Common Cleanerfish cleaning the gills of a Blacksaddle Goatfish
Common Cleanerfish cleaning the gills of a Blacksaddle Goatfish at a depth of 21 m, North West Solitary Island, New South Wales, June 2002. Image: Ian Shaw
Ian Shaw

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    dimidiatus
    Genus
    Labroides
    Family
    Labridae
    Order
    Perciformes
    Class
    Actinopterygii
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 11.5 cm in length.

Introduction

The Common Cleanerfish is blue to yellow above fading to white or yellow below. As its standard name suggests the species cleans larger fishes.



Identification

The Common Cleanerfish is blue to yellow above fading to white or yellow below. There is a black stripe from the eye to the caudal fin margin. The stripe widens posteriorly.

It has thick lips and a pair of canines at the front of both jaws.



Habitat

The Common Cleanerfish occurs on rocky and coral reefs.

Distribution

The Common Cleanerfish occurs in tropical (and some temperate) marine waters of the Indo-Pacific. In Australia it is recorded from southern to north-western Western Australia and from northern Queensland to southern New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.



Feeding and diet

The Common Cleanerfish is well known for its feeding behaviour. It establishes a "cleaning station" often a cave or overhang, where it swims in a bobbing, dance-like motion. Larger fishes come to the cleaning station to have ectoparasites removed. The Common Cleanerfish swims around the fish picking off and eating the parasites. It often enters the mouth and gill chamber of large fishes.



References

  1. Grutter, A.S., Deveney, M.R., Whittington, I.D. & R.J.G.Lester. 2002. The effect of the cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus on the capsalid monogenean Benedenia lolo parasite of the labrid fish Hemigymnus melapterus. Journal of Fish Biology. 61: 1098-1108.
  2. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.