Ornate wrasse have an elongated streamlined body, a pointed oval head, short nose and a small protractile mouth with strong lips and protruding pointed front teeth. The dorsal fin is extended and the tail fin is crescent-shaped (juveniles have a truncated tail). Females are a brownish green with a dark line along each scale and five vertical bluish bands. The head is streaked with light blue and the fins have light blue, pink and brown longitudinal streaks. Males have dark red heads streaked with light blue. There is a blue vertical band, bordered in red, just behind the pectoral fins which extends from the dorsal to the abdomen. The fins are streaked with light blue, black and red.
The species is thermophile and a protogynous hermaphrodite. Reproduction takes place between June and July. The eggs are pelagic and therefore are not cared for by the adults. The ornate wrasse feeds on molluscs and crustaceans.