The Saddleback Clownfish is quite distinctive, it looks just like a fish with a “saddle”!

The Saddleback Clownfish Amphiprion polymnus have a most unique appearance. There are a number of color varieties depending on the region they are found, and the anemone they occupy. They can be yellowish orange, black, or light brown overall, but with a tailfin edged in white The nose and pectoral fins vary too, and can be orange, white, or brown. But all color variations have a wide white head band and a wide white middle band that looks like it forms a “saddle”.

In the wild these clownfish are very dependent on their host anemone and stay very close to it. They are mostly found with the Haddon’s Carpet or Saddle AnemoneStichodactyla haddoni, but on occasion will be found with a Sebae AnemoneHeteractis crispa, and on very rare occasions with a Long Tentacle AnemoneMacrodactyla doreensis. They do not migrate to other anemones to start new families, but stay in their host for their entire life time unless the anemone dies. This is also one of the few species that the adult pairs will allow several other adult pairs and sub adults to live within a very large anemone. In fact one diver reportedly counted 30 clowns on one very large anemone.

It’s only when protecting eggs that will they will stray from their anemone. Protective adults have been known to travel up to 10 feet away just to chase and bite fish or humans who venture too close! Scott Michael, in his book
“Damselfishes & Anemonefishes”, describes a diver in the Northern Sulawesi area who got too close to a Saddleback Clownfish guarding its eggs. He was bitten on the head to the point of bleeding and it left a circular mark. Another publication stated that it seems these particular Sulawesi fish are more aggressive than those Saddleback’s found in other areas

Saddleback Clownfish are not only unique in their appearance, but are also unique in their needs. In the past, because the sandy flats where they and their anemones reside are areas of low animal count, most collectors passed them over. This contributed to a lack of knowledge for this specific clownfish’s needs, which then gave them a bad name as far as survival rates. These fish are now bred in captivity, which has resulted in heightened awareness to their unique requirements.

They only grow to 4.7” or 12 cm, but can be great for the intermediate aquarists. They have been known to adapt readily or to quickly perish in captivity. Although many publications state that clowns, including the Saddleback Clownfish, can be kept in a nano tank, more recent observations recommend a 40 gallon tank minimum. They do much better in a group, so a 40 gallon may be fine for a few Saddlebacks, but probably no other fish.

This is one species that is known to do better in captivity with a host anemone. It is thought that this nervous little fish probably stresses without its anemone and succumbs to parasites. Yet keeping a Haddon’s Carpet Anemone, which is their preferred host, would mean a much larger tank that is at least 100 gallons since the anemone will extend up to 39” in diameter. You can also try a Sebae Anemone, which needs at least a 55 gallon tank. They do best if you keep them in small groups, but carefully monitor water quality, especially in tanks that are under 75 gallons.

The Saddleback Clownfish is another peaceful-for-a-clownfish species, but an individual here and there may be aggressive toward other peaceful tankmates. They will usually get along with all other fish that are peaceful, smaller semi-aggressive fish, and upper level swimmers. They usually get along with any of the clownfish which are deemed peaceful enough to house with other clownfish, such as Perculas, Skunks, and Ocellaris. They have been seen with Clark’s Clownfish in the wild, but it would not be suggested to do this in captivity. Do not keep with Maroon Clownfish or with most clowns from the Clarkii complex, or Tomato (Ephippium) group. They are known to fall ill when other fish bother them.

They do best in a reef tank with an anemone and a small group. Due to their nervous nature and tendency to jump when frightened, the lighting should have a slow dimming ability rather than a sudden on/off switch, and the tank should be covered. Provide with plenty of rock work for lots of hiding places if there is not an anemone present. Water movement should not be swift in the area they occupy, since they are not very good swimmers.

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: polymnus
Saddleback Clownfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 40 gal (151 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 4.7 inches (11.94 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 Saddleback Clownfish Amphiprion polymnus was described by Linnaeus in 1758. The species name was A. polynemus prior to the adoption of A. polymnus.They are found in the Western Pacific from Malaysia, then east to the Solomon Islands, north to the Ryukus and then southward to Australia. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Common names they are known by are the Saddleback Clownfish, Saddleback Anemonefish, Brownsaddle Clownfish, Panda Clownfish, Saddle Back Clown, White-tipped Clownfish, and Yellow-Finned Anemone-fish. The name is derived from their coloring and wide white “saddle” on their back.

