Ballan Wrasse ( Labrus bergylta )

/ / Fish


Labrus bergylta is a large sized fish of 30-50cm (1), which reaches a maximum of 60cm (1) (2); the body form is large with a broad head (2). The mouth of the Ballan Wrasse has lips with 7-9 folds (2); the mouth itself contains strong canine-like teeth (2) (3).

The dorsal fin of L. bergylta has 18-21 spines and 9-13 soft rays; the anal fin has 3 spines and 8-12 soft rays (1) (2). The dorsal rays are longer than the dorsal spines (1). There are 41-47 lateral line scales up to the caudal base (1), 15-25 on temporal-occipital surface, 0-3 on inter-operculum, 7-9 on the cheeks, and 4-6 behind the eyes (2).

The Ballan Wrasse has no sexual dimorphism, and displays an array of different colours and patterns (2). The body, head and fins are very often a brown-reddish or red colour mottled with white spots (3); some specimens display a green colouration with white spots or irregular large vertical stripes. Juveniles are often an emerald green (2).


Juvenile L. bergylta often spend time in inter-tidal areas; males will build nest of algae in crevices and one, or more, females will use this to spawn in (2) (3).


Ballan Wrasse is found in the littoral zone on rocky substrates, offshore reefs or seagrass beds in depths of 30m (1) (2) (3).

Life Cycle

The spawning season of L. bergylta is from May-August for the North Sea, and April-August in the English Channel; eggs laid in the nest will hatch within two weeks (1). The Ballan Wrasse is a protogeny hermaphrodite; it takes approximately two years, a length of around 16-18cm, for the female to reach sexual maturity (1) (2).


L. bergylta is found from Norway to Morocco, Madeira, Azores and the Canary Islands (2); also found in the Mediterranean (1).


The Ballan Wrasse is carnivorous, feeding on crustaceans and molluscs (1) (2) (3).

Conservation Status

Not evaluated under the IUCN Redlist (4).


Description written by Ben Harvey (2009)

(1) Golani, D., Özturk, B. and Başusta, N. 2006. Fishes of the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish Marine Research Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey. 259pp.

(2) Ascanius, [P.]. 1767-1806. Icones rerum naturalium, ou figures enluminees d’histoire naturelle du Nord. Copenhague, 5 cahiers, 36 pp., 50 pl.

(3) Quignard, J.P. and Pras, A. 1986. Labridae. Fishes of the north-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Paris:UNESCO.

(4) IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. <>. Downloaded on 27 July 2009.