The Clownfish.

Is it a true nemo ? 

The most recognizable of all reef-dwelling fish is the clownfish with its striking orange colors and three distinct, black outlined white bars along their head, side, and tail. Otherwise known as clown anemonefish, these marine fish are one of 28 different species that make anemones their homes. These fish were popularized by the films Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. However, Nemo and Marlin are technically the false Percula (Amphiprion ocellaris), which are nearly identical to clownfish but lack the thick black outline around their white stripes. Only marine life experts would be able to tell the difference.

In the Wild

Scientifically known as Amphiprioninae, the clownfish is native to the shallow waters of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the western Pacific. This colorful fish lives in multicolored anemones, which are carnivorous invertebrates that are close relatives to coral and jellyfish. These anemones can sting fish with their venom-filled tentacles, which makes their relationship to clownfish even more spectacular.

Clownfish, like other anemonefish, have a mucus coating on their scales that protects them from the sea anemone’s sting. Before making an anemone its home, clownfish will touch its body to the anemone’s tentacles until they are used to each other. Because their acclimation takes time, the clownfish’s consistent and elaborate movements are sometimes referred to as a dance.

Once fish and anemone are settled, they have a very symbiotic relationship. The anemone provides the clownfish protection from predators, and in turn, the clownfish will ward off intruders, clean its host, and remove parasites. In addition, they eat small crustaceans, worms, and algae, which are found close to their home anemone.

In the Tank

Though they are primarily known for being orange and white, clownfish can be many different color combinations, including yellow, black, and maroon. These fish can live between 6 and 10 years and can grow to be a little over 4 inches, which makes them the perfect size for an aquarium. However, because clownfish tend to live in schools, a minimum of a 20 gallon tank that can accommodate larger rocks and coral is suggested.

Though often paired with anemones, tank clownfish do not require the symbiotic relationship with anemones to survive. However, young fish will need to have caves to hide in until they are bigger. Because clownfish live with a variety of fish in the wild, they can usually be paired with other reef-dwelling species. Their wild diet can also be replicated with brine shrimp or other small crustaceans.

All clownfish are similar sizes and colors as they are all born male. They can irreversibly change their sex in order to become a dominant female in a group, which can make breeding in captivity easier.

But still Nemo

With their lifestyles, habitats, and appearance, clownfish and false clownfish are nearly indistinguishable. While knowing Nemo isn’t a true clownfish may be an interesting bit of trivia to talk about with your aquarist friends, Nemo will remain a clownfish, nonetheless, forever in our hearts.

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