Clownfish are pretty well known because of how pretty and fun they are. It helps that there was an Ocellaris clownfish that starred in a popular children’s cartoon movie.
If you know much about clownfish, then you probably know that they host anemones. Clownfish and anemones have symbiotic relationships.
The bond between clownfish and anemones can truly be considered to be special. You might be wondering if clownfish are capable of hosting other things.
For example, will clownfish host hammer coral? Or is that something that won’t interest the clownfish at all?
Continue reading to learn about whether clownfish will host hammer coral. You’ll also learn a bit about other types of coral and whether clownfish will be interested in hosting them.
Clownfish Will Host Hammer Coral
Yes, clownfish will indeed host hammer coral as a substitute for an anemone in a saltwater aquarium. It’s not that unusual for a clownfish to seek out a situation such as this.
Clownfish have an instinct to seek out a protective host such as an anemone or some type of coral. This doesn’t mean that it’s an ideal situation, though.
There are certain problems with clownfish hosting hammer coral that you should be aware of. Below, you’ll get a bit more information that will help you to know what to do.
Sometimes Clownfish Will Be Hesitant
Sometimes clownfish will be hesitant to host a hammer coral. This could be because the hammer coral is smaller than they need it to be.
If you want your clownfish to host a hammer coral in your saltwater tank, then it’s going to need to be somewhat large. It has to at least be large enough for the clownfish to swim inside.
So you should get a hammer coral that is larger than the clownfish that you own. It’s also going to be wise to have the hammer coral in the fish tank fish.
If you add a hammer coral to the tank after the clownfish, then the clownfish might ignore it. They might not want to move from whatever spot in the fish tank that they have become comfortable with.
There might be ways to encourage the clownfish to host the hammer coral. Some people have successfully used plastic tubing to get the clownfish used to the idea of hosting the hammer coral.
The basic idea is to make the clownfish go down the plastic tubing and have one end of it lead to the place where the hammer coral is. This forces the clownfish to discover the hammer coral.
You can keep an eye on how things go to see if the clownfish start hosting the hammer coral. It isn’t necessary to force the clownfish to try to host the hammer coral if you don’t want them to, though.
Another idea is to attempt to move the hammer coral close to the spot where the clownfish hang out in the aquarium. They might begin hosting the hammer coral if you go this route.
Potential Issues with Hosting
It should be noted that hammer corals are not the same as anemones. Anemones have come to expect clownfish to host them.
These creatures have formed a symbiotic relationship, and there is some sort of genetic expectation there. The same thing doesn’t exist between hammer corals and clownfish.
It’s even possible that hammer corals might withdraw due to the things that the clownfish choose to do when preparing to host. Often, clownfish will slap the hammer coral with their tails to try to get more protective mucus to rub off on them.
Sometimes they choose to nibble on the polyps of the hammer coral to try to build up a resistance to its sting. A hammer coral might take to this fine, but it could also choose to withdraw due to becoming annoyed.
If the hammer coral retreats, then the clownfish might as well. Then they might abandon the idea of hosting the hammer coral for good.
It’s also possible that things could work out after a few rough patches. There have been situations where hammer corals have retreated and eventually extended themselves again.
The clownfish might come back and try to host the hammer coral again. Sometimes the hammer coral will simply learn to tolerate the clownfish after some time has passed.
There are also clownfish enthusiasts that suggest the clownfish will learn to be gentler with the hammer coral after several attempts.
Either way, it’s something that can work out through trial and error. It doesn’t work out 100% of the time, but it’s still something that can be neat when it works out well.
Can a Hammer Coral Hurt the Clownfish?
If you’re worried about whether the clownfish will get hurt by the hammer coral, then you really shouldn’t be. The clownfish really don’t have anything to fear from the coral.
In fact, the coral will likely be way more bothered than the clownfish. Clownfish can hurt the coral more than the coral can hurt them.
You see, clownfish have a natural protection against the stings of corals. This is because their bodies have a thick mucus layer that allows them to shrug off stings.
This is how they’re capable of hosting anemones, and it’ll also allow them to host corals. You won’t need to concern yourself with the clownfish getting hurt by the coral.
Sometimes the clownfish might get too aggressive with the hammer coral. This can injure the coral a bit, but the hammer coral should be fine.
You’ve already learned that there can be ups and downs when trying to get the hammer coral to accept the clownfish. It can happen, but it might take some time.
Ocellaris clownfish actually seem to really like using hammer coral. They host hammer coral regularly so it might be good to go with those types of clownfish if you want to get great results.
The Ocellaris clownfish can still bother the hammer coral. But they might do a better job of hosting hammer coral than some other clownfish types.
