The Sebae Clownfish is probably one of the best known, but most seldom seen of the anemonefish!

The Sebae Clownfish Amphiprion sebae is what comes to mind when thinking of anemonefish, though it is actually a more rare species to encounter. Possibly it is well known because of the combination of people’s familiarity with the Sebae AnemoneHeteractis crispa, and its being an anemonefish. Oddly, the Sebae Clowns are never found with the Sebae Anemone in the wild. It is typically only found with the Haddon’s Carpet or Saddle AnemoneStichodactyla haddoni.

This is one of the most often misidentified clownfish in aquaria. It is often incorrectly labeled as a Clarkii ClownfishAmphiprion clarkii because they have a similar color pattern. However the Sebae has an elongated, more slender body. Its color can be distinguished by its second white band tipping towards the back on top and extending onto the dorsal fin, and also by its yellow anal fin. True Sebae Clownfish are not as easy to come by, nor are they as durable as a Clark’s Clownfish, and they are much more skittish.

The Sebae Clownfish belong to a small group of anemonefish known as the “Saddleback Complex”. it is the largest member of this group, reaching 5.5†(14 cm). They typically have a black to dark brown body with two broad white bars, and a yellow-orange coloring on the face, bottom fins, and tail fin. There is also a melanistic form that is all black except for the white bars, it only has orange in the tail fin, and it has a gray nose. There are also designer variations that have been developed in captivity. It is also known as the Brown Clownfish, Yellowtail Clownfish, Sebae Anemonefish, and Seba’s Anemonefish. Designer specimens are called Picasso Sebae Clownfish, Platinum Sebae Clownfish and White Tip Clownfish to describe the coloring of the fish.

These fish have specific needs, but can be great for the intermediate aquarists. They are poor shippers, often succumbing to illness and physical ailments like pop-eye. Brooklynella is also a very common ailment for them to contract, especially in less than optimal water conditions. Once they have been brought home they are known to be very skittish. The are easily frightened and have been known to jump right out of the tank, or run into the glass so hard that they kill themselves. It takes about three months for hem to adapt to captive life and these episodes begin to subside.

There are a few things that can help calm them down when adapting to captive life and keep them long term. You can provide a quarantine tank that is in a low traffic area to help them adjust initially. Many references state that 20 gallons is okay for clownfish of this size, but due to their sensitivity to water quality, a minimum of 40 gallons is better. Provide live rock that has a lot of hiding places with obvious entrance points. Water movement is not an issue, just be sure to provide an area that is calmer so they can feed. They also need a lid to prevent them from “fleeing†right out of the tank when they feel threatened. Lighting needs to be on a dimmer, slowly turning on and off, because they have been known to become very frightened from abrupt lighting changes.

They are an easily stressed fish, often pestered by what many feel are “community†fish. They do best with the security of a carpet anemone. They do well in a group of at least 3 and will share their anemone. Do not house with other clownfish from the Maroon, Clarkii, or Tomato group. They should be fine with the more peaceful Skunk Clownfish, Ocellaris Clowns, and Perculas in larger tanks. They are fine with all other fish that are peaceful to smaller semi-aggressive, like anthias and other upper level swimmers. They should be one of the first fish added and not kept with aggressive tank mates. It is also a good idea not to house them with fish that could swallow them whole, and do not keep with fish like dottybacks.

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

Sebae ClownFish

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This Sebae ClownFish (Amphiprion sebae) found a Hammer Coral for a host, sometimes clownfish have other ideas than anemones.

These Sebae Clownfish decided that they wanted to have a Hammer Coral as a host! This is not uncommon for several species of clownfish to do. The only danger to the coral occurs if the fish irritates it to the point where it will not stay open. Most large polyped stony corals (LPS) will allow themselves to be surrogate hosts to clowns without a home, which usually happens if there is no anemone available.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Amphiprion
  • Species: sebae
Sebae Clownfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 40 gal (151 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 5.5 inches (13.97 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 Sebae Anemonefish Amphiprion sebae was described by Bleeker in 1853.. They are found in the Indian Ocean from the Arabian Peninsula then east to Java, and north to Sri Lanka and India, then back down south to the Maldives Islands. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Common names they are known by are the Sebae Clownfish, Brown Clownfish, Yellowtail Clownfish, and Sebae Anemonefish. Captive breed specimens have the designer names of Picasso Sebae Clownfish, Platinum Sebae Clownfish and White Tip Clownfish to describe the coloring of the fish, all dubbed names by the breeders.

This clownfish is a member of small group of three anemonefish known as the “Saddleback Complex”. This complex has only three member species. They 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. The namesake for this group is the Saddleback ClownfishAmphiprion polymnus, and the third member is the Wide Band Clownfish Amphiprion latezonatus, also known as the Lord Howe Anemonefish.

