The fact that clownfish and sea anemones have symbiotic relationships is something that many people are interested in. If you have clownfish in your saltwater tank, then you might be intrigued by the prospect of adding an anemone to your aquarium.
It can be a lot of fun to show off this unique bond in your home aquarium. Many people know about how clownfish and anemones get along in the wild, but most don’t understand how the anemones benefit from the relationship.
How do sea anemones benefit from clownfish? Do the anemones wind up benefiting as much as the clownfish do?
Continue reading to learn about clownfish and anemones. You should have a much better understanding of how these creatures benefit each other once you’ve read all of the information.
Do Clownfish Need Anemones?
In the wild, many clownfish rely on anemones for protection. Some smaller types of clownfish such as Pink Skunk clownfish are very reliant on anemones.
Clownfish don’t necessarily need anemones in a fish tank setting, though. However, many say that clownfish do much better when they have them.
It can help clownfish to feel more at ease in an aquarium when they’re able to host an anemone. Just know that you can easily care for clownfish successfully without having an anemone in your aquarium.
The benefits of having an anemone might be something that your clownfish will like, but they aren’t as important for survival in a fish tank. This is partially because you likely won’t be putting fish in the tank with the clownfish that they will need to worry about.
Fish tank settings are substantially safer than being in the wild. When clownfish are in their natural habitats, they’re going to have a lot more to worry about.
Can Clownfish Live Without Anemone?
For the most part, clownfish can live without anemones under the right circumstances. Some clownfish such as the Pink Skunk clownfish are more dependent on anemones.
In the wild, it’s much safer for clownfish to live with anemones. They host anemones because it is beneficial for them to do so.
If you’re discussing whether clownfish need anemones in the wild, then the answer is yes. It gives them a much better chance of surviving and avoiding predators.
Even in the wild, some clownfish will have to live without anemones. They live by hiding among the coral or using other hiding spots to stay safe.
In a fish tank setting, it’s certainly not necessary to buy an anemone. It’s just something that you can do if the idea of owning an anemone appeals to you.
It’s important to keep the fish tank situation in mind when determining if you’re ready for an anemone. Anemones often need special lighting, and you’ll also need to have a large enough tank to be able to safely care for one.
This means that it isn’t a practical choice for everyone to keep an anemone with their clownfish. Whether this idea will be good for your situation will depend on your fish tank and whether you’re willing to buy the necessary upgrades.
Why Do Clownfish Live in Anemones?
Clownfish choose to live in anemones for many different reasons. Firstly, they’re able to do so because they have a natural ability to protect themselves from the stings of anemones.
These fish possess a thick mucus layer on their skin that keeps them from being hurt or killed by anemones. This also helps to protect them from other things such as corals.
You’ll find that clownfish live in anemones so that they can be protected from various types of predators. The anemone will protect the clownfish because the clownfish benefits them in various ways.
If a predator fish of some sort tries to come and eat one of the clownfish, then it’ll wind up getting stung by the anemone. The anemone can sting and kill many types of fish that would try to snack on clownfish.
These fish also live in anemones because it allows them to move around better. You might not know this, but clownfish aren’t considered to be strong swimmers.
Most types of clownfish are very poor swimmers when it comes to going long distances. They don’t deal with strong currents very well.
Clownfish can move very fast in short bursts. They’re also quite good at darting in one direction or another, but they can’t swim for a long time.
If the fish are hosting an anemone, then it’ll be easier for them to deal with currents. They have a simpler time getting around, and it’ll be easier for them to stay fed.
The anemone provides the clownfish with shelter, protection, and generally everything that they need to thrive. Because of this, they will work to protect the anemone the best that they can.
Another benefit that you should know about has to do with food. Often, the food that the anemone doesn’t eat will wind up being eaten by the clownfish.
They scavenge leftover food, and this makes it easier for the fish to survive. The anemone provides the clownfish with many opportunities to eat.
Clownfish will even sometimes eat the dead tentacles of anemones. This gives them nourishment, and it’s good for the anemone as well.
How Clownfish Benefit Anemones
There are a few different ways that clownfish benefit anemones. One interesting way that they help anemones is by providing them with waste.
Clownfish poop winds up providing the anemone with essential nutrients. This waste is a perfect source of nitrogen for anemones.
The waste of the clownfish also helps to encourage algae growth. This helps the polyps of the anemone to grow faster, and it makes it easier for the anemone to recover when it gets damaged.
Clownfish also protect anemones from small fish that will want to try to eat them. Some small fish are fast enough to get past the stings of the anemone, but the clownfish will aggressively chase these fish away.
