Dr. Shrimp and Mr. Grouper


Rodney A. Rountree

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. A close call


Chapter 2. Meeting Mr. Goby


Chapter 3. Mr. Grouper


Chapter 4. Mrs. Squirrelfish catches Mr. Shrimp.


Chapter 5. Mr. Shrimp's family.


Chapter 6. Mr. Grouper gets sick


Chapter 7. Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Grouper make a deal


Chapter 8. Mr. Grouper brings a friend


Chapter 9. Mr. Shrimp gets a degree






Chapter 1. A close call


            Poor Mr. Shrimp lay shivering inside a small crevice in the side of the reef many feet below the sea surface. "That was close!" he muttered to himself. Continuing to mutter, he said "That mean old Mrs. Squirrelfish almost got me that time!" You see, someone was always trying to eat Mr. Shrimp. He could not help it if he was small and almost defenseless, and worse, he tasted quite good. Mr. Shrimp's best defense was his camouflage. You see, he was almost totally transparent. He looked like a shrimp made of glass. But he wasn't. He was a flesh and blood shrimp! And he didn't like the thought of being eaten by some fish!!

            Still he was an odd looking little fellow. He was long and skinny, with five pair of walking legs, and two long delicate claws for picking up food. He also had three pair of long antennae that made him look something like a strange space alien (but of course he wasn't). His antennae were very important to Mr. Shrimp. He used them to reach out and feel things all around himself. He could even taste with his antennae, so they helped him find food. Usually, he kept one pair of his antennae stretched out behind himself, and one pair stretched out in front. That way he could feel any predators (predators are fish and things that want to eat Mr. Shrimp) from sneaking up on him. Well, as Mr. Shrimp lay in his crevice muttering about mean old Mrs. Squirrelfish, he began to get sleepy (it was late, you see). Soon he was sound asleep.


Chapter 2. Meeting Mr. Goby

            Mr. Shrimp woke early the next morning. He quickly crawled out of his cave and began looking for something good to eat. He carefully searched every nook and cranny as he clambered about the reef near his cave. Every once in a while he would find a tasty little worm (marine biologists call them "polychaets" which means "many bristles", because they have lots of tiny little bristles on their bodies). Often he would stumble onto food left over from meals of other animals. These were a prize, because sometimes he could get tasty food like pieces of fish and crabs, that he would normally not be able to catch himself. Anyway, Mr. Shrimp spent most of the morning looking for good things to eat. After awhile a bright shape darted out of a crevice towards him. At first Mr. Shrimp was frightened, and he started to back up very fast, but then he recognized his good friend Mr. Goby. Mr. Goby was a very small, and handsome fish. He was just about the same size as Mr. Shrimp so they both got along well (since neither could eat the other). "Hello Mr. Shrimp" said Mr. Goby. How have you been?" "Just fine" said Mr. Shrimp, "how about you?" "Well I've had a terrible day!" he exclaimed. "Mrs. Squirrelfish almost got me again today!" "No! Is she around now?" said Mr. Shrimp. "You know, she almost got me yesterday too!". "That's awful" said Mr. Goby sympathetically. "Why, if I were bigger, I'd show her a thing or two!" "I'm scared" said Mr. Shrimp. "I'm not as fast as your are, maybe she'll come back and get me." (Mr. Goby was a very fast swimmer, he could disappear into a small hole or crevice faster than you can blink your eye). "Don't worry Mr. Shrimp," said Mr. Goby, "why don't we hang out together today. That way we can warn each other if Mrs. Squirrelfish comes back." "I'd like that very much" said Mr. Shrimp. And with that, the two friends busied themselves looking for food and talking about things all day long.


Chapter 3. Mr. Grouper.


