Rock cook (Centrolabrus exoletus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



This brightly coloured wrasse, is distinguished by five spiny fin rays on the anal fin. Colouring is mostly greenish brown, sometimes with blue or purple flecking on the dorsal and anal fins. Its sides are yellow to brown, with a cream underside. The lower part of the head is yellowish orange, with blue and pinkish stripes. A broad dark band is also present on the caudal fin. Also known as the 'small mouthed wrasse' Centrolabrus exoletus feeds on small invertebrates and also cleans parasites from other fish.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Distributed throughout the Britain and Ireland, although is absent from the southern North Sea.

Global distribution



Often found among seaweeds (particularly eelgrass beds) and near rocks.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 15 cm in length.
  • Brightly coloured: greenish brown with blue flecks dorsally, yellow sides and cream underside.
  • Head orange and pink with blue and pink stripes.
  • Five spiny rays on anal fin.
  • Dorsal and anal fins flecked with blue.
  • Dark band across the tail fin.

Additional information

Females lay their eggs in 'nests' of fine algae in rock crevices during summer months. Growth rate is faster in the males, with both male and females reaching a maximum length of 15cm.

Listed by


  1. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2001-05-03

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  4. Muus, B.J. & Dahlstrom, P., 1974. Collins guide to the sea fishes of Britain and North-Western Europe. Wm Collins Sons & Co. Ltd: London.

  5. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  6. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  3. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  4. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  5. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-18


This review can be cited as:

Reeds, K.A. 2008. Centrolabrus exoletus Rock cook. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 18-05-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 02/09/2008