Slippery Dick

Halichoeres bivittatus (Bloch, 1791)

Initial Phase Slippery Dick

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)

Order: Perciformes

Family: Labridae (Wrasses)

Genus: Halichoeres

Species: Halichoeres bivittatus


Characteristics: Swims as if it were dragging its tail behind. Gets its unique name from the slippery mucus it excretes to help it evade predators.

Length: 14cm-35cm

Occurrence: Very common to moderate

Color: Varies depending upon which stage of life they are in, however juveniles are usually white whereas in the terminal phase they are usually green.

Juvenile Phase
Initial Phase
slippery-dick-3.jpgTerminal Phase

Phases: Slippery Dicks have three phases. In the juvenile phase, they are white and a distinct black lateral stripe stretching from the top of the snout through the eye to the tail. The second stage is the initial phase where they are usually white to grayish color with a lateral pink to light red stripe replacing the black stripe of the juvenile stage. They now have second stripe that runs parallel to the first that runs through the gills. In the final terminal phases, they turn green with darker stripes that can be broken giving it a beaded look.

Markings: colorfully striped, usually two with one running from the tail though its eye and the other is located a little lower running through its gills. Juveniles may only have one and its stripe is usually black.

Habitat: Around coral reefs in the Epipelagic zone, between 1m-15m in depth. It feeds close to sandy bottom areas around coral heads and can also be found in grass beds. They are always in constant motion and are not shy.

Reproduction: They are hermaphrodites, meaning that they start out their lives as females and can change their sexes for mating. They tend to spawn in the middle of the day in sunlight. The larvae are pelagic and live in the water column until they reach their larger juvenile stage.


Please note that the following references may have either been removed or relocated by the webpage owners since the time this student report was created.

Mark McGinley (Lead Author);C Michael Hogan (Topic Editor) "Slippery dick". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth June 30, 2009; Last revised Date December 13, 2011; Retrieved May 30, 2013 from URL:<>

Florent Charpin (2004-2013) Florent's Guide To The Florida, Bahamas & Caribbean Reefs. Retrieved May 30, 2013 from URL: (

Reef Fish Identification Florida Caribbean Bahamas Interactive DVD 4th Edition. Presented by REEFNET (2007)