Clownfish (anemonefish): All information about the popular aquarium fish (2024)

The clownfish is a colorful coral reef resident with distinctive behavior and a close relationship with sea anemones.

Table of contents

1. Clownfish profile

2. Clownfish habitat

3. Symbiosis of clownfish with sea anemones

4. Interesting facts about clownfish

5. Important features

5.1. How big does a clownfish get?

6. How do clownfish eat?

7. Clownfish reproduction

8. Keeping in aquariums

Clownfish (Amphiprion percula)

Clownfish profile

  • Name:Clownfish (also called anemonefish). English: clownfish
  • Know. Surname:Amphiprion percula
  • Order:Perch relatives (Percomorphaceae)
  • Family:Riffbarsche (Pomacentridae)
  • Distribution:tropical seas
  • Habitat:Coral reefs
  • Food:Zooplankton, phytoplankton, plants, crustaceans
  • Behave:Coarse fish, forms pairs
  • Maximum size:13 cm
  • Maximum age:20 years
  • Body shape:fusiform, flattened laterally
  • Body paint:orange, red or violet, with three white horizontal stripes
  • Maul: small and terminal
  • Scales:small and delicate
  • Fin formula:D IX-X/14-17, A II/11-13
  • Sexual maturity:around 2 years old
  • spawning time:several times a year
  • Economical meaning:aquarium fish in great demand around the world
  • Danger:seriously endangered by overfishing

Clownfish habitat

The clownfish lives in the northern Great Barrier Reef as well as on the northern coast of New Guinea and in the coral reefs of Melanesia (New Britain, New Ireland, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu). There are about 30 species of clownfish in the world. In the wild the fish live around 10 years, but in aquariums they live twice as long.

Symbiosis of clownfish with sea anemones


Clownfish live in symbiosisSea anemone, which protect them from predators with their poisonous tentacles. At the same time, clownfish also protect their symbiosis partners from predators, e.g. butterfly or filefish. The excretions of clownfish also serve as food for the sea anemone.

The clownfish protect themselves from the anemone's stinging cells with a layer of mucus: this ensures that the stinging cells are not triggered. However, the mucus is not produced by the fish, but is taken over by the anemone in a long-lasting process of probing.

Once the clownfish have settled in with the sea anemone and are well protected from predators, they clean their “protector” by biting off diseased or dead tentacles, aerating the water and carrying away leftover food.

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Interesting facts about clownfish

  • After the popular American cartoon “Finding Nemo,” demand for the clownfish skyrocketed. Even though the film hasn't been shown on the big screen for a long time, demand still exceeds supply and is endangering clownfish populations.
  • The clownfish gets its name from its unusual coloring, which is reminiscent of clown make-up. The fish's colorful stripes can range from deep purple to fiery orange, red and yellow.
  • The clownfish stands out not only because of its lively coloring, but also because of its swimming technique: instead of swimming calmly like most other coral reef inhabitants, it moves up and down quite hectically.
  • Clownfish change gender throughout their lives. They are first male and produce male gametes and later change sex and become females that produce eggs. This special form of gender change is called proterandry or pre-masculinity.
  • Clownfish never stray far from “their” sea anemone. At the slightest danger, they dive into the tentacles and spend their entire lives together with the sea creature.

important characteristics


The clownfish grows to a size of six to eleven cm. The length is 2.1 to 2.4 times the body height. The animals are bright orange, red or purple in color, with three white horizontal stripes, the middle one with a forward bulge. The stripes are often clearly bordered in black. The black borders vary in width and can also merge into one another.

Female clownfish are larger and more aggressive than males. The body is flattened on the sides, the back is high and the head is short. The dorsal fin is divided into two parts: a stiffer front fin (10 rays) and a softer rear fin (14-17 rays). The anal fin is shifted towards the rounded caudal fin. The pectoral fins are large and fan-shaped.

How big does a clownfish get?

Clownfish are small in size. In the natural environment they reach 12-13 cm, but in captivity they are rarely larger than 9 cm. Males are significantly smaller than females.

How do clownfish eat?

Clownfish eat both plants and other sea creatures. Their diet consists mainly of zooplankton and phytoplankton. In addition, they feed on various algae, anemone remains, mollusks and small crustaceans.

Clownfish reproduction

Clownfish larvae

The fish spawn in close proximity to their anemone, usually at the foot. After hatching, the fish larvae are taken by the current into the open water and are often transported far before the young fish - attracted by the olfactory stimuli of the coastal region - approach a symbiotic partner again.

The fish live in pairs or in harem groups with one female and several males in the anemone: the largest fish is always the female, the rest are males. If the female dies, the largest male changes sex and becomes a female.

Sex change is suppressed by the hormone cortisol, which is released under stress. In this way, the larger female can put the other males in her harem under stress in order to prevent another male from becoming a female.

Keeping in aquariums


Clownfish are undoubtedly one of the most popular coral fish in marine aquariums. They are small, not very aggressive and the only requirement for them to thrive is the presence of a suitable sea anemone. You can keep both individual species and different species in a spacious aquarium.

Clownfish get along very well with other fish because they are well protected from attacks by their hosts' poisonous tentacles. Many species have been bred in aquaculture for a long time and, as popular aquarium fish, are very lucrative sources around the world.


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Clownfish (anemonefish): All information about the popular aquarium fish (2024)


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