Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Labroides dimidiatus

Cleaner wrasse

Cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatusCleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Labroides: Greek, labrax, -akos = a fish, Dicentrarchus labrax + Greek, suffix, oides = similar to

General Notes:

Due to their specialized feeding they generally do no last long in captivity. In the wild they play a crucial roll of keeping the parasite levels down on the reefs allowing so many different types of fish to co-habit the same area. Cleaner Wrasse generally set up a cleaning station and wait for fish to come to them for cleaning. Cleaning stations are occupied by a pair of adults, a group of juveniles or a group of females accompanied by a dominant male. Experiments have shown that when the cleaner wrasse are removed from an area that very quickly there is less diversity of species in the area and the fish population falls.

Cleaner wrasse are carnivorous, in the wild they feed on crustacean ectoparasites and mucus of other fishes. In captivity their natural diet cannot be replicated and although they will eat other things this will not sustain them in the long term. They normally live for around four years, in captivity this age is very unlikely to be achieved.

Cleaner wrasse are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means that the dominant female becomes a male when something happens to the existing male, this sex change is irreversible and can only happen once. There are no external differences between the sexes.

There are no reports of successful captive breeding of cleaner wrasse although there are many reports of the fish spawning in captivity, the eggs float in the water column.

The ICUN Redlist of Endangered Species lists Cleaner wrasse as 'least concern' the fish is widespread and isn't facing any immediate threat. Some parts of its range are under threat locally due to habitat loss and from over collection for the aquarium trade. All cleaner wrasse offered for sale are wild caught.

Information at a glance

pH: 8.2 - 8.4
dGH: 8 - 12
Salinity: 1.021 - 1.025
Temperature: 24 - 28°C (76 - 82°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 14cm (5.75in)
Min tank size: - litres
Difficulty level: Do not keep
Aquarium type: -
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus

Origin: Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and East Africa to the Line, Marquesan, and Ducie islands, north to southern Japan, south to Lord Howe and Rapa islands.

Habitat: Inhabits coral rich areas of inner lagoons and sub tidal reef flats to seaward reefs


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Labridae
Genus: Labroides
Species: L. dimidiatus

Common name:
Cleaner wrasse

Synonyms: Cossyphus dimidiatus