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Clownfish vs. False Clownfish (How They’re Alike and Different)

Clownfish vs. False Clownfish (How They’re Alike and Different)

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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.

If you’re thinking about adding a clownfish to your tank sometime soon, then it’ll be good to do a bit of research first. There are actually quite a few different types of clownfish that you can choose from.

Most of them are simply going to have different coloration. However, it’s also notable that you can buy what is known as a “false clownfish.”

What is a false clownfish and how does it differ from a true clownfish? Keep reading and you’ll learn everything that you need to know about this topic.

Having a strong understanding of what differentiates false clownfish and standard clownfish will be beneficial. This should make it easier for you to get what you want for your tank.

The Percula Clownfish

The percula clownfish is the fish that will be discussed in this article. When you think of the most popular and common type of clownfish that you’ll find in pet stores, then you’re thinking of the percula clownfish.

These clownfish are the ones that were featured in the popular animated movie that made everyone go wild for clownfish in the first place. You’ll be interested to hear that there is another type of fish that looks just like the percula clownfish.

This fish is known as the false percula clownfish. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about this fish, but this article should help you to clear things up.

When it comes to telling the difference between the true and false clownfish, it’s not going to be simple. You’ll find that the false percula clownfish looks almost the same as the true version of the fish.

The similarities don’t stop at how the two types of fish look, though. Both of these types of fish are capable of forming symbiotic relationships with the same anemone types.

With both fish being so close to one another, how are you supposed to tell them apart? Honestly, it’s not going to be easy for a novice to do.

Some enthusiasts have tried to spread information that false percula clownfish have simply been bred in captivity. They say that the difference is that these fish aren’t natural, but that’s simply not true.

Both true percula clownfish and false percula clownfish can be captured in the wild. So both species can be found in the wild and both are commonly captured to be sold in pet stores.

You’ll have to keep reading to learn the differences between these two fish. If you want to ensure that you get a true percula clownfish for your aquarium, then it’ll be wise to have this information.

The Differences Between True Percula Clownfish and False Percula Clownfish

The differences between true percula clownfish and false percula clownfish come down to physical traits. When you just glance at the two fish, it’s going to be hard to distinguish which one is which.

However, when you thoroughly examine the fish, you’re going to find that they each have different physical traits. For example, a true percula clownfish is going to be orange in color, it’ll have three white bars, and the middle bar is always going to have a bulge that projects forward.

When you examine the spines on the dorsal fin of the fish, you’ll find some differences. A true percula clownfish is going to have ten spines on its dorsal fin while the false percula clownfish will possess eleven.

Sometimes a true percula clownfish will have nine spines on its dorsal fin, but this is rare. Whenever you want to identify a true or false percula clownfish, it’s going to be wise to examine the dorsal fin carefully.

When you compare the false percula next to the true percula, you’ll see that the spinous part of the dorsal fin is taller on the false percula. You’d really need to look at both fish closely to be able to spot this difference, though.

Getting back to the coloration of the fish, a true percula clownfish has black margins around its white bars, and these will vary in width. Typically, the black margins are going to be very thick and easy to distinguish.

False percula clownfish are different because the black margins are quite thin. You might not be able to distinguish them, and it’ll look as if the orange just goes right into the white part of the fish unless you look closely.

You should also take note of the differences in the eyes of these two fish. A true percula clownfish is going to have more orange in its eyes than the false version of the fish.

The false percula clownfish has much darker eyes overall. If you’re unsure what type of fish you’re looking at, then perhaps paying close attention to the eyes will help you to figure things out.

It’s also notable that you’ll find these two types of fish in different locations in the wild. True percula clownfish can be found in Melanesia and Northern Queensland.

False percula clownfish can be found in many places such as the coast of Southeast Asia, northwestern Australia, the Philippines, the Andaman Sea, and the Indo-Malayan Archipelago.

The Two Are Really Quite Similar

At the end of the day, it’s very easy to see that these two fish are similar. Just because people call the false percula clownfish a fake version of the percula clownfish doesn’t mean that it isn’t a desirable fish.

In fact, the false percula clownfish is also known as the ocellaris clownfish. The general popularity of the percula clownfish has likely led to the name false percula clownfish becoming more common.

You’ll find ocellaris clownfish being sold under both names in many places. You’ve learned that there are ways to tell ocellaris clownfish apart from percula clownfish, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a tough time.

Truly, these two fish are so similar that it makes sense to mix them up. Both fish will host the same types of anemones and they even swim the same way.

When you observe the movements of both types of fish, you’ll find that they act very much the same. The care requirements are even the same between the two fish.

