A clownfish is at home with a host sea anemone
Breeding Clownfish is a very rewarding experience and one that can be accomplished at home with a little preparation and care. Clownfish are a popular in marine aquariums and relatively easy to breed in captivity if you follow some basic procedures. It is sometimes possible to buy a pair of breeding clownfish from your local fish store, and this will naturally speed up the breeding process because you will not have to wait for a young pair of clownfish to reach sexual maturity.
Clownfish have a dominance structure where the largest and most aggressive female sits at the top. Within a group only the top male and female will mate through a process called external fertilization. Simply meaning they lay eggs. Clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites, which means all clownfish are born as males and can turn into a female when needed. If for example the largest female in the group dies it will be the largest male who will turn itself into a female. The remaining males will move up the hierarchy depending on size.
In nature or in a tank if provided the breeding clownfish female will lay her eggs on a flat surface close to its host anemone. In the wild breeding clownfish will typically spawn around the time of a full moon. There are many species of clownfish and some can lay thousands of eggs. The breeding male will protect the eggs until they hatch around ten days later, or as little as six days.
Clownfish have enjoyed great success in being bred in captivity on a relatively large scale. There is an increasing number of farms that breed clownfish which is great new for wild clownfish. As more captive breeding clownfish become available there is less demand for wild caught clownfish, which means they can be left alone in the wild and numbers will not be depleted due to over farming. Captive bred clownfish have the added advantage of being a hardier aquarium fish as this is all they are used to. They are also more resistant to disease and stress. Also a captive bred clownfish will not necessarily rely on a host sea anemone or even want to host one if one is provided. Breeding clownfish will sometimes use live lay their eggs on live rock and ignore a host anemone
In captivity a clownfish may seek refuge in a soft coral if a sea anemone is not present. Depending on the coral this can sometimes agitate the fish's skin, and sometimes kill the coral. A clownfish will defend its anemone or coral. Some clownfish will rarely stray far from their host whereas others will freely roam the entire length of the tank. In my experience clownfish like to swim freely but come back to their anemone on a regular basis.
The breeding Clownfish in this picture are an adult mating pair and they are breeding on a regular basis. This is a side view of my marine aquarium. The adult clownfish to the left is hovering just above the clownfish eggs. The clownfish eggs are purple in colorr and will be ready to hatch in a few days. Both parent clownfish take it in turns to look after the eggs. There is a video below of the adult clownfish looking after their eggs whilst living in their host anemone. A breeding clownfish pair can sometimes be purchased from your local fish store but are generally more expensive.
Below is a video of my adult breeding Clownfish looking after their babies before they hatch in the next few days. They are quite hard to see, clownfish eggs start off a bright orange color and turn to more of a purple color after a few days, which is what you can see in this video. My breeding Clownfish spend a lot of their time looking after and aerating the babies before they hatch. In this video they are wanting food from me so are not looking after the clownfish fry as much as they usually do. The clownfish eggs are positioned dead center of the video
The baby Clownfish you see here were bred by my breeding clownfish, and they are now a few months old. If you watch the video you will get more of a perspective on their size.
I have bred clownfish in the past and below is a video of two baby clownfish and they are a few months old now with full body markings. Not many of them survived to adulthood however these two are going from strength to strength and now have their own tank. The aquarium needs a little work but the baby clownfish seem very happy at the moment.
Breeding clownfish is not as hard as it may seem and there is a very good book by Joyce Wilkinson that will talk you through the process. I personally have raised the two clownfish babies pictured above using frozen rotifers, something which is generally not advised. The problem with breeding Clownfish is that the fry like to eat live rotifers, which means you need to have a culture of live rotifers going all the time during the early stages of the clownfish fry growth. The culture will need to be set up whilst the breeding clownfish are preparing to lay their eggs The Rotifers need to be fed as well and will need phyto plankton to do this, which you can buy in pre made solutions. Or as many clownfish breeders will do, you can culture your own phyto plankton. So in essence you are having to feed the food that will in turn be consumed by the clownfish fry. As you can see breeding live Rotifers and Phyto Plankton is another chore when it comes to raising fry. Cultures can crash and fry still may not make it to adult hood even with live food. A marine biologist who works part time at my local fish store often breeds clownfish and uses only frozen food, with great success. He is now breeding some of the rarer breeds of clownfish. So breeding clownfish can be down without live food, however it should be noted that the survival rate will not be as high compared to fry that are provided with live food. Clownfish fry will slowly mature and can then be fed baby brine shrimp. Baby brine shrimp are very easy to culture and you can purchase brine shrimp eggs freely of the internet or at your local fish store. Brine shrimp will only take a few days to hatch.