Why Can Clownfish Live in Anemones?


Clownfish living in anemones was made famous in the movie, ‘Finding Nemo’.

But why can clownfish live in anemones while other fish are stung, paralyzed, and either eaten, left for dead, or flee when they snap out of it?

Scientists have theorized that clownfish can live in anemones without being stung because the clownfish at some point becomes coated with some of the mucus from the anemone or the clownfish is simply camouflaged because of their color.

There is no consensus as of this writing.

New research has also shown that clownfish just need to be in the same area as an anemone so they can trade chemical cues and certain bacteria which stick to the mucous that covers the clownfish’s body.

Once the clownfish has received a certain amount of this bacteria or chemicals that can make the clownfish immune to anemone stings, the clownfish can approach the anemone and gently rub at the base of the anemone to get an even stronger coat of the anemone mucus to prevent being stung by the anemone.

Here is the source: microbiomejournal

There is more to the entire relationship, so let’s dive in!

How Do Clownfish Survive in Anemones?

First and foremost, clownfish survive in anemones by not getting stung.

Clownfish in an aquarium absolutely do not require an anemone, but in the wild ocean reefs, clownfish would not last long without an anemone, especially since they are very slow swimmers.

Once a clownfish is living in an anemone, it survives by eating dead tentacles, parasites that could hurt the anemone, leftover fish the anemone didn’t eat, or invertebrates and algae from the ocean floor.

Clownfish never stray very far from the anemone for fear of being eaten.

Clownfish help keep the anemone alive by pooping.

Yes, you heard me right, the anemone consumes the poop for nitrogen and even shares it with algae that grow in the cells of the anemone. These algae that are nourished by clownfish poop, in turn nourish the anemone.

Clownfish also chase away fish that would otherwise eat an anemone.

Can Clownfish Live in Any Anemone?

No Clownfish can not live in any anemone.

There are around 1,000 different sea anemones but only ten of these are considered hosts for certain types of clownfish.

We created an easy table for you to reference, even showing different combinations that would work in an aquarium, but we do not recommend trying to keep an anemone in an aquarium as it is very difficult to keep alive.

SEA ANEMONE:COMPATIBLE CLOWNFISH:
Bulb Tentacle, Bubble Tip,
Rose, or Maroon Sea Anemone
Red Saddleback Clownfish
Red and Black Clownfish
Barrier-Reef Clownfish
Allard’s Clownfish
Two-band Clownfish
Orange-fin Clownfish
Clark’s Clownfish
Tomato Clownfish
McCulloch’s Clownfish
Oman Clownfish
Australian Clownfish
Three-band Clownfish
Maroon Clownfish
In Aquarium But Not in Wild:
Ocellaris\False Percula clownfish
Corkscrew Tentacle, Long Tentacle
Sea anemone
Mauritian Clownfish
Clark’s Clownfish
Pink Skunk Clownfish
Saddleback Clownfish
In Aquarium But Not in Wild:
Maroon Clownfish
Adhesive, Sticky Carpet, or Pizza
Sea Anemone
Clark’s Clownfish
In Aquarium But Not in Wild:
Tomato Clownfish
Maroon Clownfish
Delicate, Sebae, Hawaiian,
or White Sand Sean Anemone
Clark’s Clownfish
In Aquarium But Not in Wild:
Maroon Clownfish
Magnificent or Ritteri Sea AnemoneClark’s Clownfish
Ocellaris Clownfish
Skunk Clownfish
Barrier Reef Clownfish
Two-band Clownfish
Mauritian Clownfish
Orange-fin Clownfish
White-bonnet Clownfish
Red and Black Clownfish
Maldives Clownfish
Percula Clownfish
Leathery or Sebae Sea AnemoneThree-Band Clownfish
Percula Clownfish
Barrier Reef Clownfish
Two-band Clownfish
Orange-fin Clownfish
Clark’s Clownfish
Red Saddleback Clownfish
Wide-band Clownfish
White-bonnet Clownfish
Red and Black Clownfish
Oman Clownfish
Pink Skunk Clownfish
Saddleback Clownfish
Orange Skunk Clownfish
Beaded or Aurora Sea AnemoneBarrier Reef Clownfish
Two-band Clownfish
Allard’s Clownfish
Mauritian Clownfish
Orange-fin Clownfish
Clark’s Clownfish
Three-Band Clownfish
Gigantic or Giant Sea AnemoneOcellaris Clownfish
Clark’s Clownfish
Barrier Reef Clownfish
Two-band Clownfish
Percula Clownfish
Pink Skunk Clownfish
Australian Clownfish
Haddon’s or Saddle Carpet AnemoneClark’s Clownfish
Barrier Reef Clownfish
Mauritian Clownfish
Orange-fin Clownfish
Saddleback Clownfish
Sebae Clownfish
In Aquarium But Not in Wild:
Ocellaris Clownfish
Allard’s Clownfish
Percula Clownfish
Merten’s Carpet Sea AnemoneOrange-fin Clownfish
Skunk Clownfish
Barrier Reef Clownfish
Allard’s Clownfish
Mauritian Clownfish
Clark’s Clownfish
Seychelles Clownfish
Madagascar Clownfish
White-bonnet Clownfish
Ocellaris Clownfish
Orange Skunk Clownfish
Three-Band Clownfish

Can Clownfish Live Without Anemone?

In the wild ocean, a clownfish cannot live without an anemone because they are slow swimmers and live amongst coral reefs which are constantly prowled by hunters.

In an aquarium, a clownfish can live without an anemone and even loses the protective coating to defend them from the anemone stings.

If at some point you put a compatible anemone in the tank, the clownfish will gently rub itself against the anemone’s tentacles, sometimes for hours before finally fully entering the anemone.

Conclusion

Again, we can not emphasize enough, not to keep a live anemone in an aquarium with your clownfish, especially if you are a beginner.

Even if the anemone survives for a while it will certainly die while in the ocean, that can live indefinitely.

It also keeps greedy people from harvesting wild anemones which will devastate the clownfish population even more since ‘Finding Nemo’ was produced.

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