Clownfish are one of the easiest tropical marine aquarium fish to breed. Unlike many of the other tropical marine fish, clownfish regularly spawn in a marine aquarium. Furthermore clownfish have relatively large eggs and larvae which makes rearing them a somewhat easier task as the larvae are able to eat easily cultured foods
The purpose of this article is to convey the information that I have found and learned over the last few months while I have been raising clownfish. This information is a compilation of both my ideas and the ideas from other articles written about clownfish. A complete reference list of clownfish related articles will be compiled at the end of the article.
There are a few very important steps to breeding clownfish. These include setting up the tank, choosing the broodstock, feeding, spawning, and raising the larvae. These points will all be discussed in detail below.
Setting up the Tank
A clownfish spawning tank should be as large as possible, and preferably not smaller than 100 liters. If the purpose of the tank is to solely breed clownfish than it would be wise to avoid putting any other fish in the tank. Small non-aggressive fish can be added, however, once the fish start spawning anything that comes toward them is viewed as a threat and is chased away.
As a rule the more natural a tank is the more at home the fish will feel, and the more likely they will be to spawn. This is not to say that a tank with a flowerpot and a thin layer of coral sand won't produce results, it is just that the more relaxed and stress-free the fish feel, the sooner they will spawn and the healthier the eggs will be.
An ideal tank would be a 3x2x2 feet tank filled with live rock, a layer of coral sand at the bottom, a nice anenome, bright lighting, and good filtration preferably consisting of an efficient protein skimmer. As the bioload of the tank would just be the clownfish, the live rock and protein skimmer would handle the ammonia and organics from the fish. A trickle filter could be used providing regular water changes are performed to keep the nitrates low enough for the anenome to do well.
In nature the clownfish spawning is linked to the lunar cycle. It is generally not paractical to artificially stimulate the lunar cycle in the aquarium. It is important however, that the lights are connected to a timer so that the fish receive a regular daylight lighting cycle. This regular day/night cycle is all that is needed.
An anenome is generally not required to breed clownfish, however, it certainly makes the task much easier in the long run. In fact clownfish have been known to spawn on clay pots, clam shells, and even the aquarium glass in the absence of an anenome. An added benefit of having an anenome is that it may release compounds that help protect the eggs, even chemically, as with the apparent immunity that clownfish have with the anenome.
The key to your clownfish home is that it be STRESS FREE! That means good water quality, no aggressive tank mates, and an anenome.
Choosing the Broodstock
There are three basic ways to obtaining a pair of clownfish. These include: 1) to buy a naturally mated pair captured from the wild, 2) to buy a small group of at least four fish, and 3) to buy two fish of greatly differing size.
Obtaining a naturally mated pair of clownfish is always the best option. This is because the pair of fish will be a naturally mated pair from the time you put them into the aquarium and will not have to go through the territorial and aggressive struggles that happen in an aquarium when fish are first introduced. Also the fish will not view each other as aggressive rivals as they are in a pair. The best news however, is that by introducing a mated pair into the aquarium, spawning will commence much sooner than by the other two methods.
Buying a small group of clownfish, preferably from different sources, is the next best option. This is because it gives the clowns a chance to form a hierarchal structure in the tank with the two most dominant fish naturally pairing off. It also lowers the chance of the other clownfish becoming overly stressed due to aggression from the dominant fish, as the aggression is spread out over a number of individuals. This option will produce a pair but it will take longer for them to start spawning than if they were a mated pair as soon as they were added to their aquarium.
Putting two fish of differing size in together is an extreme way of obtaining a pair of fish. The reason for this is that often the larger fish will be very aggressive towards its own kind and, if there is only one other clownfish, than that aggression can cause the smaller fish to become very stressed, and more prone to disease. This problem will persist until the larger, more dominant female fish accepts the smaller male. This task may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
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