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Clownfish

Amphiprion percula (aka Anemonefish)

clownfish

Description

There are 28 known species of clownfish, but the most commonly known variety is bright orange with three distinctive white bars; most other species are also brightly colored and marked, but the specific colors and markings vary. The type species grows to a length of about 4 inches, while other species range in length from barely 3 to a little over 7 inches.

Distribution and Habitat

All species of clownfish live on the tropical coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and western Pacific; there are no clownfish native to the eastern Pacific or Atlantic oceans. The alternate name "anemonefish" refers to the fact that clownfish make their homes among the tentacles of sea anemones. All species of anemones possess deadly poisonous stingers, but clownfish have a layer of mucus on their skin that protect them from the stings, and they are the only fish able to live among anemones. The anemone therefore provides protection for the clownfish, by making it all but impossible for predators to get at the clownfish without getting stung by the anemone in the process. But the relationship between clownfish and anemone is not one-sided, as the clownfish's movements help keep water circulating around the anemone and deters potential anemone predators. In addition, clownfish keep their host anemone clean by gobbling up tidbits of undigested food left over from an anemone meal and by clearing the anemone of dead tentacles.

Diet

Clownfish feed on algae, plankton, mollusks and small crustaceans, as well as the leftovers from anemone meals and dead anemone tentacles.

Life Habits

Clownfish live in strict hierarchial groups consisting of one breeding pair and a few non-breeding males. All clownfish are born male, but when the breeding female in a group is lost the highest ranking male in the group will develop female reproductive organs and take her place; once the dominant male has assumed the female role he/she can never go back to being a male. The new female will then choose a new dominant male from the rest of the group to mate with, and all other members of the group will move up in rank accordingly.

Spawning may occur any time of the year, but is concentrated around the full moons. The female will lay hundreds or thousands of eggs (depending on species) on a flat surface near her host anemone, after which the male fertilizes them. The eggs will be guarded by both parents until they hatch 6-10 days later, and the male will often guard the fry for a few days after hatching.

Clownfish can live 6-10 years in the wild.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
superclass Osteichthyes
class Actinopterygii
order Perciformes
family Pomacentridae
genus & species Amphirion percula (and others)

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Fishes >> Class Actinopterygii

This page was last updated on October 30, 2017.