The clownfish is a type of fish that lives in salt water habitats. It is also called an Anemonefish. Clownfish are typically very bright, orange fish that have three white stripes, one at the head, middle and tail. If you look really closely, you may notice that there are thin black lines around the white stripes. Also, the tips of their fins have a thin black rounded stripe.
Clownfish can grow to be from 2 to 5 inches long. The males tend to be significantly smaller than the females. However, there are various types of clownfish that range in colours from blue to yellow.
Clownfish live in a "symbiotic" relationship with certain anemones. This means they benefit from living with the sea anemone, and the sea anemone benefits from the presence of the clownfish. They are the only fish that are able to live in sea anemones and not get stung by their tentacles. Clownfish are very active fish and are extremely aggressive. Because they are quite active, the clownfish are thought to be "clowning around". They defend their territory and the sea anemone that they live in. Clownfish eat the leftovers from fish on the anemone and algae. The leftovers include copepods, isopods and zooplankton.
The clownfish is best known for its ability to come in contact with the stinging tentacles of the sea anemone, and not be harmed. Not only are the clownfish not harmed by the anemone, they live among the sea anemone and use its tentacles as protection from enemies. The clownfish also feed the anemone by leaving waste that is left behind in its tentacles, or actually gathering the food. This is a perfect example of symbiosis, which is defined as being different species of the animal kingdom living off of each other.
The exciting thing about studying this fish is that it comes in so many different sizes and brilliant colors. There seem to be hundreds of different markings and color combinations. It definitely makes it an eye-catching exhibit. Another thing that uniquely stands out is the active and aggressive nature of the fish. When watching them, it is definitely easy to see how they get their name. Looping through the waving hands of the anemone, they play tag with each other with seemingly endless energy.
The spawning season of the clownfish, a time when they breed, is year round in tropical waters. Males attract the females by courting. Courting behaviours include chasing, biting and extending fins. Clownfish lay their eggs in batches on coral, rock or next to the sea anemone that they call home. The male clownfish will build a nest on the rock or coral near the anemone in order to be provided with protection from predators. Breeding starts by the male chasing the female to the nest where the eggs are released. One hundred to one thousand eggs are laid. The male clownfish guards and protects the eggs until they hatch. They hatch within 4 to 5 days. Clownfish have a few ocean predators, but their greatest threat is humans. People who catch clownfish and keep them as pets in aquariums are making a mistake. There are only ten out of more than one thousand types of anemone that are able to host these fish. Many people put the fish in a tank with the wrong anemone. In captivity, the clownfish can live from 3 to 5 years. In the wild, they live 6 to 10 years.
In a group of clownfish, there is a strict hierarchy of dominance. The largest and most aggressive female is found at the top. Only two clownfish, a male and a female, in a group reproduce through external fertilization. The clownfish are hermaphrodites, meaning that they develop into males first, and when they mature, they become females. Also, as mentioned earlier, more than one clownfish is able to live in a sea anemone. If the female clownfish is removed from the group, such as by death, one of the largest and most dominant males would become a female. The rest of the remaining males will move up a rank on the hierarchy.
This fish eat the anemone's leftovers. It waits until the anemone paralyzes and eats a fish, then helps itself to bits that the anemone leaves uneaten. It also eats dead anemone tentacles and plankton.