Symbiotic Invertebrates

Aside from the well-known symbioses between anemones and clownfish, and between corals and zooxan-thellae, numerous forms of cooperative living have evolved on the reef. Cleaning, for example, is a form of mutualism practiced by many species of crustaceans and fish. The cleaner removes parasites from the host, usually a larger fish, thereby gaining food while performing a valuable service. Distinctive coloration and behavior patterns identify cleaners, and predators often spare them. This has led to mimicry by false cleaners that gain a measure of protection without performing any service. Some invertebrates merely seek shelter within or upon the body of another animal. Anemone crabs and certain shrimps belong in this category. The anemone crabs are filter feeders, safe from predators among the anemone's tentacles.

Symbioses between invertebrates and fish seem to hold a special interest for all aquarists. The anemone-clownfish symbiosis is undoubtedly the most familiar and popular. Certain gobies share burrows with alpheid shrimps, a relationship that can easily be displayed in the aquarium if appropriate partners can be obtained.

Aquariums showcasing these relationships can often be small, making them ideal for people with limited space or budget. I provide several model designs with this theme, some more difficult than others.

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