Reason not to get a Cleaner Wrasse?


Active member
I want a cleaner wrasse for my 46 gal mixed reef tank. But I remember reading somewhere that they are expert only. Why?

I think its a feeding problem but I am not sure. Would one be ok for my tank? What makes them difficult to take care of if there are any reasons at all?



New member
Tennyson, I have never had one but I can tell you what others have said- poor survivability and they will often drive other fish crazy trying to clean them over and over and over (get the idea)- they can be pesty. Some will not adjust to feedings and will starve. On the other hand, a LFS gets them in commonly, and they say that in larger tanks that they do fine (???).


Premium Member
Plus the are important in the wild, more so then they would ever be in an aquarium. Should be left on the reefs.


New member
Just got one online. Tiny little guy and I wondered how it would eat frozen foods. He has done well so far. He does seem to bother my butterfly and tang but the others just let him do his thing...


halide loyalist
They tend to starve to death since they live off of parasites. Our tanks can't support them the way millions of gallons can in the wild.


Team RC member
Team RC
Actually they eat the dead skin from the fish. I have let them clean my gums while diving (feels weird). But you are right, normal sized tanks cannot support them as we don't have enough fish.


New member
I second the importance of them in the wild. Cleaner wrasses should be staying in the Ocean, there are plenty more wrasse's available that are much more suitable.


New member
where as a cleaner shrimp is an optional cleaner (dead scales, skin and parasites ect.), cleaner wrasses are whats known as an Obligitory cleaner. No other diet will suffice long term. I had one that was so lively and ate ANYTHING it could fit in its mouth, but in my ignorance i knew no better.

They simply wither away. I was heartbroken to see it just....quit one night.....i was so confused until i stumbled on the awnser.

Good luck with yours, perhaps in a few weeks you can trade him to a friend to let him feed in thier tank and cycle him around.


New member
i agree that the cleaner wrasses should stay in the wild... wish i would of known but i have one that has adapted to eating my food( have had him for 5 months about mayb more)


New member
I had one briefly....At first I enjoyed watching the cleaning behavior, but the fish was relentless and it caused a 100% behavioural change in many of my fish as they dashed around trying to evade the cleaner. The stress level in the tank increased.

My Blonde Naso had all kind of small "pick marks" on his body, particularly around his gills.

In a few weeks, I didn't shed a tear when it died. I don't recommend them.


New member
IME they have always been an easy fish to keep. Eat everything and have caused no stress to other fish.
However, they are poor shippers. I live in Thailand and the fish come from local reefs so that could be a reason for my success with maintaining the health of these fish.


New member
IME cleaner wrasse require an assortment of large fish for cleaning in order to survive. I've had mine for over 3 years now and he has spent most of that time with 5 large tangs, a large angel & a good sized foxface, all of which enjoy being cleaned. My small fish can't seem to tolerate his attention. A definite no no for a small tank with small fish imho.

Untamed 12, I don't think you had a cleaner wrasse at all. I think you had a false cleaner (Aspidontus taeniatus) which feeds by taking chunks out of fish rather than cleaning them:


Active member
It's not a feeding issue, mine ate great and still withered away, made it seven months in my nano. They just shouldn't be taken out of the ocean really.


Active member
Ok, I didn't expect anything that would make them easier to take care of, just wondering since my skunk cleaners are so lazy. Thanks though, didn't excpect to get this many replies.
Tennyson, the night before I was randomly reading through The Industry Behind The Hobby section of and when I read your thread this morning I remember reading information that had been contrary to what most hobbyist including myself have heard about obtaining the cleaner wrasse.

"If you notice, we have 90% or more of the cleaner wrasses coming from Africa now.....they are much hardier and we have been having great results. They are more expensive, but don't have the mortality issue that the Philipine ones did. We did not import cleaners wrasses for a long time, but now have been lucky enough to find a great source for them. Customers are reporting good success. We keep them seperated in cubes, and feed problems."
- sdcfish (Wed Mar 19, 2008)

I've been noticing these guys up for sale lately and thinking to myself how morally wrong it is to sell them. But if the African ones are indeed more hardy there maybe (and I emphasize the word maybe) a change in thinking.


New member
i own five. Two of them are a pair and are actually breeding in my tank. They ARE poor shippers, and don't handle change well. Once you do get a healthy specimen and a one that eats they are pretty easy to take care of. Mine eat EVERYTHING. flake, frozen, you name it. I start them out on cyclopeze, than slowly they learn to take other fooods and will start eating larger pieces.


New member
Of course better surviveability is a good thing. But these developments don't speak to the impact that their removal has on the reef. Anyone have any new information about this? Is there reason to believe that the impact is less on African reefs than on those in Hawaii?

sly fox

Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=12283754#post12283754 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by rssjsb
Of course better surviveability is a good thing. But these developments don't speak to the impact that their removal has on the reef. Anyone have any new information about this? Is there reason to believe that the impact is less on African reefs than on those in Hawaii?

this is of course a real issue, i do, selfishly own one.... when i was a kid i used to see them in the lfs and loved them actually they are one of my favourite fish..

when i got mine it was at a lfs i asked if the cleaner wrasse they had ate, and much to my surprise all of the ones they had in did... mine eats frozen mysis, frozen enriched brine, and i use a mix of cyclopese, reef roid, garlic extract, selcon soaked into dried krill and refrigerated, the cleaner eats the small broken pieces of krill...


Active member
thanks everyone, I think I would get them, but the chance that they would starve makes me not want one. I'll ask my lfs what they eat and maybe I'll end up getting one.

Also, is it unusual that my yellow clown goby eats flake? It seems really weird, perhaps the store it was bought from also has a flake-eating cleaner wrasse, I'll have to ask.

Thank you all so much