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Discovery Magazine 6/1/2008

A Fish Carwash

Have you ever wondered how fish get clean? That seems like a silly idea, because fish live in water all the time. But did you know that fish can get “dirty”? Tiny parasites attach themselves to fish and steal the fishes’ resources. Also, leftover food particles and dead skin can build up on fish and cause them to become unhealthy. There are no fish bathtubs or showers, and no fish soap or shampoo. So how do fish get clean?

One way that many fish get clean is by visiting a fish “car wash.” Specially designed fish called wrasse (pronounced like “grass” without a “g”) open a cleaning station. The station is a certain spot on a coral reef where fish come to be cleaned. The cleaner wrasse have small mouths that they use to bite off parasites, dead skin, and leftover food particles from the fish who visit their stations. Cleaner wrasse are hard workers. A single wrasse can sometimes clean more than 2,000 fish in one day.

Many of the fish that the wrasse clean are predatory fish that normally eat small fish. But the predators do not eat the wrasse. Why not? It is because God designed cleaner wrasse to have a symbiotic relationship with other fish. When animals have a symbiotic relationship, that means they can help each other. The big fish need to be cleaned. The wrasse need to eat parasites, dead skin, and leftovers. When the wrasse clean another fish, each fish gets exactly what it needs. Scientists have discovered that areas with many cleaner wrasse have more kinds of healthy fish than those without many wrasse. These little cleaning fish are very important.

Studying the cleaner wrasse can help us understand that evolution cannot be true. How did the first cleaner wrasse learn to clean other fish? And how would the large, predatory fish know not to eat the cleaner wrasse? The only way to explain the behavior of the cleaner wrasse is to understand that God designed them to perform their unique job. The next time you go to a car wash, think about the cleaner wrasse, and the wonderful Creator Who designed them.

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