Clownfish

Clownfish or anemonefish are fishes from the subfamily Amphiprioninae in the family Pomacentridae. Thirty species are recognized, one in the genus Premnas, while the remaining are in the genus Amphiprion. In the wild they all form symbiotic mutualisms with sea anemones. Depending on species, Clownfish are overall yellow, orange, or a reddish or blackish color, and many show white bars or patches. The largest can reach a length of 18 centimetres (7.1 in), while the smallest barely can reach 10 centimetres (3.9 in).

Clownfish are native to warmer waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea. While most species have restricted distributions, others are widespread. Clownfish live at the bottom of shallow seas in sheltered reefs or in shallow lagoons. There are no clownfish in the Atlantic.

Clownfish and sea anemones have a symbiotic, mutualistic relationship, each providing a number of benefits to the other. The individual species are generally highly host specific, and especially the genera Heteractis and Stichodactyla, and the species Entacmaea quadricolor are frequent clownfish partners. The sea anemone protects the clownfish from predators, as well as providing food through the scraps left from the anemone’s meals and occasional dead anemone tentacles. In return, the clownfish defends the anemone from its predators, and parasites. The anemone also picks up nutrients from the clownfish’s excrement, and functions as a safe nest site. The nitrogen excreted from clownfish increases the amount of algae incorporated into the tissue of their hosts, which aids the anemone in tissue growth and regeneration. It has been theorized that the clownfish use their bright coloring to lure small fish to the anemone, and that the activity of the clownfish results in greater water circulation around the sea anemone. Studies on anemonefish have found that clownfish alter the flow of water around sea anemone tentacles by certain behaviours and movements such as “wedging” and “switching.” Aeration of the host anemone tentacles allows for benefits to the metabolism of both partners, mainly by increasing anemone body size and both clownfish and anemone respiration.