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Interesting Facts About Clownfish

Would you like to learn more about clownfish? Clownfish gained popularity because of the Disney films “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory.” Discover many things about the clownfish such as habitat, history, predators, and more!

two clownfish

Physical Description

Most of us recognize the orange clownfish with white stripes that looks like Nemo.  However, clownfish come in a variety of colors. Clownfish colors can be yellow, orange, red, pink, and black. clownfish may have many colorful stripes, a few stripes, or none. There are 30 known species of clownfish.

There are 2 species of clownfish that are orange with white stripes. One is a true clownfish, and one is a false clownfish.  The easiest way to tell the difference between a true and a false clownfish is that the white stripes of a true clownfish are outlined in a thick black line.

clownfish in reef

The clownfish species amphiprion ocellaris are false clownfish. The clownfish species zmphiprion percula are the true clownfish. We will be discussing the true percula clownfish in this article.

Percula clownfish are the most common of all the clownfish species. The percula clownfish is a bright orange fish with three white stripes outlined by black bands. The head, middle, and tail areas each have a stripe.

These clownfish range in length from 3 to 4 inches and usually weigh around 250 grams. Clownfish have a rounded tail and a dorsal fin with spines.


The orange percula clownfish is also known as the clown anemone fish because these clownfish live in sea anemones. The sea anemones are attached to barrier reefs off the coast of Australia and Asia. In summer, clownfish live with anemones in shallow water. In winter, clownfish migrate to the deeper and warmer ocean waters to live with the anemones.

A sea anemone has poisonous tentacles that lure fish, and when a fish approaches, the anemone stings it with its tentacles. Clownfish produce a mucus covering that shields them from the anemones' poison. This gives a clownfish immunity from the anemone's stings.

Symbiotic Relationship

The anemone-clownfish connection is vital for clownfish to survive. The anemone and the clownfish help each other to live. The anemone helps the clownfish because the clownfish eat the anemones' leftover food. The clownfish is also helped by the anemone because the anemone offers the clownfish protection.

Sometimes, a clownfish fools another fish into following it. When the clownfish escapes by swimming into its home, the fish is stung and eaten by the anemone. This is one way the clownfish helps the anemone. The clownfish also helps the anemone by cleaning it of dangerous parasites. The anemone even gets nutrients from clownfish poop!

When two species live by helping each other, it’s called a mutual symbiotic connection.


Clownfish are social fish that live in schools. A school is a group of fish that live together. A school of clownfish is always led by a female. When the female leader dies, the dominant male clownfish turns himself into a female clownfish. This female clownfish then becomes the dominant female in charge of the school.

golden clownfish

Each fish has a specific role in the school. The school has a hierarchy, with the biggest males and females in charge. Each rank in the school is determined by size. Clownfish cooperate with each other and follow their leader. Clownfish make popping and clicking noises to communicate. Communicating in this way helps the school of fish to function better together.


Clownfish are omnivores because they eat both plants and animals. Clownfish eat dead anemone tentacles, small crustaceans, and different kinds of plankton and algae. The clownfish spends most of its time in its Anemone home, eating whatever is available.


Before a female clownfish lays eggs, a male clownfish prepares a spot for the nest on a rock close to their Anemone.  Then the female clownfish will lay between 100 and 1000 eggs. The male fertilizes the small eggs. Each egg is only 1 mm in diameter.

Male clownfish are responsible for most of the egg care. Males guard the eggs and maintain a clean nest. During the 8–12 days it takes for the eggs to hatch, the male clownfish spends more time with them than the female.

brood of clownfish eggs

All clownfish are born male. A male clownfish can become female, but once female, she can't go back to being male.

Baby clownfish are called fry. Once the fry hatch, they are on their own. Clownfish fry look like little bits of black pepper when they are first born. This is because their bodies are clear, so the only thing that is easily seen is their black eyes.

Clownfish juveniles only grow about an inch a year. The average clownfish takes between 2-4 years to mature.


Kingdom: Animalia

Subkingdom: Bilateria

Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia

Phylum: chorus

Subphylum: Vertebrata 

Superclass: Osteichthyes 

Order: Perciformes 

Suborder: Labroidei 

Family: Pomacentridae 

Genus: Amphiprion 

Species: Amphiprion percula


According to scientists, is not yet understood how clownfish are related to other groups of fish. Clownfish have been grouped historically by their physical attributes. Modern genetic tools are being used to see if these identifications are genetically correct.


Clownfish are naturally preyed upon by fish, eels, and sharks. The greatest threat to a clownfish is humans. The Marine Ornamental Trade refers to the practice of catching sea creatures to sell them as pets. People take clownfish from the wild to sell in the Marine Ornamental Trade.

Another threat to the clownfish is habitat loss. While some of their coral reef habitat was lost, we are currently restoring coral reefs

Clownfish will continue to be safe if people don't remove too many from the wild and continue to take care of coral reefs.


In the ocean, a clownfish can live for up to ten years. Clownfish live half as long in captivity as they do in the wild.

school of clownfish

25+ Unusual and Fun Clownfish Facts

  1. Clownfish swim differently than most fish.
  2. A clownfish looks silly when it swims, and this contributes to its name.
  3. Only 10 of the 1000 species of anemone can coexist with the clownfish. 
  4. Clownfish are hermaphrodites because they can be male or female.
  5. Clownfish are omnivores because they eat plants and animals.
  6. Many people adopted pet clownfish when the movie “Finding Nemo” came out.
  7. The real clownfish has black bands outlining its white stripes, but the false clownfish doesn’t.
  8. Nemo from the movies is a false clownfish, or ocellaris.
  9. The clownfish may have been given its name because its stripes look like a clown's makeup.
  10. A clownfish in captivity can eat fish flakes and other fish food.
  11. The longest clownfish species recorded is 7.1 inches.
  12. The smallest clownfish species is 3.9 inches.
  13. Clownfish only venture about 2-4 inches away from their anemone home.
  14. A clownfish will protect its host anemone by driving away fish that eat anemones.
  15. It is better to buy a clownfish raised in captivity than to get a clownfish pet that was raised in the ocean.
  16. There are no clownfish in the Atlantic Ocean.
  17. Clownfish are difficult for predators to find because they hide in their anemone home.
  18. Captive or wild clownfish make up 40% of the Marine Ornamental Trade.
  19. The percula clownfish introduces itself to an anemone by performing a special dance.
  20. Clownfish lay their eggs all year round, usually during a full moon.
  21. Clownfish schools will defend their territory from other clownfish.
  22. When threatened, clownfish become aggressive rather than playful.
  23. When a diver was taking a photograph of an anemone, the hidden clownfish bit him.
  24. The small and flat body of a clownfish is comparable in size to that of a standard teacup. 
  25. Clownfish schools are made up of parents and their offspring.
  26. Clownfish mates are lifelong partners.
  27. Clownfish pairs share their anemone homes with members of their school.
  28. Most clownfish eggs hatch and mature into adults.
  29. A clownfish is also known as an anemonefish.
  30. Sometimes a female clownfish will lay eggs in her anemone home.
  31. Only certain pairs of clownfish and anemones are compatible.
  32. Anemones evolved to host clownfish three different times in history.
  33. Clownfish are difficult to care for and are not recommended as pets for kids.

We hope you enjoyed learning all about clownfish! Was there anything new that you learned? Let us know if you have any clownfish facts to share.  We are always excited to learn new facts about clownfish.

You don't want to miss learning about these cool fish.