            Days passed as Mr. Shrimp went about his business. Some days he spent with Mr. Goby. Sometimes he was chased by Mrs. Squirrelfish (and sometimes by much worse things), and sometimes he visited with other shrimp friends of his. Today he was again visiting with Mr. Goby. They had both just finished eating some left over sea urchin that a sloppy triggerfish left behind. "That was some kind of good" Mr. Goby was saying to Mr. Shrimp. "Sea urchin is one of my favorite foods." "Me too," said Mr. Shrimp. "I wish I was big enough to catch my own, but those long spines are too much." "Yeah," said Mr. Goby, "those spines are sharp enough to pierce right through you. It was awful nice of that triggerfish to leave us some leftovers." Mr. Shrimp was about to reply that he thought so too, but all of a sudden the water darkened as a giant fish swam over their heads. They were both so scared they just froze right where they were. After a moment Mr. Shrimp stammered "Wha..what's tha..t!" But Mr. Goby didn't answer because he was already dashing into the nearest crevice. Mr. Shrimp didn't waste any time joining him either! They both huddled together in the little cave and peaked out at the HUGE fish that was hanging over them and blocking out the light. Finally Mr. Goby said "I think that's Mr. Grouper! My grandfather used to tell us about him, but no one has seen him for years." "I've heard of him too," said Mr. Shrimp. "They say he's not afraid of anything. But are you sure that's him?" "Who else could be that big?", said Mr. Goby.

            Slowly Mr. Grouper moved off and Mr. Goby and Mr. Shrimp came back out into the open. They could still see him a short distance away. He was resting on the bottom next to a large sponge (No, not a kitchen sponge! A sponge is a type of animal that lives in the ocean. It often looks a lot like a plant, but it's an animal just the same. You see, in the old days, before plastic and rubber, people used to collect live sponges from the ocean. They dried them and used their soft skeletons to wash with. And that's how sponges got their name. Nowadays most sponges are artificial, but I better get back to the story.). Mr. Grouper seemed to have made Mr. Shrimp's little reef his own home because he stayed many days. In fact, Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Goby began to forget about the big Grouper because he seemed to ignore them. (Actually, he didn't even seem to see them at all). Besides, they were far too small to make even a little snack for Mr. Grouper.


Chapter 4. Mrs. Squirrelfish catches Mr. Shrimp.


            Many days later Mr. Shrimp was eating a particularly juicy polychaet (that's a worm with bristles, remember?). When all of a sudden he heard a rush of water and felt the strong jaws of Mrs. Squirrelfish clamp down on him! "Oh! Help! Help!" he cried! Poor Mr. Goby saw what was happening, but was helpless. Mr. Shrimp began to pray, because he thought he was going to be swallowed by Mrs. Squirrelfish. Then suddenly he could feel Mrs. Squirrelfish's jaws go limp, and he quickly scurried away. She just hovered in the water frozen with fear. Her brilliant orange color faded to almost pure white. And then Mr. Shrimp saw that Mr. Grouper was right there in front of her. In the next second there was a rush of water, and a dazzling flash of colors, and then Mrs. Squirrelfish was gone! Gone forever! Mr. Grouper belched and said in his big voice "That was delicious."

            Mr. Goby dashed over to Mr. Shrimp. "Are you alright!" "Yes" said Mr. Shrimp. "I'm just shaken up a little. I owe Mr. Grouper for saving my life" he whispered. "Don't worry about it" said Mr. Goby, "Mr. Grouper was just getting a snack. He could care less about you." "Still" Mr. Shrimp said, "some day I'll find a way to repay him for saving me." With that Mr. Shrimp decided to go to bed early, since he'd had such a bad day.


Chapter 5. Mr. Shrimp's family.


            Well the days passed one by one. Soon Mr. Shrimp began seeing an attractive lady shrimp (Miss Shrimp from the next door). They hit it off pretty well and the next thing you Know, Mr. Shrimp was asking Miss Shrimp to be his wife (she said "yes" of course). Mr. Goby was pleased to be Mr. Shrimp's best man at the wedding. They had a beautiful wedding. A wonderful, large queen conch carried the couple on her back following six yellow seahorses, so that it looked like a team of horses pulling a stately carriage. The aisle was lined with rows of orange and red sea anemones, and the bride carried a pretty bouquet of pink hydroids. After the ceremony they had a fabulous dinner and reception where everyone danced till midnight. The band was a big hit, and included a trumpet fish, a drum, two guitarfish, and a quartet of pipefishes. Mr. and Mrs. Shrimp were very happy together in the little cave they shared on the reef, and it wasn't long before they had a family.

