Researchers discovered in a new study that cleaner shrimps not only get rid of parasites but also help heal injured fishes.

Doctor Shrimp

A team from the James Cook University's Center for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, led by Dr. Kate Hudson, observed the interaction between cleaner shrimps and reef fishes. They used high-definition cameras in order to record the relationship between two sea creatures.

The results of the study were published in Springer.

The symbiotic relationship between cleaner shrimps and fishes was previously observed in the wild. It is already known that some species of decapod crustaceans congregate within coral reefs and set up "cleaning stations" where fishes and other sea creatures visit to get rid of parasites.

However, the dynamic relationship between cleaner shrimps and client fishes are often more complicated. Fishes are natural predators of shrimps and cleaner shrimps are notorious for eating the mucus of the injured fish.

The study wanted to clarify if the cleaner fish take advantage of injured client fishes during a cleaning procedure. The scientists, instead, found that the cleaner shrimps also help heal the wounds of their injured client fish.

"We found that shrimp did not aggravate existing injuries or further injure the fish," said David Vaughn, a Ph.D. student involved in the project.

The scientists tested the dynamic relationship between cleaner shrimps and injured fishes in a controlled laboratory trial. They observed how the crustaceans would treat sea goldies that sustained superficial skin lesion.

"Injuries in fishes are susceptible to invasion by secondary pathogens like viruses and bacteria, and the reduction in redness by shrimp indicates that cleaner shrimp could reduce infections," Vaughn explained.

He also added that cleaner shrimps are known to reduce the stress levels of client fishes during visits, making cleaning stations a one-stop shop for creatures under the sea.

Cleaning Shrimps In Fish Farms

The study hopes to identify which cleaner shrimp could be used to clean parasites from farmed and ornamental fishes. They said that about 30 to 50 percent of the farmed fishes that come from Southeast Asia — the largest fish producers in the world — are lost to parasites.

Incorporating cleaner shrimp to fish farms might be able to decrease or completely eliminate the necessity for harmful chemicals used to get rid of parasites and, therefore, make the industry a little more environment-friendly.

Watch a group of shrimps clean fishes below.


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