Today we are going to go through a phenomenon that is more common than you think, symbiotic relationships! They are very important for a lot of underwater species survival, and they can make for some really interesting behaviours and therefore some great subjects for UW photography.

Firstly, what is symbiosis? It can be easily described as a close relationship between 2 species where at least 1 species benefits. There are 3 different types of symbiotic relationships – mutualism, commensalism and parasitism.

Mutualistic relationships is where both species benefits. This relationship is usually long-term, and some examples of this is where the species are actually commonly named after the mutualism. For example, Shrimp Gobies and Anemonefish!

Shrimp Gobies and their shrimp buddies work together to make up for each other’s disabilities. The shrimp can not see very well, and as such is an easy prey on its own. The goby is not particularly good at digging and creating burrows in the sand, so they both work together. You will see this very often in the strait, and it is fascinating. The shrimp will be going in and out of the burrow, cleaning up and removing sand and rubble, and as it does this the goby will be peering out from the edge keeping an eye out for predators. If the goby senses any danger, it will dart back into the burrow and the shrimp will sense this movement and follow.

Anemonefish is another example. They live in the anemone, providing protection from other anemone-eating fish, whilst the anemone fish in turns gains protection from the stinging tentacles of the anemone.

Commensal relationships means that one species benefits, but the other does not. Nor is this other species harmed, so they don’t really mind this other animal. Commensalism may involve one species using the other for transportation, or housing. One example of commensalism are different fish seeking protection from predators in Jellyfish during their juvenile stage. The jellyfish doesn’t gain from this behaviour, but nor is it harmed by it.

Emperor shrimp live in a commensal relationship with sea-cucumbers and sometimes larger nudibranchs, as they use them for transportation and as a food source. The shrimp spend their days hitchhiking on their backs, which is perfect for protection. As the nudis move over the rubble, sand is churned up and food is provided for the shrimp as well! There has been some debate about whether this relationship truly is commensal, as there is evidence pointing towards the shrimp eating fungus and parasite of their hosts, which would make their relationship mutualistic instead.

Parasitism is the last symbiotic relationship we will go over. As the name suggests, this is where one species benefits, and is actually harming their hosts during the process. A classic example of this that you can witness in Lembeh is Anemonefish and parasitic isopods. This isopod will move in through the fishes gills at a young age, and uses its sharp claws to attach itself to the tongue of the fish. Once attached, the isopod slowly feasts on the blood and mucus from the tongue, until the tongue withers and dies, and eventually the parasite replaces the function of the tongue. The anemone fish lives (although unpleasantly) throughout this whole process! This isopod is the only parasite in the world that actually replaces the function of another organ!

Hopefully you learnt something new, and the next time you come dive with us you can keep your eye out for these interesting behaviours!

Why Dive with NAD-Lembeh Resort?


NAD-Lembeh Resort is a small, owner-operated, photography-oriented dive resort in the Lembeh Strait. We are situated in a private bay on Lembeh Island, away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. We guarantee a 2:1 guest to guide ratio as standard, which makes for a private dive experience and lots of time to take pictures.


All our rooms (10 Beachfront Rooms, 5 Seaview Bungalows) offer ocean view, air conditioning, hot water, wifi, including full board. Our resort has only few steps, which makes our layout extremely convenient to get from your room to the restaurant, camera room, bar and floating jetty.


Our dive team consists of 15 full-time guides, with over 100 years of combined experience! Air as well as Nitrox and various cylinder sizes (both DIN and Yoke are available onsite).


NAD-Lembeh has 4 large, purpose-built dive boats. Each at around 15m long, they offer lots of space and comfort for the divers. Boats feature onboard toilets, towels, drinks and snacks and first aid/ oxygen.

Our jetty allows our guests dignified and quick boat entries – all our dive boats can be moored simultaneously, so there is no wading through the shallows to get on the boat for the dive!


Our focus at NAD is to take your underwater photography to the next level. We offer 1:1 photo classes and our guides are all proficient with photography, using our rental equipment for fun dives when not diving with guests.

We shoot video up to 8K, along with Nikon/ Canon SLR and mirrorless setups. This gives us a rounded knowledge of all cameras. We are also the go-to location for natural history filming in the Straits.


Our newly renovated, huge camera room offers one work space for each and every guest. The spacious, individual benches with lots of power points were purposely built for underwater photographers. NAD’s dedicated camera room is also the perfect place to work on and edit your pictures.

Several rental cameras and strobes are available onsite. We have basic tools and spare parts in our gift shop in case of minor camera problems as well as a drying cabinet, and computer for you to work on and edit your photos.