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Introducing a Clownfish Pair

I am a reef keeper. I have been growing and selling coral for the last five years.

Creme the Mocha Storm Clownfish in Radioactive Dragon Eye Zoanthids

Creme the Mocha Storm Clownfish in Radioactive Dragon Eye Zoanthids

Types of Clownfish

Clownfish are one of the more common fish kept in the aquarium hobby. They are great beginner fish because they are hardy and "small." They have a ton of personality and will do all sorts of crazy things in the aquarium. Another reason they are so popular is that they are fairly easy to breed in captivity. These new captive-bred clownfish are normally much healthier and better equipped for the aquarium.

In addition to being captive-bred, there is a new trend for designer clowns. These designer fish come with special markings and patterns that are unique and selectively bred.

First, it helps to know which types of clownfish are out there. The common types of clownfish are:

  1. Maroon
  2. Tomato
  3. Percula
  4. Ocellaris.

These are ordered from the largest and most aggressive (maroon) to the smallest and most peaceful (Ocellaris).

Tank Size Recommendations

This is helpful for a few reasons. First, you must match the fish to the proper tank size. While fish may start off small, they grow very quickly. You will want to start with the correct tank size because it is harder to adjust your tanks as they grow. Secondly, if you put too many fish in a tank, they will become more territorial and your clownfish may not pair.

My recommendation is to keep a minimum of 20 gallons for Ocellaris and Percula pairs and 30 gallons for a Maroon or Tomato clownfish. And remember, this is the minimum tank size. There is a chance an Ocellaris (for example) could outgrow its 20-gallon tank. This is common as they mature enough to lay eggs and defend their territory.

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How to Pair Clownfish

Once you have an established tank that is the right size, you can start looking into pairing your clowns. The more aggressive clownfish may not pair easily. . . so be cautious for the new fish's safety.

I have had really great success pairing fish with small habitat containers. Normally, they are sold for something like hermit crabs or reptiles. It's a clear container with a vented top. I put a couple of rocks or magnets at the bottom to hold it down. Then I place it near where the other clown fish's territory. I keep it in there for 1-2 days so they have time to adjust. Normally by the time I release the new fish, they will be ready to pair up.

You may also have success putting two new fish into a tank at the same time. This way neither have territory to defend immediately. This may lead to some conflict as they figure out their pecking order. Most of the time this will be safe, but it is important to watch for fins being nipped. This is more common for the aggressive clown types. If it happens too much, it is safer to take the clownfish out before other fish pick on it too.

Maroon Clownfish hosted by a Long Tentacle Anemone

Maroon Clownfish hosted by a Long Tentacle Anemone

Clownfish and Hosting

Clownfish do not need an anemone to be happy in a tank. But be aware that they may try to be hosted by other objects in the tank. If they choose a coral, chances are they will kill it by rubbing against it or by nipping at it often. Some coral are very hardy and may be able to handle the added stress.

In the picture above, you can see my clownfish happily hiding in a colony of Zoanthids. They are well adjusted to the fish and hardly close when it swims through. There are bare patches on the rocks where the fish picked clean. This is common as they prepare for laying eggs.

Other common items clownfish try to host are algae scrapers and magnets. This is one of the more unnatural items they could pick, but it is a very common story in the hobby.

The two anemones I recommend are bubble tip anemone and long tentacle anemone. Bubble tips are very beautiful and come in many colors. They tend to "pop" under actinic lighting. They can grow large but they are much smaller than most species. Be aware they can split. Long tentacle anemones grow very large and require more room. But I have the best chances of getting one to host a clownfish than any other type of anemone.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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