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Seeing what appears to be cleaning behavior in a fish that doesn't clean.

677 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Betta132
Lately, I've seen something a bit odd. My angelfish will slowly approach one of my sunfish, and the sunfish will respond by tilting itself head-down and going pale. The angelfish will then closely inspect the sunfish's flank, and after a moment of inspection it will either lightly nip at one spot or leave without doing anything.
The posture and pale coloration looks like what's displayed by fish at a cleaner station, and the angel's behavior doesn't seem aggressive- no flaring, no posturing, just an inspection and then maybe one little nip. Could this be a couple different species worth of intimidation attempts that are getting cross-wired and look like cleaner behavior when combined, or is there any this is actual cleaner behavior?
The angel is little, if that makes a difference- under 3" long including the tail.
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If I knew more about the reproductive and rearing habits of sunfish, maybe it ties into this:

There are several species of cichlids (and lots of other species) where parents will guard a new brood. Some species will take parenting to a higher level and also provide a first food: The slime coat produced by Discus obviously comes to mind first.

Parent-reared angelfish will display much the same behavior in our small aquariums. At pea size they will begin to peck at the parents' slime coat. Unfortunately, angelfish just aren't built to do that. In nature they would be scattered by that point. But in an aquarium, they will continue and the parents will tolerate it if they are determined the point where the parents look tattered and shredded if they aren't separated.

Another pure guess here is that two flat-bodied fish from totally different parts of the world are simply exhibiting similar behavioral characteristics?

But I have to ask: is this a sunfish as in the ones native to most US ponds and lakes?
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