So you can see that both the anemone and the clownfish benefit from this relationship. They protect each other and make living easier.
Will an Anemone Eat a Clownfish?
Some types of anemones might eat clownfish. This is why it’s imperative to do some research before adding an anemone to your fish tank.
You see, clownfish are known to host certain types of anemones. They might try to host an unfamiliar type of anemone, but it won’t always work out.
There are many different types of anemones out there that will eat clownfish and various other types of fish. To avoid problems such as this, you’re just going to want to purchase an anemone that matches up with the type that your clownfish likes.
Just as there are many types of anemones, there are also many types of clownfish. Some clownfish are fairly picky and will only host a certain type of anemone.
Doing a bit of research ahead of time allows you to get an anemone that is known to work out well with the type of clownfish that you have. This allows you to have a good experience with your saltwater aquarium.
It’s also worth noting that sick and weak clownfish could potentially be eaten by an anemone. If a clownfish is already on the verge of death, then this could indeed happen.
Can Clownfish Eat Anemone?
Conversely, is it going to be possible for clownfish to eat an anemone? This is a pretty unlikely situation overall.
A clownfish isn’t going to attempt to eat an anemone that it’s hosting. You might see the clownfish picking at the anemone from time to time, though.
They do this to try to increase their immunity to the anemone. This means that the clownfish aren’t actually trying to kill it.
The only time that a clownfish might choose to eat an anemone will be when it’s already dead. If an anemone passes away, then the clownfish might eat it.
Otherwise, you don’t have anything to worry about. So long as you’re buying a compatible anemone, it’s unlikely that things will go wrong.
It should be noted that clownfish could potentially kill some anemones by being too rough. This could be exacerbated if your tank isn’t perfect for the anemone.
You really need to focus on getting the water parameters right and ensuring that your tank has been cycled properly before adding an anemone. It’s unlikely that you’ll have problems if you’re picking the right anemone for a clownfish, but you still need to do what is necessary to provide the anemone with the right environment.
Why Are Clownfish Immune to Anemone?
You’ve already learned a little bit about how clownfish have a protective mucus layer earlier. Clownfish are immune to the stings of an anemone because they have a thick mucus layer on their skin.
The clownfish produce this mucus naturally, and they can gain greater protection by further exposing themselves to the anemone. Sometimes you might see clownfish slapping their bodies against the anemone.
This is in an effort to make more of the mucus from the anemone itself cover their bodies. They also sometimes nibble on clownfish in certain ways to try to gain great immunity.
Since clownfish are able to withstand the stings of anemones, they’re going to be able to host them. They can live alongside anemones in harmony.
It’s a great ability that helps the clownfish to stay protected from many predators. It also makes life easier for them in various ways.
Interestingly, this mucus that the clownfish possess has allowed them to successfully host other things. For example, it’s possible for some clownfish to host different types of coral.
Clownfish don’t have the same history of forming symbiotic relationships with coral, though. Regardless, it’s intriguing to know that this can happen.
Why Do Sea Anemones Not Sting Clownfish?
Anemones generally won’t sting the clownfish because they understand that they’re helpful. The clownfish form a symbiotic relationship with the anemone, and the creatures wind up helping each other out.
It’s possible that some types of anemones might try to sting clownfish, though. They just won’t really be able to hurt the clownfish with the stings because they have the natural protection of the thick mucus layer on their skin.
When anemones form bonds with clownfish, they wind up being very protective of the clownfish. They will sting predators that try to eat the clownfish.
Likewise, clownfish will do what they can to protect the anemones from threats. It’s a beautiful relationship that you might really like being able to show off in a fish tank setting.
Many people think that watching clownfish host an anemone is very entertaining. So long as you have a big enough fish tank, it can be a very neat thing to do in your saltwater aquarium.
How to Get Clownfish to Host Anemone
So what should you do if the clownfish in your fish tank don’t want to host the anemone? There are times when this happens, and it’s usually when you add an anemone after the clownfish have already been in the fish tank for quite some time.
If you put the clownfish in the fish tank first, then they might find a spot in the tank that they like. The clownfish might choose to stay there because they’re too afraid to venture out or they just don’t see the need.
Putting an anemone in the tank might not get the reaction that you expected. It might seem as if the clownfish are ignoring it.
Firstly, you should ensure that you put the right type of anemone in the tank for the species of clownfish that you own. Next, you can try to introduce the clownfish to the anemone.
