Clownfish Facts | Aqua Caring

Clownfish Facts

The name of Clownfish generally refers to two of the most famous species of Amphiprion: the Amphiprion percula and the Amphiprion ocellaris, respectively defined as the "true clownfish" and the "false clownfish".

In common language, however, all Amphiprion are called Clown Fish. Amphiprions are marine fish that naturally live in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. They are not listed as endangered aquatic species.

What does a clownfish look like?

Clownfish are 7 to 15 centimeters long and their body length is up to 2.5 times greater than their height. Depending on the species, the Clownfish can have a black, orange, yellow or red color, always with patterns of spots and stripes.

Amphiprion ocellaris is typically bright orange and has three transverse white stripes, of which the central one curves towards the front. The Amphiprion percula, on the other hand, also has darker and thinner stripes that delimit the transverse white ones. Both types of Clownfish have a black border around the fins. Of the Amphiprion ocellaris there is a further variant of color, with the muzzle completely black up to the transverse stripes.

Ocellaris Clownfish

This fish has a curious peculiarity regarding genus and reproduction. All Clownfish are born male and only as adults can they turn into females. They are fish that live in schools and generally the oldest and highest ranking specimen is a female, followed in the hierarchy by the male with whom it reproduces. When the female dies, the eldest male in the herd takes her place and at that point she transforms into a female. The second oldest male in the pack then develops into a sexually mature individual.

How many types of Clownfish are there?

The Amphiprion belong to the Pomacentridae family and are divided into 29 species which in turn fall into five subgenera (Actinicola, Amphiprion clarkii, Amphiprion ephippium, Paramphiprion, Phalerebus). The most famous Amphiprions are the Clownfish (Amphiprion percula and Amphiprion ocellaris), popular mainly thanks to the movie "Finding Nemo".

Another very frequent species in the aquarium is the tomato clownfish (Amphiprion ephippium), about 12 cm long, with a white stripe on the head and black sides, or the two-banded clownfish, of an orange-brown color, about 10 cm long, coming from from the Red Sea.

types of clownfish

Where do clownfish come from?

Clownfish originate in the tropical areas of the Indo-Pacific and from here are carried north or south by warm currents, for example in the waters of Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Malaysia and the Philippines. The region with the highest density of these fish is the Madang area, in New Guinea, where there are ten species, followed by the Entrecasteaux Islands with eight species. In other regions, such as Guam in the western Pacific or Lizard Island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, five species live. In the Red Sea there are two species of Amphiprion, off the Comoros Islands only one, while on the coasts of Hawaii they have become extinct.

The diffusion areas of the two most common types of Clownfish do not coincide: while the "real" clownfish is present mainly in the New Guinea area, the "false" one is found in the western Pacific and north of Australia.

A peculiarity of these fish is their symbiosis with the sea anemone. Each type of Clownfish has chosen a specific species of anemone as a habitat. While other marine animals avoid the anemone's stinging tentacles, the Clownfish is immune to it thanks to the mucus that covers it. To date it is not clear how this mucus is created, the only certainty is that fish do not have it from birth, but secrete it later. Some types of Clownfish need an acclimatization phase to become immune to the anemone venom, while others can swim in the areas where it is present immediately.

clown fish aquarium

Thanks to this symbiosis, the Clownfish can defend itself from predators such as butterflyfish or filefish. From its side, the anemone benefits from a higher water circulation caused by the activity of the fish. Clownfish feed on both the dead tentacles of the anemone and the leftovers that the anemone has left behind: in fact, they are able to attract the predatory fish that the anemone feeds on with their bright colors. In addition, their feces act as a fertilizer for the anemone.

Clownfish live in polyandry, meaning a female coexists with multiple males in an anemone or a small group of anemones. The fish-anemone symbiosis usually lasts several years.

What does Clownfish feed on?

Clownfish are omnivorous and in the sea they feed on small shrimps, plankton, algae and copepods. In a home aquarium they need a very varied, balanced and vitamin-rich diet, both based on foods of animal and vegetable origin. Since in nature the Clownfish never moves very far from its anemone to get food, rather it waits for the prey to approach, this fish has the natural instinct to accumulate excess feed, and this is a factor that must be taken into account. in consideration for feeding in the aquarium.

clownfish nemo

Caring for Clownfish in the aquarium

First of all we must remember that taking care of a Clownfish in the aquarium is not as simple as it may seem in the movie "Finding Nemo". Taking good care of these fish generally requires some experience, so they are more suitable for those who are already familiar with marine aquariums.

Living in packs, Clownfish should never be purchased individually. Coexistence with fish of the same species is ideal, in pairs in the case of small tanks, or in groups if the tank is large.

Along with an Amphiprion ocellaris, there should be at least one of these three types of anemones in the aquarium: Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica), Giant Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) and Mertens' Anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii). While you can safely keep an anemone without Clownfish in your aquarium, the reverse is not recommended. However, remember that some Clownfish can only live with a specific type of anemone.

For anemones, the most suitable bottom in the aquarium is coral sand, while live corals are absolutely not indicated, since the anemone often changing position could cause serious burns or injuries to the corals.

Caring for Clownfish

Anemones are relatively sensitive, so that they do not move too often you need to offer them an intense light, an indirect and delicate current and a water poor in nitrates and phosphorus, but rich in oxygen. If the anemones are comfortable, taking care of the Clownfish will be easier. In any case, a water test is recommended before inserting an anemone into the aquarium.

It is important that the size of the anemone is adequate for the number and size of the fish, if it is too small it can die attacked by the attacks of the Clownfish, among which aggressions can occur.

Compared to other fish, the Clownfish is peaceful, but can have problems with other species of Clownfish, so if you wish to have several species of this fish, the tank should be large enough.

Water temperature and tank size

The aquarium should have a capacity of approximately 200 liters. Clownfish are not great swimmers and do not stray from their anemone, which instead needs space.

The water temperature should be between 23 and 28 ° C, like that in which this fish lives in nature. The pH should be 8.0-8.4 and the dGH between 0 and 18. Remember that this is a marine aquarium, therefore the water must be saline and free of pollutants, a condition that can be obtained thanks to particular reverse osmosis systems. Clownfish and anemones must not be immersed in fresh water for any reason.

Clown fish breeding

How are clown fishes bred?

Clownfish are among the few species of marine fish that can be kept in the aquarium. During the courtship of the female, the males do a dance. Subsequently, the male cleans the place of laying the eggs at the foot of the anemone (for example a flat stone) on which the female lays her eggs, which are then fertilized by the male. On the first day, the eggs are yellow to orange in color. From the third day they become brownish and become increasingly clear and transparent until the day of hatching. The male has a very active task during the hatching of the eggs: constantly shake the fins to get the eggs fresh and oxygen-rich water.

After about a week the larvae emerge, which initially lead a life of plankton. This stage lasts about 2 weeks, during which time they remain safe inside the anemone. Then they go out in search of their own anemone. The larvae feed on newly hatched brine shrimp and powdered fish food from about day 12.

Lifespan of clownfish

What is the life expectancy of clown fish?

Clownfish in the wild can live up to 10 years, while in an aquarium they typically reach 5 years. They are not particularly delicate and do not require great attention, but they absolutely must live in salt water. Since they need to live in symbiosis with an anemone, which instead needs a lot of care, these fish are more suitable for those who already have experience in aquaristics. This applies in general to the marine aquarium, which given the high maintenance costs and the experience required for its care, is absolutely not suitable for beginners.

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