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140. Moray with cleaners and spoilsport


An Undulated Moray Eel (Gymnothorax undulatus) receives a clean-up by a troupe of Clear Cleaner Shrimps (Urocaridella antonbruunii). These little cleaners appear to be quite annoying for the host, certainly when the shrimps are present in great numbers. On several occasions, the moray eel tries to shake off the cleaners, but all attempts seem to be in vain.


While filming this moray eel, a small juvenile fish constantly swam in front of my camera's dome, probably attracted by my video lights. Instead of allowing it to ruin my shot, I tried to use this spoilsport to my advantage by giving it a small role at the end of the video.

Because filming underwater can be challenging, underwater videographers and photographers alike need to be really opportunistic and film whatever (to a certain degree) they encounter on a scuba dive or what swims in front of their cameras. The little fish has no clue that it's spoiling the shot, and trying to chase it away by waving towards the spoilsport didn't work either. As I tried to wave the fish away, I found myself in a similar position as the moray eel, who did everything he could to shake the troupe of Clear Cleaner Shrimps off. This left me with two options: swimming away and returning to the spot a moment later, if by then I haven't encountered a better subject to film, or just ignoring the killjoy and filming the main subject. I chose the latter option.

Once out of the water and behind my editing computer, I saw the impact that little grinch had on my footage. Removing the fish from the footage was not really an option. Some editing programs allow you to remove unwanted items from your recordings under the assumption that the background is stable and not moving. When filming, for example, a street with cars using a tripod, it is easy to remove a single particular car because the background is made up of inert objects like houses. However, dealing with a frantic, moving little fish with a nervously moving moray eel in the background is not a simple task for most amateur filmmakers and editors. Hollywood production companies and film producers possess the right software and skilled editors to deal with these kinds of problems. For me to do so would probably take a lot of time and frustration with no guarantee of a good outcome or a satisfying result. It was much easier, faster, and maybe funnier to work my way around the problem. By incorporating the quite annoying fish, I was able to turn the tables around with a funny and satisfying result. The small grinch suddenly received a main role in this short underwater videoclip.

There is an African saying that would suit this video well, both for the moray eel trying to get rid of the troupe of Clear Cleaner Shrimps and for me the underwater videographer who would love to see the little fish swim away and out of the frame: "A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea.”

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

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