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Clownfish Care: Everything You Need To Know

Clownfish Care: Everything You Need To Know

Clownfish are beautiful fish that are very easy to care for. While they are typically found near a wild coral reef, many can swim in personal aquariums worldwide. 

Clownfish are easy to care for if they are kept in a large regulated saltwater tank, fed at least once a day, and receive many corals, anemones, or rocks to hide in. They also interact well with other fish you may already have living in your aquarium. 

In this article, I’ll review all the information you need to care for your clownfish. I’ll discuss the perfect tank conditions, their behavior, and the best items to build a secure habitat. 

Clownfish Species Overview

A clownfish, or Amphiprion ocellaris, are small tropical fish. They live in the Pacific Ocean near Australia’s coasts and the Red Sea near Asia and Africa. 

Appearance & Size

While they are notorious for being an orange hue, there are many types of clownfish that display a range of colors including red, yellow, or black. In some cases, they can also be a combination of two of these colors. No matter the primary color, clownfish always have three white stripes with black outlines that extend from their head to the base of their tail.

Unlike other tropical fish, clownfish are relatively tiny. When they reach adulthood, they only measure about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 centimeters). However, some do end up growling slightly bigger as they increase in age. 

Personality & Behaviour

Clownfish are both social and territorial in terms of their behavior. In the wild, clownfish mate in pairs and form small groups with one dominant male, one dominant female, and a few other male fish. Usually, the other male fish of the group are younger clownfish or offspring. 

However, they can become very hostile to other clownfish, not in their groups or pairs. If unknown clownfish or other creatures get too close, the members of the couple or group team up to attack. In many cases, the clownfish fight the threatening creature until it dies. 

Bonded clownfish typically live in the same area and work together to find shelter, find places to lay eggs, or defend territory from other ocean life. They also interact with one another through popping or clicking noises that sound similar to growling. The dominant male and female usually do this communication with the rest of the group. 

I love this video, check it out to see a saddleback clownfish family working together and hear how they communicate with one another.

Clownfish Lifespan

Most clownfish raised in home aquariums will live between 4 and 6 years. With proper care, ideal diet, and clean water, they can live between 10 and 15 years, sometimes even up to 20 years. 

Clownfish Care:

Clownfish are very easy to fish to take care of but require specific tank conditions to thrive and survive in your aquarium tank. Because they are saltwater fish, tank setup might be a little tougher for those who have only worked with freshwater species. 

Tank Size

To provide the best conditions for your clownfish, make sure that you have a tank that is 30 gallons (113.6 liters) or larger. Clownfish cannot be kept in small tanks because they require a lot of space to build their homes or nests. They also need enough room to swim around and perform their behaviors in the wild. 

Water Conditions

Clownfish are fish that live in and require saltwater. Saltwater tanks require more maintenance and equipment to maintain the proper levels than freshwater tanks. 

Saltwater tanks use either boxed ocean water or marine sea salt to create the salt water. Both options are great, but using a marine sea salt mixture will take a little more time to ensure that the correct amounts are measured and absorbed. 

Clownfish cannot survive in freshwater conditions because their organs are adapted to environments with a balanced amount of salt. With this lack of salt, the freshwater will enter the clownfish’s body system, causing them to swell up and eventually kill them. 

Water Temperature

Because clownfish are tropical fish from the Pacific Ocean, they prefer warm water temperatures. Keep your tank between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (about 24 to 27 degrees Celsius) to ensure that your clownfish are happy and comfortable. 

This temperature is maintained through the use of a heater. While you do not need to purchase a massive heater, you should get one that automatically regulates and is adaptable to saltwater. 

pH Levels

The pH level of your clownfish tank should be between 8 and 8.4. Clownfish will still survive if the pH level is slightly higher or lower. However, you don’t want the change in pH levels to be too drastic, as this will cause them to become ill.

Flow

You should have a moderate water flow in your tank. This is essential to the clownfish’s well-being because it replicates their habitat in the wild. 

Moderate flow matches the currents and wave patterns of the water found around the reefs where they thrive. Be careful to set the flow high enough, or they will be stressed from their disrupted swimming patterns.

Filters

It is essential to have a good filter in your aquarium tank to ensure your clownfish’s environment stays healthy and clean. You will need a large saltwater filter that can cycle through the entire tank. Saltwater filters are also structured to handle the composition of the salt water so that its parts do not erode. 

Cleaning and Changing the Water

Your clownfish tank’s water should be changed once every 1 to 2 weeks, or more frequently if buildup, debris, or excessive waste are present. Additionally, continuous maintenance to ensure that no coral or rocks are dirty should be performed as needed.  

