Ocellaris Clownfish Care Guide: Diet, Size & Lifespan

Welcome to our Ocellaris Clownfish care guide! If you’re a saltwater aquarist with a love for the magical world of reef tanks, you’re in for a treat. This enchanting fish, known widely for its role as Nemo in Pixar’s movie Finding Nemo, can bring a touch of whimsy and vibrancy to any aquarium. 

In this guide, we’ll share our knowledge and insights to help you provide the best care for your Ocellaris Clownfish. From their striking orange and white patterns to their captivating behaviors and symbiotic relationships, we’ll explore the unique qualities that make these fish truly special. 

Whether you’re a seasoned hobbyist or new to the world of marine aquariums, we’re here to offer our expertise and assist you in creating a thriving and harmonious environment for these delightful little creatures. So, let’s dive in and embark on a captivating journey with the Ocellaris Clownfish!

Species Summary

Known scientifically as the Amphiprion ocellaris, the Ocellaris Clownfish is easily recognized by Disney fans as the “Nemo” fish from “Finding Nemo.” However, its actual nicknames include the false percula clownfish, common clownfish, anemonefish, and Western clownfish. A vibrant personality and smile-inducing appearance both make the Ocellaris Clownfish a popular tank option.

The Ocellaris Clownfish is known for an up-and-down swimming motion that is interesting to watch. This species also has a habit of taking up residence inside sea anemones.

Author Note: Don’t assume that Ocellaris Clownfish are taking advantage of these invertebrates! The two actually enjoy a symbiotic relationship where the fish provides food in exchange for shelter. In fact, Ocellaris Clownfish have developed a special mucus that keeps them immune to the deadly sting of sea anemones.

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If anemones aren’t available in a tank environment, Ocellaris Clownfish will often glom onto corals, rocks, algae, or water pumps! Don’t feel obligated to purchase an anemone as a companion for an Ocellaris Clownfish. While the gesture will certainly be appreciated, the challenges of maintaining a sea anemone may simply not be worth it. The complex tank requirements of the sea anemone deeply contrast the simple conditions needed by clownfish varieties.

In the wild, Ocellaris Clownfish sprinkle the westward waters of the Pacific and eastern portion of the Indian Ocean with their tangerine glow. Huge concentrations are found in the waters between Northern Australia and Southeast Asia. In fact, people who travel to the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia for diving expeditions often look forward to seeing these vibrant, unmistakable beauties in the water.

When given the choice, an Ocellaris Clownfish will choose a calm, drama-free lagoon.

Appearance

As one of the most famous fish in the world, the Ocellaris Clownfish is covered in iconic orange, black, and white stripes that are impossible to miss. When looking closely at this fish, a predictable pattern of three white stripes and four white stripes can be observed. The black “stripes” are actually small borders that line thicker blocks of orange and white. The fish’s beautiful, wing-like fins are also lined in black.

An Ocellaris Clownfish or "Nemo" swimming in a saltwater aquarium

Lifespan

In an ideal environment, the average lifespan of an Ocellaris Clownfish is around 6 years. Like all saltwater fish, lifespan depends on quality of life. Some make it to a decade. Stress, bullying from other fish, and poor diet can all adversely affect this creature’s health and lifespan.

Average Size

While the Ocellaris Clownfish is best known from the big screen, this is actually a fairly tiny fish. The average size of an Ocellaris Clownfish is 3 inches. Adults max out at around 4 inches. While males and females are similar in appearance, the female can easily grow to be a full inch larger than the male.

Ocellaris Clownfish Care

While the Ocellaris Clownfish is generally seen as a fish that’s easy to care for, that doesn’t mean tank owners can be careless when it comes to creating the perfect environment for this cinematic saltwater dweller. Luckily, some straightforward tips make it easy to prioritize the health of a tank!

