Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Cleaner Wrasse Labroides dimidiatus
The cleaner wrasse spends its life grooming other fish, turtles, and occasionally even divers. This little fish is silvery blue with a black band running from snout to tail. The “client” recognizes it from its markings and does not try to eat it. Groups of cleaner wrasse usually consist of an adult male and a harem of females. If the male dies, the largest female changes sex and takes on the male role, becoming fully functional within a few days.
Cleaner Wrasse and Mutual Benefits
Skin parasites are irritating and fish can be debilitated by a heavy infestation. On coral reefs, large fish line up at known “cleaning stations” such as a prominent coral head, spread their fins, and open their mouths. The resident cleaner wrasse picks off parasites and dead tissue and gets a good meal in return.