Habitat Requirements

Your clownfish aquarium tank must implement many vital pieces to provide the best comfort. You must ensure that the aquarium matches the natural clownfish habitat as closely as possible.

Clownfish require spaces filled with lots of colorful coral, anemones, and fine sand. You don’t want to overcrowd the tank with too many items. However, you want to ensure that it is complete enough so that there are a variety of spaces for the clownfish to hide around. 

Also, rocks and larger pieces of coral are necessary to provide a place for clownfish to lay their eggs. Set these close to the main anemone to provide easy access to the nesting area. 

How Many Clownfish Can I Put in My Tank?

You should only put 1 or 2 clownfish in your tank at a time. Although, this amount varies on the temperament of the clownfish themselves. 

Because clownfish are incredibly territorial, they will act aggressively towards fish not in their bonded mating pair or group. Clownfish form small groups, so putting too many in a single tank can create conflict.

Don’t put 3 clownfish together because 2 of the clownfish may mate without the other. In turn, the pair will join to kill off the remaining third fish, even if you intend for them to form a group. 

Symbiotic Relationships With Anemones 

Even though clownfish are most commonly known for their stripes and colors, they are also known for their shared partnership with anemones, referred to as Actinaria. This relationship is called symbiosis, or when two species help one another live and thrive.

Most clownfish create homes within anemones because they provide protection and safety from predators. The extensive tentacles found outside the anemone sting any threat that gets too close to it or the clownfish living inside it. In return, the clownfish provide the anemone with essential nitrogen in their waste products. 

The anemones do not harm the clownfish because they have adapted to resist its stings. Research has determined that clownfish are protected from the severity of the anemone because of a mucus layer found outside their bodies. 

The mucus from the anemone sheds onto the clownfish as they move around it. This protective layer makes it so the anemone can’t fully detect the clownfish or cause harm. 

Do I Need an Anemone for My Clownfish Tank?

While you don’t need an anemone in your aquarium for your clownfish, it is highly recommended. This inclusion is necessary for matching the typical clownfish habitats found in reefs in the wild. 

Including an anemone will increase positive behavior among your clownfish. Additionally, it will encourage them to reproduce and form bonds with the other clownfish you add to the tank.

Best Clownfish Tankmates

Even though clownfish are often aggressive to their own kind, there are a multitude of other species of fish that they can live harmoniously with. Clownfish must be paired with other tropical fish that act similarly to them. 

Excellent fish species that can also be kept with your clownfish include:

  • Blue tangs (Paracanthurus hepatus)
  • Yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens)
  • Butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae)
  • Pufferfish (Tetraodontidae)
  • Wrasses (Labridae)
  • Damselfish (Pomacentridae)
  • Angelfish (Pterophyllum)
  • Cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Regardless of what other types of fish you incorporate into your tank, watch the temperament of the new fish and the clownfish. Clownfish usually leave other fish in the tank alone. However, some may become resentful if it is mating or breeding season. 

Food & Diet

There are a variety of food items that you can feed to your clownfish to provide the most nutrients possible. Because clownfish are omnivores, they eat both plant and meat-based food items. 

In their natural habitat, clownfish usually eat a variety of plankton, shrimp, crabs, algae, and seaweed. However, you do not have to get these to feed your clownfish. 

You can feed your clownfish traditional plant-based fish pellets, pieces of brine shrimp, or freeze-dried worms. These items can be found in any regular pet store where you usually purchase aquatic products and equipment.

Additionally, you can also feed your clownfish specialized algae pellets or sheets. These food items are small pieces of algae that have been compacted together into a single shape or sheet. The pieces sink to the bottom of the tank for the fish to nibble on. 

How Often Should I Feed My Clownfish?

You should feed your clownfish regularly, once a day. Overfeeding or underfeeding can result in malnutrition, illness, and poor development over an extended period.

It is also necessary to ensure you do not feed the same items to your clownfish for multiple days in a row. Clownfish are sensitive and need a feeding schedule with various food types. You can feed the same things multiple times a week, yet you must provide different items every other day. 

How Do Clownfish Reproduce?

To reproduce, the dominant male and female of the group (or the only two clownfish in a pair) mate together. A female clownfish usually lays 100-1000 eggs at a time, yet not all of these eggs fully mature into adult fish. They make their nests in rock crevices or other dark areas hidden from the view of predators. 

