Will the real Nemo please swim forward!  Yes, the Ocellaris or False Percula Clownfish is the real Nemo!

The Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris is the most recognized little orange saltwater fish in the world. It has long been the icon of the saltwater hobby, frequently pictured in books, on magazine covers, and as logos on t-shirts and other advertising mediums. Then its popularity really took off when it was featured in the 2003 Pixar film, “Finding Nemo”!

This personable little fish only reaches only about 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) in length. It typically has a bright orange body with three white vertical stripes. The first broad stripe is at the head just behind the eye, the second is mid body with a forward projecting bulge, and a third is at base of the tail fin. This clownfish is one of two species belonging to the Percula Complex. In its “normal” coloration it is almost identical in appearance to the other complex member, its close cousin the Percula Clownfish Amphiprion percula. Yet these two species have distinct natural distributions, with very limited overlap.

Because they are so similar, the Ocellaris and the Percula are extremely difficult to tell apart. It takes a keen eye and sharp memory. The typical Ocellaris Clownfish does not have hardly any black on the body, and if any is present it would be a very thin trimming along the edges of the white stripes. The biggest distinction between the two is in the dorsal fin. The Ocellaris has 11 dorsal spines (rarely 10), compared to 10 (rarely 9) on the Percula Clown. Also the front half of the dorsal fin on the Ocellaris is higher.

The number of common names for this fish is almost mind boggling! They include False Percula Clownfish, Common Clownfish, Western Clownfish, Anemone Demoiselle, False Clownfish, False Clown Anemonefish, Western Clown Anemonefish, Anemone Fish, Clown Anemonefish, Clownfish, and Damselfish. And last but not least, we put in our nomination for “NEMOFISH” but having to get licensing from Disney may disqualify that name!

The Ocellaris Clownfish also comes in an entirely black variety with the same three white stripes. This melanistic coloration occurs in the vicinity of Darwin, Australia. These specimens are commonly known as Black Ocellaris Clownfish, Black False Percula Clownfish, and Black Percula Clown. Variations in patterning also occur with “mis-barring”. This is where the second stripe is just across the top of the body and does not continue all the way to the belly. Mis-barred specimens rarely occur in the wild, but are a regular occurrence in captive bred specimens.

A whole slew of of different color patterns have emerged in captive bred specimens and they are very popular. Variations with large amounts of white are termed Snowflake Clownfish, and as of 2011 Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums (ORA) released a Black Snowflake Clownfish. This is a cross between a Black Ocellaris and a Snowflake Ocellaris. Others will be found under names like Orange Ocellaris, Naked Ocellaris, Midnight Ocellaris, Carmel Ocellaris, Mis-Bar Ocellaris, and Domino Ocellaris. Designer clownfish are now available for everyone, but how expensive are these? Well newly released color strains have been known to cost hundreds of dollars!

This fish is great for beginner aquarists, especially the captive bred specimens. Normal Ocellaris clownfish are generally readily available and very reasonably priced. Typically tank bred specimens are easy to care for and are pretty disease-resistant. As for wild caught, it is interesting that some of these specimens come to our tanks healthy with no adjustments needed, feeding readily, and growing quickly. Other times wild caught fish die within a week, which leads to the understanding that how they have been handled prior to shipment makes a huge difference in their mortality.

These clownfish work well in a peaceful fish only tank as well as in a reef setting. You can purchase three or four juveniles and allow them to grow together, after which a pair should form. Remove the others since this new pair will become more aggressive as they mature. If housing in a very large tank over 100 gallons with a large anemone, removal may not be necessary. Look for signs of aggression. Do not house with fish that are overly aggressive species like Dottybacks, especially in a nano tank. They will not bother any invertebrates, but when they have eggs present they may fiercely defend their clutch. Do not house with fish that are large enough to swallow them whole. Avoid keeping them in the same tank with Maroon Clownfish or those of the Clarkii complex unless tank is over 100 gallons.