These clownfish 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 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, the Sebae Clownfish inhabit waters that are coastal, as well as lagoons. They are found at depths between 7 to 114 feet (2 to 35 m). The foods they ingest in the wild are detritus, benthic plants and weeds and zooplankton. They are labeled as a detrivore, though most assume they are omnivores and feed them accordingly. They are found with the Saddle Anemone Stichtodactyla haddoni host, and in small groups with adults and juveniles on the same anemone.

  • Scientific Name: Amphiprion sebae
  • Social Grouping: Varies – They are found singly, or as a male/female pair with or without 1 or more juveniles.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Sebae Clownfish are elongated, slender bodied clownfish from the Saddleback Complex, in contrast to the deeper bodied shape of those in the Clarkii Complex. This species is the largest in its complex, reaching reaching 5.5†(14 cm) in length. They can have a lifespan of up to at least 12 years, and possible longer.

Sebae Amenonefish typically have a black to dark brown body with two broad white bars, and a yellow-orange coloring on the face, bottom fins, and tail fin. They typically never have white outlining the tail fin or have any white at the base of the tail fin. There is also a melanistic form that is all black except for the white bars, the yellow tail, and a gray nose. The base of their tail fin and the entire tail fin is always yellow-orange, except with “designer†colorings in captive bred specimens. In various natural color phases, the following can occur:

  • The dark brown coloring extends from the top of the fish to at least 2/3rd to 3/4ths downward and they have a yellow-orange belly and nose. Only the dorsal fins are dark brown with the second dorsal fin having white at the top edge. The other fins are yellow-orange.
  • The black color phase comes from Bali and only has an orange in the tail fin, and a light gray nose.
  • The mostly dark brown color phase is the same as the black except the pelvic fins, nose and tail fin are yellow-orange.

This fish is sometimes mistaken for the Clarkii Clownfish Amphiprion clarkii as they have a similar color pattern, though the Clark’s anemonefish has a deeper body. The Sebae can be distinguished by its second white band tipping towards the back of the fish along the top and extending onto the dorsal fin, and also by its yellow anal fin.

The Sebae Clownfish can also be confused with the Saddleback Clownfish. To tell the difference between the two, the Sebae always will have a bright yellow-orange tail fin in all its color phases, and unlike the Saddleback, the tail fin is never outlined in white.

These fish have been bred in captivity producing the following strains and hybrids, coming from Bali Aquarich:

  • Picasso True Sebae Clownfish
    These color morphs are dark brown to black with gray to yellow noses and tail fins. Sometimes the tail fins may have a black spot of various sizes. There are variations on the amount of yellow in the other fins. They have the two stripes, which are irregular and typically have white spots as well.
  • White Tip Clownfish
    This fish is a fertile hybrid between the Sebae Clownfish A. sebae and the Saddleback Clownfish A. polymnus. Although no pictures have been seen yet, it would be hard to distinguish these without counting spines and rays on all the fins.
  • Size of fish – inches: 5.5 inches (13.97 cm)
  • Lifespan: 12 years – Their lifespan is at least 12 years, they could live longer with excellent care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Sebae Clownfish are recommended for intermediate to advanced aquarists as they are a less durable clownfish. This is especially true unless they are tank bred. They have requirements that are similar to the Saddleback Clownfish. Tank bred specimens are a little better, but all are sensitive to any deterioration in water quality and have a nervous nature.

They are mellow towards other fish but easily frightened when first acquired. They also tend to be picked on by other fish and suffer from Brooklynella more often, which seems to be brought on by stress. Sebae Clownfish have been known to run into the glass or jump out of the tank if frightened. They will react to an aggressive fish or lighting that has an abrupt off and no, so a dimming feature is suggested. When kept with a carpet anemone or other species of host anemone from the Stichodactyla genus, they will do well and an anemone helps them to fully adjust to captive life.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy – Even when captive bred, they are not as forgiving as other Clownfish when it comes to inappropriate tank mates and low water quality. Difficulty increases with wild caught specimens.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Sebae Clownfish are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on benthic plants and weeds as well as zooplankton and detritus. Provide variety in their diet that includes meaty foods such as mysis and fortified brine shrimp as well as finely chopped fish and shrimp flesh. They will help with the algae to a limited extent, but should also be fed flake and pellets with Spirulina.

Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day, whatever they will consume in about 3 minutes. It may be a good idea to have a well established copepod population if your fish will not eat prepared foods initially. 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 wild caught specimens to help acclimate them, and given to a breeding pair to condition them for spawning.
  • 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 Sebae 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 Sebae Clownfish, strive to not introduce it into the tank via another fish or coral that was not quarantined. Wild caught Sebae 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 about reef keeping here: 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 Sebae Clownfish is the largest of its complex reaching up to about 5 1/2 inches (14 cm). 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 attempting to keep with an anemone, provide a tank that is 100 gallons for the Haddon’s Carpet Anemone. This anemone can reaches 39†across. Provide appropriate lighting for the anemone and good water quality. This larger tank size will help in keeping water quality high and more stable, which in turn will benefit your Sebae. The clown 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 suggested for the fish to hide in and forage off of. 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. Water movement is not a significant factor but it needs a slow circulation in some areas of the tank to feed. Lighting should be slowly increased or decreased rather than a sudden turning off or on, so a dimmer with a timer is recommended.

  • 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 without an anemone, and 100 gallons or more with one.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • 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: 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, it can be controlled by 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 areas in the tank with slower water movement to enable them to feed.
  • Water Region: All – 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 Sebae Clownfish is considered “semi-aggressiveâ€. However 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 and or eggs are present. As with any clownfish, they are at home in a reef setting, but also do well in a fish only set up providing there are plenty of hiding places.

This is one of the most peaceful clownfish fish in that regard but is also typically the one most prone to being picked on. Do not keep with aggressive clownfish, especially those from the Clarkii, Tomato (Ephippium) and Maroon complexes. These types of clownfish are too aggressive to be with other clowns, or even each other.

They work well with other mellow clownfish like True Percula, or Ocellaris Clownfish or those from the Skunk Clownfish Complex. With two different species of clownfish, providing two anemones should be done in a tank that is at least 100 gallons or more, depending on the species of anemones. Space the anemones at opposite ends of the tank, or at least 2′ or more between them.

You can house with most peaceful, non aggressive fish except those who are large enough to swallow it. Dottybacks should never be in the same tank with them, and do not keep with large angelfish, triggers, perches or other territorial smaller fish do to stress factors. Typically Sebae Clownfish tend to be the ones harassed in a community tank. The only invertebrate threat is some occasional copepods if they are not well fed. There is no threat to other invertebrates.

  • 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 Sebae 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 Sebae 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 Sebae Clownfish is associated with in the wild is the Haddon’s Carpet or Saddle Anemone Stichodactyla haddoni. Be cautious adding Condy Anemones Condylactis gigantea. These are very mobile, predatory anemones, and are not a “clown hosting anemoneâ€. 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!â€.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive – This is considered a more peaceful clownfish. They are a 2 to 3 out of a clownfish aggression scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most aggressive, but will increase slightly to a 4 or 5 when an anemone is present.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – They do best in groups of 3 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe – May be more aggressive if guarding eggs near their anemone.
    • 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): Monitor – Do not attempt in a tank that is under 55 gallons without an anemone. May be okay with upper level swimming fish but only if the Sebae Clownfish has an anemone, is in a group and is well established. 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 with a Sebae Clownfish in a very large, mature tank with live rock that has plenty of copepods for them. 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. Do not house with Condylactis Anemones as these are not clown hosting anemones and may eventually kill and eat your clownfish.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor – Large mushrooms such as Elephant Ear Mushrooms (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer) can trap and eat young 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 are larger than the males.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Sebae 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.

Sebae 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. From 3 to 5 days before spawning the female’s belly starts to swell with eggs. As the male and female get close to spawning, since they are host an anemone that needs to be buried in the sand, they have to drag coconut shells or rocks close to the anemone. They then vigorously clean whatever they surface they decided to use for optimal egg adhesion.

When the female is ready to spawn, she presses her belly against the nesting site and the male swims behind her, fertilizing the eggs. Spawning, which may be similar to the Saddleback clownfish should occur late morning to early afternoon and can last up to 2 1/2 hours. A clutch of Sebae Clownfish eggs number around 300 to 600 eggs, depending on the size of the female. In the wild, 70% of these orange eggs with hatch on the 6th or 7th 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 larvae in the wild who survive not being eaten or in captivity survive fungus or other maladies, 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, larvae are hard to raise due to food size and quality, and most deaths occur on the 2nd and 7th days after settling out of the planktonic stage. See general clownfish breeding techniques on the Breeding Marine Fish page.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

Fish Diseases

Typically, clownfish are extremely hardy, but those from the Saddleback complex are not so lucky. When the Sebae Clownfish does 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. Anything you add to your tank that has not been properly quarantined, including live rock, corals and fish can also bring disease. So please take care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything, which is the best prevention.

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 Sebae Clownfish is relatively rare in pet stores and online. Although they seem plentiful, many companies mislabel the Clark’s Clownfish as a Sebae. if you find a true Sebae they are priced moderately, but the newer “designer†strains will cost more.