Often, these eggs are consumed by predators that infiltrate the nesting area. Additionally, many of these will remain unfertilized, leaving the male clownfish to devour them instead. Any fertilized eggs in good condition will hatch after 8-10 days. 

For the eggs to hatch, they must be kept out of areas with light. A study found that excessive exposure to light resulted in clownfish eggs failing to hatch. 

Clownfish eggs only hatch when it is dark at night because predators are least likely to be out hunting. The clownfish’s offspring and development will not meet the levels needed to survive effectively with excessive light. 

Changing Sexes

Regardless of the dynamic, the female consistently outranks all the males in the group. If something happens to the female or she passes away, the other males change their sex and mate with the dominant male.

Usually, this process takes a few months before the dominant male and the new female can mate. The dominant male will not change sexes, yet the cycle will continue as long as younger males are in the group.

How Do I Breed My Clownfish?

You can quickly breed your clownfish at home in your aquarium by providing suitable habitat materials and lighting. Additionally, it is essential to make sure that your clownfish have bonded and do not intend to attack one another instead. 

To create a comfortable breeding area, ensure that you provide adequate shelter pieces for your clownfish to lay their eggs on. To create a nesting area, you can add rocks, coral pieces, or wood. If you have an anemone, place these items near the base as they like to lay eggs close to their homes. 

Also, ensure that there are dark spots in your tank, or the eggs may not make it to full term. If there is too much light, the eggs will not mature or hatch correctly, resulting in no clownfish offspring. 

Removing the Eggs

While you can leave clownfish eggs in your regular tank, it is highly recommended that you retrieve and remove them after they have been laid. This is because they are nearly impossible to find in the tank when they are born. 

When clownfish are born, they are tiny and almost entirely transparent. Leaving them to hatch in the tank will result in them blending in too closely with the surroundings. They will be impossible to monitor and track.

When removing the eggs, carefully place them on a rock or coral piece in a tank with the same conditions as the one they were born in. Once they hatch, care for them separately until they reach a young age. You can move them into different tanks after. 

Remember not to put too many clownfish in one tank to reduce the chances of fighting. Additionally, adding clownfish back into the tank will likely result in more breeding within the next few months. 

Is There a Way To Prevent Clownfish Reproduction?

If you have multiple clownfish in your tank, there is a chance that they will mate and produce offspring. Even if you do not want any reproduction to occur, it is still highly likely due to the clownfish’s ability to change sexes. As long as more than one clownfish are in the tank, there is a high chance for reproduction. 

Are Clownfish for Beginners?

Clownfish can be cared for by beginners. The fish are easy to care for as long as all their behavioral and habitat-based needs are fulfilled.

However, taking care of clownfish may be more difficult for those who have never had experience with a saltwater tank. Because of the high maintenance of saltwater levels and the paired equipment, having a saltwater tank of any kind can be overwhelming for first-time users. 

Finding all the suitable coral and anemone types needed to display in the clownfish’s habitat may also be more challenging. Most of a clownfish’s ecosystem involves other living organisms, which can increase the amount of care needed. Without the right additions, the clownfish will get sicker or stressed faster. 

Where Can I Buy Clownfish?

Some clownfish are available for purchase in your everyday pet stores. However, If you are looking for a specific species or clownfish color, you may need to go to a specialized or independent seller. Smaller and private businesses tend to have more varieties available. 

Clownfish are more expensive than other common breeds of fish that you can adopt. Traditionally, they range anywhere from just over $50 to over $100, depending on the type. Whether you purchase from a pet store or a small business, the clownfish will be tank-bred and not taken from the ocean. 

Clownfish FAQs

How many clownfish should be kept together?

Only keep 1 or 2 clownfish together in an aquarium. If you have 3, it is likely two will pair up and kill the 3rd clownfish. If you already have 1 clownfish and want to add another, make sure the clownfish you are adding is smaller and of the same species.

What is special about clownfish?

All clownfish mature as males and have the ability to change their sex to female. If something happens to the female or she passes away, the other males change their sex and mate with the dominant male.

Why do clownfish wiggle?

Clownfish wiggle to promote seawater circulation around their sea anemone hosts, helping the anemone breathe.

Can you touch a clownfish?

It’s best not to touch a clownfish. They have a mucus layer covering their body that protects them from an anemones deadly sting. If you touch the clownfish you risk tampering with this protective layer, leaving them vulnerable.

Wrapping Up

Clownfish are incredible fish that are easy to care for. They are a great addition, whether this is your first tank or your hundredth. With the right tank conditions, enough members to form a bond, and a comfortable habitat, your clownfish will thrive.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...