Some people have successfully introduced clownfish to an anemone by creating a type of tunnel in the tank. You connect some type of piping that the fish can swim through with one end being where the clownfish hang out and the other end leading them to the anemone.
You basically force the clownfish to go through the tunnel that you created. The clownfish should discover the anemone and they might start to host it.
It’ll be easier if you put an anemone in the fish tank first. Cycle your tank properly and ensure that it is established enough to have an anemone living in it.
Then you buy the appropriate anemone based on the clownfish that you wish to buy. Put the anemone in the fish tank, and then buy the clownfish that you would like to host the anemone.
The clownfish should notice the anemone right away and will begin preparing to try to host it. Doing things in the right order will truly be the easiest way to go, but you can still get an anemone for your clownfish if they’ve been living without one for quite some time.
In many cases, clownfish will take to an anemone right away. It might just depend on the personality of the fish and other factors.
Which Anemone for Clownfish?
Choosing the right anemone for the clownfish will be important. If you don’t take the time to pick out an anemone that makes sense for your clownfish, then you might have a bad time.
For example, some anemones might kill your clownfish. As mentioned earlier, there are certain anemones that will eat clownfish.
Clownfish are known to be able to host specific types of anemones. You’re going to want to stick to the recommended type based on the clownfish that you own.
Every clownfish will have anemones that they favor. Ocellaris clownfish like Heteractis magnifica and Entacmaea quadricolor anemones as well as a few others.
True Percula clownfish generally like the same anemones as the Ocellaris clownfish. They also enjoy Heteractis crispa anemones, though.
Tomato clownfish are very picky and will only want to host Entacmaea quadricolor anemones. Maroon clownfish have the same tastes as the Tomato clownfish.
Cinnamon clownfish like Entacmaea quadricolor anemones as well as Heteractis crispa anemones. Clarkii clownfish aren’t picky and will host all ten anemone species that are known to accept clownfish.
Saddleback clownfish will enjoy hosting Heteractis crispa anemones and Stichodactyla haddoni anemones. Pink Skunk clownfish are known to like Stichodactyla gigantea, Heteractis crispa, Macrodactyla doreensis, and Hecteractis magnifica anemones.
Now that you know this, it should be easier to pick out an appropriate anemone for your clownfish. Just do your best to always match the clownfish up with an anemone that it favors.
Anemones Can Be Tough to Care for
You should know that anemones have a reputation for being somewhat hard to care for. Some newcomers to the hobby will have a bad experience when caring for anemones for the first time.
This is because anemones require very specific aquarium conditions so that they can remain healthy. The lighting in the fish tank is a very important factor, and you’ll need to purchase the right stuff or things won’t go well at all.
Look up the lighting requirements for the specific anemone that you want to purchase. You’ll also need to fine-tune the water flow and the oxygen levels of the tank so that they’re in the right range.
This is going to involve a bit more work than just taking care of a pair of clownfish. If you’re not sure that you’ll be able to do what is necessary, then buying an anemone for your fish tank might not be the right thing to do.
After all, you wouldn’t want the anemone to perish because you weren’t able to provide it with a good environment. Take the time to learn what you need to do before you spend any money.
This ensures that you’ll understand what needs to be done, and you’ll be less likely to make mistakes. It’s always good to approach a situation with more knowledge so that you will have the greatest chance of success.
You’ve been able to learn a lot about the symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones. This information might help you to decide whether you want to add an anemone to your fish tank.
Just remember that caring for an anemone won’t be a practical choice for every fish tank owner. If you’re working with limited space, then it might be better to just take care of the clownfish without the anemone.
You never want to make a fish tank overcrowded. Anemones are going to need sufficient space to be able to thrive in your aquarium.
For some, it just won’t be easy to find enough room to keep a larger tank. This shouldn’t make you shy away from the idea of getting an anemone completely, though.
Measure your available space and try to determine how big of a fish tank you can purchase. Many anemones will be able to be kept in somewhat smaller tanks such as 30-gallon fish tanks.
You might have a better experience if you have a 75-gallon tank or something larger, though. This is especially true if you’re planning to have multiple clownfish in the tank as well as other types of fish.
Plan ahead so that you can have the best experience possible. It’ll allow you to avoid many pitfalls that beginners fall into due to not knowing how to approach things.
Any of your friends or family members that are thinking about getting anemones soon would benefit from this information as well. Be sure to share what you’ve learned with them so that they can approach the situation with a full understanding.
Anemones are amazing creatures, and their relationship with clownfish can truly be considered amazing. Showing that off in your aquarium will be a joy, but you just need to be prepared to do things the right way.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.