This clownfish is a member of small group of three anemonefish known as the “Saddleback Complex”. This complex has only three member species. The Saddleback Clownfish Amphiprion polymnus is the namesake for this group. The second member is the Sebae ClownfishAmphiprion sebae, and the third is the Wide Band Clownfish Amphiprion latezonatus, also known as the Lord Howe Anemonefish. These three species are somewhat larger and more slender in shape than most other clownfish. They have predominantly a brown or black base coloration with highlights of yellow and orange. They are marked with white bars that often appear as saddles across their backs.

Members of the Saddleback Complex are relatively rare, and perhaps the least suited for captivity. Collection and shipping causes them extreme stress. They require good water quality, yet some specimens are still known to die mysteriously after 2 to 3 months. They are also quite skittish when first introduced to the aquarium, especially at night when the least amount of unexpected activity can cause them to panic. Panic results in their slamming themselves on the top and sides of the aquarium. It takes about 3 months to acclimate them to captivity, and after this the panic episodes begin to lesson. Once acclimated they do reasonably well, and some have even spawned in captivity.

In the wild adults prefer silty lagoons and harbors of very shallow waters, usually only 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m) deep. They are most often found hosted by the Haddon’s Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla haddoni, but will sometimes be found with the Leathery or Sebae Anemone Heteractis crispa, and on rare occasion with the Long Tentacle Anemone Macrodactyla doreensis. A male/female pair will share their anemone with several other pairs and sub-adults, but only in a very large anemone. In nature they feed on benthic weeds and algae, as well as zooplankton and other small planktonic invertebrates.

  • Scientific Name: Amphiprion polymnus
  • Social Grouping: Groups – They are found in large groups in the wild, with male/female pairs, non-breeding individuals, and sub-adults in large anemones.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Saddleback Clownfish has a very streamlined in body with several easily distinguishable markings.They grow up to 4.7” (12 cm) in length, and like other clownfish should have a lifespan of 12 years or more.

They are quite variable in color and patterning. Yet all color variations, yellow, orange, black, or brown still have a wide headband and a white saddle type central marking. The “saddle” starts behind the back of the dorsal fin and curves forward and down onto the body, usually ending only part way down. The tailfin, which is usually dark, is encircled with a white edging. Some specimens may be black with yellow or orange on the nose, first dorsal fin, and the pectoral fins. Females are said to have a yellow face and males a brown face.

Different color variations have been observed depending on the type of anemone or the region where they are seen. Still all of them have a variable sized wide white headband (some are wider than others), a white saddle, and white trim around the dark tail fin. Variations in color due to the type of anemone and region are as follows

  • Sebae or Leathery Anemone H. crispa: This resident Saddleback will be all black with a tan nose.
  • Haddon’s Carpet Anemone S. haddoni: This resident will be yellow or lighter colored.
  • Philippines: The Saddleback’s in this region are chocolate brown.
  • Bali, Sulawesi (Indonesia): The clownfish in this area are dark brown to black with a 3rd band at the base of the tail fin.
  • Papua New Guinea: The clownfish in this area are yellow only on the nose, abdomen, base of the tail, and sides.
  • Size of fish – inches: 4.7 inches (11.94 cm)
  • Lifespan: 12 years – Their lifespan is at least 12 years, and they could live longer with good care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Saddleback Clownfish are recommended for intermediate to advanced aquarists as they are a less durable clownfish. Captive bred specimens do pretty well, but it is a 50/50 shot with wild caught specimens as far as survivability. They have a hard time adapting and have been known to run into the glass or jump out of the tank if frightened. Doing a freshwater dip and treating for Brook and Crypt may be wise when obtaining a wild caught specimen.

They do best with an anemone and in a small group. Once bonded with an anemone and having some friends around, the clownfish will feel more secure, They are mellow towards other fish but easily frightened when first acquired. They also tend to be picked on by other fish.

