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Clownfish have exploded in popularity over the last decade, and are a highly sought after fish for saltwater aquariums. Their fun personalities and bright appearance have endeared them to the aquarium keeping community as a whole, but new saltwater fish keepers might still have questions.
Saltwater tanks are often community tanks with many different types of fish, but there’s a chance that adding a clownfish to such a community may cause a problem. Can clownfish live alone?
Clownfish and territorial fish, so they prefer to live alone. If housed with other clownfish, territory and mating disputes can cause fights between the clownfish, making them better suited to living alone or in mated pairs.
Can Clownfish Live Alone?
Yes, clownfish are perfectly content living alone, especially if they have been raised as a solitary fish. The only exception is a pair of mated clownfish living together.
You may have heard of schooling or shoaling fish, which are types of fish that live in groups. Clownfish are not schooling fish. As solitary fish, clownfish become stressed in groups and may fight with both different species and other clownfish to establish territory.
To avoid territorial fights, it’s highly recommended that clownfish be kept alone. When kept as a solitary fish, clownfish feel no need to defend their territory and live calmer, more peaceful lives. Even in large tanks, clownfish will eventually run into each other if kept in the same tank and subsequently fight.
Another reason clownfish will fight each other is over establishing dominance. The dominant male clownfish will be able to mate with any present females, so fights between two males trying to establish dominance can be quite violent.
As far as other species of fish, clown fish do well with both bottom dwellers and with fish of similar size and temperament to themselves.
Some acceptable clownfish tank mates are:
Avoid fish that are smaller than your clownfish, since the clownfish may pick on them. Clownfish can be aggressive, and they will feel even more so around smaller fish.
Also, never add predatory fish that may try and eat your clownfish, no matter how many hiding places there are.
Predators will make your clownfish stressed and less likely to come out, even if there is an anemone available for the clownfish to live in. You also wouldn’t want your larger fish to be stung by an anemone! To avoid injuries all around, don’t keep clownfish with any other fish that may make a meal out of them.
Do Clownfish Have To Be Kept In Pairs?
While established mated pairs of clownfish can be kept in a tank together, they are also happy living alone.
Clownfish do not have to be kept in pairs. Clownfish can be aggressive, even when kept in pairs, so some clownfish will happily spend their entire lives alone.
That being said, a mated pair of clownfish can be a joy to watch together. As a pair, the clownfish will play with one another and interact on a regular basis. Clownfish kept in pairs seem to be braver, and will come out in the open more often.
Can Clownfish Live Without Anemone?
One of the defining features about the clownish is it’s symbiotic relationship with anemones. Anemone’s will deliver a painful sting to anything that comes into contact with them, except for the clownfish!
Clownfish will live within the anemone, avoiding the painful barbs that affect other fish. Although the relationship between anemone and clownfish is absolutely necessary for survival in the wild, a clownfish can live without an anemone in captivity.
Anemones can be hard to grow and care for in captivity, but some fish tank keepers go through the effort so they can see how their clownfish would live in the wild. If you can’t acquire an anemone, though, your clownfish will be just fine.
In the wild, the clownfish would eat algae and small animals that were bothering the anemone, while the anemone would protect the clownfish by stinging any other intruders.
Anemones also benefit by having a clownfish around because clownfish will eat dead parts of the anemone and keep the water flowing fresh throughout it. Without a clownfish, the water inside the anemone can become stagnant and cause parts of the anemone to degrade.
Since domestic clownfish face no predators, they can make their home in other places, like corals and plants.
Do Clownfish Need A Mate?
Clownfish do not need a mate, but a mated pair can be kept together under the right circumstances.
The exception to the one-clownfish-only rule is when keeping a mated male and female pair. A mated pair of clownfish can co-exist happily, on the condition that they are an established couple.
A mated pair of clownfish will share an anemone if one is available, and can often be seen swimming among the anemone together.
Most clownfish breeders will have a mated pair kept together since they were young. When a mated pair grows up together, they tend to get along perfectly.
If you’re introducing an unmated male and female together, you must be careful and go slowly with your introduction. If introduced too quickly, there is the possibility that the two clownfish will still fight, even if they are different genders.
Can clownfish live in freshwater?
No, clownfish can only live in saltwater. Under no circumstances can clownfish survive in freshwater.
How long do clownfish live?
On average, a properly cared for clownfish can live between 3 and 6 years in captivity, with some living up to 10 years.
Can you buy a clownfish?
Yes, you can buy a clownfish in most fish stores. They cost around $15, but can be a little more expensive for fancier colors and varieties.
Is it cruel to keep a clownfish as a pet?
Captive bred clownfish do just fine when kept in adequate environments as pets. On the other hand, a wild caught clownfish will be stressed in captivity, and some never adjust. Stick to captive bred clownfish for pets.