A well built wrasse, with it's deep set compressed body, and large head. The mouth is small and protrusible, but is extenuated by the thick fleshy lips. The large strong teeth tend to be rounded down with age. Long based dorsal fin present, with 18 to 21 spines on the anterior portion, and 9 to 13 soft branched rays in the posterior. The anal fin is shorter, with 3 leading anterior spines, followed by 8 to 12 rays. The pre-operculum is smooth, the body scales are large, and has 41 to 47 scales along the lateral line.
Colouration varies with age and sex, with young fish being a shade of green, whilst older individuals tend towards a reddish brown / dark green livery, with numerous small white spots all over. Sometimes dark bars or lateral white banding may occur.
Breeds from April though into August, with eggs placed in a nest of mucus bound weed, built by the female on rocks or ground. Fish mature around 6 to 9 years, and are hermaphroditic, with females (16 to 18 cm), changing into males (28cm).
Found in rocky / weedy locations to about 20m. Juveniles may act as cleaner fish to other species.
Feeds on molluscs such as mussels and other invertebrates, including crab and shrimp, which are crushed by the front teeth, and ground by the teeth located at the pharynx.
Found all around the coasts of the British Isles, although tending towards the western coasts.
The Aquarium project