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142. Sharing a toothbrush


An overhang on a Mauritian reef, populated by Clear Cleaner Shrimps (Urocaridella antonbruunii), is visited simultaneously by a big Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala) and a Yellowmouth Moray Eel (Gymnothorax nudivomer).

The Clear Cleaner Shrimps often form a cohabitation with other shrimp species, such as White-banded Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis), and even with cleaner fish, like the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus), in what is commonly known as a cleaning station. As these cleaning stations are visited by a variety of fish species, they tend to move from one fish species to another. Sometimes, predators and prey lie peacefully next to each other, receiving treatment, as depicted in this short underwater videoclip. Big moray eels are known to hunt and predate on different scorpionfish species.

These little cleaners are known to remove small parasites, dead tissue from the fish's outer skin and scales, and food scraps and leftovers from in-between the teeth of both predators. This relationship between biologically different species is called a symbiotic relationship. These opportunistic feeders do not really care about their clients' health and well-being but rather satisfy their own appetite; whoever offers them the best pickings probably gets the best treatment.

The cleaner shrimp and also different species of cleaner wrasses secretly feed on the protein-rich mucus layer in which fish are covered. The client fish probably do not notice the theft by the shrimps due to the very small amount of mucus they remove from the fish. However, when a Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse grabs a bite, it is noticed by the client fish and results in what is called in biological terms a "punishment," which simply translates to a fleeing client. The nutrition-rich mucus is omnipresent on all fish, but the amount of parasites can vary among fish species, location, and season. On the other hand, there are cases, although rare, where the cleaners were eaten by their clients. Both cases are known as "cheating" in a cleaning symbiosis.

The little nearly transparent Clear Cleaner Shrimp hover from one client to another to find the best pickings or the best mucus. From the fish's point of view, it looks a lot like sharing a cleaner shrimp, from our point of view it’s more like sharing a toothbrush.


Cleaning stations are constantly visited by different fish of all sorts and inhabited by different species of cleaners, such as White-banded Cleaner Shrimp, Clear Cleaner Shrimps, and even Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse. When you've identified a cleaning station on one of your scuba dives, it is wise to position your underwater camera, set up your video lights correctly, and wait patiently for action. Within a few minutes or so, you might be rewarded with some cool underwater footage. The actions of the different cleaners and their client fish are very interesting and fascinating behaviours that often offer good and rewarding underwater video footage. Good things come to those underwater videographers and photographers who are patient, and the best things come to those who never rush. Underwater video images like these are a combination of patience, perseverance, persistence and of course a good dose of luck.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

More on this topic:

For another post about the Clear Cleaner Shrimp go to post 145 or click following link https://www.beyondscuba.com/post/clear-cleaner-shrimp-urocaridella-antonbruunii

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