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Clown Fish

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Clown Fish Clownfish Anemone Symbiote

Following the massive success of Pixar movie Finding Nemo the clown fish must be the most famous of all tropical marine fish. If you have young children, they're bound to be begging for little Nemos of their own. Fortunately, clown fish make excellent aquarium inhabitants. Colourful, curious, and fascinating in their habits, they're also quite hardy and can flourish in a shoal of their own or as part of your community tank.

When familiar with their environment, clown fish are quite tough and resistant to disease, but they find moving traumatic and must be treated with extra care at such times. This is especially the case with fish taken from the wild, who often find it difficult or impossible to adapt to life in an aquarium.

Clown fish are omnivorous and are quite adaptable when it comes to food, enjoying flakes but benefiting from the occasional provision of live food. They are often able to obtain much of their food from waste emitted by their hosts, thus helping to keep the hosts from polluting their environment.

Clown Fish and Anemones

Probably the most famous characteristic of the clown fish is its relationship with the anemone. In the wild, this symbiotic relationship brings benefit to both parties. The fish bring food to the anemone, and in return they get to live within the shelter of is stinging tentacles, safe from predators. They are protected from the stings themselves by a special coating of slime. In the aquarium, clown fish can live fairly happily without an anemone, but it's also possible to keep them together so that you can watch the way their relationship develops.

If you buy an anemone to go with your clown fish, it's important to choose the right one. Only a few species make suitable clown fish hosts, and most of these are difficult to look after. Entacmaea, Heteractis and Stiochodactyla anemones are all suitable for clown fish, but you should read up on them carefully and make sure you get your aquarium conditions just right in order for them to thrive. Check with the seller to make sure they've been bred in captivity and are not depleting wild reefs. Bear in mind that anemones of the wrong species can actually hurt your clown fish. However, clown fish have proven capable to living in other, hardier cnidarian animals, so you might consider keeping them in Xenia as an alternative - if you are an inexperienced aquarist, this is far more likely to be successful.

Breeding Clown Fish

Clown fish will usually breed in captivity only if they are in stress-free conditions, and they are more likely to do so successfully if they have a suitable host, making them feel secure. Young clown fish are all the same sex, so you don't need to worry about which you buy. One of them will change sex to become female. Usually all the others in a single host shoal mature as males, but if the female dies the largest male will change sex to replace her. In captivity, clown fish are happy to spawn in pairs, but they will need a few months to get to know each other before they feel ready to do so, and sometimes they may simply not find one another appealing in that way.

When spawning, clown fish can become quite territorial, so make sure your aquarium has plenty of space and a good number of hiding places. The male will clean and prepare a spawning site and, after the eggs are laid and fertilised, both parents will tend and protect them, guarding them from other fish. They will also take good care of their fry.

Surprisingly versatile, lively and intelligent, clown fish can make a wonderful choice for your aquarium. Their distinctive bobbing motion when swimming makes them delightful to watch, and they're always busy with something. They shoal well with tangs and are happy in community tanks with relatively peaceful fish like angel fish and anthias. So long as you provide good basic care, they'll thrive in your aquarium and bring you a great deal of pleasure.

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