What About Torch Coral?
Now that you’ve learned about hammer coral and clownfish, you might be wondering how clownfish will feel about hosting torch coral. Is this something that clownfish might be interested in?
Clownfish will indeed try to host torch coral under certain circumstances. When they’re looking for a substitute for an anemone, they might choose to try to host a torch coral that has been placed in the saltwater tank with them.
This might not end well for the torch coral, though. There have been many instances where aquarium enthusiasts have noted that the torch corals have been killed by the clownfish.
Of course, the clownfish aren’t doing this on purpose. They just accidentally kill the torch coral by nibbling on it.
The nibbling is something that they instinctively do when preparing to host a coral. They’re trying to build up a resistance to the sting, but the torch coral might not be able to survive this nibbling.
For this reason, it isn’t recommended to use a torch coral as an anemone substitute. It won’t be as good as a hammer coral, and it won’t be anywhere near as good as an anemone.
Even knowing this, there have been times where clownfish have hosted torch corals successfully. It’s just a riskier proposition than many other options.
An Anemone Would Work Out Better
If you really want your clownfish to host something in a fish tank, then an anemone would be your best bet. The anemones have a genetic connection with the clownfish that will make things go smoothly.
You just need to ensure that you pick out an anemone that the clownfish like. Different types of clownfish seem to prefer different types of anemones.
Knowing this, you’ll be able to do some minor research based on the type of clownfish that you own. You should have a good experience this way.
The only problem is that the clownfish in your tank will be more likely to host an anemone (or a coral) when it was in the fish tank before they were. For this reason, it might be best to get the anemone before the clownfish.
Just know that anemones need to be placed in properly established saltwater tanks. Putting them in new tanks that aren’t established can lead to significant issues.
Be sure to keep all of this information in mind if you want to get an anemone for your saltwater aquarium. Being prepared is definitely for the best.
Why Would Anyone Use a Coral Instead of an Anemone?
After reading the information above, you might be wondering why anyone would use a coral for the clownfish instead of an anemone? Since the clownfish have a bond with anemones, wouldn’t it always make more sense to pair them with anemones?
It would indeed, but there could be a practical reason why you can’t have an anemone in your saltwater tank. For example, you might not be able to have a large enough tank for the anemone that you need for the clownfish.
Another reason might involve the specific types of lighting that anemones require. You might not have the room for this lighting setup, and that could be preventing you from getting an anemone.
In this situation, it could be practical to get a hammer coral or a torch coral. Some type of coral could be a good substitution for an anemone when you want the clownfish to have something to host.
Clownfish Don’t Need to Host Anything in the Tank
It isn’t truly necessary for clownfish to host something in the tank. Your clownfish will find an area in the tank that they like and they will just host specific spots without having any problems.
In the wild, it’s more important for clownfish to have anemones nearby. They use anemones for protection and they have a truly beautiful symbiotic relationship.
When you’re keeping clownfish in a saltwater home aquarium, this isn’t going to matter nearly as much. The clownfish simply don’t need the extra protection, and that means that you don’t have to seek out an anemone substitute.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging the clownfish to host an anemone or a coral in a fish tank. You might simply enjoy showing the relationship off or you could think that it makes the fish tank look cooler.
Whatever the case is, you just need to know that it isn’t a necessity. Now that you know this, you can make your own decision about how you want to proceed.
Knowing that clownfish will host hammer coral might give you some ideas. If you cannot keep an anemone in your tank for whatever reason, then the idea of having the clownfish host a torch coral might be appealing to you.
There have been many clownfish owners that have chosen to go this route. They say that it can work out nicely, but many are very up front with the things that can go wrong.
Corals don’t have the same connection with the clownfish that anemones do. This means that a lot more is likely to go wrong, but it’s generally more dangerous for the corals than it will be for the clownfish.
The clownfish have natural protection from the corals due to the thick mucus that they possess. This means that they pretty much don’t have anything to worry about.
Clownfish can withstand the stings of the coral, and they’ll be able to benefit the hammer coral if the hosting bond works out. It can be a really cool thing to see, but it’s up to you whether you want to encourage the clownfish to host the hammer coral or not.
Your clownfish are capable of hosting other types of coral such as torch coral, too. This has the potential to work out okay, but the clownfish could also kill the torch coral by nibbling on the polyps too much.
Take all of this information to heart so that you can figure out which route to take. Remember that the clownfish don’t need to host an anemone or a coral to live a healthy life in your saltwater tank.
It’s perfectly acceptable to just let your clownfish do their own thing. Make your decision as the aquarium owner and try to have fun with it while also being responsible.
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.