This is one of a few fish in the saltwater world that can be maintained in nano tank of at least 10 gallons. In such a small tank, water should be changed 5% weekly, and really should be the only fish in such a small tank. If you want to keep your Ocellaris with an anemone, your tank should be sized for the anemone, and have the appropriate lighting. Calm water movement is appreciated due to their lack of swimming skills and they do best with live rock with several places to hide, especially if an anemone is not present.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Amphiprion
  • Species: ocellaris
Common or False Percula Clownfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Range ph: 7.8-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris was described by Cuvier in 1830. They are found in the Indo-West Pacific with includes the eastern Indian Ocean, Thailand, Malaysia, and NW Australia to Singapore, then through Indonesia, Philippines, and north to the Taiwan and Ryukyu Islands. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

There are two variants of the ocellaris found in nature. The typical variety that occurs throughout its range is orange with 3 white bars. The other is an entirely black (melanistic) variety with the same three white stripes but only occurs in the vicinity of Darwin, Australia. Other common names they are known by include False Percula Clownfish, Common Clownfish, False Clownfish, False Clown Anemonefish, Western Clownfish, Western Clown Anemonefish, Anemone Demoiselle, Anemone Fish, Clown Anemonefish, Clownfish, and Damselfish. The black variety is known as Black Ocellaris Clownfish, Black False Percula Clownfish, and Black Percula Clown.

This clownfish is one of two species belonging to the Percula Complex. In its “normal” coloration it is almost identical in appearance to the other complex member, its close cousin the True Percula Clownfish. Yet these two species have distinct natural distributions, with very limited overlap. As juveniles, In the “normal” coloration, they do look very similar except the Percula Clownfish has thicker black edging around all three of the white stripes. This black will extend and cover the entire area below the dorsal fin to the pectoral fins, and between the first two stripes as an adult. This does not occur with Ocellaris Clownfish. While young, the True Percula should have some “darker” dusting on the upper back under the dorsal fin. The Percula Clown also has 10 dorsal spines (rarely 9) compared to 11 (rarely 10) on the Ocellaris, The front half of the dorsal fin on the Ocellaris is also higher.

The Ocellaris are found in calm shallow lagoons, coastal reefs, and turbid bays. They may also live in outer reef faces and reef flats but always in shallower waters from between 3.3 to 49 feet (1 to 15 m). They feed on zoobenthos including copepods, amphipods, small shrimps and prawns, as well as algae, weeds detritus, and planktonic invertebrates. One large anemone will host an adult pair and one or more non-breeding fish of the same species.

Adults dwell in coral reefs among various anemones, including Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla gigantea, and Stichodactyla mertensii, which protect them from predators with their stinging tentacles. They are very dependent on their anemone host, and will not venture more than 1 foot (30 cm) from this protective home. It has been suggested that in the wild these fish use their bright orange appearance as a “warning color” to alert predators of the potential hazard of being stung if they venture too close to their anemone.

  • Scientific Name: Amphiprion ocellaris
  • Social Grouping: Pairs – Adult pairs with one or several other non-breeders within a large anemone.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Ocellaris Clownfish is a fairly deep bodied clownfish from the Percula Complex. These fish typically have stout, oval body and a rounded tail fin, which prevents them from being overly agile swimmers. They have 11 dorsal spines, and similar to the Maroon Clownfish Premnas biaculeatus they have a deep dip in the middle of the dorsal fin. This makes it look almost like they have double dorsal fin.

The typical body coloration can be various intensities of orange, ranging from a dandelion yellow to a tangerine, and three broad vertical stripes. The first broad stripe is at the head just behind the eye, the second is mid body with a forward projecting bulge, and a third is at base of the tail fin. There is a very thin trimming of black on the outer edges of the second dorsal fin, tail fin, pectoral fins, and pelvic fins, and around each of the three white stripes. Some variations have no black edging around the white stripes, but still have it around the fins.

A second natural variation is entirely black with the same three white stripes. This melanistic coloration occurs in the vicinity of Darwin, Australia.

There are also the following color variations, within the tank bred groups:

