Clownfish, otherwise known as anemonefish, are small eye-catching marine fishes. They inhabit coral formations in the Red Sea, GBR Australia, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.
Most scuba divers will encounter this species as bottom dwellers. That means they exist close to the seabed of shallow tropical reefs and sheltered lagoons. Clown fish thrive best in sea anemones which they inhabit for protection and food.
Around 28 clownfish species belong with the genus with a scientific name of Amphiprioninae. But, their characterization is with the fish family Pomacentridae.
Anemonefish Facts: The largest clown anemonefish can reach sizes up to 18 centimetres (seven inches). But, the smallest of the clown fish species rarely achieve a length of 11 centimetres (four inches).
So, why are clownfish often called anemonefish? The reason is because of their symbiotic relationship with their host, the sea anemone.
Clown Fish Habitat Facts
Clownfish are reef-dwelling species, preferring warm water coral reef environments. The species will inhabit a single sea anemone in colonial groups. Generally, there will be a dominant breeding male and a female with several younger males.
You can recognise the false clownfish by their beautiful chromatic reddish orange body – with white patches or bands. In fact, the ‘Finding Nemo’ movie made for children popularized the clownfish species.
But, only the taxonomy Amphiprion percula is regarded as the true clownfish. They have subtle differences in shape and preferred habitats.
Interdependent symbiosis benefits both the clownfish and the anemone. They coexist for feeding and for protection.
The fish takes up residence with its host anemone. But, it carries out an elaborate dance and acclimates beforehand. It does so by caressing the anemone tentacles with different body parts.
In fact, mutuality helps both parties. The clown fish drives off intruders and preens its host by removing parasites. They both enjoy relative safety from predators and get food scraps in exchange.
Anemone tentacles are poisonous to some fish. But, the clownfish has a thick layer of mucus on its body. That makes it immune to the venom of the fish-eating anemone’s lethal sting.
Clown Anemonefish Diet
Clown anemonefish are omnivores – meaning they will eat other animals or plants. They feed most on undigested food from their host.
They also eat small drifting zooplankton in the water column. Their daily diet can include tunicate larvae, copepods, and an occasional anemone’s tentacle. Amphiprion perideraion species primarily feed on algae.
Water pollution worldwide threatens their natural habitat. Even so, clownfishes are not currently considered to be an endangered species.
The fact that almost all clownfish fertilized eggs reach adulthood is the main reason for their stable population in the wild.
Some of the other interesting facts about clownfish eggs is that they all hatch as males. Yet, the dominant male changes sex to become female after the group female dies.
Interesting Facts about Clownfish
- Most clownfish reach five to twelve (12) centimetres in length.
- They usually live in small family groups seeking shelter and protection from sea anemones.
- These small fish vigorously defend their anemone habitat from other clownfishes and intruders.
- Clownfishes feed on algae, dead anemone tentacles, and plankton.
- Clown fish get eaten by moray eels, large fish, and sharks.
- They are often kept in aquariums but they live longer – up to ten (10) years – in the wild.
- Even though a male can become a female, the change is irreversible.
- Clown anemonefish are not found in the Mediterranean or Caribbean Seas, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The pictures show the false clownfish anemonefish [Amphiprioninae]
Note: The section on fish families and marine life has further information about other aquatic life found in the shallow waters and around coral islands.