A giant grouper is enjoying personal dental care courtesy of an aquarist at Bristol Aquarium.
Nelson the yellowfin grouper, who measures close to half-a-metre in length, was donated to the Harbourside wildlife attraction from an aquatic shop in Gloucestershire.
In the ocean groupers employ the services of tiny blue-and-white cleaner wrasse to keep their mouths and gills clear of parasites.
However Nelson appears to prefer the human touch, so aquarist Katie Halsey has taken to employing a cleaner wrasse-coloured toddler’s toothbrush to do the job instead.
“Nelson is incredibly friendly and seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with us. He’s very used to human company and literally rushes to the top of the display when he sees me,” said Katie.
“We’re not sure if he is really fooled into believing the toothbrush is a cleaner wrasse or whether he simply likes the sensation.
“As well as having his teeth brushed, he also loves having his tummy tickled. It’s highly unusual for a fish to form such a close bond with humans but from our point of view it’s also incredibly rewarding to be able to interact so directly with him,” she added.
A highly colourful coral reef fish, the yellowfin grouper is found throughout the western Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
In the wild yellowfin grouper are a popular food fish and there is some concern about their long-term future. As a result they are officially classified as being ‘Near Threatened’.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ‘Near Threatened’ is a conservation status assigned to species that may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future.
Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information please contact David Waines or Tina Patel on 0117 934 0944 or Dan de Castro on 0117 934 0943 .