Chapter 6. Mr. Grouper gets sick


            There came a time when life on the little reef became hard. Poor Mr. and Mrs. Shrimp had a hard time finding enough food for themselves and their family. Mr. Goby and the rest of the community on the reef were having just as hard a time. One particularly bad day, while Mr. Shrimp and his friend Mr. Goby were out looking for food, they noticed Mr. Grouper swimming slowly around the reef. He looked strange. He was very skinny and he seemed to be having trouble swimming. In fact, he kept bumping into things and shaking his head. The two friends quietly murmured between themselves "what's wrong with Mr. Grouper? He looks terrible." Then, as they crept closer to Mr. Grouper to get a better look, they both exclaimed together "Why, he's covered with fish lice!"

            You see poor Mr. Grouper was sick and weak because he had not been getting enough food. Now he had become infested with fish lice. Fish lice are tiny parasites that bite Mr. Grouper and feed off his blood and skin (just like bird lice do to birds, and deer ticks do to dogs and deer). Such a bad infestation of fish lice was terrible for poor Mr. Grouper in his weakened condition. Things looked bad for him. Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Goby felt sorry for Mr. Grouper, but what could they do? "Well, he's a big strong fish, maybe he'll get over it" they said to themselves as they quietly went about their search for food.

            But things only got worse for Mr. Grouper. A few days later they saw him again. He was hardly swimming. His head was pointed down to the bottom of the reef and he almost drifted along. Mr. Shrimp was very upset. It looked very bad for Mr. Grouper. "I wish I could help Mr. Grouper" he said to Mr. Goby. "After all, he saved my life once." Mr. Goby didn't know what to say, so he just kept quite. Mr. Shrimp brooded over the situation all day. He kept watching Mr. Grouper, and kept creeping closer and closer. Mr. Goby said something about how he should be careful, but Mr. Shrimp would not listen.

            After awhile Mr. Shrimp got excited. "You know" he said to Mr. Goby, "I've been thinking, those fish lice look kind of tasty. Maybe if I ate some of them Mr. Grouper would feel better?" Mr. Goby just stared at his friend. "Have you lost your mind? You would have to crawl up onto Mr. Grouper! Do you want to die too?" he yelled at his friend (Don't get him wrong, the lice looked tasty to him also, he was just afraid of Mr. Grouper. You see fish lice are not much different from the small shrimp-like animals that Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Goby eat anyway). But Mr. Shrimp had made up his mind. He cautiously crept over to Mr. Grouper and reached out and touched him. Nothing happened. Mr. Grouper did not even notice he was there. He just let out a low moan and continued to drift about. Quickly Mr. Shrimp reached up and snatched a louse off Mr. Grouper's belly. He had to tug on it a little to pull it off, but his small claws were strong. He dashed back behind an old shell and waited. Still Mr. Grouper didn't move, so Mr. Shrimp tasted his catch. "Hey, this is good!" he called to his friend. But Mr. Goby stayed back. He wasn't that hungry today (or so he claimed). After similarly snatching more lice off Mr. Grouper, Mr. Shrimp became bold. Before Mr. Goby could even get out a disapproving remark, Mr. Shrimp had crawled right up on Mr. Grouper! "Wow!" Mr. Shrimp said to himself. "Mr. Grouper is huge!" That was an understatement if anyone every heard one. Why Mr. Shrimp was hardly as big as one of Mr. Grouper's eyes! Anyway, Mr. Shrimp sat up on top of Mr. Grouper for a long time. He ate until he thought he would pop.

            Mr. Shrimp started eating lice off of Mr. Grouper every day. He ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. He even brought the family sometimes (though needless to say, he didn't let anyone else risk climbing onto Mr. Grouper!). Soon, Mr. Grouper began to feel better. Finally, he got strong enough that he was able to find food and eat, and Mr. Shrimp figured he better not press his luck any further. About that time the famine on the reef ended and life got better on the reef for everyone.

