How To Care For Clownfish – A Complete Guide

Clownfish have become popular aquarium fish, in part, because of the movie Finding Nemo. Nemo is what is called an Ocellaris, or false clownfish. They are sometimes also called clown anemonefish.

There are a total of 30 species of clownfish and they make their homes in coral reefs in Australia and Southeast Asia. Anemonefish come in a variety of colors; pink yellow, red, brown, black, and even multi-colored.

Clownfish are saltwater fish that need at least 30 gallons of water. It must stay between 74-78 degrees and they need to have hiding places in the tank. This makes the clownfish feel safe. They are omnivores, so they need a varied diet of meat and plants. Live food, frozen food, and flakes or pellets.

 Because they are saltwater fish you need to house them in saline water, using ½ cup of aquarium salt per one gallon of water. If fed and cared for properly, you will only need to feed them once a day; IF they are the only fish in the tank. 

Today, we are going to delve into the unique clownfish. I will give you background, tank set-up, water conditions, food choices, and other essential information. The clownfish are beautiful, colorful, saltwater fish that are easy to care for. But taking care of saltwater fish is a little different than our normal freshwater fish. 

Clownfish Basics

There are 6 main groups of clownfish, with 30 separate species. The six groups are:

  • Clarkii
  • Maroon
  • Percula
  • Saddleback
  • Skunk
  • Tomato

Each group is a complex that houses a separate group of closely related species of clownfish that can interbreed with one another. 

The Saddleback Complex consists of three species of clownfish. The Sebae clownfish (clown anemonefish) is the most recognized because it is orange with black and white stripes.

These clownfish can cost anywhere from $15 to $50 depending on where you purchase them from. Remember, saltwater fish are more expensive than freshwater fish.

The saddleback and the skunk complex are the 2 groups that are most reliant on the Anemone for food and protection. But if you make sure they have a secure hiding place or coral, then they are going to be just fine without the Anemone. But you will very rarely see them out swimming because they do not care for the open water. 

The temperament of a clownfish is peaceful. In your aquarium, with proper care, they can live to be 6 years old. The clownfish only reaches four inches long, so a 30-gallon tank will house two perfectly. But, just like the betta fish, you can not have two clownfish in the same tank.

They tend to get aggressive and fight with each other. But there is plenty of other fish that you can house with your clownfish, and we will cover those a little bit later. You always want to research a new fish, to make sure it will be compatible with your tank, no matter what kind of fish you have. 

Because the clownfish are weak swimmers, they need places to hide and feed, because of this, they tend to only swim up and down, close to the ‘space’. You will never see your clownfish swimming back and forth, the length of the tank. They will usually claim a small spot in the tank that has a slow or weak current; only leaving this spot if you introduce an Anemone to the tank. In the wild, they find most of their food around the Anemones. 

Because Anemones are much harder to take care of and keep alive than a clownfish, it is recommended that you do not try to add an Anemone for quite awhile.

Getting used to keeping fish in a saltwater tank happy and healthy is better than trying to introduce an Anemone and a clownfish. Your clownfish WILL survive without the Anemone, even though they tend to stick to one when in the ocean. 

Clownfish Tank Requirements

In the wild, clownfish are not normally found below 40-feet. They stick to Anemones that are protected by coral and rock from the current. Clownfish love the warm water and the coral reefs in the ocean. If you are wanting an Anemone as a tank mate for your clownfish, you will need to purchase the Anemone first. You will also have to build your tank around the Anemone because they are harder to keep than clownfish. Clownfish do not require any type of special lighting but an Anemone will. 

An Anemone will also need a larger tank, 50-gallon, minimum. Clownfish need a 20-gallon minimum, but a 30-gallon is better. They prefer their water temperature to be between 74-78 degrees, so you will need to make sure you have a heater. You will also want to purchase a thermometer so that you can keep a close eye on the water temperature (check it when you feed them).

You must also keep the tank with a pH balance of 7.8 – 8.4. Clownfish also need a gravity of 1.021 – 1.026. To keep changes in water quality to a minimum, keep extra water in the tank or the sump. The optimum layout for a clownfish is a balance of hiding places and swimming space. 

