Species group: Wrasses
Other common names: Cleaner Royal Wrasse, Louse-Eating Wrasse
Scientific name: Labroides phthirophagus
They are obligate cleaners only in the daytime. They are seen at times lying still as if ailing, but are actually just resting. Oftentimes, especially at night, they protect themselves with a balloon-shaped, cotton-like mucus-y cocoon that makes them appear dead.In the wild, Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasses and other Cleaner Wrasses set up “cleaning stations” in specific corners of the reef where fishes go to get cleaned.
The Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse is identical to the Blue Streak Cleaner Wrasse in its size and long narrow shape but different in color. Like most Wrasses, the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse is a favorite because of its striking coloration: gold in the head and front half of the body, and neon blue and purple in the back half. A black stripe runs from the tip of the mouth, across the eye, gradually widening all the way to the tip of the tailfin. As juveniles, the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse are mainly blue, purple, and black with no yellow coloring.
Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasses are peaceful and will co-exist with even predatory species that end up relying on them for their cleaning services. Species that are delicate-skinned should not be housed with the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse.
The Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse is a small fish that can be kept in medium to large size coral reef tanks. They tend to have symbiotic relationships with other fish that go to them for cleaning (picking away parasites, mucus, dead tissue, and old scales). The parasitic crustaceans that they pick off other fishes are their main diet but can learn to feed on live or freeze-dried food and flakes. The Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse is a delicate fish that is recommended only for expert aquarists.