Tank Size

The minimum recommended tank size for the Ocellaris Clownfish is 20 to 30 gallons. While some sources say that 10-gallon tanks are acceptable, this creates a very tight environment that’s not conducive to helping this fish thrive to its fullest potential. This species needs space to swim and explore! They also love hiding spots.

Author Note: When adding an anemone as a companion for an Ocellaris Clownfish, the tank volume needs to be increased to at least 50 to 60 gallons.

Water Parameters

In addition to giving an Ocellaris Clownfish the room needed to thrive, it’s important to carefully monitor water conditions. Use the following as a cheat sheet for keeping your Ocellaris Clownfish blissfully swimming around.

  • Water temperature: 72 to 78°F
  • pH levels: 8.0 to 8.4
  • Water hardness: 7 to 12 Dkh
  • Specific gravity: 1.020 to 1.026

Tank Setup

The good news is that Ocellaris Clownfish are considered to be very hardy saltwater fish. However, it’s important not to take their ability to handle small deviations quite breezily as a license to be relaxed with tank setup and maintenance. Clownfish thrive in stable environments.

The Ocellaris Clownfish doesn’t require any bells and whistles in a tank. Generally, a stationary object that makes a good hosting station is ideal. Live rock can be especially important for this species because it actually carries microorganisms and bacteria that create the water stability it needs. Good, consistent filtration is also important for this saltwater fish.

Of course, Ocellaris Clownfish famously love using living rock for shelter. Be sure to create little crevices that the fish can settle into between swims.

Author Note: While the runaway-fish plot of “Finding Nemo” is a tad farfetched, the truth is that the Ocellaris Clownfish shares the notorious saltwater-fish reputation for jumping! It’s so important to place a lid or netting over a tank to prevent an adventure for your little Ocellaris Clownfish that won’t have a happy Disney ending.

Lighting isn’t a big issue for the Ocellaris Clownfish. They will generally adapt to any spectrum or intensity you choose. That means that this species won’t be perturbed by intense lights needed for accompanying coral.

There’s also no big concern when it comes to substrate in the tank. Ocellaris Clownfish can thrive with sand, gravel, or a bare bottom. However, it’s important to note that a healthy Ocellaris Clownfish will never be found hanging out on the substrate. This activity could be an indication that something is amiss with the tank’s water parameters!

The only exception could be if the fish has fallen asleep. Monitor the situation carefully to determine if action needs to be taken.

Are Ocellaris Clownfish Reef-Safe?

Absolutely! You can place this fish in the reef safe category since the Ocellaris Clownfish can be trusted not to eat coral. Of course, that doesn’t mean that this species can never harm coral.

There’s always a chance that an Ocellaris Clownfish could confuse a coral for its beloved sea anemone. When this happens, the fish may try to nestle into the coral to find protection. While this won’t necessarily cause immediate and severe damage to the coral, the irritation caused by contact with the fish could damage the coral over time. This can lead to injury, retraction, or death of the coral.

Common Possible Diseases & Prevention

The good news is that the Ocellaris Clownfish is generally considered to be a healthy, hardy fish. Of course, this fish is still vulnerable to all of the other common diseases and illnesses that can strike all saltwater creatures. Bacterial and viral infections are always possible. Additionally, marine ich and fin rot have been known to strike this species quite aggressively.

Symptoms of ich include white lesions on the body, sluggishness, gasping, and ratty fins. Fin rot symptoms include frayed fins, fins that turn black or brown, and actual rotting of entire chunks of fin.

How do you keep an Ocellaris Clownfish safe from disease? The best approach is to change water frequently to prevent buildup of bacteria. Additionally, it’s so important to quarantine and monitor any new fish or creatures being introduced to the tank. If a fish begins to show signs of infection or illness, separate that fish from the rest of the tank immediately.

Food & Diet

What do these fish eat? As omnivores, the Ocellaris Clownfish are happy with a diverse diet offering a variety of meat and plant-based food options.

