Cleaning stations – the natural world working together

Cleaning stations can provide divers with a real spectacle as various sizes of marine life gather together in one place.

But what’s going on to make them all congregate?

Typically found on coral reefs or rocky outcrops on the ocean floor, cleaning stations are places where cleaner organisms and larger, often predatory, marine animals come together in a symbiotic relationship.

The ‘cleaners’ tend to include fish, shrimps, and other small marine creatures that have evolved to eat parasites, dead skin, and other debris from the bodies of larger fish or marine animals.

The clients are usually larger fish – such as groupers, wrasses, and rays, as well as some marine reptiles like sea turtles – who visit the stations for a tidy-up that will improve their health and hygiene.

Black and white snapper at cleaning station

It’s a mutualistic relationship where the cleaners benefit from obtaining food, while the clients benefit from having a ‘wash’. A win-win situation.

When a client fish approaches a cleaning station, cleaners recognise them and perform specific movements and behaviours to signal their willingness to clean. Clients often adopt specific postures to allow the cleaners better access to their bodies.

These unique underwater communities showcase the intricacies of life beneath the ocean’s surface and the complex web of interactions that take place there – the animal kingdom at its finest where two species coexist and provide benefits to each other.

At the same time they also provide a fascinating show for a considerate diver.


While these spectacles can be witnessed in many places around the world, dry season in the Maldives is a particularly good time to see them.

Manta rays frequently visit cleaning stations at this time of year and in Ari Atoll, at Moofushi and Rangali, we have had some great sightings for guests joining our Best of Maldives itinerary.

If you are interested in the Deep South, then Addu Manta point is also very active at this time.

There really is no better time to join a trip.

Emperor Virgo

Emperor Virgo still has space for both itineraries but spaces are going fast, diving in the Maldives during the dry season is generally considered the best time due to conditions and sightings.

So why wait?

If you would like to know more about the trips available please feel free to contact our helpful team on [email protected] and they will be very happy to assist in any way they can.

Mantas, by Martin Strmiska

Share this article:


Learn to Dive Guarantee

Love it or your money back! When having a go at something new it’s essential that you feel confident and comfortable with the idea. The Emperor team is so certain that you’ll love learning to dive with us that, at the end of the first day of tuition if you decide not to proceed, we’ll give you your money back.

Please read our full Terms & Conditions (PDF).