All are sensitive to any deterioration in water quality and have a nervous nature. Diseases are common in water conditions that are poor, and when they are kept with aggressive or inappropriate tank mates. Parasites are also introduced into the tank by another fish or a coral that was not quarantined.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy – Not as forgiving as other Clownfish when it comes to water parameters, tank mates and water quality. Difficulty increases with wild caught specimens.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Saddleback Clownfish are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on weeds and algae as well as zooplankton with small planktonic invertebrates. They will eat most foods, so offer them a variety, feeding them mysis and brine shrimp, finely chopped fish and shrimp flesh along with algae based foods. They should also be fed flakes 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 – Offer products with Spirulina added if there is a lack of 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: Half of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Half of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day.

Aquarium Care

They do well when provided good water conditions and a well maintained tank. They are intolerant to less than perfect water quality, prolonged poor water quality will result in illness and disease. Diseases such as Brooklynella will arise in your Saddleback when water conditions are less then satisfactory, and when they are kept with aggressive and/or inappropriate tank mates. Since these parasites are easily contracted by the Saddleback Clownfish, strive to not introduce it into the tank via another fish or coral that was not quarantined. Wild caught Saddleback Clownfish should be freshwater dipped, and treated for brooklynella as a precaution.

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 Saddleback Clownfish is a good size, it can reach up to 4.7 inches (11.94 cm) in length. Many references state that 20 gallons is okay for clownfish of this size, but newer suggestions made by experienced reef keepers, due to their sensitivity to water quality say a minimum of 40 gallons is better. Make sure water quality stays high by performing frequent water changes. With a group of 3, which is the minimum they prefer, a 55 gallon would be in order, especially if you want other fish.

If keeping with an anemone, provide at least a 55 gallon tank for the Sebae Anemone, or a 100 gallon for the Haddon’s Carpet Anemone as this anemone can reaches 39” across. Provide appropriate lighting for the anemone and good water quality. A larger tank size will help in keeping water quality high and more stable, which in turn will benefit your Saddleback. The clownfish has no special lighting requirements but an anemone will need to have adequate lighting. It also needs good water quality so the tank should be well established, around 6 months to a year old. 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.

Live rock is necessary for them to hide and forage from, with plenty of algae attached. In tanks without an anemone, provide plenty of places to hide within the live rock, and don’t house them with aggressive or large hyper fish. Maintain aquarium water temperatures between 72°F to 82°F (22 – 28°C). Extremes above 90° F (32° C) or below 64° F (18° C) is not tolerated by these fish. Optimum spawning occurs between 79° F to 83° F (26° C to 28° C). They can tolerate a pH range from 7.8 to 8.4.

Make sure you have a lid, as they will jump when frightened. A dimming feature for the lighting is recommended as well as a cover for the aquarium. Water movement is not a significant factor but it needs a slow circulation in some areas of the tank for them to feed.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 40 gal (151 L) – Many references suggest 20 gallons, but newer suggestions made by experienced reef keepers, due to their sensitivity to water quality say a minimum of 40 gallons is better. A 55 gallon tank would be best for a group of 3 or more or with a Sebae Anemone, a 100 gallons or more for the Haddon’s Carpet Anemone.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places – Rock structures with hiding places are especially important when there is no anemone present.
  • Substrate Type: Sand – This would be found in their natural habitat and may help reduce stress.
  • Lighting Needs: Any – Lighting should not abruptly turn on and off, but should have a slow dimmer so as not to frighten them.
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – Although they will spawn between 72°F to 88°F (26° to 28°C). The optimal temperature for good quality eggs and larvae occurs with temperatures between 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: Bottom – Bottom if they have adopted a hosting anemone as they tend to spend most of their time in close proximity to it, but will swim all over the aquarium without one.

Social Behaviors

The Saddleback Clownfish is considered semi-aggressive, yet is one of the most peaceful clownfish fish. From a “clownfish aggression” scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most aggressive, this species is about a 2 or 3. This aggression number typically changes to 4 or 5 when an anemone is present, although if there are eggs, that number has been known to jump to 10!

The Saddleback can be kept with other mellow clownfish like the True Percula Clownfish. With 2 anemones and Two different species of clownfish can be kept with 2 anemones. This should be done in a tank that is at least 75 gallons or more, depending on the species of anemone. Space the anemones at opposite ends of the tank or with at least 2′ or more between them. Do not keep them with aggressive clownfish, especially those from the Clarkii, Tomato (Ephippium) and Maroon complexes.

