Clownfishes

Reef fishes don’t get any more iconic than the Clownfishes, or Anemonefishes as they are known by some. As members of the Amphiprioninae subfamily (which is one of four that form the Pomacentridae family), the 30 different recognised species are all contained in the Amphiprion genus except one species. Beyond their gorgeous colouration, patterns and comical demeanour, their stand-out feature is undoubtedly their relationship with various sea anemone species. In this mutualistic arrangement, the clownfish and anemone live symbiotically with the anemone providing shelter for the clownfish, while the fish protects the anemone and even helps it to feed. As protandrous hermaphrodites, all clownfish start as males with only the largest male going on to turn into a dominant female when the opportunity arises. In a group, a strict social hierarchy exists. Most clownfishes make excellent community reef residents however as they mature they can become territorial, even attacking the hand of the hapless aquarist as they attempt to undertake tank maintenance. The larger the species, the more problematic this can be. In recent decades numerous species have been captive-bred both privately and commercially and this has led to the establishment of numerous designer ‘strains’. This has led to division within the reef-keeping community with arguments both for and against such selective breeding. Overall, captive-bred specimens are definitely recommended as, although the numbers taken from the wild are not thought to be too significant, the removal of a pressure on wild populations can only be beneficial. They dn’t specifically require an anemone to live in, indeed many species will ‘make do’ with soft or LPS corals. Actually, keeping an anemone is far more challenging than keeping a clownfish and should not be attempted by anone but experienced aquarists who have undertaken extensive research and who have a system that is completely suitable. Even then, only captive-cloned anemones should be considered.

Amphiprion genus – with 29 species, this genus contains all but one of the clownfishes. Generally, these fish remain at a small to moderate size, with dominant females becoming the largest. Although many species can be distinctive, others can be very similar to each other, and thus tricky to identify. The more unusual species are only rarely available and can be expensive to buy. They make for fascinating reef aquarium residents but potential keepers should understand all aspects of their behaviour and biology before taking the plunge. Click or touch a thumbnail image for species level information.

Premnas genus – the single species in this genus takes the total number of clownfish species to 30. In nature, it is found in the Malay Archipelago and Western Pacific Ocean north of the Great Barrier Reef. It is distinctive from other clownfishes due to it’s cheek-spine however the genus designation is currently disputed and it may become part of the Amphiprion genus in the future. Click or touch the thumbnail image for species level information.

 Back to Marine Fish main gallery