Finding Nemo? We love Ocellaris Clownfish!


Finding Nemo? We love Ocellaris Clownfish!

Clownfish are some of the most easily recognizable marine fish in the hobby. Their bold striped pattern and wobbling way of swimming makes them instantly endearing. And their habit of partnering up with sea anemones is fascinating and easily replicated in home aquaria! Of the group, Ocellaris Clownfish are some of the best to start with and are peaceful, long-lived community tank residents.

Ocellaris Clownfish Care Guide

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Amphiprion ocellaris
Adult Size 3 inches
Temperament Peaceful; Territorial
Lifespan 5-10 Years

Ocellaris Clownfish Overview

Typical Ocellaris Clownfish Behavior

Ocellaris Clownfish are intriguing in both appearance and behavior! Clownfish don’t swim in quite the same way as other fish. They rely mostly on their pectoral fins to “waddle” through the water column, giving them a distinctive look.

Clownfish in general tend to be peaceful to semi-aggressive but the Ocellaris Clownfish is one of the most peaceful of the family. They will aggressively defend their host anemone, however. Like others in their family they form commensal relationships with sea anemones as well as certain large polyp stony corals.

In this bond, both animals gain from the exchange. The sea anemone gains a protector against predatory fish and a source of food from the food and waste the clownfish leaves behind. And the clownfish has a home: sea anemones have tentacles covered in potent nematocysts that will sting anything that comes in contact with them. The clownfish gains immunity to this defense by brushing against the anemone and building up a protective slime coat that doesn’t trigger the anemone’s stinging cells!

Ocellaris Clownfish Appearance

There are over a dozen clownfish species commonly found in the trade but the Ocellaris Clownfish might be the most common! The wild type is a vibrant orange with three bright white stripes edged in black. They look almost identical to their close cousin, the Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and are often referred to as ‘False’ Percula Clownfish since the True Percula is a rarer species and more expensive.

The difference between the two is that the Ocellaris Clownfish will have a darker eye while the True Percula has a thick orange band around the pupil. Ocellaris Clownfish have thinner bands of black around their white stripes and more than 10 spines in their dorsal fins.

All this said, there are also many varieties of captive bred Ocellaris Clownfish that look dramatically different from their wild ancestors!


Life Span

For such small fish, Ocellaris Clownfish are quite long lived! 5 to 10 years is typical for these fish and they occasionally live a few years beyond this.

How Big Do Ocellaris Clownfish Grow?

Ocellaris Clownfish are one of the smaller clownfish species, reaching full maturity at 3 inches. They are slightly larger than the Percula Clownfish, which only reaches 2.5 inches but much smaller than Maroon Clownfish and other large species.

Sexing Ocellaris Clownfish

Sexing Ocellaris Clownfish isn’t simple at first but once you have an established pair the differences are obvious. Male and female Ocellaris Clownfish have identical color patterns but reversed sexual roles from many other animals.

In Clownfish it’s the female that is the larger and more aggressive of the pair. She will often be 20%-50% larger than her mate. However, Clownfish are like many marine fish in that they can change sex on demand! The most dominant fish in a group of Clownfish will transform to become a female. If you have a solo clownfish then it’s almost certainly female as well.

Compatible Tank Mates for Ocellaris Clownfish

Ocellaris Clownfish are compatible with a wide range of marine community fish. They will defend their anemone from intrusion but most fish aren’t interested in a face full of stinging tentacles anyway.

Stick to other small to medium sized reef community fish, including Damselfish, Tangs, Pygmy Angelfish, Royal Grammas, and Mandarin Gobies. Ocellaris Clownfish can also be kept together, which increases your chances of a mated pair forming. A dominant female and her consort will often push out rivals from their chosen anemone, so having multiple anemones is a good idea if you want to see the commensal relationship in action with a group of clownfish.

Sea anemones aren’t required for Ocellaris Clownfish but they certainly come recommended by me! The main issue with anemones though is that they are much more demanding than clownfish. Even the easiest sea anemones require not only excellent water quality but high intensity lighting because they are partially photosynthetic organisms.

Ocellaris Clownfish prefer the Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica), Merten’s Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii), and the Giant Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), all of which are some of the more difficult species to keep. Carpet Anemones also have a particularly mean sting and are often tank mate eaters.

