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Amphiprion frenatus, Tomato Clownfish. Scott W. Michael

Family: Pomacentridae

Species in Genus Amphiprion:

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM


Anemonefishes make wonderful additions to the reef aquarium. The only threat they pose to invertebrates is that an occasional individual may eat an ornamental shrimp (or shove it into its host sea anemone), feed on tubeworms, or adopt a coral as a surrogate host. This latter behavior may prove detrimental to the health of large-polyped stony corals if the fish constantly wallows among the coral polyps, causing them to contract and impede the coral’s feeding behavior.

Anemonefishes occasionally nip at the polyps of large-polyped stony corals, but are less likely to do this if a host sea anemone is present. For the most part, however, they are trouble-free members of a reef community and will eat most foods.

Although a host sea anemone is not necessary to the keeping of an anemonefish, many aquarists want to establish this symbiotic relationship in captivity. Be aware that some host sea anemones are difficult to keep, will sting sessile invertebrates, and may be prone to moving around the tank. Do your research carefully before purchasing a host sea anemone.

Most anemonefishes can fend for themselves with other fishes. The larger species can be very aggressive, harassing and even causing the death of more docile tankmates. The more diminutive species are occasionally picked on by larger tankmates, especially if they are kept without a host anemone.

When keeping conspecifics, it is best to acquire a pair. These fishes are protandric hermaphrodites (transforming from males into females). If you acquire two juveniles, the most dominant will develop into a female, while the subordinate will become a male. When a group of conspecifics is added to a tank, a dominance hierarchy will form with the largest being most dominant, followed by the next largest and so on. In groups, it is not uncommon for the most subordinate individual to be picked on until it either wastes away or ends up hiding in the corner of the tank.

If you mix different anemonefish species in a larger tank, be aware that some species are more aggressive than others. Behavioral problems are more likely to occur if the various species are kept with a single host anemone.

A word of caution: quarantine your anemonefishes before adding them to your display tank. Brook­lynella or Amyloodinium is difficult to treat in the reef aquarium.

See also: Wild-caught Clownfishes (Anemonefishes)