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Are Clownfish Aggressive? (And Will They Kill Other Fish?)

Are Clownfish Aggressive? (And Will They Kill Other Fish?)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

There’s a good chance that you’re interested in clownfish if you’ve recently started a saltwater aquarium. After all, clownfish are some of the most popular saltwater fish that you can buy.

They’re colorful fish that are also well-known for being fairly easy to take care of. Saltwater aquariums might be tougher to handle than freshwater ones, but clownfish are at least hardy fish that can survive pretty well.

You should have a good experience with clownfish, but it’s imperative to do your research ahead of time. This is especially true if you’re looking to add clownfish to an existing community saltwater fish tank.

It’s likely going to be good to learn about clownfish aggression. Are clownfish considered to be aggressive fish or are they relatively peaceful?

Continue reading to get all of the information that you need to know. You’ll be prepared to make a good decision for your fish tank once you have all of the details.

How Aggressive Are Clownfish?

Clownfish might look pretty chill, but they’re actually fairly aggressive fish. This doesn’t mean that they go around seeking fights, though.

These fish simply get aggressive under the right circumstances. For example, if another smaller fish invades its part of the fish tank, then the clownfish will choose to attack it to defend its territory.

This is really pretty standard stuff as far as fish go. Many types of fish act this way when other fish invade what they considered to be their territory.

When clownfish don’t have an anemone in the tank, they’re likely going to find a spot in the fish tank and host there. They will just sort of hang out in that specific spot of the fish tank.

If other fish try to bother them, then they might become aggressive. Clownfish are less likely to be aggressive toward fish that they are considered to be compatible with.

Some clownfish are going to be more aggressive than others, too. For example, the maroon clownfish are considered to be among the most aggressive clownfish that you can buy for your aquarium.

Maroon clownfish also happen to be some of the largest clownfish that you’ll find. At maturity, these clownfish can grow to be close to seven inches long.

They still aren’t the most aggressive fish that you can buy for your saltwater tank, but they’re more aggressive than many other clownfish types. You might need to be a bit more careful when picking tank mates for this type of clownfish.

It’s likely going to be worthwhile to look up specific information about the aggression level of your type of clownfish. There are several types of clownfish, and each of them might have slightly different aggression levels.

Do Clownfish Have Teeth?

You will find that clownfish do indeed have teeth. In fact, they have rather strong teeth with powerful jaws.

This means that the bite of the clownfish packs quite a punch when compared to some other fish that are the same size. When clownfish bite something, it’s likely going to cause whatever got bitten to experience pain.

As mentioned earlier, clownfish can be pretty aggressive. This means that they will choose to bite things that invade their territory.

A clownfish might choose to bite at a fish if it gets too close to its favorite spot in the fish tank. Knowing this, you might expect that clownfish will have sharp teeth that can really do some damage.

This actually isn’t the case, though. Clownfish teeth aren’t very sharp at all, but they can hurt things by biting due to the power of their jaws.

So now that you know that clownfish have teeth, it’s going to be clear that you need to be careful. Later on, you’ll learn a bit more about picking appropriate tank mates for the clownfish.

Do Clownfish Bite?

As you likely expect after learning about the aggressive nature of clownfish, they do indeed bite. Clownfish will choose to bite other fish when they invade their territory.

If you don’t do a good job of picking proper tank mates for the clownfish, then this could become a real problem. Thankfully, there are plenty of great tank mate options for clownfish.

That being said, you might be more concerned about whether the clownfish will bite you. Sadly, clownfish will absolutely choose to bite your hand if you try to stick it in the water.

Sometimes you might need to stick your hand in the water when cleaning or removing something from the tank. Doing this can be perilous since the clownfish might choose to bite at you.

Of course, the bite of the clownfish isn’t really going to be that dangerous. In fact, it’ll probably only hurt you a little bit.

You’re certainly going to feel the bite, and it’s not going to be pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not so bad that you’d need to bandage a wound or anything such as that, though.

Only rarely will a clownfish bite draw blood. This could happen if the clownfish manages to bite you deeply, but it’s fairly unlikely.

Unless you’re specifically trying to let the clownfish bite you, it’ll probably only manage to bite you a little. It’ll sting and you’ll probably remove your hand from the water fast.

Will Clownfish Kill Other Fish?

Clownfish might kill other fish if you put them in a fish tank with fish that they aren’t compatible with. A clownfish is going to be much more likely to kill certain types of fish than it will others.

As mentioned earlier, clownfish will be territorial and they will attack smaller fish that enter their domain. The key thing to focus on here is the fact that they will attack smaller fish.

Clownfish are smart enough not to attack larger fish that they know they won’t have a chance against. Of course, you don’t want to put the clownfish in a tank with fish that are much larger who will wind up bullying them.

