Other Phyla



British Marine Life Study Society

 Ballan Wrasse

Photograph by Andy Horton
Common Name(s):
 Ballan Wrasse
Scientific Name:
 Labrus bergylta
Usual Size:

Similar species in the Mediterranean is Labrus viridis (Fishbase entry)
Other British Wrasse (link)


Photograph of a juvenile fish by Ben Sampson

  Juvenile Fish

Photograph by Brian May


Ballan Wrasse can be kept in aquaria for several years from first year fish. Eventually, they grow too large (in 3 years they can reach a length of 21 cm and a weight of 230 g = 8 oz) even for home aquaria. The do not require the aquaria to be cooled and will survive in temperatures up to 26° C for short periods during the summer. 
Another fish grew to 11 cm by the third year. 



I remember seeing a large fishlouse (about 3 cm)  attached to an adult Ballan Wrasse while snorkelling off Guernsey a few years back. (written in 2001).
Adam Cooper

Additional Notes:
Information wanted: Please send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to 
Shorewatch Project  EMail 
All messages will receive a reply. 


After searching through the internet for information regarding Ballan Wrasse fish, I ended at your site. I was after details & description of this said fish.
The reason why, is that after recently returning from my holidays in Cornwall, I was interested to know more about the fish which my wife had unusually caught
last Saturday 4th August 2000 at Fowey harbour wall. We had gone down to Fowey in the early evening with our two young children, to have a meal, and then to do some
crabbing with the children. Armed with a couple of 99 pence crab lines & some
mackerel bait,  in went the lines. However, 10 mins later no crabs appear on the
hooks, but a very large reddish coloured fish, on my wife's line, to which later
we where told its a wrasse!  Its size was approximately 18 inches nose to tail
may be longer, & 6-7 inches body depth not inclusive of its dorsal fin.  After
panicking how & what to do, my wife started to bring the fish into the harbour
steps whilst reeling in her crab line. I was promptly told to go off & find a fisherman who would know what to do with respect of getting this monster fish off her line. On my return from an unsuccessful pilgrimage into the local working men's club at the jetty? a large entourage of spectators had gathered in bemusment at the spectacle. Fortunately a gentleman amongst the crowd who seemed comfortable about removing the hook, readily stepped in to help land the fish, remove the hook & returned the fish back to the water. Unfortunately what we didn't get a chance to do was take a photo whilst the fish was out of water & accurately gage the weight of this fish. From the approximate dimensions, to
which I've deliberately underestimated the dimensions, to what approximate weight do you think this fish could have been, & is it unusual to catch this fish in this manner. Needless to say, after the fish was returned, we all decided that the catch of this fish more than compensated for the lack of crabs and so we packed up for the night. Both our children agreed that their mum was the best fisher woman in Cornwall.
I did manage to take a photo of the fish, but I suspect when I get it developed it will show no scale as I took it as she was reeling it in.

Richard Williams

18 September 2001
This wrasse has been recorded off the Shetland Isles (Report by Ronnie MacLean from Yell).

Ballan Wrasse (Photograph by Ronnie MacLean)

It was red, 33 cm length, 800 g (1 lb 12 oz), caught off the Woodwick shore off Unst, Shetland in a lobster creel.  The skipper had not seen one before.  It was originally identified by the librarian.  Our headteacher said he sometimes caught them, and someone else said one had turned up in an eel fishing competition.  They appear to be present but caught rarely.  It is sitting in my fridge to be photoed after school and then eaten by the

Best wishes
Ronnie MacLean

Ballan Wrasse are extremely common here in Loch Roag Isle of Lewis and elsewhere around the island, often growing to a considerable size. They seem to live in family groups, show a wide variety of colouration, and are often found around rocky reefs with moderate exposure. The strange thing is few locals ever seem to catch any, and those that do claim never to have seen them before despite a lifetime's fishing. I found this surprising, but
suppose that they must be difficult to catch using normal bait. Other wrasse are common too, especially in late summer, Goldsinny Wrasse in particular.
My local paper today reports that local fish farms are to increase the capture and use of goldsinny wrasse as cleaner fish to control lice in salmon farms, in an allegedly sustainable way (what else?) I've always thought of them as being territorial fish - does anybody know if this is the case and what effect removal from an area might have?
Paul Tyler

1 April 2004
The first fish to arrive on the sunken wreck of the Scylla was a Ballan Wrasse

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Andy Horton (British Marine Life Study Society)

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History of Fishes  by William Yarrell,  two volumes   published by John van Voorst  1859


Swallows fishes, crabs, prawns and anything it can get into its expandable mouth