Clownfish are just about the favorite choice of marine fish for those at the start of their journey in the saltwater aquarium hobby.
These fish are fun to watch, beautiful, and relatively straightforward to care for, making them a good option for a beginner.
Of course, the Nemo movies have fuelled the demand for these fish, and the clownfish species is now more popular than ever!
In this guide, you will learn how to care for the Red Sea Clownfish.
Clownfish are also commonly called anemonefish.
The bright colors, eye-catching white stripes, and comical swimming style are indeed clown-like, hence the species’ popular name.
However, wild clownfish live in a symbiotic relationship with particular species of sea anemones, and it’s that habit that gives the fish their other common name.
The anemonefish spends much of its life snuggled inside the host anemone. Pretty much all other fish will steer well clear of the anemone’s stinging tentacles, while the clownfish is immune to the stings.
The fish gets protection from predators and shelter from the anemone, and the anemone enjoys the benefit of scraps of food dropped by the fish.
But you don’t need to provide the Red Sea Clownfish with access to anemone homes in your aquarium. Instead, the fish will generally take refuge in a coral, among your rockwork, or with another species of invertebrate.
If you do decide to have an anemone, be sure to make sure it’s a species that the species of clownfish you’ve chosen is compatible with.
You’ll also need to ensure that you meet the anemone’s specific requirements.
Clownfish, together with damselfish, belong to the Pomacentridae family of fish. The Pomacentridae is split into several subfamilies, where the damsels and clowns are separated.
Clownfish belong to the subfamily Amphiprioninae or anemonefishes, of which there are 30 recognized species. In this guide, we focus on the Red Sea Clownfish.
Red Sea Clownfish Habitat
Clownfish are saltwater fish that are found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and shallow lagoons or sheltered reefs in the Red Sea.
The Red Sea Clownfish is found in the Red Sea, specifically in the Gulf of Aden and the Chagos Archipelago.
In the wild environment, Red Sea Clownfish are known to choose many different species of anemone, often sharing their home with small gatherings of young Domino Damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus.)
Red Sea Clownfish vary in color from yellow to a beautiful honey-brown. Juvenile fish vary from their adult counterparts in that they have white, black, and yellow caudal fins, whereas adult specimens have exclusively yellow tails.
This species of clownfish has two white vertical stripes, one on the head and the other on the central part of the body. The stripe on the head is wedge-shaped and broader at the top than at the base. The bright stripes morph into a beautiful pale blue shade as the fish reach adulthood.
These are medium-sized clownfish that belong to the Clarkii complex of clownfish, with females reaching around 5.5 inches in length at maturity.
Interestingly, extensive studies in the 70s revealed that the male clownfish could change sex to become female in as little as 26 days under certain circumstances.
This generally happens when there are few female clownfish in the area and is a way of ensuring that the species continues.
The Red Sea Clownfish Care Guide
In this section of our guide, we explain how to care for the gorgeous Red Sea Clownfish. These lovely fish are pretty straightforward to care for, provided that you give them the correct environment and diet and house them with suitable tank mates.
When kept in the right conditions, a pair of clownfish will readily spawn, adding another fun dimension to keeping these beautiful fish.
The Red Sea Clownfish is a pretty hardy species that does well in most marine tanks once it’s had time to acclimatize.
We generally recommend a tank of at least 20 gallons for one of these fish, although 30 gallons or more is better, especially if you’re building a community setup.
Red Sea Clownfish are active creatures, despite their comical swimming style. So, when setting up the tank, ensure that you leave plenty of open water space for swimming.
These fish need plenty of rockwork to replicate their natural reef habitat. Remember, if you don’t provide the fish with an anemone, they will need lots of places to hide.
Clownfish do very well when kept in a reef tank and have no special lighting requirements, so you can cater to the needs of corals and other inhabitants as necessary. Of course, if you do decide to provide your clownfish with an anemone, be sure that the environment is suitable for it to thrive.
A reef tank needs plenty of live rock and live sand. Bacteria will quickly set up colonies on the rock and sand, helping to cleanse the water. Reef tanks need excellent filtration, good water movement, and a protein skimmer, too.
When maintaining the tank, you’ll need to carry out regular partial water changes. This is essential for the health of your fish and other livestock, including corals. Water changes replace vital trace elements that the aquarium residents use up, including iodine, magnesium, calcium, and strontium.
