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Can Clownfish Change Gender? (Everything You Need to Know)

Can Clownfish Change Gender? (Everything You Need to Know)

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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.

Learning about clownfish is imperative if you want to have a good experience taking care of them. You probably already know that clownfish are popular and that they are aesthetically pleasing fish.

It’s possible that you might have heard some other interesting tidbits about these fish. For example, someone might have told you that clownfish are capable of changing gender.

Is this actually true? Or is that just a rumor?

Read on to learn about whether clownfish can gender. You’ll get all of the information about this topic so that you can have a full understanding.

Once you’ve learned more about clownfish, it might make it easier for you to decide which clownfish you should purchase. You’ll also be able to inform any friends that might be misunderstanding what clownfish are truly capable of doing in regards to changing gender.

Clownfish Can Indeed Change Gender

Clownfish are indeed capable of changing gender. In fact, this is the normal way that clownfish reproduce.

This doesn’t mean that clownfish change their gender constantly, though. They change their genders for a reason, and this is something that just happens once.

To better understand how and why clownfish do this, you’re going to need to dig deeper into this topic. Below, you’ll get more detailed information about the gender-changing process.

While clownfish aren’t the only fish that are capable of doing something like this, it’s still very interesting to learn about. You just might gain a greater appreciation for the fish after you’ve read everything that you need to know.

How Do Clownfish Change Gender?

Multiple Clownfish

Clownfish change gender naturally. Clownfish are born male, and the largest one is going to become the female.

Some dispute this and say that all clownfish are born gender-neutral. The distinction doesn’t make a big difference because all fish that aren’t the female in the group will wind up taking on submissive roles.

You’ll also learn more about the specifics of clownfish biology later on. For now, the focus is on how clownfish change gender.

When it comes to clownfish, the females are the dominant fish. Female clownfish are the ones that are larger and more aggressive.

Male clownfish wind up being submissive to the female. You’ll see the smaller male clownfish shaking to show that they recognize the dominance of the larger female.

In the wild, clownfish often live in small groups. There might be three to five fish in the group.

The largest clownfish changes into a female once it reaches the right age for breeding maturity. One of the male clownfish will be larger than the other male clownfish, too.

This male will be chosen as the breeding partner for the alpha female. The two will then be treated as if they’re above the other clownfish in the group.

Why Do Clownfish Change Gender?

Clownfish change gender so that they can reproduce. Every clownfish is born male (or gender-neutral), and the largest and most aggressive one needs to change into a female so that it can reproduce.

The largest and most aggressive clownfish in a group will shift its gender to become a female. This process should take a few weeks to finish.

Female clownfish are capable of laying eggs. In fact, a female clownfish can lay between 100 and 1,000 eggs at once.

Generally, not all of these eggs are going to wind up hatching. Regardless, many clownfish can be born.

This helps because the survival rate of baby clownfish in the wild is quite low. Once the female clownfish lays the eggs, it’ll be up to the male breeding partner to pass over them and fertilize them.

It’s said that clownfish eggs will take between five and ten days to hatch. Exactly how long it’ll take will vary depending on the specific clownfish species that you’re dealing with.

How to Tell Clownfish Gender

Clownfish Family

You’ve already learned that all clownfish are born in a default male state. They shift to become females if they meet the right criteria in a group.

The largest fish in a group of clownfish is going to be the female. You’ll see that the largest fish will be more aggressive than all of the other fish, and it’ll seem to boss the other fish around to an extent.

All of the other fish are going to be considered to be male. The second-largest fish is going to be the non-dominant breeding male.

Any other fish in the group can be considered to be smaller males. They’ll be lower in the pecking order than the two breeding fish.

Therefore, the only thing to concern yourself with when looking to tell the difference between a male and a female clownfish is the size of the fish. The biggest fish will always be the female and the next largest fish will be the breeding male.

Can Male Clownfish Become Female?

Yes, male clownfish can become female. This is the natural order of things when it comes to clownfish.

When clownfish are born, they’re all going to be the same. As they grow and mature, one fish in the group should wind up becoming the largest and most aggressive.

That fish is going to be the one who shifts its gender to become a female clownfish. After a few weeks pass, the female clownfish will be capable of breeding as usual.

All of the clownfish in the group possess the ability to change into females. There will only ever be one female in a group, though.

At a later point in time, it could become necessary for one of the male fish in the group to become a female.

For example, the alpha female of a group of clownfish could wind up dying. It could get eaten by another fish or it might simply die of natural causes.

In this situation, the group of clownfish doesn’t just give up. The largest male clownfish in the group will simply shift its gender to become the new dominant female.

This will wind up being the male clownfish that was considered to be the non-dominant breeding male. Now it’ll become the female clownfish and it’ll start mating with the next largest male in the group.

How Long Does It Take a Clownfish to Turn Female?

Clownfish in Focus

The process of changing into a female clownfish won’t be instant. It’s going to take a little bit of time for this to happen.

It should take approximately two weeks for a male clownfish to fully transform into a female clownfish. After this period of time has passed, the clownfish will be able to do everything that a female clownfish is supposed to be able to do.

The clownfish can start to lay eggs, and it’ll be able to go through the normal mating rituals with the male clownfish. Other fish are capable of doing gender changes such as this as well, but clownfish are just some of the most popular examples of fish that can change gender.

Can a Clownfish Go Back to Being Male?

One thing that you should know is that clownfish can’t just change genders all the time. When a male turns into a female clownfish, it’s not going to be able to shift back to its former male state.

