Typically found in and around coral and rocky reefs from the coast to depths of about 200 feet.
- Depend on labriform locomotion (pectoral fins only), which is typical for wrasses and sends the fish bouncing through the water column.
- Highly diurnal and will bury themselves during the night.
- Wrasses in captivity have been observed performing the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) behavior while sleeping that is often associated with dreaming in higher vertebrates.
- Young fish operate as cleaners, picking parasites off other fish.
The adult Spanish hogfish seem to favor feeding on bottom-dwelling invertebrates (sea urchins, crabs, worms, brittle stars, clams and snails). Juveniles will set up cleaning stations of their own where they pick parasites from larger fish.
Like most wrasses (small, reef dwelling fish), Spanish hogfish utilize labriform locomotion to move around reefs. In this form of movement, these fish use only their broad pectoral fins to propel themselves through the water. This type of swimming appears forced and jerky and sends these fish bouncing around the reef. Due to this slow, awkward style, wrasses rarely venture far from the cover and protection of reef systems or rocky bottoms. Hogfish’s small, colorful bodies allow them to easily find places to hide in reef systems. These fish also feed on small, slow-moving, bottom-dwelling prey (sea urchins, crabs, worms, sea stars, clams and snails) that can be found in and around reefs, making it unnecessary for these fish to venture out into open waters where they would be easy prey for a larger fish.
Spanish hogfish play important roles in coral and rocky reef ecosystems. They act as both predator and prey in reef food chains. Juveniles provide an important ecological service by being active at cleaner stations where they pick parasites from groupers, jacks, and other predators. Spanish hogfish are a popular species for display in both private and commercial aquaria. Their small size and bright colors make them a favorite in artificial reef displays. Collection for display in aquaria does not seem to have affected wild populations of this species, since the majority of individuals on display have most likely been bred in captivity. Spanish hogfish are considered uncommon in South Carolina, owing to our cold coastal waters and the yearly movement of the Gulf stream, not necessarily a reflection of their population numbers. In the warm waters of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, Spanish Hogfish are considered common in and around coral reef communities. There currently is no specific concern/status for the conservation of this species.