anemone and, being highly territorial,
will chase away unwelcome fishes that
might otherwise try to eat it.
Contrary to this close clownfish/anemone
relationship, it is possible to keep
many anemone species alone and vice
versa, although you will not see the
normal behaviour patterns displayed in
the wild. It is normal practice in the
aquarium to have one anemone per pair of
clownfish. Large aquariums may house
several pairs, whereas smaller tanks
should house only one pair.
As well as having a close
relationship with an anemone, these
fishes have an even more bizarre
characteristic. It is believed that
clownfish start life as males and as
they grow, the most dominant one in the
group will transform and become a
Clownfish will breed freely in an
appropriate tank, although raising the
‘fry’ requires more specialist care. For
their best chance of survival they
should be transferred to a separate tank
away from the other fish.
No specialist food is required for
clownfish, other than a variety of good
quality fish foods, which range from
live, frozen and dried products. They
are rather messy eaters and generally
eat their food amongst the anemone’s
tentacles, spilling food and feeding the
anemone at the same time.
Sharing the same family as the
anemonefishes, they are extremely hardy
fish, which live in the coral reefs
around the coral. They wait for the
current to bring in food and dash back
into the coral for safety whenever they
feel threatened. Easy to keep,
damselfishes come in many
similar-looking colours, making
identification of the species very
difficult, even for the expert. However,
this is of no real importance as most
members of the family have the same
These fish were once traditionally
used to mature filters, however, the
high ammonia and nitrate levels that
accompany an immature filter can cause
stress to damselfishes leaving them open
Like anemonefishes, damselfishes
appear to have some kind of immunity to
anemone tentacles, as they are often
seen swimming in and out of them. Unlike
anemonefishes, damselfishes are often
aggressive, being intolerant of their
own and other species.
There are no clear distinctions
between the two sexes and eggs are laid
over a pre-prepared site and guarded by
the male until they hatch.
The Common Clownfish, Amphiprion
Ocellaris, is probably the most popular
of all clownfishes. Photographs of this
fish, with host anemone, are seen all
over the world and are possibly what
instigates the ‘must’ to start a marine
The striking colouration of this fish
from the Indo-Pacific makes it quite
unforgettable. However, it very closely
resembles another species, A.Percula,
which opens a debate as to whether they
are a different species, or simply
colour variations of the same one.
This species is the least aggressive
of the clownfish family and will
tolerate other members of the same
species in their tank. They tend not to
do well when kept singly, especially
without an anemone, so it is best to
keep them in pairs with a host anemone –
the carpet anemones being their
preferred host species.
This is the first marine aquarium
fish to be successfully raised in
captivity. Provided that suitable rocks
are provided for the eggs to be laid,
mated pairs of clownfish will typically
spawn every ten to fourteen days and the
eggs will hatch in about seven to eight
days. When mature they can reach about
50mm/2in when kept in an aquarium.
This species needs to be fed small or
finely chopped foods: brine shrimps,
mysids, bloodworms and chopped
musselmeat, but if tempted, will
probably accept many dried and flaked
The Tomato Clownfish, Amphiprion
Frenatus, is found throughout the South
China Sea and as far north as Japan.
This bright cherry red fish brings a
splash of colour and beauty to any
This species of clownfish is very
hardy and undemanding and can live quite
happily without an anemone. In captivity
it will reach a length of about
75mm/3in, but as it matures it can
become aggressive, so it is best to
introduce this fish last to a community.
There is again some confusion over
the identification of this species, as
some authorities call this fish, A.
ephippium, or A. melanopus. It is partly
due to the white stripe, which in A.
ephippium diminishes as it matures.
The spawning and hatching times are
the same as the Common Clownfish. They
are bold feeders and will accept: small
crustaceans, small live foods, algae and
Pink Skunk Clownfish
The Pink Skunk Clownfish, Amphiprion
Perideraion, comes from the Pacific
Ocean and definitely requires a host
anemone in order to survive in an
aquarium. It has a vertical bar and pink
hue, which help to distinguish it from
similar white-backed species. Males
display an orange edging on part of the
dorsal fin and the top and bottom of the
This species requires an adequately
sized aquarium in order to house sea
anemones and is best kept with
invertebrates away from boisterous
species. As it is a small, shy fish -
around 38mm/1.5in in captivity - and not
such a bold feeder, it will require
finely chopped foods.
Clark’s Anemonefish, Amphiprion
Clarkii, is a highly popular aquarium
species from the Indo-Pacific. The
colour of this species is determined by
its location, but generally it has a
dark brown body, yellow ventral regions
and yellow fins, except for the paler
caudal fins. There are two tapering
white vertical bars, which divide the
body into thirds. They are very closely
related to the ‘Sebae’ Clownfish and it
is difficult to tell them apart.
This species is extremely hardy and
long-lived and will accept any aquarium
food. They grow to about 75mm/3in in the
aquarium and make a good community fish,
which may be kept with, or without a
The Blue Damselfish, Abudefduf
Cyaneus, is one of many blue
damselfishes, but this one has more
synonyms than most. There are a number
of species identical to this stunning
blue fish and even a trained eye cannot
tell them apart.
They are commonly found around the
Indo-Pacific area and will grow up to
about 50mm/2in in the aquarium. They are
bold feeders and will readily accept
finely chopped meats and dried food.
This species is hardy and long-lived and
makes a perfect addition to any
aquarium, although they are rather
quarrelsome by nature and will squabble
with their own kind - so they are best
keep singly, or in shoals of around six.
The Neon Damselfish, Abudefduf
Oxydon, is a jet-black fish with blue
flashes, which fade with age. It is
likened to neon lights against a night
sky, hence its name Neon Damselfish.
This species comes from the Pacific
and reaches a length of around 75mm/3in
in the aquarium. It requires finely
chopped meats and algae along with good
water quality. Aggressive by nature,
they are best kept alone.
The Sergeant Major, Abudefduf
Saxatilis, is less quarrelsome than
other members of its family. It comes
from the Indo-Pacific and tropical
Atlantic and it is these, which flock
around tourist boats waiting for scraps
of food to fall overboard.
This species is a plankton-feeder,
but it will also feed on algae and
accept any aquarium food. It is very
hardy and poses no threat to other
members of the aquarium.
The geographical location of the
individual determines their exact colour.
It has a yellow/silvery body with five
vertical dark bars - youngsters have
bright yellow upper-parts on a silver
body. If the fish is disturbed these
colours may be lost. Males change colour
and an ovipositor appears from the vent
during spawning. Eggs will be laid on
shells, coral or rocks.
Yellow-tailed Blue Damselfish
The Yellow-tailed Blue Damselfish,
Pomacentrus Violascens, comes from the
Pacific and is probably the most
commonly kept damselfish. They will
thrive well in captivity, but fare
better in groups, as they can become
quarrelsome when kept singly or in
This species is very similar to P.
melanochir, but is distinguishable by
the yellow markings on the tips of the
dorsal and anal fins. The yellow on the
caudal fin does not spread as far onto
the body as it does with P. melanochir.
This is a good community fish that
will reach about 50mm/2in in the
aquarium. It is a plankton feeder and
will fare well when fed with shrimps and
Although a real pleasure to keep, with
many amazing species of fish to choose
from, for those just starting out with
an aquarium, it is best to begin with a
freshwater tank and gain experience
before moving on to a marine tank.