Chapter 7. Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Grouper make a deal


            Mr. Goby and Mr. Shrimp were relaxing on a small piece of sponge one day, when they saw Mr. Grouper. He was putting weight back on, and looked much better. Suddenly, Mr. Grouper looked over at them and began dashing over to them! Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Goby jumped up and collided with each other trying to get away. "Run for your life!" they both screamed in terror. But they were trapped. They had not thought Mr. Grouper was dangerous so they had been careless. "We're done-for" cried Mr. Goby. Mr. Grouper loomed over them. They both closed their eyes and waited for the end!

            Nothing happened. After a moment Mr. Shrimp looked up. Mr. Grouper was right in front of him, just staring! "Ahhh" Mr. Shrimp yelled. He couldn't help it. "Don't be afraid" said Mr. Grouper in his huge voice. "Aren't you the shrimp that crawled all over me when I was sick?" "Ye..Yes" whimpered Mr. Shrimp, "but I was only trying to help by eating some lice off you. Please don't eat me! I didn't mean to do anything wrong." Mr. Grouper let out a great laugh "Eat You! Why your not big enough to even nibble on. I wouldn't waste my time with anything as small as you. I just came over to thank you for helping me. If you had not eaten so many lice, I don't know if I would have made it."

            "Really" said Mr. Shrimp in awe. And he looked over to Mr. Goby to see if he was hearing this too, but during all the talking Mr. Goby had taken the opportunity to get away, and he was long gone now. "You mean it? Why it was my pleasure. I was just returning the favor. You see, you saved my life once by eating Mrs. squirrelfish." "Did I?" boomed Mr. Grouper. "I didn't know that." "Well", said Mr. Shrimp "its been nice talking to you, but it's late and I better get home." And with that he began trying to walk away (you see, he wasn't exactly sure that Mr. Grouper really wouldn't eat him. You can never be too careful if you're a shrimp after all).

            "Wait" said Mr. Grouper, "don't go yet. I have a favor to ask you. You see, that is, well would you, I mean," stammered Mr. Grouper because he was embarrassed, "What I'm trying to say is, would you be interested in eating some more of those lice? They keep coming back, and they bother me something awful." Mr. Shrimp was stunned, "I don't know," he said uncertainly. "They were awful good, but I don't think it's a good idea." "Oh don't worry about me eating you Mr. Shrimp, I've already told you I wouldn't" pleaded Mr. Grouper. "But you might forget" Mr. Shrimp argued, "or you might accidentally bite me, or crush me if you're not careful." But Mr. Grouper continued to plead: "I promise I won't forget, and I'll be very careful. I won't even move a muscle when you're on me. Pleeeeease Mr. Shrimp! You've just got to help me."

            Still Mr. Shrimp was reluctant. "Look" he said, "I'd like to help you, but it's just too dangerous. How would I know when it's safe to climb up on you? For that matter, suppose some other grouper came around. You groupers all look alike to me. Suppose I tried to crawl up onto the wrong Grouper?" Mr. Grouper was crestfallen. He could see it wasn't going to work. "Well, O.K." he said sadly, "thanks anyway." And then he began to swim slowly away.

            Mr. Shrimp felt bad, but there just wasn't any way around it. It was not safe; but then he had an idea! "Wait Mr. Grouper" he called out, "come back. I have an idea." Mr. Grouper quickly came back. "What's that?" he asked. "Well" said Mr. Shrimp "we could make up a secret code that you could use to signal me when you want me to eat some lice." "A secret code?" questioned Mr. Grouper in confusion, "What do you mean?" "I was thinking about how you acted when you were sick" Mr. Shrimp said to Mr. Grouper. "You were drifting around slowly with your head pointed down. You could do that again whenever you want me to eat lice. That way I'll know it's you, and that you want me to come over." "That's brilliant! I think that will work," said Mr. Grouper happily.

