Cleaner Wrasse Care Guide: Diet | Size | Breeding | Sexing | Cost

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Written By Fun Fish Tanks

I Love my Fishes 

Almost everyone is aware of fishes that help other fishes by eating parasites and getting rid of any kind of dirt. A Cleaner Wrasse is the perfect example of it. The scientific name of Labroides Dimidiatus, the Cleaner Wrasse comes along with different species.

Namely Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse, Hawaiin Cleaner Wrasse, Bicolor Cleaner Wrasse, Red Lip Cleaner Wrasse, and Black Spot Cleaner Wrasse. Among these, the one that you will commonly see in everyone’s aquarium is the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse. It perfectly lives up to its name and has a born talent or knack for cleaning.

Outside the enclosure of an aquarium, these species of fish can be found in the waters of the Red Sea, Maldives, Eastern Africa, and Japan as well. These fishes are the manifestation of helpers in the water world.

They get rid of parasites, loose skin, and mucous from other fishes and love this cleaning job. Other species of fish welcome them as well and don’t show any aggression towards them. These fishes even go to the extent of cleaning the mouth of various fishes and face no fears or threats of being eaten. Other species love them having around.

Size and body of Cleaner Wrasse

The Cleaner Wrasse has a long, slender, and sleek body. It can grow up to a size of 4 to 5 inches and can reach a maximum size of 6 inches. These species of fish can live for about 4 years.

When getting a Cleaner Wrasse for your tank you must observe it as sometimes it can be a False Cleaner Wrasse or False Cleaner Fish. At a normal glance, it can easily be mistaken for a Cleaner Wrasse. It also perfectly mimics the Cleaner Wrasse. It has some differences regarding color but that won’t be enough. A distinct difference by which you can tell them apart is the position of their mouth. The Cleaner Wrasse has a mouth that is at the tip of its head. Whereas the mouth of the False one is positioned a little bit below compared to the Cleaner Wrasse. So observe before buying them.

Diet of Cleaner Wrasse

The Cleaner Wrasse comes along as a carnivore. In terms of nutrients, these species get an adequate amount from the other fish in the tank. They gobble up all the parasites stuck to the other fishes. Not just parasites they eat the mucous and the loose scales as well.

If the Cleaner Wrasse is accompanied by large species of fish in a tank, they will get the required nutrients by cleaning them up.

As these fishes have small bodies, so they have to eat multiple times during the day. You will have to feed it small quantities of food from time to time as the day goes on. As they are carnivores, giving them meaty foods is probably the best thing as they will get the nutrients that they need. For if you don’t have enough fish for them to clean up then you have to feed them other foods as well. You can give them frozen shrimp, and seaweeds at the beginning.

Then you can start mixing flake foods as well with the shrimp. They will begin eating those as well. Although, make sure to give them the proper size and quantity as they have small bodies and can’t eat too much at once.


The Cleaner Wrasse breeding pursues as the males do a mating dance and attract the females. These species prefer breeding during the dusk and dawn times of the day. Once the female gets attracted to the male, the female moves towards the territory of the male. 

The females then lay eggs, and the male then fertilizes the eggs. These species favor breeding in captivity and them breeding in an aquarium is a rare happening.


Visual inspection is not enough to tell apart a male and a female Cleaner Wrasse. Although the males have a slightly larger body but is not sufficient to tell them apart. These species undergo hermaphroditism when the need arises so the formation of a pair is not impossible.

A female can turn into a male or a male can turn into a female for breeding or mating. If the territory’s dominant male dies or leaves, the territory’s most dominant female will take his position. She will then transform into a man within 24 hours and mate with the other females in the vicinity, thus populating the territory.

Care of Cleaner Wrasse

Making the perfect ecosystem and maintaining it is not too difficult for a Cleaner Wrasse. The only thing that is hard is it diet.

Tank Size and Tank Mates

As a larger part of this species’ nutrient is formed by cleaning off other fishes, it must be kept in a large tank. There must be present plenty of fish by which it can sustain itself and get its nutrients. It must be kept in a tank of about 50 gallons which is the minimum size it can be kept on. But a bigger tank is always recommended.

Coming to tank mates, it can be kept with almost any species of large marine fish. It gets along with any species and other fishes welcome them as well. They don’t harm the Cleaner Wrasse at all and even open their mouths for them to clean it. The best tankmates for the Cleaner Wrasse are Damselfish, Gold Spotted Rabbitfish, Dwarf Angelfish, Clownfish, Cardinal fish, Tangs, and many more.

Even though these fishes get along with all the other species, you must avoid keeping them with some species of fish. They should not be paired with Moray eels, Lionfish, Pufferfish, Boxfish, Frogfish, Scorpionfish, and Lizardfish.

They can also be kept with corals and are reef safe. Keeping two male Cleaner Wrasse in a single is also not a good idea. They will show aggression towards one another. So its better to keep one male with other females.

Temperature and Water Parameters

These species of fish find comfort in water temperature ranging between 72℉ to 78℉. The salinity levels must fall between 1.020 and 1.025.

The pH levels must be 8 to 8.4 and dKH levels must be of 8 to 12. These are pretty much the preferred water parameters of Cleaner Wrasse. They will live a trouble free life with these parameters.

Tank Setup

With the Cleaner Wrasse, one must begin with a large tank. They need a large tank filled with other larger species of fish.

As they get nutrients by cleaning off the parasites, mucous and broken scales. All the required pieces of equipment must be present, and the water parameters must be kept constant to their liking.

The substrate must be of sand and not rock as Cleaner Wrasse tend to bury to the ground at night. If the substrate is only rock, then they will end up getting hurt.

Cost of Cleaner Wrasse

Cleaner Wrasse is a popular choice among the aquarists so you can easily get it. You can get it either online or from aquarium stores. Their prices may vary from species to species. The Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse, which is the most common Cleaner Wrasse will cost you about $30 to $40.

A Cleaner Wrasse is a great choice to have in an aquarium. They are good to look at and will help out other fishes in your tank by cleaning them. They might be hard to keep and maintain because of their diet but you will eventually catch on to it. Keep it in a large tank filled with other species and it will spend its life cleaning out and not give you any trouble. They are not that costly as well and you won’t regret adding them to your tank.

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