Imagine: you’ve got a dirty car but you do not really have the assets to give it a good clean and polish. The most practical thing would be to visit a car wash and get it cleaned. You will most likely pay the owner some money in return. You’ll have a clean car and he will treat himself to something tasty to eat with the money just made. We are witnessing the principle of a symbiosis.
It’s nothing else what we are observing when going diving in the tropical seas observing fish who are holding an unusual position in the water, opening their gill cover and mouth, spreading their fins. On the second look it is very likely to find either Cleaner Wrasses or Cleaner Shrimp busy buzzing around their customer. These small cleaner build their own niche. What would you do? You have no hands and it’s itching like hell. Of course you’d reach out for that helping hand in shape of the little wizard that’s finding and eating all the annoying ectoparasites that are trying to live between your scales, gills, fins and other inaccessible corners of your body.
Especially around Anemones it is very likely to find a gang of Cleaner Shrimps. With a little bit of patience and a quiet hand it is likely to enjoy a free manicure. Taking a closer look at the first picture you are likely to find at least 15 Cleaner Shrimps.
A Batfish is holding an upward position spreading gill cover and mouth while Bluestreak cleaner wrasses are scanning its gills for a nourishing snack. A content Giant moray is awaiting a pleasant personal treatment.
This pelagic Rainbow runner came into the reef to pay a cleaning station a quick visit. Like for all fish: Eating a cleaner is a clear “NO GO!”
Manta Point in Komodo’s National Park is nothing but a huge cleaning station for Mantas that is frequently visited by at least different individuals. You’ll be able to identify a few tiny Cleaner wrasses around the head of this Manta.
A dive site north of the laidback Dahab at the Red Sea is a cleaning station that is known for its bold Cleaner wrasses. These diligent cleaner fish hit the jackpot when discovering Rick’s hands and the back of my throat before discovering the sheer endless supply of opulent cerumen in my ears. After a while the greedy Cleaner wrasses make me feel unease and I sound to retreat.
Surgeonfish grazing on the shell of a Green turtle. The Yellow wrasses are likewise receiving a slice of the cake before moving on to the next waiting customer at Barracuda Point at Borneo’s underwater paradise Pulau Sipadan.