They can be house with most peaceful, non aggressive fish except those who are large enough to swallow them. Dottybacks should never be in the same tank, and do not keep them with large angelfish, triggers, perches or other territorial smaller fish do to stress factors. The Saddleback Clownfish tend to be the one harassed in a community tank. There is no threat to invertebrates, just a few copepods and amphipods will disappear here and there if the fish is not feed properly.

  • Compatibility with other Clownfish:
    There are about 29 species of clownfish known for their “singing” which consists of chirps and pops made with their teeth and amplified with their jaws! They use various combinations when they are being attacked or are attacking. 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.
  • Compatible host anemones:
    The relationship between an Saddleback Clownfish and their host sea anemone is known as symbiosis, where they provide benefits to one another. 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 the 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 Saddleback Clownfish will not venture far 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 Saddleback Clownfish is known to associate with in the wild 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. They are a 3 to 4 out of a clownfish aggression scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most aggressive, but will increase to a 5 or even 10 when an anemone and eggs are present.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – They do best in groups of 3 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe – t has been noted that an occasional Saddleback Clownfish may harass peaceful fish.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Do not house with Clownfish from the Clarkii, Ephippium (Tomato), or Maroon Complexes. Dwarf Angelfish may be too aggressive. They are fine with anthias and other upper level swimmers. Best if kept with an anemone in the presence of other semi-aggressive averaged sized fish.
    • 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): Threat – Only more peaceful tangs and wrasses that will not bother this clownfish can work, but do watch out for aggression on their part.
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat – Do not keep with fish large enough to swallow the clownfish whole.
    • Monitor – Seahorses should only be housed in their own environment. Pipefish and mandarins may be fine in a very large, mature tank with live rock that has plenty of copepods. Anemones and similar corals pose a threat to the mandarin, so take that into consideration when planning your tank set up.
    • Anemones: Safe – Prefers the Haddon’s Carpet Anemone, but will also accept the Sebae and Long Tentacle 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 – Caution with large mushrooms such as Elephant Ear Mushrooms (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer) can trap and eat young Saddleback 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

Sex: Sexual differences

Females tend to have a yellow face and all are larger than the males. Males tend to have brown faces in most color morphs.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Saddleback Clownfish, though a more difficult fish to maintain, 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. To obtain a pair, get two different sizes and the larger will assume the female role and the smaller will be male. Clownfish do not spawn their entire lives, and will stop spawning several years before their live expectancy is over.

Saddleback Clownfish spawn when the water is 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). It is necessary to condition them with nutritious foods to fatten them up when breeding in captivity. Courtship will begin from 3 to 5 days before spawning, and during this time the female’s belly starts to swell with eggs.

As the male and female get closer to spawning, and they are hosted by an anemone that needs to be buried in the sand, they will drag coconut shells or rocks close to the anemone, but have been as creative as using plastic, rubber from an old shoe or aluminum cans. They then vigorously clean whatever they decided to use, for optimal egg adhesion.

When the female is ready, she presses her belly against the nesting site and the male swims behind her, fertilizing the eggs. Spawning is known to occur late morning to early afternoon and can last up to 2 1/2 hours. A clutch of Saddleback Clownfish eggs number around 191 to 1217 eggs depending on the size of the female (with an average of 526). With the above-mentioned water temperature, these orange eggs with hatch 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, with the larvae ascending into the water column.

Within 8 to 16 days, the ones who survive not being eaten in the wild, or in captivity survive fungus or other malady, the larvae become free swimming young clown fish. Then 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.

In captivity, Saddleback Clownfish will lay about 500 eggs and they spawn twice per month. They are one of the more difficult anemonefish to breed and the larvae are a challenge to raise due to food size and quality. See general clownfish breeding techniques on the Breeding Marine Fish page.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

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.


Saddleback Clownfish aqua-cultured specimens are the easiest to find from pet stores, breeders and online. Captive breed are generally moderate in price and are often a better choice than the possibly more delicate wild caught specimens. Wild caught Saddleback Anemonefish are not as common, but can be special ordered or found online from time to time.