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Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse

The Hawaiian cleaner wrasse is common on the reef at any depth, particularly at coral heads and ledges. Adults are brightly colored with yellow at the head which fades into a brilliant magenta with a black stripe from head to tail. Juveniles are black with a vibrant blue line along the back. They can reach 4 inches in length at maturity.

Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse Cleaning

Hawaiian cleaner wrasses have a very important job on the reef. They host cleaning stations and signal to their “customers” they are open for business by darting around erratically until fish and turtles are gathered to be cleaned. Fish signal their willingness to be cleaned by becoming near motionless, spreading their fins, and opening their gill covers. The cleaner wrasse has a specially designed mouth that allows it to remove external parasites, mucus, and dead skin cells from the host’s body. The cleaner wrasse will even enter the mouth and gill chambers of larger fish and eels.

The cleaner wrasse does not bury in the sand at night like most small members of the wrasse family. Instead, it rests on the bottom at night to form a mucus layer to protect itself, much like a parrotfish does.

*Due to the constant rotation of animals back to the ocean, the presence of any specific animal cannot be guaranteed.

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