Clownfish | How to care for clownfish

Introduction

Clownfish are one of my favourite animals of all time – which has prompted me to do a write up on how to care for clownfish. They are also the reason for the creation of this site – my first ever fish Whoooot the clownfish. Here is a little profile picture of the little guy.

About Whoooot

Even though I may be biased, he is my most adored fish due to his calm and quirky nature. He isn’t territorial like other fish (I’m looking at you Blue-tailed Damselfish and Royal Gramma). And I can even hand feed him where he will swim up to the surface and pop his cute little face against the surface of the water.

Largely due to the popular movie Finding Nemo, Clownfish have become the iconic mascot of salt water aquariums around the world. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a salt water tank without these lovable fish. And there is good reason too! They are a fun addition to have with their unique swimming technique (we like to call the clownfish waggle). You will also come to see they are a hardy fish to keep and are great for beginners in the salt water aquarium space.

However, before you rush out to your local fish store (LFS), let’s take a look at the specifics of what it takes to look after Nemo and which other fish make good tank companions.

Description Specification
Difficulty
Easy
Personality
Docile
Size
3 - 4 inches
Diet
Omnivore
Tank size
At Least 20 Gallons
Tank type
Marine
Reef Safe
Yes

Origin

In the wild, Clownfish generally live in the warm parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. You will find them swimming around coral reefs where they can hide and feel secure should any predators swim too close.

They are most famously known to make their homes within sea anemones, which is known as a symbiotic relationship. A symbiotic relationship is where both animals (in this case the clownfish and the anemone) have a mutually beneficial arrangement. The anemone offers protection to the clownfish with its stinging tentacles. While the Clownfish will bring food into the anemone and provide much needed nutrients.

Appearance

source: phys.org

 

There are over 30 different species of clownfish around the world which come in different shapes and colours. However the most well-known variety (again, probably due to Finding Nemo) is the Ocellaris Clownfish or sometimes referred to as the orange clownfish. The Ocellaris Clownfish has an orange coloured body with three prominent stripes. They also have thin black highlights lining the thick broad white stripes, and on the edges of their fins.

There are black varieties of the Ocellaris Clownfish which have black bodies and the characteristic white stripes down their body.

Clownfish Diet

One of the primary reasons why Clownfish are a popular choice is because they are generally easy to feed.

Clownfish are omnivores, which means they like to eat copepods and the smaller crustaceans that are commonly found in and around coral and live rock. They can also graze on algae, which comes in handy for keeping any algae blooms in check.

When deciding what to feed your pet clownfish, you will be safe with protein rich foods like Mysis or Brine Shrimp, and high-protein fish flakes. They will also accept finely chopped frozen fish food like copepods.

You can even feed them LIVE copepods where they can exercise their natural instincts and catch them while they swim about the tank. The added benefit of feeding them live foods is that some aquarium hobbyists have found it encourages breeding within clown pairs. It is unknown why this happens, however it can be argued that it simulates a natural environment or it could be the added nutrients to their diet that drives their instinct to breed.

Whoooot is actually quite a guts, and is always the first one to shoot to the surface of the tank when it comes to feeding time.

Tank Requirements

Since Clownfish are not strong swimmers, they do not require large tanks with a lot of space for them to swim lengthy distances, such as your Blue Tangs (aka Dory from Finding Nemo). This also means that you will need to consider if you have strong currents in your tank that may over-power Clownfish. If you do have a lot of turbulence in your water flow, you will find them hiding in the low flow areas and not swimming freely about like they would in their natural environment.

Clownfish do not have any specific requirements in terms of water parameters – as long as you maintain a healthy salt water aquarium you will find your Clownfish happy and thriving. This means regular water changes, cleaning and maintenance. You should also be testing your water parameters at regular intervals to monitor your nitrogen cycle.

For those that want specific water parameter parameters here is a handy table specifically for Clownfish:

Description Specification
Water Temperature
74 – 79 degrees Fahrenheit
pH
7.7 – 8.4
Gravity (salinity)
1.021 – 1.026

 

I firmly believe in being a responsible aquarium hobbyist, so I always try to create as natural environment for my pets as possible. With this in mind, I like to include live rock spaces and substrate (sand) for the clownfish to swim around. This will provide them with spaces to hide and feel safe and protected. It will also give them some relief from water flow should they need a rest.

Personality/Temperament

Like I mentioned earlier, my little Whoooot is a funny fellow who I adore. He is a friendly fish that just goes about his business, not caring about any of his other tank mates. His affection actually makes keeping and maintaining a salt water tank a real pleasure and a rewarding experience.

You will find each individual Clownfish to have their own persona. And they are generally easy going fish and will keep to themselves.

The only time they will display hostile behavior is when there are other species of clownfish. Both species will become competitive and aggressively defend their territories.

You will also need to carefully consider the other fish that you place with your clownfish. We will explore the best tank companions for clownfish in the next section.

Tank Mates

source: fishkeepingworld.com

Probably the most famous tank mate you can get for your clownfish is an anemone (again likely made famous by Finding Nemo the movie). We explored this symbiotic relationship earlier in the article. However a word of warning that keeping and maintaining a healthy anemone is not as easy as keeping a clownfish. Clownfish don’t always pair with anemones, so don’t go rushing out to find an anemone just because you have a clownfish. As we always recommend – DO YOUR RESEARCH!

In terms of fish companions for clownfish, you will generally be safe with other smaller fish like Damselfish, Butterflyfish, Dartfish, Wrasses (any variety), and bottom dwelling fish that don’t compete for food in the same part of the tank.

The types of fish to avoid are your more aggressive types like Groupers, Eels and Triggerfish who can sometimes prey on the weaker swimming clownfish.

Summary

Clownfish are a great beginner saltwater fish to introduce you to the hobby of saltwater marine aquariums.

They are a hardy fish that is forgiving to water conditions. Clownfish are also easy to keep as they are good eaters and make good tank mates for a variety of fish.

One of the main things to keep in mind when purchasing your clownfish is if you are going for more than one, try to keep them in a pair or a larger group. And do not mix different types of species of clownfish as they will become territorial.

Like I have, you will find having a clownfish a rewarding experience that will add color and entertainment to your tank.

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