Black False Percula Clownfish, Amphiprion ocellaris variation
Ocellaris Variant: Black False Percula Clownfish Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Martin
  • Snowflake Clownfish: Orange Ocellaris whose white bars are intensely irregular and much wider, but do not yet connect with one another. The more white, the more expensive the fish.
  • Premium Snowflake: This fish has a premium price! The first two stripes run together, and are much wider, covering more of the fish with white. Some specimens have more white than others. As time progresses, we are sure an all white version like the true Percula’s “Platinum” will become available.
  • Black Ice Snowflake Clownfish: This fish is presently highly sought after with mostly black fins, that have a little bit of orange on the fins near the body area, then the head and mid body stripe run together with a thicker than usual black edging, though orange is still present in each section. The stripe on the tail fin can also be wider and irregular.
  • Black Snowflake Clownfish: This is a cross between a Black Ocellaris Clownfish and a Snowflake Clownfish. The fish is all black with a large amount of white, similar to the white on a Snowflake Clownfish.
  • Naked Ocellaris: All orange Ocellaris with no white and black tipped fins.
  • Midnight Ocellaris: All brown to black clownfish with an orange face.
  • Caramel Ocellaris: These fish are, well dark caramel brown in color, with thicker black edges on the fins and three white stripes.
  • Domino Ocellaris: Black Ocellaris with one large white dot on the gill cover.
  • Mis-Bar Ocellaris: Normal Ocellaris with one or more of their 3 white stripes not fully developed, covering only a quarter of the depth of the body or even just a small dash of white.
  • Extreme Mis-Bar Black Ocellaris: These fish have the one white bar at the head and the last two white stripes are quite short, more like a dash than a stripe.

The Ocellaris Clownfish can reach up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length. They reportedly have a lifespan of up to 20 years in captivity with proper care.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 years – They have been known to live as long as 20 years in captivity

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Ocellaris Clownfish are recommended for beginners as they are very hardy and easy to care for. This is especially true if they are tank bred. They are quite resistant to most infectious diseases and seldom suffer from infections. Amphiprion members in general are very hardy and they can be safely treated with medicine or copper drugs if infected. Like many other clownfish, with proper technique It can be bred and the fry raised in captivity.

Wild caught clownfish may need a little more time adapting. They are less hardy so providing very clean water and live foods to help them adjust. Watch them for a week or so in the dealer’s tank to make sure they are adjusting before purchasing. Obtaining wild caught specimens directly from a wholesaler can work well. Then performing a fresh water dip with formalin and malachite green as soon as you get them home will help prevent some disease.

Wild caught fish may need an anemone host as well, since this is what they are used to in the wild. But it is not totally necessary if the other tank mates are peaceful and the clown does not feel threatened. Feeling threatened causes them undue stress which may lead to disease, which is typical with all saltwater fish. Do not house with any size of aggressive fish, especially if there is no anemone present. If keeping within an anemone, provide the proper sized tank for the specific anemone you are keeping as well as proper lighting. Your choices of tank mates opens up a little more when the clownfish has an anemone, due to the protection the anemone provides.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy – Wild caught would be moderately difficult. Captive bred are very hardy.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The Ocellaris Clownfish are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on algae, very small shrimp, anemone tentacles, planktonic fish eggs, fish larvae, and some polychaete worms. Provide variety in their diet that includes meaty foods such as mysis and brine shrimp, finely chopped fish and shrimp flesh. They should also be fed flake and pellets with Spirulina added if there is not enough algae in the tank for them to feed on.

Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day, whatever they will consume in about 3 minutes. This is especially important to keep your copepods population from becoming diminished. Provide an area in the tank where the water is not too strong, so they can feed easily.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – Include products with Spirulina added if there is not enough algae in the tank.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Live foods can be given to a breeding pair to condition for spawning and can be given to wild caught specimens to help acclimate them.
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day.

Aquarium Care

These clownfish are hardy and fairly easy to keep. They do well when provided good water conditions and a well maintained tank. Although they are tolerant of less than perfect water quality, prolonged poor water quality will result in illness and disease with any saltwater fish. Regular water changes done bi-weekly will also help replace the trace elements that the fish and corals use up. Guidelines for water changes with different types and sizes of aquariums are:

  • Fish only tanks:
    • Nano/Small tanks up to 40 gallons, perform 15% water changes bi-weekly.
    • Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 20% to 30% monthly depending on bioload.
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 20% to 30% every 6 weeks depending on bioload.
  • Reef tanks:
    • Nano/Small tanks up to 40 gallons, perform 5% water changes weekly.
    • Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 15% bi-weekly.
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 10% bi-weekly to 20% monthly, depending on bioload.

For more information on maintaining a saltwater aquarium see: Saltwater Aquarium Basics: Maintenance. A reef tank will require specialized filtration and lighting equipment. Learn more about reef keeping see: Mini Reef Aquarium Basics.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Do bi-weekly water changes of 15% every 2 weeks or 30% a month. If there are corals in the tank then 5% weekly to 15% every 2 weeks, depending on the tank size.

