Skip to Content

Understanding the Clownfish Life Cycle

Understanding the Clownfish Life Cycle

Share this post:

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.

You might be fascinated by clownfish like many other people. These are wildly popular saltwater fish that you can find in many different saltwater tanks.

There are quite a few different types of clownfish. No matter what type of clownfish you want to purchase for your tank, you’re likely going to have questions about the clownfish life cycle.

How long do these fish live? When do these fish reach maturity?

Continue reading to dig into this topic deeper. You should feel as though you have everything that you need to know about the clownfish life cycle once you’ve finished reading.

From Egg to Clownfish Fry

Clownfish Eggs

As you likely already know, clownfish are not live-bearers. This means that they lay eggs and that female clownfish do not get pregnant.

A female clownfish is going to lay eggs on a smooth, flat rock surface somewhere. The female might also choose to lay eggs inside an anemone that the group is hosting.

Once the eggs have been laid, the male clownfish is going to pass over them. The male fertilizes the eggs during this period of time.

Male clownfish are responsible for looking after the eggs. They will keep them clean and protect them from various threats.

It takes between eight and ten days for the clownfish fry to hatch from the eggs. These eggs will only hatch during the night.

You should also know that it’s common for the eggs to hatch on subsequent nights. This means that some might hatch on night eight while others might hatch on night nine.

When the clownfish fry hatch, they’ll be in the larvae state. You could say that they haven’t grown enough to become true clownfish babies yet.

They’re very vulnerable during this stage. In fact, the survival rate of clownfish fry in the wild is not very high at all.

This is because the clownfish parents don’t actually look after the larvae after they hatch. In fact, the clownfish might even choose to eat the larvae if they feel that they need a meal.

Many who are breeding clownfish in captivity will choose to place the clownfish larvae in a separate rearing tank to keep them safe. The clownfish larvae need to be fed gut-loaded rotifers during this period of time.

It should take approximately ten days for the clownfish to properly form into baby clownfish (clownfish fry). You should be able to start feeding them crushed fish flakes and pellets when they’re about two weeks old.

In the wild, the clownfish fry would be eating plankton and other microorganisms. As they get closer to adulthood, you’ll be able to start feeding them normal clownfish food.

The Juvenile Stage

Juvenile Clownfish

The juvenile stage is when the clownfish is old enough to be a fully formed clownfish, but it has not yet reached sexual maturity. The fish will remain in the juvenile stage for quite some time.

Exactly how long it will take a clownfish to reach breeding maturity depends on various factors. The type of clownfish that you’re dealing with might play a role, and there could be environmental factors as well.

Expect clownfish to remain in the juvenile stage for over a year. It generally takes a clownfish between one and a half years and two years to reach breeding maturity.

When clownfish are considered to be juveniles, they’ll be considered to be male or gender-neutral. There is some conflict when it comes to this topic among clownfish enthusiasts.

Most agree that all clownfish are born male. You see, clownfish are hermaphrodites that possess both sets of sexual organs.

The largest and most aggressive fish in the group is going to be the alpha female. Female clownfish will be the leaders of their groups, and the male clownfish will be submissive toward the dominant fish.

In the wild, it’s common for clownfish to live in small groups of three to five. Only two fish will form a breeding pair.

The dominant female clownfish will choose the next largest fish to become the non-dominant breeding male. All of the other fish will remain in a sexually immature male state.

This means that one fish is going to shift into a female state because it is large enough to be the leader. When the fish becomes a female, it’s going to be fully capable of laying eggs and performing all of the normal mating rituals as a female.

All clownfish are capable of shifting their gender. However, this is something that can only be done once.

When a clownfish becomes a female clownfish, it’s going to remain a female clownfish until it passes away. There is no shifting back into a male state.

Clownfish Breeding

Clownfish Mother Tending to Eggs

As noted above, two clownfish in a group will be doing all of the breeding. The alpha female will be mating with the non-dominant male clownfish of the group.

The female clownfish will be able to lay eggs. Generally, the female will always lay eggs on a smooth, flat rocky surface, but it might also lay the eggs inside of an anemone that the group is hosting.

You’ve learned that male clownfish are responsible for taking care of the eggs. The male will ensure that the eggs stay clean, and it’ll try to protect them in various ways.

Sometimes the male might even need to eat some of the eggs to protect the other eggs. If certain eggs have fungus on them or if they show signs of bacterial growth, then the male will eat those eggs to keep things from spreading to the other eggs.

Clownfish will keep on breeding very regularly. A female clownfish is capable of laying between one hundred and one thousand eggs at once.

Not all of these eggs will hatch, and you already learned that the survival rate of clownfish fry will be fairly low in the wild. The sheer number of eggs helps to balance things out.

