Home | Aquarium Livestock | Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Anemone – Clownfish and Anemone Preference

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Anemone – Clownfish and Anemone Preference

Some of the most common questions we get from customers are about the relationship between clownfish and anemones (especially after the release of a certain animated movie several years ago). Aquarists see that relationship and want to replicate it in their own aquarium, only to find that the clownfish and anemone they brought home don’t seem to want anything to do with one another. “Why is that?!”, many ask. “I thought they couldn’t live without each other!” The truth is….they can. Anemones don’t need clownfish and clownfish don’t need the anemone, especially in aquariums where (hopefully) they don’t have any predators to hide from. In the wild, the anemone’s stinging tentacles give the clownfish somewhere to hide from and the clownfish’s messy diet gives the anemones some extra food (although there have been reports of clownfish actively feeding their anemones, but that’s another blog).

So, what can you do to increase the chances of making a successful match? Choose the right anemone! Not all anemones and clownfish are found together in nature and some clownfish have very picky tastes when it comes to where they want to live. Some clownfish, especially tankraised fish that might have been captive-bred for many generations, may never choose to host in an anemone, but choosing one they are more likely to prefer will increase your chances. Here are some of the more common aquarium anemones and some of the common clownfish that prefer them:

Anemone Clownfish
Bubbletip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)
  • Maroon Clownfish, Goldstripe Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus)
  • Fire Clownfish (Amphiprion ephippium)
  • Tomato Clownfish (A. frenatus)
  • Cinnamon Clownfish (A. melanopus)
  • Clark’s Clownfish (A. clarkii)
  • Allardi Clownfish (A. allardii)
  • Twoband Clownfish (A. bicinctus)
Long-tentacle Anemone (Macrodactyla doreensis)
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish (A. perideraion)
  • Clark’s Clownfish (A. clarkii)
  • Saddleback Clownfish (A. polymnus)
  • Percula Clownfish (A. percula)
  • Maroon Clownfish, Goldstripe Maroon Clownfish (P. biaculeatus)
Sebae Anemone (Heteractis crispa)
  • Percula Clownfish (A. percula)
  • Saddleback Clownfish (A. polymnus)
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish (A. perideraion)
  • Cinnamon Clownfish (A. melanopus)
  • Clark’s Clownfish (A. clarkii)
  • Twoband Clownfish (A. bicinctus)
Carpet Anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni, S. gigantea, S. mertensii)
  • Ocellaris Clownfish (A. ocellaris)
  • Percula Clownfish (A. percula)
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish (A. perideraion)
  • Orange Skunk Clownfish (A. sandaracinos)
  • Clark’s Clownfish (A. clarkii)
  • Allardi Clownfish (A. allardii)
  • Twoband Clownfish (A. bicinctus)
Magnificent Anemone (Radianthus magnifica)
  • Ocellaris Clownfish (A. ocellaris)
  • Percula Clownfish (A. percula)
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish (A. perideraion)
  • Cinnamon Clownfish (A. melanopus)
  • Twoband Clownfish (A. bicinctus)
Condy (Condylactis gigantea), Curlyque Anemone (Bartholomea annulata); Tube Anemone (Cerianthus membranaceous) None! These anemones, though very common in the aquarium trade are not clownfish hosts. In fact, they can be dangerous to and even eat some fish.

Of course, this list is just a guideline of anemone preferences in the wild. In aquariums, many clownfish may host in anemones other than those listed here, especially Bubbletip, Long-tentacle and Carpet Anemones. They may even choose corals or other inverts (we had a maroon clown in a display tank a few years ago that bonded with a Feather Duster Worm). Don’t be discouraged if your clownfish doesn’t go into an anemone – it may change its mind down the road, and if not, you still have two awesome animals in your tank!

Until next time,

Eileen

15 comments

  1. avatar

    Very interesting post and useful information for seeing some real life Nemo action, will be following your work

  2. avatar

    hi i’m tiffany i have had my two clown fish for over a year. i just bought a sebra anemone, and it is too small too host both fish i hope it grow bigger in time, but i have notice the male one is swimming above it just not touching it and wont leave it is that a sign that there almost ready to host eachother.