            But then Mr. Grouper had a thought, "Gee Mr. Shrimp, I just thought of another problem. How do I know its you? I can't tell one shrimp from another either! And I don't want just any body crawling all over me. Besides, some of you little shrimps bite me when I'm not looking." (Mr. Shrimp grimaced to himself because he knew he had done that once or twice before to other fish). "I promise I won't bite you," said Mr. Shrimp, "and maybe I could signal you back. Let's see," he said as he thought about it, "I know! I wave my arms back and forth to you." Mr. Grouper laughed a little, "That won't work Mr. Shrimp. I can hardly see you at all, much less you're tiny little claws."

            They both sat and thought for a moment. "Maybe," said Mr. Grouper, "maybe you could wear something bright and rock your whole body back-and-forth so I could see you better?" Mr. Shrimp thought about it. "You know, that might just work. I've got a bright red striped coat at home that I've never worn." "That's Great" exclaimed Mr. Grouper. "Is it a deal then?" "Why not?" said Mr. Shrimp.

            After that whenever Mr. Grouper came around and signaled, Mr. Shrimp would signal back and then climb up on Mr. Grouper to eat lice. After a while they developed a routine and would meet at the same time and place regularly. Both Mr. Shrimp and Mr. Grouper were very happy. Mr. Shrimp got frequent free meals, and Mr. Grouper got rid of his pesky lice. Mr. Grouper often said he felt "cleaner" after a visit with Mr. Shrimp, and soon he spoke of being "cleaned" by Mr. Shrimp rather than admit he was having lice removed (he was embarrassed by the whole thing).


Chapter 8. Mr. Grouper brings a friend


            Mr. Shrimp was talking to Mr. Grouper as he scampered over the huge fish's body eating off parasites: "And then I put my foot down. I said I'm king of this castle and I'll do what I want! Whenever I want! That's when my wife kicked me out of the house. I sat outside in the cold all night. It took days for her to forgive me and let me back in!" "Ha! ha!" laughed Mr. Grouper in his big voice. "I know better than to say something like that to my girl friend. Everyone knows the women are the boss." They both laughed and Mr. Shrimp went about his business. When Mr. Shrimp had finished his meal, and was about to leave, Mr. Grouper stopped him and said hesitantly, "Umm., Mr. Shrimp. There's something I've been meaning to ask you. There's a friend of mine that having an awful time with leeches, and I was wondering if you would consider eating them for him?" "I don't know" said Mr. Shrimp very awkwardly. He didn't like the idea of "cleaning" anyone else. He'd be crazy to trust another grouper. "No. No, I don't think so" he said after a moment. "Its just too risky". "Please Mr. Shrimp. Just this one time? He won't harm you. I promise!" pleaded Mr. Grouper. "No!" said the shrimp, "I just can't take the chance. I have a wife and family you know." "Don't make a decision right now Mr. Shrimp. Think about it for a while. Please?" "O.K., O.k.", sighed Mr. Shrimp. "I'll think it over".

            That night Mr. Shrimp told Mrs. Shrimp what Mr. Grouper had said. He told her that he'd made up his mind, and he wasn't going to do it. But to his surprise Mrs. Shrimp suggested that maybe he should help Mr. Grouper's friend. "You could bring home some extra food for the kids dear. And I'm sure you could trust another grouper friend of Mr. Grouper." They talked about it for some time, and finally Mr. Shrimp agreed to do it.

            The next day he went to Mr. Grouper and told him his decision. "Oh thank you Mr. Shrimp! My friend will be so happy! I'll go get him right now! You just wait right here!" Mr. Shrimp busied himself cleaning up as he waited for Mr. Grouper and his friend. He was a little nervous, but why should he be afraid of another grouper? Everyone knew that Mr. Grouper was the biggest one around. If he could climb all over him, he could climb over any grouper. Right? He was so nervous that he didn't even notice when Mr. Grouper and his friend arrived. "Urmph" Mr. Grouper coughed to get his attention. "Mr. Shrimp meet my good friend Mr. Moray. Mr. Moray this is the Shrimp whom I've been telling you about."