Red Sea Clownfish are a tropical species that need warm water at a temperature of between 75 to 82° F. Salinity levels should be 1.020 to 1.026, and the pH level should be in the range of 7.8 to 8.4.
Carry out 15% partial water changes twice a month to keep the conditions within the aquarium stable and healthy. You can reduce fluctuations in water quality by using a sump or keeping a greater volume of water in the tank.
Diet and Feeding
In the wild, the diet of clownfish consists of small invertebrates, algae, and scraps of food left behind by the primary host anemone.
However, in the captive environment, these fish will eat pretty much anything they’re offered!
You can feed your fish a variety of meaty foods and veggies, including frozen and flake foods. Foods that are particularly popular with clownfish include krill, bloodworms, spirulina flakes, Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and very finely chopped meaty foods.
You should feed your clownfish at least once every day, offering the fish what they will finish up in around five minutes. You can feed your fish two or three times a day if you want to.
Note that if you give your clownfish large pieces of meaty food, the fish will put the food into the anemone rather than eating it right away, so the anemone gets a free meal.
In their wild setting, Red Sea Clownfish live with many other species of reef fish and invertebrates. These adaptable fish can live happily in a small tank or a larger reef setup.
As mentioned earlier, Red Sea Clownfish like to have an anemone as their host. However, it is not essential, and the fish can live alone without suffering any detrimental effects.
That said, watching the fish interacting with its anemone is fascinating and adds a new dimension to keeping one of these gorgeous fish.
Suitable anemones that you can pair your Red Sea Clownfish with include the Magnificent Anemone, Bubble Tip Anemone, Beaded Anemone, and the Leathery Sea Anemone.
Of those species, the Bubble Tip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) is the clownfish’s preferred natural host anemone in the wild. The species is hardy and relatively easy to care for in the aquarium, too.
Although Red Sea Clownfish are not aggressive, they will vigorously defend the immediate vicinity of their anemone against potential intruders, even against much larger fish.
When it comes to other tank mates that can do well with Red Sea Clownfish, the following species are suitable:
You can also keep invertebrates in the community, such as Harlequin and Peppermint Shrimps. These attractive little creatures can add a new dimension to a reef setup, as well as help to break down organic waste matter.
Species to avoid are large, aggressive types, such as Lionfish, Groupers, Triggerfish, and eels. These are not suitable for life in a tank with Red Clownfish, as these feisty creatures will prey on the clowns.
You should also avoid fish species that are boisterous, strong swimmers that might hassle and stress the weak-swimming clownfish.
Can I Keep Clownfish Together?
You can keep pairs or small groups of Red Sea Clownfish together, provided you have a large enough tank.
However, different species of clownfish can become aggressive toward each other, so we don’t recommend mixing them.
Can I Breed Red Sea Clownfish in the Home Aquarium?
It’s quite easy to breed Red Sea Clownfish in your home tank, provided that you keep the water clean and the conditions are stable.
It can take up to a year for a breeding pair to become established and begin spawning. However, once the pair start breeding, they will continue to produce eggs at regular intervals, laying anywhere from 50 to 500 eggs every month.
Once spawning has taken place and the eggs are laid and fertilized, you’ll need to raise the fry in a separate tank, as other fish and corals will eat the newly born fry within a few hours of them emerging.
After a fortnight, the baby Red Sea Clownfish will seek shelter within the safety of the anemone’s tentacles.
Health and Disease
Red Sea Clownfish are generally healthy creatures, provided that they are provided with clean water, stable conditions, and a suitable diet.
That said, clownfish can be susceptible to Ich, Dropsy, and other common tropical marine fish diseases.
When you buy any new fish, plants, live sand, or live rock, always place them in a quarantine tank and observe the newcomers for any signs of disease before adding them to your main display tank.
Thanks to their popularity and the fact that these fish can be bred in captivity, the Red Sea Clownfish is readily available from good fish stores and online.
You can expect to pay around $30 for a nice specimen.
The Red Sea Clownfish is a beautiful marine fish species that gained fame from its appearance as a character in the Nemo movies.
These fish are relatively straightforward to care for, making them a popular choice with beginners to the saltwater hobby.
Although wild Red Sea Clownfish usually have an anemone as a host, they can be kept without one in the aquarium.
These peaceful fish can live in a fish-only or reef tank setup and get on with other non-aggressive fish, invertebrates, and corals.