The marine ecosystem contains various aquatic species, among which is the colorful, social clownfish. Clownfish are small-sized fish with different colors, and they live in a mutualistic relationship with anemones in sheltered reefs. The symbiotic living mode of clownfish and anemones has a lot of benefits for the two animals. Depending on its species, the clownfish’s color can be orange, yellow, or red. A major distinguishing factor of clownfish is the white stripes they all possess.
Where Do Clownfish Live in The Wild?
There are 30 species of Clownfish widely distributed across the various aquatic natural environments. Even though clownfish have multiple species, they are not found in all water bodies. Clownfish only exist in warm water bodies like the Pacific ocean, Indian ocean, and Red sea. Clownfish do not live in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean oceans.
A significant factor influencing their wild habitat selection is the ability to locate a suitable host, which are specific types of anemones. Anemones are always found on the surface of coral reefs. This is why clownfish are always located around coral reefs because they live in coral reefs together with their host.
It’s easy to identify the clownfish while diving in oceans since they live in groups and are usually found in shallow reefs where their natural host lives.
The mutualistic relationship between anemone and clownfish offers the following benefits to each partner. The anemone protects the fish using its tentacles against predators. It also leaves food scrap, which clownfish can feed on. On the other hand, the clownfish uses its bright color to attract other fish to the anemone, and this fish will be killed and eaten by the anemone. The clownfish also provides nutrients to the anemone through its feces.
How Do Clownfish Survive The Anemone Tentacle Poison?
The Anemone tentacle has nematocyst or stinging cells, which sting predators or prey when they touch the tentacle. The nematocyst releases toxins that paralyze the predator, making it easy for the anemone to engulf and eat the predator or prey.
The clownfish is not affected by the anemone tentacle due to an existing adaptive mechanism developed at the start of their mutualistic relationship. Before the clownfish starts living with the anemone, it carefully builds up a mucus layer on its surface by touching the anemone tentacle with its various body parts. Once this process is completed, the clownfish will have a well-formed mucus layer, making it less sensitive to the nematocyst toxin.
What Should You Consider Before Keeping Clownfish in Your Aquarium?
If you have watched the Pixar movie “Finding Nemo,” you will likely wish to have clownfish in your aquarium. The internet has also made clownfish popular, which necessitated the knowledge of adapting your aquarium to the clownfish’s natural habitat.
The first step toward keeping clownfish successfully in an aquarium is to remember that they are captured from the wild. Therefore, if you want to take care of and maintain your clownfish, you need to practice good fish-keeping techniques by mimicking its natural symbiotic relationship with a host.
The host may not necessarily be an anemone. If you are keeping the clownfish in an aquarium, it is good to use torch coral as the host since they serve as a better substitute for anemone in an aquarium system. Anemones are not suitable for aquarium purposes because they are often difficult to keep outside their natural coral reefs’ habitat.
Another important thing you should consider before keeping clownfish in your aquarium is its species because this ultimately influences the aquarium size required. Although many species of clownfish can be kept in an aquarium, you need to bear in mind that each species have varying survival requirement when kept in captivity.
The most popular clownfish found in aquariums is the Ocellaris clownfish. These clownfish require a small aquarium like a 20-gallon tank, making it affordable and more economical to keep in the aquarium.
Clownfish such as maroon clownfish belong to a larger species and may need a bigger aquarium size to live comfortably. You may also need a big aquarium if you keep more than one clownfish species.
Setting up an impressive and captivating reef aquarium containing clownfish and coral hosts starts with a deep understanding of clownfish’s natural habitat. Suppose you consider the clownfish species, host specificity, and aquarium size requirements while setting up your aquarium. In that case, you can easily make the clownfish live as if they are in the widely known Australian Great Barrier Reef.