            Mr. Shrimp looked up and froze. "Mr. Moray!" he finally stammered. "I...I thought your friend was a grouper like you!" "Oh. I'm sorry" Mr. Grouper apologized. "I should have told you. But I didn't think about it. It's O.K. isn't it? You'll still help him won't you?" he asked anxiously. "Um, well.. I'd like to..but you see I can't right now...um, I've got a sore claw...you see and well I really must be going" Mr. Shrimp stammered as he hastily backed away (you see moray eels are very scary looking. They look like large snakes and they have big fangs. But they really aren't as bad as they look.).

            "Wait!" cried Mr. Moray. "Please help me. These leeches are bothering me something terrible. They get in all my gills and in my mouth and I can hardly breath. Please help me. I promise I won't hurt you." Mr. Moray sounded so sad, that Mr. Shrimp felt sorry for him. So he stopped and looked more closely at Mr. Moray. "You can trust Mr. Moray, Mr. Shrimp. He's a fish of his word. I've known him for many years and I can vouch for him" Mr. Grouper said sincerely. "Leeches did you say" questioned Mr. Shrimp who was beginning to feel braver (besides he was getting awful hungry). "Yes. They get into my gills and mouth and suck my blood. It's terrible!" replied the moray. "But how would I eat them if there in your mouth and gills?" said Mr. Shrimp. "Well, I was thinking that I could hold real still and you could just crawl in and pull them out. I promise I won't swallow you or anything." "What! You've got to be kidding" laughed Mr. Shrimp. "You want me to crawl right into your mouth. Do you think I'm some kind of idiot! Now I get it! You're making fun of me aren't you? Crawl right into your mouth did you say? Why I never heard of such nonsense." Mr. Shrimp laughed a moment, but then he saw Mr. Grouper and Mr. Moray were not laughing. In fact, he never saw two sadder looking fish. Poor Mr. Moray looked like he was going to cry.

            Mr. Shrimp just looked at them for a moment. He began to feel bad about not helping them. After all, he had begun to think of Mr. Grouper as a good friend. Although he was still afraid, he made up his mind. "O.K., O.K., I'll do what I can to help. But if you forget and swallow me, Mr. Moray, I hope you choke!" And with that Mr. Shrimp marched right on up to Mr. Moray, and only pausing a moment to take a deep breath, he climbed right into his mouth!

            Mr. Moray was true to his word and hardly moved an inch. Of course he had to breathe, but he did so very slowly and carefully so that he would not accidentally suck in poor Mr. Shrimp. After a short while, Mr. Shrimp stopped being frightened. Soon he was feeling proud of himself, and besides the leeches were really juicy and delicious. In fact, he enjoyed himself so much that he did not even hesitate when Mr. Moray asked him if he could visit again the next day. He and Mr. Grouper quickly explained their secret signals so that Mr. Moray and Mr. Grouper could visit at different times (after all, Mr. Shrimp could only eat so much).

            After that day, both Mr. Grouper and Mr. Moray began bringing other friends and family to visit Mr. Shrimp. Mr. Grouper got married and brought his wife. Although no one would dream of telling Mr. Shrimp's secret, each fish had a good friend that they wanted Mr. shrimp to help. Soon all kinds of fish were visiting Mr. Shrimp. After a while, no one bothered to ask Mr. Shrimp's permission before telling a friend. And the word spread far and wide. Sometimes there was a regular line of fish waiting to see Mr. Shrimp. How silly they looked all lined up in a row with their heads pointed down and acting sick. Soon everyone knew Mr. Shrimp, and he crawled about the reef like he was a king. He wasn't even afraid of getting eaten much anymore (though it was a long time before he would agree to clean a squirrelfish).

Chapter 9. Mr. Shrimp gets a degree


            It was a special day for Mr. Shrimp. He was dressed in his finest cleaning outfit with bright red stripes down his sides. He was being escorted to the palace by a team of the largest seahorses he had every seen. He was all excited because the Kingfish had summoned him to the palace. He wasn't sure what it was all about, but he was honored to be asked to see the Kingfish! When he arrived at the palace gate he was met by an escort of soldierfish. They marched him up to the palace steps. Mr. Shrimp caught his breath when he reached the palace doors, because they were guarded by two large lionfish (he hoped no one noticed that he had held his breath until he was safely past them and through the door).

            He was led to a great ballroom where he was surprised to see it filled with all the important citizens off the reef. Why he gasped, "there's my family, and Mr. Goby, and Mr. Grouper!" He smiled to see his family and friends waving to him from the front row of the crowd. As he stepped into the room dozens of trumpetfish lining the aisle began playing a grand entrance procession. Mr. Shrimp took a deep breath and began walking up the aisle as stately as he could. "What was going on?" he thought to himself. "What's all this for? It looks like some kind of important ceremony? What can this have to do with me?" Poor Mr. Shrimp was all confused, he had secretly thought that maybe one of the Kingfish's servant needed to be cleaned. He snapped out of his thoughts as he came to the steps leading to the Kingfish's throne and the trumpetfish stopped sounding.

            "So you are the little shrimp that I've been hearing so much about" said the Kingfish. Mr. Shrimp didn't know what to say. He just stammered "I...umh...well.." and finally just stood there gawking. "Mr. Shrimp" spoke the Kingfish, "I've called you here today because so many of my subjects have spoken to me of your good deeds. Of how you have repeatedly eaten para. .Urmph. .Urmph, I mean cleaned many of them despite the danger of being eaten." (The Kingfish had almost said "eaten parasites" but he caught himself just in time. A lot of fish are sensitive about that sort of thing you know).

            Mr. shrimp had never really thought about it before, it seemed like one thing had just led to the other. He didn't think he had done anything special, but he didn't say anything. No one dared interrupt the Kingfish when he was making a speech. "Come forward" commanded the Kingfish. Mr. Shrimp carefully climbed the stairs to stand before the Kingfish. "Mr. Shrimp, I hereby decree that from now on you will be the official "Cleaner" for the reef, and that you have earned the title "Doctor Shrimp" for your good deeds. And so that all creatures in my kingdom know this, I give you this official uniform to wear at all times." And with that the Kingfish gave Mr... (I mean Dr.) Shrimp a beautiful new red and white cloak to wear. The new Dr. Shrimp bowed his head and thanked the Kingfish, and with that the crowd cheered and cheered for their friend.

            From that day on, Dr. Shrimp was the official cleaner for the reef. He shared his duties with his wife, and eventually passed his title down to his children, and his children's children.


The End





            Kids, the story you have just heard is not all make believe. There are little cleaner shrimps on the reef that clean parasites off of all kinds of fishes. And the fishes and shrimp do signal each other in peculiar ways so that the shrimp knows when the fish needs cleaning and the fish knows which shrimp is really a cleaner. And who knows, maybe the rest of the story is true too?


Some real life characters from the story:



A red-striped cleaner shrimp - there are several different types of cleaner shrimps found on coral reefs around the world. Most are brightly colored to advertize to the fish that they are cleaners.




A cleaner shrimp cleaning a moray eel - Moray eels are large eels scary looking eels that can get up to ten feet long! But the tiny little cleaner shrimp is not afraid of his huge teeth, because the Moray needs his help.



A cleaner goby - several species of small gobies act as fish cleaners on coral reefs.




Squirrelfish - a common small fish on reefs, usually bright red in color.





Grouper - are large predators on coral reefs and other habitats. One kind can get up to 700 lbs!




Seahorses - are popular aquarium fishes from coral reef and seagrass habitats. One species can be found as far north as Massachusetts.



Pipefishes - are cousins to the seahorse. Basically if you stretch a seahorse out straight, you get a pipe fish!


Some fish in the story really are named after musical instruments:



Trumpetfish - look a little like pipefish in pictures, but are very different. They can get up to four feet long and are important predators on coral reefs. I guess the first person who named them thought they looked like a trumpet.






Guitarfish - are relatives of the skates, sharks and rays and get up to 3 ft long. It does kind of look like a guitar, doesn’t it?


Drums - there are many different kinds of drum fishes that are often caught by fishermen and sold in the market. They get their name from their habit of making loud drumming and croaking sounds when caught.

This page was last modified on March 16, 2007

Copyright © 2007 by Rodney Rountree. All rights reserved

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