There are a lot of different fish species with “clown” as part of their common names.
Some of the common fishes with the word clown in it include clown loach, clown knife fish, clown barb, clown rasbora, and clown pleco. Most of them having clown as a proceeding word are a freshwater fish.
When we refer to the ‘clownfish’, in most probability we are talking about one of the marine (saltwater) clown fishes of the family Pomacentridae (subfamily Amphiprioninae).
These fish live in sea anemones in the wild and are also known as anemonefishes.
What are Clownfishes?
As of now, we know about 30 species in the subfamily Amphiprioninae. The best-known is Ocellaris clownfish, Amphiprion Ocellaris, thanks to it being featured in the animated movie “Finding Nemo”.
It is one of the most popular marine aquarium fishes.
All Clownfish are born male. They are sequential hermaphrodites. This means they can change sex when necessary. Usually, there is only one female and a group of males that live together. When the female dies or leaves, then the most dominant male fish turns into a female.
Clownfish does best in a 20-gallon minimal setup with plenty of hiding spaces. It is reared in captivity and can reach an age of up to 8-12 years ( depending on species).
The Clownfish are also bred artificially in Florida for the aquarium trade.
Is Clownfish a Freshwater or Saltwater fish?
Clownfish is a strictly saltwater (marine) fish, which means that these would not survive in freshwater.
Clownfish is a reef-associated fish species, which means that it lives near the reefs. An adult clownfish inhabits coral reefs where they live among the large sea anemones. It also occurs in shallow and calm lagoons.
Clownfish are mostly found in Indo West Pacific, the eastern Indian ocean including Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Thailand, Malaysia, northwest Australia, Singapore Indonesia, Philippines, and ranges north to Taiwan.
What happens if we put Clownfish (saltwater fish) in freshwater?
The clownfish are marine (saltwater) fishes that have adapted to the saltwater environment. Their kidneys and gills are not made to handle freshwater. This means that if you put a clownfish in freshwater, it would die within minutes.
When a saltwater fish is placed in freshwater, it leads to osmosis.
This means the freshwater will try to get into each one of the fish cells and balance out the amount of salt in the cells with the amount of water outside. This will flood the fish system and kill it.
Some fishes can adapt to both saltwater and freshwater but clownfish is not one of those. If you want a freshwater tropical fish with a similar color scheme you can try Bumblebee gobies or clown loaches.
How to care for Clownfish in an aquarium
Clownfish are one of the best saltwater fish to keep in an aquarium.
Since these are hardy fishes and need less care than most other aquarium fishes, it makes them an ideal ‘beginner’ fish for someone starting out with saltwater aquariums.
As mentioned before, clownfish require a tank with a capacity of at least 30 gallons. The fish tank should have ample hiding places for the fish. This helps them feel safe.
The water must stay between 74 to 78 Fahrenheit and have a specific gravity of 1.022 to 1.024. The water flow in the tank should be moderate. It should provide a bit of a current but nothing overwhelming for the clownfish.
The natural habitat of the fish is around coral reefs. So, it is a good idea to fill the tank with a few rocks. Make sure not to overfill as the clownfish also swim in the wide-open abyss of the ocean.
If you turn the aquarium lights off at night, then the clownfish will go to sleep. The fish either nestles in an anemone, in the crevice of rocks or other hiding places. You may even find the fish lying on the b at night.
If you leave the aquarium lights on all night, the fish will probably not sleep. It would eventually become irritated and stressed. Extended periods of light could eventually cause the death of the fish.
What can you feed a Clownfish?
The Clownfish can eat most live and frozen fish foods such as krill or brine shrimp. It’s also a good idea to add some vegetables in their diet (such as spinach and/or nori).
They also like to eat flake food. A variety of items in their diet will make sure that the clownfish gets all of the nutrients that they need to thrive.
When feeding, make sure that after a few minutes there is no evidence of food floating in the water.
Overfeeding will cause issues with the water parameters spiking, making the water dangerous for the fish.
Feed the clownfish no more than once a day. Every once in a while you can skip one day. Clownfish is quite hardy and can survive without food for a few days, so there is nothing to worry about.
What fish can live with Clownfish?
Most clownfish will not harm other fish.
They are, however, small in size and could be a target for larger tank-mates. Clownfish also leaves the invertebrates alone. This also makes them good fish to keep in the reef tanks.
Some suitable aquarium-mates for the clownfish include damsel fish, Tange, blennies, gobies, angelfish, puffers, boxfish, and wrasses.
If you are brand new to the clownfish hobby, just keep the clownfish alone in your tank for a few months before adding anything else. I say this so that you will be able to master caring for one species of fish before you move on to the next one.
Clownfish also tend to be territorial. It is best to keep the same species of clownfish, unless you have a big aquarium, over a hundred gallons, where everyone can coexist peacefully.
It is best to add new fish to the tank one by one over time, rather than adding all at once. This will give the clownfish time to adjust.
Among various clownfish species, only one – the maroon clownfish can be aggressive, and should only share the aquarium tank with large, hardy fish of about the same size (four to six inches).
Anemones and their symbiotic relationship with clownfish
Anemones are a group of marine, predatory animals. An anemone is a single polyp attached to a hard surface by its base. It has a ring of tentacles and a central mouth. It ensnares prey of suitable size that comes within reach of its tentacles.
Clownfish and anemones live in a symbiotic relationship. The fish protects itself by retreating into an anemone or into a crevice in the rocks.
The anemones have stinging tentacles that have no effect on the clownfish but will hurt other species of fish. This is because clownfish have a mucus covering their bodies that protects them from the stinging tentacles.
As clownfish are colorful, they attract larger fish that tries to eat them. Clownfish swim through the anemone for protection. When the larger fish makes contact with anemone, they get paralyzed and are devoured by it. The remains of the fish are later eaten by the Clownfish.
This way anemones get cleaned up and ready for the next prey while the Clownfish gets its protection. Another benefit that anemones get from this relationship is better oxygenation of its tentacles. As clownfish swims through them, anemones get better water flow.
If you’re thinking of keeping anemones in your aquarium, maybe that’s not the best idea.
For their survival, the clownfish are not dependent on anemones. They can live without it just fine. On the contrary, if you keep anemones in your fish tank, you will find it to be delicate and hard to care for.
The fish would always, however, prefer a good host for comfort and protection.
Different species of anemone have their own specific requirements for things like lighting, feeding, and substrate. It can also sting humans, so always wear gloves while handling anemones.
Some anemones that host clownfish include, the beaded anemone and the adhesive anemone.
The clownfish can become territorial and aggressive towards other clownfish if they try to invade their host anemone. There is also a possibility of some fighting taking place if there is a pair in the tank and you introduce another.
Sometimes, in the absence of sea anemones, clownfish may take certain corals like xenia polyps, as hosts.
The life expectancy of clownfish in an aquarium
The life expectancy of a clownfish will differ from species to species.
If we talk about clownfish in home aquariums, they are likely to survive anywhere from 3 to 5 years or more. It depends on how well you take care of the clownfish.
In its natural habitat, the clownfish will live longer (8-12 years).
I wish you all the best in setting up the tank for a clownfish.
I hope I have been successful in answering your query. Loaded with all the information about the clownfish, you can now have a successful clownfish aquarium up and running.
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