  3. avatar

    Hi Tiffany, I would say that’s a pretty positive sign that your clowns are interested in the anemone. Just keep an eye on them, chances are you’ll see them interact more soon! Good luck!

  4. avatar

    Hi, I am new to saltwater fish. I just got my first clowns. I have a black & white one that just swims up & down in the same spot. I also have the normal orange striped one that is doing just fine. Has anyone seen this happen before? I don’t know if something is wrong with it. Help

  5. avatar

    Not uncommon behavior for clownfish…do you have hosts in the tank? If the clowns are different species, have you seen any aggression of one towards the other? If they aren’t being aggressive towards one another, it mak just take a little time for the restless one to find a place in the tank where he’s comfortable.

  6. avatar

    I have a question about some Anemones that have shown up in my tank. I have a pic of them if I can send it to you and please let me know what kind they are. They seem to be growing fast and doing well in my saltwater tank

  7. avatar

    Hi Tom – Sure, not problem. Just send an email with your images to custservice@thatpetplace.com and we’ll take a look.

  8. avatar

    I have a white anemone, for 2 months. I recently observed it having a blue tint to it. What does this mean?

  9. avatar

    Hello Debbie, It sounds like your anemone bleached a couple months ago when it turned white and its starting to get some of the zooxanthellae back into its tissue….that’d be a good thing for the health of the anemone! The color can change and is usually a result of lighting, water conditions, and other factors so its possible that the blue tint may develop or even change into a purple or green color.

  10. avatar

    I just bougth a blue tip anamone.Its tin.or not long will it be ok?

  11. avatar

    Hello Richard, I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are trying to ask. If you could elaborate or rephrase your question, we’d be happy to try to help you. You can also call the Fish Room at 717-299-5691 and speak with a fish room employee.

  12. avatar

    hello my fish place,i have maroon clown fish,but i have him in 10 gal tank,with 2 damsels,my ? is,if i put a buble tip anome in tank ,will the anome outgrow my 10 gal tank,thnx dennis o

  13. avatar

    Hello Dennis, Smaller tanks can be more difficult because the water parameters can change quickly since it is a small volume of water. It is possible that the anemone may grow too large, but those water parameters are more of a risk. Also, keep an eye on your fish. Maroon Clowns are notoriously very aggressively territorial, as are some damsels. That is a pretty small tank to have three territorial fish and you will likely start to see some fighting between them. Clownfish tend to get even more territorial if they are defending an anemone.

  14. avatar

    Hello Eileen,
    If a Heteractis crispa xxl size are going up in a stream pump and be squeezed in the water in a 2500 gallon tank, will this kill the fish?
    I have had a anemone who do that and all fish was dead after two days. Have this anemone so much “poison” so it can kill all fish in a so big tank? The water volume with filter system is around 3000 gallon.

    Thank a lot for answers. You can also answer me on my email.

    Thanks,
    Morten

  15. avatar

    Hi Morton, I wouldn’t expect an anemone to directly “poison” a tank but it is possible that by getting sucked into the filter, it might have clogged up the filtration and decreased its efficiency or killed off some of the beneficial bacteria, or the anemone dying in the filtration and getting redistributed into the aquarium may have affected the water quality as well. Having the results of water tests both before and after the issue (at least pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate) would be helpful. Also, were the fish showing any symptoms before they died? Changes in behavior or appearance, etc.? What type and how how many fish died? How large was this “xxl” anemone? At any rate, I would certainly check the water quality and address any issues after the large die-off and make sure the filter is working correctly and any remaining carcasses or debris from the anemone has been removed.

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About Eileen Daub

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Marine Biologist/Aquatic Husbandry Manager I was one of those kids who said "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up!"....except then I actually became one. After a brief time at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I graduated from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2004. Since then, I've been a marine biologist at That Fish Place - That Pet Place, along with a Fish Room supervisor, copywriter, livestock inventory controller, livestock mail-order supervisor and other duties here and there. I also spent eight seasons as a professional actress with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and in other local roles. If that isn't bad enough, I'm a proud Crazy Hockey Fan (go Flyers and go Hershey Bears!).