This is a one-time transformation that will cause the male clownfish to become the dominant female of the group. Everything is set in stone once the male has changed into a female.

Many people have misconceptions about clownfish. They think that being able to change genders means that they can change at any time.

As you can see, there are limits on what the ability to change gender looks like with these fish. There’s only one female in a group, and that female remains a female for the rest of its life.

Are Clownfish Hermaphrodites?

You can consider all clownfish to be hermaphrodites. All clownfish are born in a male state, but they possess both sets of sexual organs.

Clownfish are considered to be protandrous hermaphrodites. They can change to become females when it’s appropriate for them to do so.

As mentioned above, this shift into a female state is permanent. Once a clownfish changes into a female, it’ll be that way until it passes away.

Are All Clownfish Born Male?

Baby Clownfish

All clownfish are considered to be male when they’re born. It was briefly mentioned earlier that some consider clownfish to be gender-neutral when they’re born.

Many enthusiasts would say that this isn’t an accurate way to look at things. Clownfish are in a default male state when they’re born and can then shift to become females.

A large and dominant clownfish in a group will wind up becoming the sole female of the group. There can be only one female in a group because that’s the way clownfish live.

Why Are All Clownfish Born Male?

That’s simply the way that clownfish work. Every clownfish is born male and it’ll wind up becoming a female if it’s the largest and most aggressive fish in its group.

Otherwise, it’s going to live its entire life as a male. Not every clownfish is going to wind up breeding either.

The smaller clownfish in a group might only ever be submissive non-breeding males. It just depends on whether they ever get the chance to shift into a breeding role when one of the larger clownfish dies.

This is how the biology of clownfish works. They’re born with both sets of sexual organs, but they stay in a male state unless they meet the criteria in a group to become a female.

What Happens When Two Female Clownfish Meet?

Two female clownfish are absolutely not going to be able to get along. If you were to put two female clownfish in the same tank, then the two would fight.

It’s not just that the two would come into conflict sometimes either. Two female clownfish will not be able to tolerate the existence of another female in the same space.

They will wind up fighting to the death, and that’s not something that you want to see happen in your home aquarium. You should never try to put a second female clownfish in your fish tank.

If you have multiple pairs of established clownfish, then it’s better to give each pair their own environment. Clownfish are aggressive and they don’t get along with other clownfish that invade their territory.

There are instances where people have been able to successfully add new clownfish to a group, but this often doesn’t work out. It’ll have no chance of working out if you put another female clownfish in the fish tank when you already have a female clownfish.

How Many Clownfish Should You Keep in a Fish Tank?

Two Clownfish in a Fish Tank

There are different opinions on this, but most experts recommend just keeping two clownfish in one fish tank. You can keep one dominant female clownfish and one male clownfish in the same aquarium.

In the wild, these fish can live in groups of three to five. However, things are quite a bit different in a fish tank.

Since clownfish are aggressive fish by nature, they’re not going to like it if they feel that they don’t have enough space. Sometimes having three or four clownfish in the same tank will lead to the breeding pair severely picking on the smaller clownfish.

This can even lead to the death of the smaller clownfish in some situations. It’s a lot easier to just care for two clownfish at once since they will get along just fine.

Some even say that keeping one clownfish in your fish tank will be acceptable. Others find keeping only one fish in the tank to be cruel.

Can You Mix Different Types of Clownfish?

For the most part, it’s not going to be acceptable to mix different types of clownfish. Above, you learned that clownfish are aggressive and that they don’t like other clownfish invading their territory.

If you were to buy Percula clownfish and then you later try to put Maroon clownfish in the same fish tank, then the two sets of fish will wind up fighting. The fighting could even wind up proving fatal to one group of clownfish.

You have to understand that clownfish are an aggressive type of fish that won’t like other types of clownfish being around. There have been people who have been able to keep multiple types of clownfish in the same tank, but this usually involves having a huge aquarium.

If you have a very large fish tank, then you can try to keep each set of fish on a different side of the aquarium. This might keep the fish from coming into conflict with each other if the distance is great enough.

Since most people won’t be able to make enough room for very large fish tanks, it might not be a practical idea in your situation. Plus, there isn’t really a good reason to take a risk like this when you care about the health of the fish that you purchase.

Final Thoughts

Learning more about how clownfish can change gender should have helped you quite a bit. You now have a much greater understanding of how clownfish can change gender.

It’s not something that clownfish will be doing all of the time. A clownfish will change into a female clownfish when it’s the largest and most aggressive clownfish in a group.

All clownfish are born male, but they’re all capable of shifting to become females. There will only ever be one female in a group of clownfish, though.

The female clownfish is the alpha of the group. To put it in simple terms, it calls the shots because it’s the biggest and toughest fish.

The largest male in the group of clownfish will wind up becoming the breeding partner to the female. Other males will simply be submissive male clownfish that won’t breed.

If something ever happens to the female clownfish, then the largest male clownfish in the group will wind up taking its place. The male can change into a female clownfish over the course of a couple of weeks.

Should any of your friends or family members not understand how this process works, you’re going to be able to inform them now. You know that clownfish are born with both sets of sexual organs and that they can become female.

It’s a one-time thing and they won’t be able to change back to male. Be sure to explain this to anyone in your life that might be confused or is interested enough to learn more.

Enjoy taking care of your clownfish and do your best to keep them in good health. These are fantastic fish that you’re truly going to enjoy owning.

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