Postcard from the Reef – Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse

A very common fish, endemic to Hawaiian reefs, the pretty cleaner wrasse easily catches your attention with a brilliant neon color scheme. You see these fish nearly every time you get in the water. They are usually found in some cleft in the reef or above a prominent coral head working over another reef fish. They feed on parasites, mucous and dead skin of the other fish. The cleaning services offered by these small wrasse are so popular that there will often be several fish waiting their turn.

While cleaner wrasse are quite pretty they are also infuriatingly difficult to photograph. You can usually get close, they are not overly shy. The problem is that they never stop moving, swimming with an odd, jerky motion in the water. I have long since lost count of the number of blurred photos I have of this fish.

Cleaner Wrasse
A cleaner wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus) in an overhang filled with red sponges and coralline algae