I've not written a blog on fish for quite a while so I thought I would interrupt the coral blog posts with a fish-themed submission. I also realise that so far I have neglected the main stay of marine aquariums everywhere, you know exactly what I'm talking about here and that is the Common Clownfish!

If you don't keep Clownfish or you don't want to keep them then I'm pretty sure you're in the minority club, I would assume with some confidence that the majority of marine aquariums out there have Clownfish of some sorts in them. Now, if you have never kept Clownfish or don't want to then.. I get it, no really I do, and even if you are in the minority that isn't to say you're in the wrong whatsoever. Clownfish can be a pain in the rear sometimes for reasons i'll mention below. 

Firstly though, let's have a quick look over the Common Clown. Instantly recognisable by its characteristic orange body, white bands and anemone hosting habits you will almost always encounter the clownfish in mated pairs. Interestingly, Clownfish are all born males and over time a more dominant clownfish will emerge from the pack and turn into a female. At this point, the female will find a male companion and they will become a mated pair. Female clowns can be notoriously picky when it comes to accepting a male partner and if they are placed with a male they don't like, they will often bully the male to the point of serious injury or death. Once paired however they will quite happily make a home for themselves in a part of the aquarium which will then become their territory. Eventually, once they have matured and as long as conditions in the aquarium are good, they may mate and lay eggs. The Clownfish pair will start this breeding behaviour by cleaning a part of the rock work of algae, detritus and anything else they can move (trust me they're stronger than they look!), the female will then pass over laying eggs quickly followed by the male who fertilises them. The pair will then tend to the eggs, keeping them free of detritus and predators before they finally hatch about two weeks later. The Clownfish pair will probably have a bit of a break now for about a week or so before doing it all over again. Breeding seasons will typically last a couple of months but are really dictated by environmental conditions like warmer water and lower salinity. These environmental conditions will usually be the result of monsoon season which preludes some optimum conditions on the reef for fry to develop. Mother nature has her ways and things happen on the reef for a reason, evolution at its finest!

A funny quirk that is often observed in Clowns are shows of dominance and submission. In the mated pair the female is the boss and the male must show to her that he is subservient. The male will show this to the female in reciprocal behaviours. For example, the female may swim head on at the male, at speed in a sort of 'charge'. To show submission the male will turn to the side rather than stay head on to the female. This is the clown showing that he is yielding, much like when a dog rolls over and shows their belly. The other behaviour which is more reciprocal is when the female will be near or alongside the male and twitch as though she is having a mini seizure. This is a 'challenge' and the male will reciprocate by twitching back. This is their way of communicating and the male saying 'yes I acknowledge you and you are the boss' or something to that effect. It's an interesting thing to see in the home aquarium and one that people often ask about if they've never seen before. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sheer variety of Clownfish that exist, whilst they are known for their characteristic orange, white and black line colouration there are many other types of Clown such as the one in the middle picture above which is the same Clownfish (Ocellaris) as the orange ones however it has a black body and white bands. Breeding of these two colour variations of clown, plus natural mutations in colouration, have produced a phenomenon known as 'designer clownfish'. These designer clownfish have produced even more colour types of clownfish, some commanding extremely high price tags such as the Black Ice Clown or Black Storm Clown. Really niche and interesting colour morphs don't always have to have an eye watering price tag though, there's a fish out there for everyone as I like to say! 

As well as designer clownfish which all belong to the same genus you also have a breadth of Clowns of different genus. The right hand picture above are Maroon Clownfish which look similar to the more well known Ocellaris but have a maroon base colour and can grow much bigger than the common Ocellaris

So let's talk Clownfish care. They're regarded as a more hardy fish to keep (partly why they're so popular) which they owe to their thick mucous coat on their body. They don't require a big aquarium and will be quite happy in a nano aquarium, always check the individual care requirements depending on the type of Clownfish you wish to keep though. They are omnivores which means they'll take both meaty foods and algae based foods. I feed mine frozen mysis shrimp and supplement with a few algae pellets to keep their diet well rounded. Now let's talk temperament.. I gave a nod earlier on in the blog that Clownfish can be a pain in the rear and that is because they can be quite territorial. The female of the pair is not afraid about defending her territory and will quickly see of any fish or inverts she thinks is intruding. In terms of intruders, this can often also include your hand! When you've got your hand in the aquarium to do some maintenance, the female clown will have no trouble squaring up to you and giving you a nip. They have no teeth so it doesn't hurt.. it's just annoying. When keeping their territory clean and tidy they can also forcefully push new coral frags over too which I find particularly annoying but all in all, i couldn't imagine not having Clowns in my reef. 

So hopefully I haven't put you off keeping Clowns. Like I said, I couldn't imagine not having them.. they're as much a part of the reef as the rockwork in my opinion. There are always plenty of Clowns in store so have a look online here and if you're close by, pop in to the shop and see them all in person. 

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