Cleaner wrasse change gender! They’re all born girls, then the biggest female turns into a boy!

Slime supper

Cleaner fish make a job out of eating! The bluestreak cleaner wrasse is one of the most common cleaners, found in the Indian and Pacific oceans and many seas. They eat the slime from larger fish’s skin, which can contain dead skin, scales, parasites and other bugs to feed on. Some ‘customer fish’ will even allow the cleaner wrasse to enter their mouth and clean their teeth and gills of leftover food!

It’s a win/win

Cleaner wrasse have a symbiotic relationship with their customers. The wrasse receives food and protection from the customer fish, while the customer remains healthy by having dead and damaged skin removed, before it gets infected. It also helps the customer fish remain streamlined and competitive, by removing bugs and deadscales from clinging to their body and slowing them down!

How NOT to get eaten

Cleaner wrasse are recognized from other fish by their stripes, size and dance-like movements. Once identified, customer fish won’t eat cleaners because the health benefits of being cleaned are too important. Plus, cleaner wrasse keep their clients happy, by giving them a free massage! As the cleaner wrasse eats, fins on its belly beat rapidly over the customer’s skin, keeping them calm and still.

Many mouths make light work

Cleaner wrasse work together, usually in pairs, to set up cleaning stations. These are designated areas on the reef where fish and other marine creatures gather to be cleaned! Cleaning stations earn a reputation and if the cleaner wrasse do a good job, sea creatures will become ‘return customers’. The best cleaning stations on the reef will often have a “line” of customers waiting to be cleaned!

Cleaner Wrasse – Hardworking slime suckers