fish.

Is the Harlequin Tusk Reef Safe?

These fish are cautiously kept in reef tanks, primarily because although they will not eat your coral, they will devour most invertebrates that are in the aquarium. However, they are often kept in Fish Only With Live Rock (FOWLR) aquariums.

Food and Diet

The Harlequin Tusk fish is strictly a carnivorous fish. They hunt and prey on small invertebrates such as snails, crabs, shrimp, and more in the wild. Their diet should replicate something similar to what they would eat in the wild. When they are small, they can be fed an assortment of Mysis Shrimp, Brine Shrimp, and Krill. Once they are older, Mysis Shrimp and Brine Shrimp may not sustain a hungry Harlequin Tusk. I would recommend feeding it larger meaty foods such as Krill, Clam on a Half shell, and squid. They may also eat large pellets and flake food. Most invertebrates are not safe with this fish in the aquarium. Harlequin Tusks and Cleaner Shrimp are not even a safe combination.

Do Harlequin Tusk Eat Aptasia

There is very little information on whether Harlequin Tusks eat aptasia. I can safely assume that they will not eat aptasia because they will not mess with coral or anemones in a reef tank. If anyone has any concrete information on this, please share! If you need to remove aptasia, consider purchasing peppermint shrimp but beware because they may destroy other coral.

Do Harlequin Tusk Eat Bristleworms?

Being invertebrates and Harlequin Tusks being wrasses, I can assume that this fish species will eat bristleworms. Perhaps not as well as a Sixline Wrasse or Arrow Crab, but Harlequin Tusks should eat some bristleworms when the opportunity arises. However, I do not have concrete evidence to prove this.

Do Harlequin Tusk Eat Clams?

Most of the searching I have done assumes that Harlequin Tusks do not eat clams. Being the rowdy carnivores that they are, I would still be a little cautious owning clams and Harlequins.

Tank Mates

The Harlequin Tusk has a reputation for starting life as a small timid fish, but it becomes more aggressive once it settles into a fish tank and grows. Choerodon fasciatus should be kept with fish that grow larger and can hold their own. I would recommend fish such as Triggerfish, Surgeonfish/tangs, Lionfish, large Angelfish, and Groupers. Smaller fish such as Chromis, Clownfish, Firefish, and many others are commonly eaten by Harlequin Tusks. Also, there may be increased aggression and fighting towards other wrasses.

Can you Keep More Than One Harlequin Tusk?

The simple answer is no. Harlequin Tusks become incredibly territorial and aggressive when they are grown and will fight others of their species. They wreak havoc on other fish and wrasses of different species, so it’s a bad idea to consider adding two Choerodon fasciatus together. Our aquariums are not large enough to comfortably keep more than one in a system.


Breeding is not really possible with this species in an aquarium setting. They are incredibly territorial and will fight their own species. Also, it’s incredibly hard and/or impossible to determine whether saltwater fish are males or females.

Final Notes

Harlequin Tusks are probably one of the most beautiful saltwater fish available. If you can look passed their temperament (and their cost) I would highly recommend them if you have the correct setup. If you’re not ready to pick up a Harlequin Tusk, check out some other fish that are great for 30 Gallon Aquariums.

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