These fish forage for zooplankton, worms, mollusks, echinoderms, shrimp, and other small crustaceans at depths of 3 to 80 feet. Initial phase bluehead wrasses primarily eat zooplankton found in the water current, but herds of females and initial phase males also hunt daily during daylight hours. By hunting in packs, IP bluehead wrasses steal eggs from egg-laying fishes including redlip blennies (Ophioblennius atlanticus), bicolor damselfish (Stegastes partitus), and sergeant majors (Abudefduf vaigiensis). A herd of bluehead wrasses are able to interrupt the defenses of the nest's guardian and steal eggs for several minutes before they are driven away.
Bluehead wrasse diet also consists of parasites found on other fish. Although initial phase bluehead wrasse are one of the primary cleaners of the Caribbean, they only account for 10% of the cleaning activity on the reefs because they are also frequently preyed upon by the fish they clean. Nonetheless, bluehead wrasses remove parasites and reduce disease among fish that stop at cleaning stations. By cleaning wounds of injured fish, it is speculated that they speed up the healing process. Terminal phase males rarely function as cleaners because of their well-developed teeth which enable them to eat hard-shelled invertebrates.
Animal Foods: fish; eggs; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton
Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding
Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats eggs, Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore , Vermivore, Scavenger ); planktivore