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Why Does My Clownfish Stay at the Top of the Tank?

Why Does My Clownfish Stay at the Top of the Tank?

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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 an observant fish tank owner, then you might be especially aware of what your clownfish are doing. You keep an eye on the clownfish so that you can ensure that they’re doing the best that they can in the aquarium.

This is why it’s a bit alarming when swimming habits start to change. If your clownfish seems to be staying at the top of the tank, then you could be worried that something is amiss.

Is there a reason why the clownfish would want to stay at the top of the tank? Could this be an indication that something is wrong with the water?

Read on to learn about all of the possibilities. You’ll be able to figure out what you need to do once you’ve read through all of the information.

It Could Be Normal

Before you get too worried, it’s going to be good to know that this behavior could be completely normal. In fact, the most likely scenario is that nothing is wrong with your fish.

Clownfish like to pick spots in tanks, and they wind up just hanging out in the same spot a lot of the time. You might see that the clownfish will only move from its spot near the top of the tank when it’s time to get food.

There are a few reasons why clownfish like to do this. One involves the clownfish acclimating to a new environment.

When you put the clownfish in the tank after buying it from the pet store, it’s going to take time for it to get used to things. The clownfish will be fairly wary of many things, and it might take some time for it to start exploring more of the tank.

You might see the fish park in a spot at the top of the tank somewhere. Generally, the clownfish will choose to host in one of the corners of the fish tank.

After several weeks have passed, you might see the clownfish start to branch out. However, there are clownfish who pretty much just like to stay in the same spot and don’t move around a lot, too.

So there’s a good chance that everything is completely fine with your clownfish. It might just be normal behavior and that is why it’s staying at the top of the tank instead of swimming around.

The Presence of Other Fish

Clownfish in Community Tank

Another thing to consider is whether the presence of other fish is forcing your clownfish to want to stay at the top of the tank. There are a few different ways that this could go.

Sometimes clownfish will not want to interact with the other fish in a community tank too much. There could be fish that the clownfish will choose to avoid.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the clownfish is dealing with predatory or aggressive fish either. The clownfish just might want to have its own space.

In this situation, the clownfish will pick a spot toward the top of the tank and stay there. It will be sort of as though the top of the tank is the designated spot for the clownfish.

Have you thought about whether your fish tank is too crowded? If you have a lot of fish in your community tank, then maybe the clownfish don’t feel as though they can move around in the tank normally.

It’s worth considering, but you should also know that clownfish do like to stay near the top of the tank a lot. A clownfish being at the top of the tank most of the time isn’t necessarily an indication that you’ve put too many fish in the tank.

There’s No Anemone

When there’s no anemone present in the aquarium, you might find that the behavior of the clownfish will be a bit off. In the wild, clownfish live with anemones.

They use the anemone as a host, and this is something that provides protection. When a clownfish is in a tank without an anemone present, it might not feel at home.

This could be what is causing the anemone to stay in one place in the tank. It’s choosing to stay in the top corner of the fish tank and use that as its safe spot.

It’s possible that the clownfish will acclimate and move around a bit more as time passes. However, there are clownfish enthusiasts who have owned clownfish that always stay at the top of the tank.

Perhaps the best way to get the anemone out of that spot is to introduce an anemone to the tank when it’s safe to do so. You don’t have to rush adding an anemone to the tank if your saltwater tank is fairly new, but your clownfish will surely appreciate the presence of an anemone.

It’s also very interesting to be able to observe the symbiotic relationship between the anemone and the clownfish. Being able to show off this relationship is something that will likely bring you a lot of joy.

Many clownfish enthusiasts go so far as to say that clownfish need to have an anemone in the tank. This isn’t technically true since clownfish can live on their own, but they might be a lot happier with an anemone in the aquarium with them.

What If the Clownfish is Ignoring the Anemone?

Clownfish Swimming Toward the Top of a Tank

It is a little bit weird for the clownfish to ignore the anemone in the tank. Generally, clownfish and anemones have a symbiotic relationship.

The clownfish and the anemone live together in the wild. It’s said that the presence of an anemone in an aquarium will help a clownfish to feel more at ease.

If you have an anemone, then it’s likely that your clownfish will hang out on or around the anemone. Of course, it’s a good idea to pair specific types of clownfish with specific types of anemones as well.

When a clownfish chooses to simply stay at the top of the tank instead of interacting with the anemone, it’s going to be kind of troubling. Could this mean that something is wrong with the clownfish?

There could be something wrong with the clownfish, but clownfish can also be very quirky. It’s worth keeping an eye on the fish to look out for any signs of illness just in case, though.

Sometimes clownfish who have diseases such as ich or velvet will avoid interacting with an anemone or other clownfish. This is worth keeping in mind.

You might notice discoloration, spots, and other physical signs if the clownfish is sick. If you suspect that the clownfish is sick, then it’s likely going to be best to quarantine the fish so that the sickness doesn’t spread to other fish.


Consider whether or not stress could be making the clownfish stay at the top of the tank. Stress is a significant problem that can wind up making the clownfish get sick.

When fish experience significant stress, they’re going to wind up having compromised immune systems. A fish that has a compromised immune system will be more susceptible to diseases and infections.

There are many different things that can cause a fish to become stressed. Living in a cramped environment will cause stress, and the presence of bully fish will also make the fish feel stressed.

This is why it’s imperative to avoid crowding the tank with too many fish. It’s also important to take the time to choose appropriate tank mates for the clownfish.

Excessive noise can cause the fish to feel scared, too. You might not want to put the aquarium in a very noisy part of the house if you’re worried about stressing the fish.

Suddenly turning lights on and off can also stress the clownfish. Try to do what you can to protect the clownfish so that they feel as safe as possible.

Check the water parameters as well. You want to keep the water temperature in the right range, and it’s also important to keep an eye on the pH balance.

The pH balance of the water should be between 8.1 and 8.4 on average. You also want to keep it as stable as you can.

pH Test Strips for Aquarium

The water temperature can range between 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Always ensure that the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels are at 0 ppm.

Doing this will help you to protect the fish from harm. Dirty water or water that isn’t properly set up for clownfish will harm the fish.

You can turn things around by using chemicals to adjust the pH balance. Ideally, you should be monitoring the pH balance and the water temperature constantly to keep things in check.

Final Thoughts

This information should give you a better idea of why your clownfish is hanging out at the top of the tank. There are many reasons why this might happen, and it might even just be normal behavior.

Adding an anemone to the tank might make the clownfish feel more comfortable. You also might need to reduce stress factors so that the clownfish will feel safe leaving the top corner of the tank.

If nothing changes despite your best efforts, then the clownfish might just really like that spot. Some clownfish have weird preferences and personalities.

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