Clownfish are popular among aquarists because of their colorful appearance. Also, breeding clownfish is exciting, and it can be rewarding to see your fish grow into beautiful adults.
But do they eat their eggs?
Clownfish and Their Eggs
Clownfish usually don’t eat their eggs unless they’re malnourished or stressed. Male clownfish eat weak, infertile, or damaged eggs to protect the fertile eggs. Inexperienced clownfish eat their eggs for the first few spawnings. You can protect the eggs by feeding your clownfish adequately and eliminating stress.
Let’s now learn in more detail about the various reasons why clownfish eat their eggs and ways to protect the eggs.
But first, let’s understand whether clownfish care for their eggs or not.
Parental Instincts of Clownfish
Male clownfish are known for their parental instincts.
Once the female clownfish lay the eggs, they turn away and usually stay away from the eggs.
The male clownfish carry out the majority of the parental responsibilities.
They nest the eggs closely, fan them with their fins, and clean them with their mouth.
The male clownfish also keep the water flowing between and around the eggs, thus preventing the eggs from catching any bacterial or fungal infection.
They also guard the eggs against predators until they hatch.
While the male clownfish become the diligent caretaker of the clutch, sometimes they eat some of the eggs.
So, let’s understand the reasons behind clownfish eating their eggs.
5 Main Reasons Why Clownfish Eat Their Eggs
Clownfish are known for taking care of their eggs and guarding their babies.
However, certain circumstances and environmental factors can compel them to eat the eggs.
Given below are the primary reasons why clownfish eat their eggs.
1. Eggs Are Not Viable
Male clownfish take full parental responsibility after the spawning is complete.
They vigorously guard their nest against any fish that comes nearby.
Male clownfish take the eggs in their mouths and clean them. In the process, they detect the non-viable eggs.
They can differentiate between viable and non-viable eggs using their sense of smell.
They can smell the difference between a live egg and an already perished one.
If the eggs aren’t viable, the male clownfish will discard them.
They will eat the non-fertilized eggs to protect the viable eggs.
Leaving the non-viable eggs near the other eggs can endanger them as the non-viable eggs can attract harmful fungus and bacteria that can quickly spread to the viable eggs.
Hence, eating the non-viable eggs increases the chances of survival of the viable ones.
2. Inexperienced Parents
If your clownfish pair is spawning for the first time, the chances of the eggs being eaten by them are high.
Since the pair is spawning for the first time, they’re inexperienced and may make mistakes while caring for the eggs.
This could result in the loss of some of the eggs.
Inexperienced parents are more likely to eat their eggs because they aren’t sure how to care for them.
They need a couple of breeding cycles before they get it right and take proper care of their eggs.
Also, most of the eggs decay due to improper care shown by the inexperienced male clownfish.
They then eat the decayed eggs to save the viable ones.
3. Eggs Have Fungal Infection
Clownfish also eat eggs when they get infected by fungus.
Male clownfish eat these infected and sick eggs to prevent the other healthy eggs from getting infected by the fungus.
Eating the infected eggs also increases the chances of survival of the remaining eggs.
If they don’t eat those eggs, then the fungus can spread to the entire clutch of eggs.
Hence, clownfish eating such eggs is a good thing, and you need not worry.
4. Poor Living Conditions
Poor living conditions are another factor that can trigger clownfish to eat their eggs.
If the tank in which the pair is spawning isn’t well maintained or is in a crowded area, clownfish may eat their eggs.
Poor living conditions can make the clownfish stressed and insecure.
They can also get stressed by harassing tankmates, unfavorable water parameters, overcrowded tanks, or poor water quality.
Clownfish may eat their eggs out of stress to reclaim their lost energy.
5. Malnourished or Starvation
Clownfish require a lot of energy to produce eggs. They also care for the eggs until they hatch.
Hence, clownfish feel low in energy after the breeding cycle is complete.
They need adequate and nutritious food to regain their lost energy at this stage.
If clownfish aren’t fed adequately during this period, they may not be able to resist the temptation of eating their eggs to satiate their hunger.
How to Stop Clownfish from Eating Their Eggs?
Male clownfish usually take good care of their eggs until they hatch.
Hence, if you notice your clownfish eating its eggs, there must be a reason behind it.
There are several ways to prevent your clownfish from eating its eggs.
Given below are the four main ways to prevent clownfish from eating their eggs.
1. Feed the Clownfish Adequately
Adequately feeding your clownfish can help prevent them from eating their eggs.
Ensure that you feed your clownfish enough so that they don’t feel hungry.
You can feed your clownfish two to three times a day so that they don’t look upon their eggs as a food source.
2. Eliminate Stress
Stress is one of the primary reasons why clownfish eat their eggs.
Hence, it’s vital that your clownfish isn’t under any stress.
You can keep clownfish stress-free by providing them with a conducive environment, feeding them a well-balanced and nutritious diet, good water quality, favorable water parameters, and avoiding overcrowding.
A happy and well-fed clownfish will nurture its eggs carefully and not feel the urge to eat them.
3. Separate the New and Inexperienced Parents
Clownfish often eat their eggs when they’re new to parenting.
Hence, separating inexperienced parents can help to prevent them from eating their eggs.
You can also move the eggs and hatch them separately in a hatching tank.
This practice should be followed only for a few spawning cycles because once the clownfish pair gets experienced, they will no longer eat the fertile eggs.
4. Keeps Eggs Well-Oxygenated
Clownfish usually eat the infected eggs to increase the survival chances of the fertile eggs.
Hence, the eggs must be well-oxygenated.
Keeping the eggs well-oxygenated ensures that the eggs don’t develop any infection. It also prevents the eggs from decaying.
An experienced clownfish is less likely to eat healthy eggs.