Clownfish are probably the easiest salt water fish to breed and successfully rear to adulthood. The same principles should apply to most clown fish and damsel fish who do not scatter their eggs. Author Hennie Landman shares his method for breeding the Banded Clownfish, also known as the Clarkii Clownfish.

Article By: Hennie Landman
Edited By: Elizabeth M. Lukan

(Reprinted by Permission of Elizabeth M. Lukan, Editor of Fish n’ Chips, 4/28/02)

Sexing Clown Fish:

Banded Clown Fish:
Clarkii Clown Fish or Banded Clownfish with a Saddle Anemone
Photos © Animal-World
Clarkii Clownfish
With a Saddle Anemone

Actually, that’s the easiest part – just take any two fish, and give them enough time. Clownfish are all born as males, believe it or not. Then, the largest (and most dominant) of any group undergoes a sex change, and becomes the female. The second largest fish usually becomes the breeding male, and all the other fish remain “sexless” drones. Should the breeding female die or be removed, the breeding male will change to a female, and the next fish in the pecking order will become the breeding male.

So, given enough time any two fish could become a pair, if they’re agreeable. It does help to start off with young fish, though. Also, do try to buy your fish from different sources, if possible, to minimize inbreeding.

Clown Fish Breeding Tanks:

Clowns will spawn in a community tank if they feel secure, and if the water parameters, temperature etc. is to their liking. Try not to have the tank densely stocked, though. If you could keep the breeding pair in a tank of their own it would be even better. They don’t need a very large tank, ~200 liters (55 US gal.) is quite sufficient. My tank’s water temperature was between 79°F – 82°F (26°C – 28°C), and the nitrates was undetectable. Lighting is not critical, but day and night cycles should be regular.

Spawning Clown Fish:

Some live rock, or other hard, rocky substance with a vertical face is needed for the spawning site. My fish spawned on a rock which was very close to their anemone. All subsequent spawnings were on the very same rock. I would recommend that you leave their chosen rock undisturbed after their initial spawning.

Clowns cleaning spawn site
Photos © Hennie Landman Clown fish cleaning a possible
spawning site on the glass.

When the fish are ready to spawn (within a few days), they will start to clean their chosen rock by vigorously biting it. They also become very aggressive, and will attack other inhabitants. The actual spawning takes place in the afternoon, or early evening, and can last for an hour, or even more. The female swims very slowly over the cleaned area, depositing the eggs. The male then follows close behind, and fertilizes the eggs.

Once the spawning is complete (within 1-2 hours), the male assumes responsibility for attending them, while the female acts as protector of the eggs and “supervises” her male. He will continuously fan the eggs with his fins, and even bite at them – not to eat them, but to remove detritus, or perhaps a dead or rotten egg. The eggs should be left in their care, and not removed, unless they are known to be egg-eaters from prior experience.

Continued… “Breeding Clown Fish, Part Two

Featured Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock