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Species guide

Cleaner wrasse

Scientific name: Labroides dimidiatus

DESCRIPTION:

The cleaner wrasse are small fish with the front half of the body light orange and the rear part blue. They also have a navy blue band along their body.

Its maximum size is 11 cm.

BIOLOGY:

They are generally territorial around a coral formation called a ‘cleaning station’. They announce their services by swimming up and down in a distinctive movement to attract fish of all sizes to ask for the services of the cleaner wrasse by adopting odd positions: they remain in one position with their fins spread or vertically with the head up or down. Sometimes the colours of the hosts are attenuated, maybe so that the cleaner wrasse can get a clearer view of the parasites. They can enter large predators’ mouths without danger, which appreciate their services enough to resist the temptation of swallowing them.
They feed on the external parasites of the damaged or sick tissues of other fish.

Their reproduction is oviparous.

HABITAT:

The cleaner wrasse lives in almost all coral reef habitats up to a depth of 40 m.

DISTRIBUTION:

It is found in the Indian-Pacific.

STATUS:

Species not evaluated (according to the red list of endangered species).

CURIOSITIES:

It is mimicked by the false cleaners (Aspidontus taeniatus). This fish takes advantage of the fact that the others allow them to clean them, thinking that it is a cleaner wrasse, to eat small pieces of skin and flesh it pulls off.