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Clownfish: the Most Popular Fish Under the Sea
Learn more about these funny marine creatures
Clownfish were made famous by the 2003 animated movie "Finding Nemo." Nemo, a Clownfish goes missing and his father Martin goes on a great adventure to get him back. Now the terms "Nemo" and "Clownfish" and "Anemone Fish" are almost interchangeable but of course, "Clownfish" is the more official term used by scuba divers, snorkelers and underwater sea creature aficionados around the world. They are really loveable critters because of the way that they protect their territory in an anemone by darting rapidly back and forth in a kind of frantic way; clownfish always seem so busy like they have a million things that they need to do.
There are 28 species of Clownfish, ranging in size from 10-18cm, with their coloration being orange, red, black, yellow, with white patches or stripes. The live in the warmer Pacific and Indian Oceans in sheltered reefs or shallow lagoons.
What do Clownfish Eat?
Clownfish and Sea Anemones have a symbiotic relationship (both parties benefit) and the Clownfish diet is reflective of this fact. These creatures feed on small invertebrates which could harm the anemone, as well as undigested anemone food, and in turn, the anemone thrives on the fecal matter of the Clownfish. In addition to these things related to anemone plants, Nemos also eat algae (around 25% of their diet), plankton, mollusks, and crustaceans.
What do you love about Clownfish?
Webkinz Clownfish: the perfect gift for the Finding Nemo fan in your life
Clownfish and Sea Anemones: A Symbiotic Relationship
These 2 species are an amazing example of how animals in the wild form partnerships that offer mutual benefits to each other. Both provide food to each other, as well as protecting each other from predators. It's thought that the bright coloration of the Clownfish attracts small fish to the anemone, which it feeds on. The Clownfish cleans parasites from the anemone, while the anemone provides a safe nesting spot for the Clownfish. Anemones are poisonous to most animals, but the Clownfish is protected by a special mucus coating on their skin, as well as protection through co-evolution.
Clownfish on a Mozambique Reef
Within Clownfish groups, there is a strict hierarchy, with only a single female and a single male reproducing with the rest of the fish supporting them. The female lays her eggs near the Anemone and the male externally fertilizes them with his sperm. The male guards the eggs and 6-10 days later they hatch into little baby clownfish.
Clownfish are hermaphrodites, with all animals starting out as males and then becoming females later in life if necessary. This happens only when the top female in a group dies, and a male will become a female to take her place.
Clownfishes and Other Damselfishes
Clownfish in Captivity
Clownfish are very popular aquarium animals and they are first ornamental marine species to be bred in captivity on a large scale. Tank raised fish make a better choice for aquarium enthusiasts since they are more disease resistant, and the wild ones often die from the stress of capture and transport.
One problem with them is that tank-raised Nemos often have to be coaxed to live in the Anemone since they often lack the natural instinct to do so and even when they do, there is no guarantee that the anemone will accept them. In aquariums, Clownfish can live for 3-5 years.