How Do Clownfish Mate? In a Wild, Weird Sort of Way

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how do clownfish mate

Clownfish have become a very popular aquarium fish since ‘Finding Nemo’ found its way into the hearts of families worldwide.

Since the popularity of the movie has led to the clownfish becoming endangered, you should buy a clownfish that is bred in captivity or even breed clownfish yourself which leads one to ask:

How do clownfish mate? A small tube extends from the body of the male and female clownfish where the eggs and then sperm emerge. The female clownfish passes over a pre-made nest, usually on part of a rock, and lays the eggs for the male clownfish to swim over and cover with sperm that will fertilize the eggs.

There is a lot more to it than this though so let’s dive in!

How do You Get a Clownfish to Mate? It’s All About the Romanticism!

After the popularity of ‘Finding Nemo’ skyrocketed, fish breeders were left with no choice but to learn how to breed clownfish commercially. The survival of the clownfish hinged on it. Clownfish were in such high demand that their population in the ocean was being decimated. This led to the clownfish becoming the first marine fish to be bred successfully for commercial use.

Most people who know anything about clownfish know that you need two clownfish that are mated or paired. This can be rather difficult since clownfish can actually change their gender which apparently doesn’t seem weird in the human world anymore, so I guess it is normal in the ocean world as well.

The easiest way to achieve a mated pair is to start with 6 – 10 clownfish to ensure that at least two of them will pair up and mate.

When you do have them together you need to keep the water quality as high as you possibly can to encourage the clownfish to mate. The water quality is important as this could take anywhere from 3-12 months.

If this sounds like a lot for you, or you just don’t have the free time, you can just buy a mated pair of clownfish. You can buy a pair that is together but hasn’t bred yet or you can put a pair of younger clownfish together.

Buyer beware: Buy a mated pair from a reputable dealer. If you have to buy a pair that isn’t mated yet, it is best to get a pair that includes a larger older female because it takes longer for a female to start breeding than it does for a male clownfish.

The Mystic Power of Moonlight!

Once your paired clownfish do mate for the first time, they will mate afterward more frequently. Clownfish will mate according to the lunar cycle which basically is when the sun reflects the most light from the moon and is visible from Earth. During the periods of the highest reflection of sunlight from the moon, there is more light during the night and it is much easier to see at night.

Apparently, the moonlight is romantic for clownfish, so they like to pop some bubbly, put on some Elvis and well most of you know what comes next!

Whew! Jokes aside, when the moon is the brightest, the tide is at its highest so for some reason predation is at its lowest. This means there are fewer predators lurking around to eat clownfish much less their babies. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say if the clownfish play the odds in Vegas, they know the odds are way higher for themselves and their babies to survive during the first and third quarters of the moon cycle.

How Do Clownfish Mate?

Okay straight to the point of the post, we already talked about it at the beginning. You will notice that your two clownfish are acting differently around mating time.

Like a woman, the female will become bigger around the waistline showing that she is pregnant. However, unlike a woman, the female clownfish is carrying eggs that she will release soon. Clownfish are known to mate later in the day.

Before the clownfish begin to mate though, if you watch them closely, you will notice them building a nest to get ready for when their little Nemo arrives. They will use their fins and mouths to clear a little space on the rock that holds their host anemone when they are in the ocean.

In an aquarium, you should make sure they have a rock surface that is hidden. They will use this to attach their eggs.

When it is time to mate, the male clownfish will kind of act like a male. He will try to show off his dancing skills (even if he doesn’t have any) and flare his fins out a lot. Okay, not completely like a man because the male clownfish also will nip at the female and chase her into the nest area that they have prepared for their home.

When they are in the nesting area the female clownfish will swim all over the nest trying to cover the entire area in eggs from a small hose-shaped piece extending from her body. After the female is finished, the male clownfish kind of does the same thing with his own hose. He swims back and forth over the same area but instead deposits sperm into the eggs.

Well, there you have it. If you want to get as specific as possible, that is how clownfish mate. Now that you know, we can help you set up the right conditions for your clownfish to mate.

How to Setup a Clownfish Breeding Tank for Your Clownfish to Mate

clownfish mate

The easiest way to set up your clownfish breeding tank is to set up a normal tank and let your clownfish mate and breed there. This is perfectly fine, you just want to keep the water extra clean, feed them a lot and be patient.

The best way to set up your tank, especially if you are going to keep mating and breeding more clownfish is to set up a separate breeding tank.

A ten-gallon tank will work just fine because once the clownfish eggs are laid, the clownfish are very protective and won’t move very far from the nest in the ocean or in an aquarium.

If you can it is great to have a pump area below your aquarium where you can put a return pump, heater, and skimmer to keep the water extra clean during the mating and breeding process. As stated above the clownfish will want to have a nest area that is hidden if possible. They like to have an area of rock so you should have some sort of rock or tile in your clownfish tank.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Do Clownfish Mate?

How Do You Get Clownfish to Mate?

To get your clownfish to mate you can buy a pair that is already mated. If they are not mated yet, you can buy an older female and match her with a smaller male because females take much longer to mature into the mating and breeding phase. You can buy 6 or more clownfish and wait because, with this many clownfish, you will eventually end up with a mated pair. The longest method is to buy a pair of clownfish and let mother nature take its course.

How Do You Know When Clownfish Are Mating?

The female will usually assert dominance over the male and start nipping at him. This is a sign of sexual maturity in the female, you just need to wait for the male to submit to the female. You may notice prior to mating they are trying to build a nest. During the actual mating, the male clownfish will dance around, flare his fins, swim up and down, and try to force or lead the female into the nest. If the female is pregnant, before she lays her eggs for the male to infuse with sperm, her midsection will be wider.

Why Is My Female Clownfish Chasing the Male?

This could be a sign that the female is ready to mate and she is trying to assert dominance.

Can a Black Clownfish Mate with An Orange One?

Yes, they can breed with each together, you will just have different variations in the color after the babies mature.

How Does a Clownfish Change Gender?

All clownfish are born male, but they are natural hermaphrodites. This means they all have both male and female sex organs. Scientists believe it is because of the nature of their lives. Clownfish live in small schools close to anemones, so they usually don’t venture very far away. The problem with this is the school usually has one dominant female and the rest are males with one dominant male underneath the female. If something happens to the female then the most dominant male becomes a female so they can keep breeding and not leave their host anemone.


This article was written mainly to explain how clownfish mate. It is not intended to be a breeding guide. With that being said, you can get the main gist of what it takes to breed clownfish to decide if that is what you want to do. To mate clownfish, it is easier to just spend a little extra in this area and purchase some clownfish that are already mated. You can mate and breed them in your main display tank as long as you keep the water extra clean and there are no other fish to eat them.

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Pet Aquariums

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