Aquarium Setup

Clownfish can be kept in either a saltwater aquarium or a mini reef. The Ocellaris is a smaller clownfish, so a minimum tank size of 10 gallons will work great, but make sure water quality stays high with frequent water changes. If keeping a male and female pair, providing at least 20 gallons of water will help keep the quality up. In tanks without an anemone, provide plenty of places to hide and do not house it with aggressive fish. Although it will appreciate a host anemone, it isn’t essential as they will readily adapt to a salt water tank without one. Often they will use a coral or other invertebrate, or even a rock structure, as a substitute. Live rock is suggested for the fish to hide in and forage off of.

If attempting to keep it with an anemone, provide a tank that is at least 55 gallons or larger depending on the needs of the anemone kept. The clown has no special lighting requirements but an anemone will need to have adequate lighting and the tank should be well established, meaning 6 months to a year old. Water movement is not a significant factor but it needs a slow circulation in some areas of the tank to feed. While other fish avoid the anemones stinging tentacles least they become its food, your clown fish will spend most of its time nestled down in it.

This species lives in tropical areas and their natural habitat is generally about 80° F (26.7° C). In an aquarium, water temperatures between 74° – 79° F (23 – 26° C) work best. Extremes above 90° F (32° C) or below 64° F (18° C) would be beyond their tolerance. Optimum spawning occurs at temperatures between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). They can tolerate a pH range from 7.8 to 8.4.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L) – A minimum of 10 gallons is needed, with 20 gallons suggested for a pair. If keeping it with an anemone a larger tank of 55 gallons or more will be needed, depending on the anemones requirements.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places – Rock structures with hiding places are important for this fish when there is no anemone present.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any – It has no special lighting requirements though if kept with a host, the anemone will need strong lighting.
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – The optimal temperature for good quality eggs and larvae occurs with temperatures of 79° F to 83° F (26° – 28°C).

  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 7.8-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any – Provide at least one area of slower water movement to enable them to feed.
  • Water Region: All – If they have adopted a hosting anemone or coral, they tend to stay in the same vicinity, but may swim in all parts of the aquarium at times.

Social Behaviors

The Ocellaris Clownfish is considered semi-aggressive but are one of the least aggressive of the clownfish species. However, like all damselfish will get more touchy as they get older. When kept as a male/female pair with an anemone, their aggression level will climb but is still less than other clowns. As with any clownfish, they are at home in a reef setting, but also do well in a fish only set up. Overall these are a more peaceful little fish and should be kept with similarly peaceful creatures. If keeping it in a smaller tank, under 55 gallons or less, and without an anemone, do not house it with any semi-aggressive or aggressive fish. With an anemone however, they can tolerate semi-aggressive fish, just not fish large enough to swallow it.

Do not house this Clownfish with species of clowns from the Clarkii complex, Tomato (Ephippium) complex, are the Maroon complex. These types of clownfish are too aggressive to be with other clowns, or even each other.

  • Compatibility with other Clownfish:
    Clownfish will produced from 2 to 17 clicks in a row while being attacked or in attacking mode. They will at times produce “chirps” (aimed at larger fish) and “pops” (aimed at smaller fish) that are audible to divers or even aquarists. They are actually silent when mating. Pops are heard in sets of two or one, right before a chirp noise, so they may be carrying on two different conversations! Saying, “Get out of here Angelfish!” and “hey you subordinate, get in line!”

    They use their teeth to produce the sound and the jaws are the built in amplifier, so it stands to reason that the noises may very from clownfish species to species, sort of like a dialect or accent. There are a total of 29 clownfish that produce audible sounds, with some louder than others. Within the loudest three are the Clark’s Clownfish, Tomato Clownfish, and Pink Skunk Clownfish.

    The behaviors between the same species of clownfish are very interesting and easy to identify. Constant dominating displays by a female prevents a male from changing sex. An aggressive clownfish will displays “agonistic behavior” while the subordinate clown will display “appeaser behavior.” The aggressive fish has specific actions in which the subordinate clownfish reacts to:
    • If the aggressive fish, typically the female, is chasing and chirping, the subordinate clownfish, which can be a male or sub adult, will rapidly quiver their body as they drift upward and they will produce clicking sounds.
    • Jaw popping by the aggressive clownfish results in the subordinate clownfish shaking their body or head.
    • Ventral leaning by the aggressive clownfish results in the subordinate clownfish quivering.
    • An aggressive clownfish displaying a dorsal leaning results in the subordinate clownfish performing ventral leaning.
  • Compatibility in a mini reef:
    In a reef setting, clownfish fit in perfectly, especially with a host anemone. Clownfish will typically not bother any corals, with the exception of picking algae off the base of a coral that they have adopted as a host. A host anemone will provide a rich naturalistic environment for your clown. While other fish avoid the anemones stinging tentacles least they become its food, your clown fish will spend most of its time nestled down in it. Though sea anemones are a striking addition to any reef aquarium, they are more challenging to keep. If you decide to keep an anemone you must make sure its special needs are met.
    They have been known to adopt alternate hosts, such as certain large polyped stony corals (LPS), hairy mushroom corals (corallimorphs) or even filamentous algae if present. Be cautious with the Elephant Ear Mushroom or Giant Cup Mushroom Amplexidiscus fenestrafer. It has been known to trap and eat juvenile clownfish and should be monitored.
  • Compatible host anemones:
    The relationship between an Ocellaris Clownfish and their host sea anemone is known as symbiosis, where they provide benefits to one another. These particular Clownfish stay within 12″ of their sea anemones in the wild. The immunity of the clownfish to the sting of an anemone’s tentacles allows them to dwell in this host, preventing larger fish who would otherwise eat the clownfish from getting at them. The bright coloration of this clownfish may also alert tell the predator that they will be stung if they get too close. The clownfish will, in turn protect its host from fish that eat anemones. In fact, a study was done in the wild, where they removed clownfish from the anemones, and these anemones were quickly attacked by various fish. The clownfish will also clean off debris, snack on the remnants of any meal the anemone has captured and provide the anemone “nutrition” in the form of waste that the clownfish produce.

    Though sea anemones are a striking addition to any reef aquarium, they are more challenging to keep. When kept with an anemone, the Ocellaris Clownfish will only venture about 12” from their host. They will not typically bother other clownfish living in another anemone within the same tank, but you should provide at least 2 feet in between clownfish sets. This kind of setup will require an appropriate sized tank for the particular anemones.

    Host Anemones the Ocellaris Clownfish is known to associate with include:

Be cautious adding Condy Anemones Condylactis gigantea. These are very mobile, predatory anemones, and are not a “clown hosting anemone”. Their sting is much stronger than clown hosting anemones, and there is a risk to the clownfish who is foolish enough to engage it may eventually be eaten. Many who have had clowns hosted by Condylactis have said, “one day the clownfish was gone, and I kept the anemone well fed!”.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive – This is considered a more peaceful clownfish, but if eggs are present they will defend their area. On a clownfish scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being aggressive, they rates about a 4 or a 5 and will climb to a 6 or 7 if eggs are present.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Male and female pair, but in a very large tank over 100 gallons with a very large anemone, several non breeding younger Ocellaris Clownfish can be present.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Do not attempt to keep them together in a tank that is under 55 gallons. Do not house the Ocellaris with clownfish from the Clarkii Complex, Tomato Complex (Ephippium), or the Maroon Complex. Dwarf Angelfish also may be too aggressive as tankmates.
    • Threat – Dottybacks should be housed alone due to their aggression. Damselfish are okay only if the tank is very large, over 100 gallons and there are plenty of places for the damsels or clowns to hide.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor – Do not attempt to combine them without an anemone in the tank for the clownfish to retreat into.
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat – Your little clownfish may become an afternoon snack!
    • Monitor – Seahorses & pipefish should be housed alone, due to their slow eating habits unless tank is very large with no corals to sting them. Mandarins, though can be kept with Clownfish, but anemones can be a threat to them.
    • Anemones: Safe – Prefers the Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla gigantea, and Stichodactyla mertensii anemones. Do not house with Condylactis Anemones as these are not clown hosting anemones and may eventually kill and eat your clownfish. Caution with Carpet Anemones for similar reasons.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor – Large mushrooms such as Elephant Ear Mushrooms (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer) can trap and eat clownfish.
    • LPS corals: Safe
    • SPS corals: Safe
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Safe
    • Leather Corals: Safe
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Safe
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Safe
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Safe
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe – If not fed regularly clownfish will turn to copepods for supplemental nutrition, which can deplete their numbers. In very large systems, with an established copepod population, this is rarely an issue.

