Various marine life regularly visit cleaning stations. A cleaning station is where a special type of cleaner fish or shrimp live. At these areas on the reef these cleaners offer their services! On a scuba diving liveaboard in Indonesia, such as Coralia Liveaboard, you can witness this amazing behaviour at many dive destinations.
In the photo above a coral grouper has a cleaner shrimp inside its mouth. We find it amazing the trust between the cleaners and the fish. One big gulp and this shrimp could be a tasty meal for the grouper!! Coral groupers are a regular on the reefs in Raja Ampat and other places like Komodo. They are usually quite shy fish but here our Cruise Director Debbie took her time and managed to get this shot with a lot of patience!
Symbiosis at Marine Life Cleaning Stations
The cleaner shrimp or fish will remove parasites, bacteria and dead skin from their customer at the cleaning station. They remove this from the scales, gills and even the mouths of the fish. This is a symbiotic relationship, a form of cleaning symbiosis. A symbiosis is when there is a mutually beneficial association. In this case, the fish get a clean and the cleaners get a meal!
The following video shows a batfish (or spadefish) being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse. We took this video at a dive site in Misool, Raja Ampat.
On the Reef
Marine life cleaning stations can be found in many places on the reef. Usually cleaner shrimps live inside cracks and crevices. This provides them with protection from predators, although most fish use them for cleaning not for eating!
You might also see cleaner wrasse and other types of fish hanging around in certain parts of the reef. These are permanent cleaning stations and fish seem to know exactly where to go. Quite often you can see fish going to a table top coral or a patch of staghorn coral for their clean. Even sharks enjoy a clean and we got very lucky to see this wobbegong shark opening its mouth to let some cleaner wrasse inside!
Anemone shrimps clean too!
Anemones are a favourite place for some types of shrimp. Here in this photo an anemone fish is getting a clean from one of these shrimps. There is also a cleaner wrasse joining in – double cleaning!
Did you know anemone fish make sound? Next time you get close listen for a popping sound, that’s the anemone fish making that noise!
These are probably the most common type of cleaners that you will see on the reef. It is quite common to see a moray eel in a hole with a cleaner wrasse to keep it company, and to offer its cleaning services too of course!
Observe Marine Life on Cleaning Stations together with us!
Join Coralia Liveaboard in any of our fantastic diving destinations for a chance to witness this fascinating behaviour on the beautiful reefs of Indonesia!