The thing to know is that they are not scavengers. Tank owners often discover this fact after watching their Ocellaris Clownfish zip straight to the top of the tank to be first in line during a feeding. Never expect Ocellaris Clownfish to simply pick up scraps left on the substrate.

Generally, it’s fine to select a high-quality pellet or flake as a Ocellaris Clownfish’s main source of nutrition. This fish will also happily gobble up brine shrimp and mysis shrimp! Fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried options are all perfectly fine. 

Author Note: Ocellaris Clownfish love shrimp in any form so much that they will even break their rule about not bottom feeding in order to grab it from the substrate.

An adult Ocellaris Clownfish should be fed twice daily. To prevent waste and spoilage, size your feeding portions based on what you expect the fish to be able to eat in the span of two to three minutes only.

Behavior & Temperament

The Ocellaris Clownfish is considered to be a peaceful, community-friendly saltwater fish. It’s even just fine to keep several in the same tank without concerns about aggression. However, they will often be aggressive with other clownfish species. For this reason, mixing clownfish species is discouraged.

Some fish on the “no” list include Picasso clowns and maroon clowns. Green chromis and other damselfish have also earned reputations for fighting with Ocellaris Clownfish.

Ocellaris Clownfish Tank Mates

Ocellaris Clownfish get along nicely with many different species. Of course, sea anemones like the Bubble Tip are their best companions if you’re willing to put in the work to host this species in a tank.

There are also plenty of simpler companions that can be kept easily alongside Ocellaris Clownfish in tanks. Here’s a list of fish that are known to be ideal tank mates:

  • Angelfish
  • Tangs
  • Gobies (like the Mandarin Goby)
  • Wrasses
  • Dottybacks
  • Cardinalfish

Remember that coral health needs to be carefully monitored if you’ll be pairing Ocellaris Clownfish with them due to the fact that constant contact can cause stress to corals.

Three Amphiprion ocellaris looking for food

Breeding

The Ocellaris Clownfish has an interesting breeding life! In fact, this species is regarded as being one of the few marine fish that can be bred fairly easily. To the delight of hobbyists, it’s quite easy to raise young Ocellaris Clownfish simply by obtaining a breeding pair.

This fish will form breeding pairs that can actually become quite insular and aggressive once they’ve matched up. In a tank, two fish will begin to court each other using breeding rituals that include standing on their heads to press their fins together. Don’t forget to raise the water temperature in your tank just a bit to about 83 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll know that breeding is in the air when the two fish begin cleaning a rock. This is their version of “nesting” in preparation to lay eggs.

During the breeding process, an Ocellaris Clownfish pair will produce anywhere from 50 to 500 eggs. By some accounts, pairs can lay up to 1,000 eggs at a time. It takes just eight days for the eggs to hatch. However, it’s important to note that not every breeding attempt is successful. Rest assured that a couple will try again soon if eggs do not properly hatch.

There’s sometimes confusion about getting a pair consisting of a male and female. Ocellaris Clownfish are actually born without a gender. Each fish will develop into either a male or female based on environmental factors and social cues within the tank.

Author Note: When trying to obtain a mating pair, the general rule is to ensure that one fish is larger than the other. While the smaller fish is almost certain to become a male, the larger fish will turn into a female. 

Wrapping Up

We hope you’ve found our Ocellaris Clownfish care guide both informative and inspiring. By now, you’ve learned about the distinctive features and behaviors that make “Nemo” a favorite among saltwater aquarists. 

From their playful nature to their fascinating symbiotic relationship with anemones, Ocellaris Clownfish can truly bring life and color to your reef tank. Remember to provide them with a suitable environment, including anemone alternatives and compatible tank mates. 

As you continue your journey in the world of marine aquariums, we encourage you to keep expanding your knowledge and exploring new possibilities. Don’t forget to check our other saltwater care guides and to tag us on Facebook when sharing a photo of your Nemo!

Happy clownfish-keeping!

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