Clark's anemonefish (<i>Amphiprion clarkii</i>) photographed at Pure Aquariums in Lincoln, Nebraska
Clark's anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) photographed at Pure Aquariums in Lincoln, Nebraska
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Clownfish

Common Name:
Clownfish
Scientific Name:
Amphiprioninae
Type:
Fish
Diet:
Carnivore
Group Name:
School
Average Life Span In The Wild:
6 to 10 years
Size:
4.3 inches

Anyone with kids and a DVD player probably thinks they know all there is to know about the clownfish, also called the clown anemonefish. What they may not know is that the heroes of Finding Nemo are actually called false anemonefish. True anemonefish, Amphiprion percula, are nearly identical, but have subtle differences in shape and live in different habitats.

Characteristics

Bright orange with three distinctive white bars, clown anemonefish are among the most recognizable of all reef-dwellers. They reach about 4.3 inches in length, and are named for the multicolored sea anemone in which they make their homes.

Relationship with Anemones

Clownfish perform an elaborate dance with an anemone before taking up residence, gently touching its tentacles with different parts of their bodies until they are acclimated to their host. A layer of mucus on the clownfish's skin makes it immune to the fish-eating anemone's lethal sting. In exchange for safety from predators and food scraps, the clownfish drives off intruders and preens its host, removing parasites.

Population Range

There are at least 30 known species of clownfish, most of which live in the shallow waters of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the western Pacific. They are not found in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or Atlantic Ocean.

Changing Sex

Surprisingly, all clownfish are born male. They have the ability to switch their sex, but will do so only to become the dominant female of a group. The change is irreversible.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by Gina Michels, National Geographic Your Shot

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