5 Reasons Clownfish Don’t Need Anemones In Aquariums (But Do In The Wild)

Clownfish and anemones

Clownfish and anemones are often seen together in the wild.

They’re different species; clownfish are fish, while anemones are marine animals.

However, they form a symbiotic relationship and thrive in each other’s presence.

So, do clownfish need anemones?

Clownfish and Anemones’ Relationship

Clownfish need anemones for survival in the wild. Anemones protect clownfish from predators as their sting is fatal for many marine creatures. Anemones are also a food source for clownfish. However, clownfish don’t need anemones in aquariums as there is no risk of predation or food scarcity.

Let’s learn more about the various benefits of anemones to clownfish and why anemones aren’t necessary for clownfish in home aquariums.

2 Main Reasons Why Clownfish Need Anemones in The Wild

Clownfish and anemones share a symbiotic relationship where both species benefit from one another.

Clownfish depend on anemones for numerous reasons in the wild, where survival can be difficult.

Given below are the most prominent reasons why clownfish need anemones in their natural habitat.

1. Anemones Provide Shelter to Clownfish

The biggest advantage of anemones to clownfish is that they provide protection.

Clownfish are easy prey for a lot of marine creatures in the wild.

However, since clownfish hide in the tentacles of anemones, they get shelter.

Not many marine creatures come close to anemones as their sting is fatal and can even paralyze a large predator.

Also, clownfish eggs stay protected from marine creatures if an anemone is around them.

2. Anemones Provide Food to Clownfish

A clownfish attached to an anemone is more likely to find food.

Clownfish often feed on the leftover food of the anemones.

Clownfish also feed on the perishing anemone tentacles.

Hence, a clownfish attached to an anemone is less likely to starve and can live a long and healthy life.

Although anemones are beneficial and necessary for the survival of clownfish in the wild, the same can’t be said for captive clownfish.

Captive clownfish can survive without anemones.

So, let’s also understand why anemones aren’t necessary for clownfish in aquariums.

5 Reasons Clownfish Don’t Need Anemones in Aquariums

Clownfish depend heavily on anemones in the wild.

Adding anemones to a clownfish tank is a great way to replicate their natural environment.

However, clownfish don’t need anemones in captivity.

Due to their complex care requirements, many aquarists prefer not to keep anemones with clownfish in their aquariums.

Let’s now examine why anemones aren’t necessary for clownfish in home aquariums.

1. No Predation

In the wild, clownfish can be easy prey to a lot of marine creatures.

Hence, they depend on anemones to save themselves from predators.

The same isn’t true in home aquariums because there is no danger of predation.

Therefore, anemones have nothing to offer to clownfish in an aquarium setup.

2. Adequate Food Supply

As discussed earlier, anemones provide food to clownfish in their natural environment.

Hence, clownfish are dependent on anemones for survival.

However, there is no shortage of food in captivity if you feed your clownfish adequately.

Clownfish are dependent on their owners and not on anemones for food supply.

3. All Anemones Aren’t Suited to Clownfish

Clownfish and anemones share a symbiotic relationship in the wild. However, not all anemones are suitable for clownfish.

Before buying any anemone for your fish tank, you must thoroughly know the compatibility of that anemone with your clownfish.

Captive-bred clownfish are also not used to seeing anemones around them.

Hence, they may take time to adapt to their new tankmate.

4. Clownfish Can Get Aggressive

Wild clownfish are known to become territorial while defending their territory.

They usually become aggressive if any outsider intrudes into their space.

Captive clownfish are comparatively less aggressive as they’re raised in groups.

When you introduce anemones in the tank, they may feel threatened and look upon them as a competitor.

This behavior can trigger aggression among your captive clownfish.

5. Anemones Need Better Care

Unlike fish, anemones aren’t easy to care for.

They need mature tanks, specific water conditions, lighting, substrate, and proper feeding to thrive.

Also, not all anemones are hardy. Some are more delicate and difficult to care for than the clownfish itself.

Some anemone types also never adapt to the aquarium conditions and can perish within a few days or weeks.