For their hiding places, you can purchase and stack rock, to make a cave-like structure; or you can just purchase the tank decorations that already look like a cave or an abandoned ship (or something similar). A lot of people feel that making a cave-like structure out of rocks, is more natural, and makes the fish feel more at home.

You always want an aquarium to resemble how a fish lives in nature, at least as close as you can get it. Added coral for your clownfish to hide in or behind will work as well as a cave-like structure made out of rock. 

The lighting that comes with an all-in-one tank kit, is sufficient for your clownfish. They do not need any type of special or bright lights. A regular LED light is just perfect for them. As with all other fish, you want to have your lights off for 12 hours a day, for “resting”. If it is easier for you, or if you are going to be away for over 24 hours, you can get a timer so that your lights will turn off after 12 hours of being on and vice-versa. 

Clownfish and Food

As stated earlier, clownfish are omnivores. They need a balance of plants and meats to obtain all of the vitamins and nutrients. In their natural habitat: they will eat small crustaceans, algae, copepods, fish eggs, and larvae. In an aquarium, to mimic the live diet is to feed them Mysis or Brine shrimp.

You can also give them frozen fish or table shrimp (finely chopped). Spirulina flakes or pellets will provide them the vegetables they need if you have a tank with low algae levels. Only feed them what they can eat in three minutes, twice a day.

Clownfish Care Mini Guide

Clownfish are easy to care for as well as hardy fish, but without regular care and monitoring, they can become sick. The water parameters need to be constant. You need to monitor your tank closely. The quicker you detect something amiss, the quicker you can get it corrected. Make sure you are checking your pH, gravity, and temperature daily. 

You will need to perform a 15% water change once a week. Make sure to remove any excess food with a siphon. This will prevent nitrite/nitrate sickness and algal growth.

Clownfish can heal fairly quickly from minor setbacks, but they are still just as susceptible to Ich or Dropsy, as any other species of fish. During water changes, you also need to make sure you are cleaning your filtration system. This only takes about 5-7 minutes and makes a huge difference in the water quality. 

Life Cycle Of A Clownfish

Which Fish Are Compatible With Clownfish

Clownfish only reach about 4-inches long, and they are slow-moving, peaceful fish. You do not want to place them with aggressive, larger fish (lionfish or grouper), but with other calm and peaceful fish. They do very well in a fish-only tank, a tank with live (or no) rocks, community tanks, or full reef tanks. Below are a few of the species of fish that will make a good roommate for your clownfish. 

  • Angelfish
  • Dartfish
  • Damselfish
  • Soft or hard corals
  • Gobies
  • Marine invertebrates

You do not want to have two clownfish in the same tank, especially different species of clownfish, as mentioned above, they can be aggressive towards each other. But you could have a great mixture of the fish above, with your clownfish. Choose 3 or 4 Angelfish, or 2 or 3 Gobies to have in the tank with your clownfish. You will have beautiful, colorful, peaceful fish to enjoy.

A Couple Clownfish Fun Facts

  1. Clownfish can change gender. Every clownfish is born as a male fish. If they so choose, they can change to a female (but can not change back). Females are the dominant fish in the clownfish species. They will also be the biggest, followed by a semi-dominant male.
  1. Clownfish develop Anemone immunity over time. The clownfish will make itself immune to the toxins in the Anemone by brushing certain parts of its body against it. This forms a protective mucus on the clownfish. This action also bonds the clownfish to the Anemone and they then have a symbiotic relationship.
  1. The biggest threat to the clownfish is the destruction of the coral reef habitats. 15% to 30% disappeared in this generation alone.
  1. The dorsal fin is lined with 11 spines
  1. Clownfish are born with clear or transparent skin and their color and markings are obtained over time. 


Clownfish add beauty to any saltwater set-up. There is a wide variety of colors of clownfish, depending on what species you choose. From orange, red, yellow, brown, black, and more. They are hardy, yet small and very easy to care for. This makes it one of the most popular saltwater tank fish for beginners. Each species has its unique personality and dynamic. There are millions of reef tank (saltwater aquarium) owners, that have a clownfish as part of the set-up. They are spunky, beautiful, and are relaxing to sit and watch after a long day at work.


I'm passionate about fish pets and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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