After the eggs have hatched, the breeding clownfish should be ready to spawn again after ten to fourteen days have passed. This is true both in the wild and in captivity.

What Happens If One of the Breeding Clownfish Dies?

One interesting topic of conversation involves what happens when a breeding clownfish dies. You’ve learned that only two fish in the group will breed, and the other ones will be left in a sexually immature state.

If the alpha female or the non-dominant breeding male happens to die, then what happens? Since clownfish are monogamous, is this going to mean that the group will no longer be able to reproduce?

The fish simply replace the breeding fish that has died with the next most appropriate fish in the group. If the female clownfish passes away, then the breeding male will change and become a female.

This process takes around two weeks, and it’ll be able to do everything that the original female was capable of doing once the process is finished. The new female will then choose to mate with the biggest male in the group.

When the male breeding fish dies, the same thing winds up happening. The next largest male fish in the group will simply be accepted as the new breeding male.

Everything keeps moving along as normal in this scenario. This is why clownfish live in small groups in the wild.

In captivity, people often choose to only keep one pair of clownfish in the same tank. Clownfish are quite aggressive, and it can be tough to keep more than two in an aquarium.

Usually, the two breeding fish will bully the other clownfish so much that it becomes tough to keep them healthy. If one of the breeding fish dies in your tank, will you just need to start over again with a new pair?

Not necessarily. It’s possible to introduce a new clownfish to become the next breeding partner, but it could take some time to get this to go well.

Firstly, you absolutely must ensure that the new fish is the same species as the other clownfish. It’s also important to put a smaller clownfish in the tank with the original fish.

They say that introducing a new clownfish at night is the best way to avoid fighting. This process doesn’t always go easily, but people have been able to get their surviving clownfish to accept a new partner in a fish tank setting.

How Long Will Clownfish Live?

Amphiprion ocellaris Clownfish Swimming Among Anemones

You could be wondering exactly how long to expect a clownfish to live. This can actually differ depending on the species that you’re talking about.

There are many different types of clownfish out there that you can choose from. You might be interested in Ocellaris clownfish, but you could also be drawn to slightly larger clownfish such as Maroon clownfish.

The life expectancy of these clownfish will differ slightly, but all clownfish should be capable of living for quite some time. In the wild, the average life expectancy of a clownfish will be between six to ten years.

Many people say that the life expectancy of a clownfish in an aquarium will be much less than that of a wild clownfish. Some wind up having clownfish live between three and six years in an aquarium setting.

However, it’s very possible for clownfish to live for much longer than this. If you do an excellent job of caring for the fish, then they can live for at least ten years.

There are many who say that with optimal care, you can expect clownfish to live between ten and fifteen years in your fish tank. Of course, these numbers will vary slightly depending on the species of the clownfish.

You should also know that there are instances of clownfish living longer than twenty years in captivity. This might not be typical for a clownfish to live quite so long, but it’s worth noting.

Doing your best to care for the clownfish will ensure that the fish will be able to thrive for as long as possible. This means feeding the fish well and looking after the water parameters properly.

How to Care for Clownfish

Caring for clownfish won’t be all that hard overall. These fish are considered to be some of the best fish for beginners when it comes to saltwater fish.

The most important thing to get right will be the water parameters. You’re going to need to pay attention to the temperature of the water, the pH balance, and the salinity of the water.

You should keep the water temperature between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 78 degrees Fahrenheit for these fish. Monitor the pH balance to ensure that it stays between 7.8 and 8.4.

The salinity of the water must remain between 1.021 and 1.026 so that the clownfish can stay in good health. You should be monitoring all of these numbers regularly.

Feeding the fish well won’t be difficult either, but you will want to try to give the fish a balanced diet. This means feeding the clownfish a mix of fish flakes, nutrition pellets, and frozen foods.

Marine fish flakes should be very good for clownfish since they will give them the nutrients that they need. The fish will also enjoy shrimp pellets and other types of nutrition pellets.

Frozen shrimp will be a big hit with these fish, too. If you feed the fish well, then they will be more likely to grow to be big and strong.

It’s important not to feed them too much, though. These fish are meant to be fed twice per day.

You don’t want to feed the fish more than you’re supposed to. Only give them as much as they can eat in two minutes or else you’ll risk making the fish constipated.

Final Thoughts

Learning about the life cycle of these fish should help you to better understand what to expect. You’ve learned about what things are like in the beginning, middle, and end stages for these fish now.

Use this information to your advantage so that you can care for the fish optimally. Remember that clownfish have the potential to live for quite some time in your aquarium when you do things right.

Share this post:

Salman Alsuraih

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

Wow I love this yasssssssss