They’re both fairly peaceful fish that can get along with many other fish in a community tank setting. Both will also be able to become aggressive if they feel the need to protect their territory.

There’s a reason why ocellaris clownfish are often wrongly sold as true percula clownfish. Often, the pet store owners probably aren’t able to tell the difference.

Someone who doesn’t know a lot about fish might just assume that they have percula clownfish to sell. If they don’t look into things further, then it’d be a simple mistake to make.

These Two Fish Can Mate

If you think that these two fish are similar enough that they should be able to mate, then you’d be correct. They often mate, and many enthusiasts choose to mate the fish to try to create designer clownfish.

This type of thing is done to try to produce a clownfish that has an appealing color combination. It’s possible to cross-breed ocellaris clownfish and percula clownfish to create a fish with a fun pattern or coloration.

You can find many of these crossbred fish being sold in pet stores today. For instance, a black onyx percula that is bred with a snowflake ocellaris will produce a fish that is called a snow onyx.

There are other such fish out there that you can find available for purchase. An ocellaris clownfish and a true percula clownfish can produce healthy offspring that will be very beautiful overall.

So now that you know that they can mate, you also know that they can safely live together. If you wanted to, then you could choose to keep one ocellaris clownfish and one true percula clownfish in the same fish tank.

The Lifespan of the Fish

It’s interesting to know that despite the similarities, these two types of fish have significantly different lifespans. A true percula clownfish has the potential to live as long as twenty years.

Ocellaris clownfish don’t live nearly as long as that. Generally, these fish are expected to live for around six years under optimal conditions.

Of course, getting a fish to live for any amount of time requires you to care for it properly. You’ll need to do your best to take care of the fish and keep the water parameters in the right range.

If you’re doing everything right, then a true percula clownfish will live for a much longer time than an ocellaris clownfish. Just keep in mind that the information being given here is an average and that how long your fish will live might wind up being much different than the average depending on various factors.

How Many Types of Clownfish Are There?

There are actually a lot of different clownfish out there that you can look into. True percula clownfish and ocellaris clownfish are just among the most popular options.

They’re very popular because of their resemblance to the popular cartoon fish that many children love. Other clownfish are also popular among aquarium enthusiasts, though.

Some of the most popular clownfish include maroon clownfish, cinnamon clownfish, clarkii clownfish, tomato clownfish, and pink skunk clownfish. You can find a lot of different versions of clownfish if you shop at an aquarium store that has a large selection of fish.

Generally, it isn’t recommended to mix and match different types of clownfish in your tank. Some types of clownfish will get very territorial and will choose to fight other clownfish.

For example, cinnamon clownfish are known to be very aggressive toward other clownfish types. You should never put cinnamon clownfish in a tank with another type of clownfish.

It’s also notable that the care needs of the various clownfish will be different when compared to the true percula and ocellaris clownfish. True percula and ocellaris clownfish are unique in that they have the same care requirements, but that won’t hold true for other clownfish types.

Clownfish Are Good Fish for Beginners

If you’re looking for a good starter fish to put in your saltwater aquarium, then clownfish will be perfect for your needs. These fish are generally quite hardy, and their care requirements aren’t too much to figure out.

Either true percula clownfish or ocellaris clownfish will work just fine as a beginner fish for a saltwater aquarium. You’ll just want to remember to stick to only two clownfish of the same species so that you don’t have to deal with the fish getting territorial.

Ocellaris and percula clownfish can get along in the same tank, though. They both eat the same foods and have the same water parameter requirements.

You’ll be feeding these fish brine shrimp and other types of frozen fish. They’re really not that hard to take care of at all when compared to many other popular saltwater fish.

If you want the clownfish to host an anemone, then it might be better to add the anemone to the tank before the clownfish, though. Sometimes adding an anemone after the clownfish will make things tougher.

This is because the clownfish might have chosen a spot in the tank to host already, and it might not wish to move. However, many people have had clownfish take to a new anemone in a tank right away, and this means that it likely depends on the personality of the fish.

Recommended Water Parameters

Of course, getting the water parameters right for these fish will be of the utmost importance. For true percula clownfish and ocellaris clownfish, you’ll be able to use the same parameters.

Keep the pH balance between 8.0 and 8.4 to keep the clownfish in good health. You’ll want the water temperature to stay between 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, too.

The specific gravity should be between 1.021 and 1.026. The water movement should be moderate.

If you’re going to keep an anemone in the tank with the clownfish, then you must have intense lighting. Otherwise, the clownfish will be happy with moderate lighting conditions in the tank.

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