Monday, September 27, 2010

Nahla, our bluestreak cleaner wrasse

When Chantal got sick, one recommendation was to get a cleaner wrasse. In the wild, these gracious fish set up "cleaning stations", which other fish line up in order to receive a free cleaning service. The cleaner wrasse eats parasites off the fish, forming a symbiotic relationship with each other. You've probably seen these guys on National Geographic's Shark Week. Remember the small, eel-like fish swimming alongside the sharks? Remember being amazed that the sharks didn't just snack on these guys like Cheetohs? Nope, predatory fish value the cleaner wrasse's services and have been known to fiercely protect them from harm.


I hesitated before purhcasing one. I had read many websites about how they perish in captivity. I wasn't about to get a fish in the slim hope that it would save my sick fish, especially not knowing if Chantal even had parasites that a cleaner wrasse could eat. After much debate, I decided a cleaner wrasse would be a good addition to the tank in the long run, regardless of Chantal's condition.

I picked a very healthy, bluestreak cleaner wrasse since the bluestreak species is the hardiest of the cleaner wrasses. I picked the LFS owner's brain about the cleaner wrasse's ability to adapt to captivity. He believes many don't do well due to the stress of shipping. His cleaner wrasses came from Kenya, where apparently, they are collected and shipped individually to reduce stress, as opposed to groups, as is done in the Indo Pacific.

We named her Nahla since she's from Kenya, and I instantly fell in love with her. She's super friendly and outgoing. She never had to "adapt" to our tank; she immediately began making friends with her tankmates, eating and swimming around curiously. She seems very healthy and happy. She tries to clean all of our other fish; some of them really don't like it. Maybe it tickles. Paticularly Chantal, which is unfortunate because she needs it the most. Scooter and Pedro love to be cleaned by her. We caught Nahla cleaning Pedro's eye. Scooter floats in front of Nahla as she swims past, dorsal fin erect, just begging to be cleaned. It's pretty hysterical. In addition, Nahla is very friendly towards me. She's obsessed with the magnet I use to clean the glass; I have to be careful to shoosh her away. When I clean the algae off the live rock with a brush, Nahla comes right over to me and gets in the way! No fear whatsoever.

Nahla, posing for the camera

Facts about the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse:
Labroides dimidiatus
Peaceful and reef safe
carnivorous and eat parasites off fish as well
lifespan: 4 years
adults reach 5.5 inches
usually from Indo Pacific (ours is from Kenya)
like all wrasses, these guys are jumpers when scared; keep a lid on it!
all start as females; one becomes male and they form harmes
although the bluestreak is the hardiest of the cleaner wrasses, many die in captivity (due to malnutrition) so think twice before getting one

Nahla, swimming peacefully with Louie, our other wrasse (canary wrasse). Unlike most wrasses, these two get along great! (Mrs. Roper is lurking in the background).

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