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are smaller than females.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Ocellaris Clownfish has been bred in captivity and the fry successfully reared. All clownfish are undifferentiated when born but they are sex switchers. With certain social cues they change into juvenile males, and then when the opportunity arises a dominant fish will become female. In nature the Ocellaris spawn when the water is 79° F to 83° F (26° – 28°C). This is also the case when breeding in captivity.

Courtship will begin from 3 to 5 days before spawning. During this time the female’s belly starts to swell with eggs. As the male and female get closer to spawning, they vigorously clean an area of rock very close to the anemone, in order for the eggs to adhere correctly. They perform various rituals such as head standing, touching their ventral surfaces, or leaning towards each other with dorsal surfaces touching as they shake their heads.

When the female is ready to lay her eggs she will nip at the anemone so it retracts, exposing the spawning sight. She will then lay her eggs, closely followed by the male who promptly fertilizes them. Spawning is known to occur late morning to early afternoon and can last up to 2 1/2 hours. A clutch of Ocellaris Clownfish eggs number between 168 to 313, with an average being 236. Hatching will happen on the eighth day. This usually occurs at night from 1 to 1 1/2 hours after sunset, and all will hatch within two hours. Then the larvae ascending into the water column.

Within 8 to 16 days, the ones who survive not being eaten, become free swimming young clown fish and the search for their anemone for protection begins. Two forms of recognition of the host anemone occur when these fish are still growing in their eggs. One is a scent that the particular anemone emits that they have been laid by, and/or the visual recognition of their parents swimming within the tentacles. It is thought that the Elephant Ear Mushroom coral emits odors similar to certain anemonefish, which lures the very young juveniles to their death once in the clutches of this very large mushroom.

These fish are a little easier to breed in captivity than other clown fish. They take about five months two mature to the point of being large enough to sell. In captivity, at proper temperatures, they will spawn every 10-14 days, and the nest is roughly 350 eggs, which hatch in 7-8 days. See general clownfish breeding techniques on the Breeding Marine Fish page.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Typically clownfish are extremely hardy, so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. However when they do get sick some diseases are quite deadly. Clownfish are susceptible to the same types of illnesses as other marine fish including bacterial, fungal, parasitic or other diseases, and injury. All saltwater fish will get sick if good water quality is not maintained, the temperature fluctuates too much, or the fish is stressed due to inappropriate tank mates. A stressed fish is more likely to acquire disease.

Clownfish are particularly prone to Brooklynellosis or Clownfish Disease Brooklynella hostilis (Brook), Marine Ich Cryptocaryon irritans, also called White Spot Disease or Crypt, Marine Velvet or Velvet Disease Oodinium ocellatum (Syns: Amyloodinium ocellatum, Branchiophilus maris), and Uronema disease Uronema marinum.  All of these are parasites.

The most easily cured of these is Crypt (salt water Ich), but they are all treatable if caught in a timely manner. Marine Velvet is a parasitic skin flagellate and one of the most common maladies experienced in the marine aquarium. It is a fast moving that primarily it infects the gills. Brook kills within 30 hours but the Uronema disease is one of the quickest killers, as in overnight. Uronema is often contracted when the aquarist lowers their salinity to treat another type of illness, but don’t lower it far enough. This parasite thrives in mid-level brackish water salinity, which is a specific gravity of around 1.013 to 1.020.

Be sure to treat for any illness at a normal salinity with a specific gravity of about 1.023, or at a low salinity of about 1.009. Quick Cure and other 37% Formalin products will work perfectly well in both salinity ranges, but the lower 1.009 will help with the oxygen level. The amount of oxygen in the water increase as the salinity level is reduced. “I personally noticed when battling Brook or Crypt using the proper hypo-salinity of 1.009, no higher, my clowns almost seemed to breath easier and be less stressed”… Carrie McBirney.

Anything you add to your tank that has not been properly cleaned or quarantined, including live rock, corals and fish can introduce diseases. The best prevention is to take care to properly clean or quarantine anything you want to add to the tank. A few other ways to proactively prevent disease are to provide quality foods, clean good quality water, and proper tank mates. For information about saltwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Ocellaris Clownfish, or False Percula Clownfish, is readily available in pet stores or online. These fish are easy to acquire and are not expensive unless the specimen is a “designer” coloring.


 Amphiprion ocellaris (Clown anemonefish) (Image Credit: Nick Hobgood, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)