The Clownfish: Facts, Lifespan, Care, Feeding, & Breeding

The clownfish gained significant popularity for aquarium enthusiasts around the world after starring in the movie Finding Nemo. Clownfish or anemone fish are small tropical fish found in and around reefs.

In their natural habitat, they live in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. They are in the waters around Australia, Japan, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Malaysia and the Philippines.

There are 27 species of clown fish, you can find some species certain areas, and others are relatively wide spread. Two of the more known varieties are the whiteback clownfish and the Amphirion Ocellaris shown below.

Amphirion Ocellaris – The Common Clownfish Source

Size & Life Expectancy

The largest varieties of clownfish can grow up 7” in length, the smallest around 2”. The average size of most varieties is 4” in length with males being smaller in size than females. The weight of a clown fish in a typical aquarium is around 0.5lbs.

The average life span in the wild is 6 to 10 years and is surprisingly less in an aquarium environment reaching to a life span of around 5 years.


Clownfish are unique in their characteristics of living in and around sea anemones. Anemones cause stings that are deadly to most fish, but clownfish have a mucus layer that makes them immune and provides them protection from their predators. This is a symbiotic relationship as the clownfish also keeps the anemones healthy eating dead tentacles and providing fertilizer from their excrements. they also attract predators with their bright colors to the anemones and then feed on the remnants from the anemones.

Clownfish Hiding Source

Since anemone fish are not good swimmers, they are dependent on the protection of the sea anemones and spend their entire lives near their host anemones (a maximum radius of four meters)

In general, clown fish has a bright orange body with white stripes. The transition between the white and orange as well as black lines line the edge of their fins. Depending on the species of clownfish, these lines may be wider or narrower.

When born all clownfish hatch as males, fully grown hatchlings will search out a new anemone to create a symbiotic relationship. If a female is not present the largest clownfish will transform into a female through the course of time.

A female will live with several males when the female dies the next largest male will take the role and becomes a female through sex transformation.


A popular misconception is clownfish are herbivores and should be fed exclusively plant food. However, clownfish are omnivores and need a variety of vitamin rich food consisting of both plant and animal.

In the wild, clownfish will feed mainly on zooplankton and various algae species. However, they will eat almost anything they can get including small shrimp, prawns, and copepods. they will not swim far from their host anemones and therefore wait for prey to come close to them.

Clownfish require a demanding, varied diet. When feeding, you should drop a few pieces into the aquarium and give the fish enough time to eat them before giving them more. If the food is too large or they are full. They will spit the food out on the anemones to feed their host and hoard the food due to their natural instincts.

Clownfish will eat just about any fish food flake food and granules and Artemia are a particular favorite to clown fish.

Clownfish Care

Clownfish are a rugged fish species, they are easy to keep in salt water and are suitable for beginners of seawater aquarium enthusiasts. Also, They are easy to care for and do not need much in the way of particular aquarium accessories.

Clownfish need more space than most fresh water fish, and the aquarium should be at least 52 Gallons (200L). The water temperature should be kept at 75 – 82 F (24 – 28°C). In nature, clownfish live in a tropical sea water so the water should have a PH value of 8 to 8.2 and dGH of 0 to 18.

Clownfish grouping Source

Clownfish naturally live in groups so they should never be kept alone, it is best to get a pair of the same variety. Clownfish should be of the same variety to prevent territorial disputes aswell as not too many fish in general.

Additionally, they are only slightly stress-resistant. Stress is one of the leading causes of illness and death of fish. Therefore, it is important to follow these care steps to reduce your fishes’ stress.

The aquarium should have a few sea anemones as long as “living” stones. It is important to find the right anemones that fit the particular species. Also, Anemones usually do not get used to an aquarium environment and therefore are additionally challenging to new aquarists.

Clownfish Breeding

As already discussed, all clownfish are male by birth. when grown the largest male in the group will undergo a sex transformation into a female and pair with the second largest male. The remaining fish of the group remain males.

Furthermore, If the female dies or disappears for whatever reason, the second largest male will become the female and forms a pair with the next largest male.

For breeding, the aquarium should be at least 52 gallons (200 L) and accommodate a single pair. The aquarium should have an anemone, a few living rocks or boulders, coral sand, bright lighting, a good aquarium filter and a protein skimmer.  The aquarium should be stress-free (no aggressive fish and water PH correct), or else the pair will not breed.

The spawning begins within one month to a year, depending on how quickly the pair accustom to their new home. The actual spawning will usually take place in the afternoon or early evening. After spawning the male will take care of the eggs, and the female will protect them.

The breeding couple will spawn every 12-18 days; the eggs should not be removed from the aquarium and kept under care by their parents. Depending on the temperature, the young will hatch within 6-15 days after spawning.

Consequently, The first ten days of the hatchlings life are the most critical phase of their life. if the hatchlings survive past this stage the breeding is likely a success.