From Microcosm Aquarium Explorer

Jump to: navigation , search

Labroides phthirophagus, Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse. Scott W. Michael

Family: Labridae

Species in Genus Labroides:

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM


These wrasses are engaging fishes, but conscientious reef aquarists should refuse to purchase them. As obligatory cleaners, these wrasses feed on ectoparasites, fish slime, and scales. Although they vary somewhat in aquarium suitability, all species are difficult to maintain long-term in the home aquarium. They will fare poorly unless kept with a large community of fishes from which to browse mucus and parasites.

The most common species, the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus), does slightly better than its congeners. It is more likely to ingest other foods, although it rarely does so with gusto. It may graze the substrate, and has been known to pick at the mantles of tridacnid clams (irritating them and causing them to close).

The cleaner wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites, and most exhibit a haremic mating system. The male defends a large area from consexuals; within his domain are three to six subordinate females.

If you are looking to keep a cleaner fish, choose instead one of the cleaner gobies or some of the other wrasses that are facultative cleaners (e.g., juvenile hogfishes).