Cleaner Wrasse | Hawaiian Marine Life

Park Hours 9 AM - 5 PM

Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse

The Hawaiian cleaner wrasse is common on the reef at any depth, particularly at coral heads and ledges. Juveniles are black with a striking blue line along the back, and as they mature into adults, their coloring changes to yellow heads that fade into a brilliant magenta with a black stripe running from head to tail. This small fish reaches only 4 inches in length at maturity.

Hawaiian cleaner wrasses have an essential job on the reef. They host cleaning stations and signal to their “customers” that they are open for business by darting around erratically until fish and turtles gather 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.


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

Did you know?

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

Scientific Name: Labroides phthirophagus

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