This should make it clear how important it is to focus on picking good tank mates for the clownfish. If you want to have a peaceful community tank, then you’ll be better off putting some effort into picking out fish that make sense as clownfish tank mates.

Good Tank Mates for Clownfish

If you’re going to keep clownfish in a community fish tank, then you’ll want to pick out proper tank mates for them. Otherwise, you’re going to have a tough time putting up with the aggressive nature of these fish.

Truly, clownfish are good community fish, but you have to put them with fish that they’re compatible with. Otherwise, you’re just going to keep encountering issues in the aquarium.

Luckily, there are lots of excellent fish that will make perfect tank mates for the clownfish. Look below to learn about some of the best options.


One of the most popular types of fish that people like to put in a community tank setting with clownfish is known as the dartfish. These fish are really neat and you’ll love how they look in your aquarium.

Dartfish are extremely peaceful fish when it comes to getting along with other species. They might sometimes fight with each other, though.

The dartfish will make a great tank mate for most clownfish, but really aggressive clownfish such as maroon clownfish and tomato clownfish will be too much for them.

Mandarin Dragonet

Mandarin dragonet fish are truly quite gorgeous. They will be good tank mates for clownfish because of how peaceful they are.

These fish work out nicely in clownfish tanks because they occupy different parts of the tank. The two types of fish won’t come into conflict with each other.

Yellow Tang Fish

Another option to consider is the yellow tang fish. You might have heard that these fish can be a bit aggressive, but they actually do well when placed in a tank with clownfish.

These fish are big enough that they will even be able to be kept in tanks with really aggressive clownfish such as the maroon clownfish. They should look good in the tank with their bold yellow coloration, too.


Blennies are intriguing tank mates for the clownfish that you should know about. They sort of look like small versions of eels in a way.

They hang out at the bottom of the fish tank and should stay away from your clownfish. It’s also nice that they come in many different colors such as black, brown, silver, orange, and yellow.

Red Coris Wrasse

The red coris wrasse is a perfect tank mate for the clownfish. It can stand up to the aggressiveness of the clownfish due to how large it is.

This fish will grow to be up to eight inches long in a home fish tank. It’s a semi-aggressive fish that will hold its own.

You’ll probably find that the clownfish will leave the red coris wrasse alone. Give this fish a shot.

Pygmy Angelfish

Pygmy angelfish are really neat saltwater fish that you’ll love keeping in your fish tank. Angelfish generally get along with clownfish pretty well, and the pygmy angelfish will be one of the best ones that you can choose.

They’re just the right size that they won’t go around bullying the clownfish. Since angelfish can be fairly aggressive, it’s good to be careful about which ones you place in the tank with the clownfish.

The only potential downside is that the pygmy angelfish is not reef-friendly. If that doesn’t matter to you, then this will be a superb choice as a tank mate for your clownfish.

Chromis Damselfish

Chromis damselfish have long been considered to be fantastic tank mates for clownfish. You might not know this, but clownfish are considered to be a type of damselfish.

Many damselfish are very territorial and aggressive. However, the chromis damselfish is different.

This is a peaceful fish that is meant to be kept in a group since they’re schooling fish. You’ll want to own four to six of these fish to keep them happy.

It’s also nice that these fish are hardy and easy to care for. They’re perfect if you’re still a beginner when it comes to saltwater aquariums.

Basslet Fish

The basslet fish will get along very well with clownfish. It is a fish that likes to live in caves, and it’ll defend its cave aggressively.

Clownfish don’t live in caves, so the two types of fish will occupy different parts of the fish tank. Just ensure that you have a little cave area for your basslet fish and it’ll thrive.


Have you ever heard of the butterflyfish? This is a truly interesting type of fish that is considered to be a good match for the clownfish.

You can buy these fish in various color combinations and they grow to be fairly large. At maturity, it’ll be longer than eight and a half inches.

If you’re hoping to find a pretty fish that has an exotic look, then this might be among the best options. It should get along swimmingly with the clownfish, and you’ll enjoy how the butterflyfish looks.

Final Thoughts

You’ve learned that clownfish can be quite aggressive despite how peaceful they often look. These are fish that will get aggressive when other fish enter their territory.

If you don’t carefully choose which fish you’re putting in the aquarium with the clownfish, then you’ll have many problems. The fish might wind up fighting with the other fish in the tank, and it could even injure certain other fish.

Should you choose to follow the advice above, then you will be able to avoid many complications. Just pick one of the many compatible tank mates for the clownfish and things will go nicely.

Don’t worry too much about the clownfish biting you. If you’re concerned about getting hurt by the bite, then you could wear gloves when you need to reach your hands in the aquarium.

This is a very simple solution to the problem that will make it so that you have little to worry about. Clownfish aren’t that hard to take care of, and you should have a great experience even if the fish are a bit feistier than you expected.

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