They may decide to host a Bubble Tip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor), however, which is one of the easiest species to keep! Certain large polyp stony corals may also work, including Frog Spawn and other Euphyllia species. Just be careful to watch LPS corals since they may not grow accustomed to having clownfish nestle in their tentacles and retract from the stress.

Good Tank Mates for Ocellaris Clownfish Include:

  • Pygmy Angelfish, Tangs, Damselfish, Mandarin Gobies, and other Community Fish
  • Other Ocellaris Clownfish (with caution)
  • Shrimp, Snails, Crabs, and other Invertebrates
  • Sea Anemones, LPS, SPS, and Soft Corals


Water Conditions


Ocellaris Clownfish are found in tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, around Australia, Japan, and Southeast Asia. They prefer temperatures of 73-80℉ year-round.

Water Chemistry

Like all reef fish, Ocellaris Clownfish require a salinity (specific gravity) of 1.020-1.025 for survival. But being such beginner-friendly fish, Ocellaris Clownfish are otherwise undemanding when it comes to water quality. And if you can find captive bred specimens they are even hardier than their wild ancestors! Ammonia and nitrite should always be undetectable but low levels won’t cause them undue stress. Nitrate should be at 10 parts per million or below as well.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

While they can reach up to 3 inches in length, Ocellaris Clownfish aren’t especially active swimmers. They will thrive in aquariums as small as 10 gallons in size. If you’re looking to breed a pair, keeping them alone in a 10 gallon tank makes matters much easier.

Feeding Your Ocellaris Clownfish

What Should I Feed My Ocellaris Clownfish?
Ocellaris Clownfish are omnivorous in nature, feeding on green algae and planktonic organisms like copepods, small shrimp, and other invertebrates. We need to provide them with a similarly diverse diet, with flakes and pellets fortified with both plant and animal matter.

Always take the time to read the ingredients on the label in order to find a blend that isn’t mostly plant starch or other cheap fillers! Fish meal, spirulina, and vitamin boosters will help keep your clownfish healthy and in breeding condition.

Intermix your prepared offers with fresh and frozen foods like brine shrimp, chopped mysis shrimp, tubifex worms, and the like. These will provide your clownfish with nutrients your prepared blend may be lacking!

How Often Should I Feed My Ocellaris Clownfish?
Clownfish have average metabolisms and should be fed twice per day. If you’re looking to breed them, you can increase feedings to three times per day if you have a bonded pair.


Breeding Your Ocellaris Clownfish

How Can I Condition My Ocellaris Clownfish to Spawn?

Pairing clownfish can be challenging because a female that chooses not to accept a potential mate may end up killing him. The best way is to raise a group of juveniles and let the pair bond form naturally. This way, you can simply remove the bonded pair to a separate aquarium if you wish.

You can also try introducing a larger (female) and smaller (male) Ocellaris Clownfish into a tank at the same time. They might end up pairing or they might not, which again, can be dangerous to the male.

Once you have an established pair, fattening them up with plenty of high quality prepared and fresh foods is the best way. They don’t require a sea anemone to spawn, which further simplifies matters. Clownfish are substrate spawners and prefer a hard surface or cave, such as an upturned clay pot, to deposit their eggs on.

How Can I Tell If My Ocellaris Clownfish is Pregnant?
Ocellaris Clownfish can lay up to 2000 eggs at a time! So once the female begins to develop eggs, it will be very obvious that she’s carrying. The clownfish pair will also start scouting out areas to spawn and the female will become even more of a bully towards her mate.

Once the pair lays and fertilizes the eggs the female then patrols the area, chasing off other fish, while the male gently fans the eggs. This ensures a steady flow of oxygen as they develop and prevents fungal spores from settling on them. Once the fry hatch though, you’ll need to take over as they are tiny enough to require infusoria and other planktonic food for survival.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ocellaris Clownfish Good for Beginners?

They are some of the hardiest marine fish in the hobby, especially if purchased captive bred!

How Can I Sex Ocellaris Clownfish?

Since males and females have identical colors, you can tell by size and personality. Females are larger and more aggressive than males.

What Do Ocellaris Clownfish Eat?

They are omnivores and should be given a mixture of marine algae and animal matter.


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