How Do Anemones Benefit from Clownfish?

Clownfish aren’t the only ones that benefit from anemones.

Anemones also benefit from clownfish and are happy to host them.

Anemones get vital nutrients from clownfish’s excrement. These nutrients help in the growth and regeneration of anemones.

Clownfish also eat the parasites accumulated on the tentacles of anemones. In a way, clownfish keep the anemones clean.

Some scientists also believe that the movement of clownfish helps in aerating the water near the anemones.

It helps increase the anemones’ respiration and metabolism, thus keeping them healthy.

Finally, anemones also manage to catch some prey as they get attracted to the anemones due to the bright colors of clownfish.

Why Doesn’t an Anemone Sting Harm Clownfish?

Clownfish in anemones

The stings of anemones are fatal to the fish. However, clownfish don’t get harmed by their sting.

Several theories have come up explaining the reason behind it.

Clownfish have adapted to live with anemones by evolving a thick layer of mucus on their skin.

This mucus protects them from anemone stings.

This mucus thickens as the clownfish ages, and by the time they become adults, the mucus becomes four times thicker than most fish.

Clownfish are also believed to acclimate to the anemone by rubbing themselves into the anemone’s tentacles.

Repeating this process makes them immune to anemone stings.

Other theories suggest that clownfish swim in a circular motion around the anemones.

Hence, the stings hit the anemones themselves and don’t hurt the clownfish.

It’s also believed that the mucus of the clownfish gets stronger once it mixes with the anemone’s mucus, making them less prone to stings.

Which Anemones Host Clownfish?

Although anemones aren’t necessary for captive clownfish, many aquarists prefer to keep anemones with clownfish to create a natural-looking environment.

So it’s essential to know which anemones are compatible with your clownfish variety.

Otherwise, the match may fail even after making all the necessary tank adjustments for the two species.

Given below is the list of anemones that are compatible with specific clownfish species.

Clownfish SpeciesCompatible Anemones
Percula ClownfishLeathery Sea Anemones, Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemones, Giant Carpet Sea Anemones, and Magnificent Sea Anemones
Tomato Red ClownfishLeathery (Sebae) Sea Anemones and Bubble Tip Anemones
Clark’s Yellowtail ClownfishBubble Tip Anemones, Haddon’s Sea Anemones, Carpet Sea Anemones, Magnificent Sea Anemones, Leathery Sea Anemones, and Beaded Sea Anemones
Pink Skunk ClownfishGiant Carpet Sea Anemones, Corkscrew Sea Anemones, Magnificent Sea Anemones, and Leathery Sea Anemones
Saddleback ClownfishLeathery (Sebae) Sea Anemones and Haddon’s (Saddleback Carpet) Sea Anemones
Red Saddleback ClownfishLeathery (Sebae) Sea Anemones and Bubble Tip Anemones
Cinnamon, Red, and Black ClownfishLeathery (Sebae) Sea Anemones and Bubble Tip Anemones
Orange Skunk ClownfishMerten’s Carpet Sea Anemones and Leathery Sea Anemones

Apart from the above list, numerous other anemones can cohabitate with other clownfish types.

Related Questions

Are Anemones Hard to Keep in Aquariums?

Anemones can be challenging to keep in aquariums as they need ideal lighting, water parameters, oxygen levels, and water flow.

Some types of anemones can’t adapt to tank conditions and can quickly perish without proper care.

Anemones also have a habit of stinging fish and other objects while they drift around.

Some sea anemones can also grow very large, up to 6 feet wide.

Hence, a large tank with adequate space and special care is needed to keep anemones in the tank.

Why Do Some Clownfish Reject Anemones as Host?

Some clownfish reject anemones as hosts in the wild because they live in an environment with no anemones around them.

These clownfish have different feeding habits as they primarily consume small fish and crustaceans and don’t depend on the anemones for food.

The clownfish that are captive raised are also not familiar with anemones.

Moreover, more than a thousand anemone species exist, and all aren’t compatible with clownfish.