Clownfish, also known as anemonefish are from the subfamily Amphiprioninae in the family Pomacentridae with 30 recognized species.

All clownfish form symbiotic mutualisms with sea anemones. Coloration depends on the species but are overall yellow, orange, reddish or blackish color. Many show white bars or patches.

The largest can reach a length of 18 cm (7.1″), while the smallest can barely reach 10 cm (3.9″). Clownfish are native to warm waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, and live at the bottom of shallow seas in sheltered reefs or in shallow lagoons.

They are omnivorous, feeding on zooplankton such as copepods and tunicate larvae. In addition they feed on undigested food from their host anemone.  Clownfish and sea anemones provide a number of benefits to each other. The sea anemone protects the fish from predators. Additionally they provide food through the scraps left from the anemone’s meals and the occasional dead anemone tentacles. In return, the clownfish defends the anemone from predators and parasites.

The anemone also picks up nutrients from the clownfish’s excrement, and functions as a safe nest site. Clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that they develop into males first, and when they mature, they become females. If the female clownfish is removed from the group, such as by death, one of the largest and most dominant males will become a female, the remaining males moving up a rank in the hierarchy.

The dominant male and female in an anemone will lay and fertilize eggs which are attached to the substrate. Often they are laid under a fold of the anemone or close to its foot. The male cares for the eggs and both will protect the area. Even divers are not safe and they will deliver hard nips to anything which comes within three or four meters of the nest.

By squeezing their swim bladders clownfish are able to emit sounds. These sounds are used in protecting the anemone and their eggs. The sounds are also used to reinforce social hierarchy in the group.


Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:        Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class:            Actinopterygii
Order:           Perciformes
Family:        Pomacentridae
Subfamily:  Amphiprioninae


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