The Clownfish is undoubtedly the most popular marine fish species, period. This iconic fish is a major pull-factor for many people joining the marine hobby. The Ocellaris clownfish is a great choice for nearly any hobbyist’s fish tank. They do well in fish only tanks, full reef tanks, with or without anemones, large tanks and even small tanks. As with any marine environment it is vitally important to maintain the water properly. This includes changing the water regularly and otherwise keeping it clean and free of ammonia and other harmful chemicals.
To scientists these fish are commonly known as Anemonefish, however, in the aquarium hobby they are more often referred to as Clownfish. While almost all other fish will avoid anemones due to their stinging tentacles, Clownfish have an immunity to these stings. In the wild clownfish live in symbiotic relationships with certain anemone species, with the anemone providing protection for the clownfish and the anemone eating scraps of food that the clownfish discards.
Clownfish and Anemones
In the wild Ocellaris clownfish will usually only host the Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica) and the Giant Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). However, in captivity they will often accept surrogate hosts, such as corals, other anemones such as the Bubble Tip Anemones, and even rocks, algae, water pumps, a corner of the fish tank or nothing at all.
It is a common misconception that you cannot keep clownfish without a host anemone. Clownfish can be kept without their host anemone and some have even reported success with breeding them without a host anemone being present. If you do decide to keep an anemone choose one that your species of clownfish is known to like. You will also need to make sure the anemone’s special needs are met.
Captive Bred or Wild-Caught
Captive bred clownfish are readily available and you will be much better off buying captive bred clownfish than wild-caught clownfish, as captive bred fish tend to have better survival rates and should acclimate more quickly. Wild-caught clownfish may also require host anemones, which can be difficult to care for in captivity and are not recommended for the saltwater novice. Very high output aquarium lighting such as metal halides is often required.
Distinguishing Between Clownfish
The Ocellaris clownfish is often confused with the True Percula clownfish because the two species look very similar. The Ocellaris has very thin black bands around the white stripes, whereas, the True Percula has much wider black bands around the white stripes.
Fortunately, for the hobbyist, clownfish will take almost every type of marine food available.
Ocellaris Clownfish Breeding
All Ocellaris Clownfish are born neither male nor female. The most dominant fish in the group will become female and the next most dominant will become male. The female is larger than the male and is more aggressive. It will seem as though she is bullying the male in many cases and in extreme situations she will in fact kill a male that she does not find suitable.
Unlike most marine fish, clownfish are fairly easy to breed. Adult Ocellaris will pair up and form a bonded pair. Once they begin breeding they are called a mated pair and will continue to spawn regularly for as long as they are alive and well maintained. They will lay up to 2000 eggs each time they spawn, which they will guard and care for until they hatch about 7 to 10 days later.
The fry will not survive unless reared by the breeder. They require special food and care from the time they are born until metamorphosis occurs and they become juvenile clownfish nearly two weeks later.
With proper care, the Ocellaris Clownfish can be a valued member of your tank (and your family) for the next ten years or more.