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Xyrichtys martinicensis, Rosy Razorfish. Scott W. Michael

Family: Labridae

Species in Genus Xyrichtys:

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM


These fascinating fishes live in the sand flats and slopes adjacent to coral reefs. They are well known for their ability to burrow and even “swim” under the sand. As juveniles, many mimic plant debris as they hover above the substrate.

They are not well-suited to most reef tanks because they require a substantial portion of the tank bottom to be open sand. If you are able to provide this, however, you can successfully keep these fishes. They need a fine sand substrate at least 3 in. (8 cm) in depth, which they will help aerate and turn.

One downside is that they will eat ornamental crustaceans, some beneficial worms, snails, and serpent stars (especially true of adult razorfishes). Large adults will even eat small fishes. Some razorfishes are quite large and will need to be housed in an extra-large aquarium (check the fish’s maximum length before you buy).

Some of the best aquarium razorfishes come from the tropical Atlantic.