Do Clownfish Need Anemones?

Clownfish is a very popular species among the fish enthusiasts coming from the Pomacentridae family. This fish is also known as an anemonefish considering its symbiotic mutualism with sea anemones. The majority of people often have a false outlook of the relationship between clownfish and anemones since they provide tremendous benefits to each other while living together. So, we are here to debunk some false statements and answer one of the most frequently asked questions – do clownfish need anemones?

Clownfish do not need anemones. They can thrive and survive perfectly without anemones and they are able to snuggle up with other hosts if need be. In fact, it might be even better for clownfish not to live with host anemone as they get pretty aggressive in the wild as well as in an aquarium.

This is a very important topic and scientists have been studying their relationship for a long time. The beauty of this fish attracts a lot of attention and people have started to tank raise the clownfish for more than 20 years. As a result, the need for authentic information regarding the living conditions is increased drastically and, in this article, we will give you a proper understanding of the mutualistic relationship between clownfish and anemones.

Should You Get An Anemone For Your Clownfish?

As we have noted above, the answer to the main question is simple. Clownfish don’t need anemones to survive and they can flourish very well independently. This statement is true for both tank-raised and wild-harvested clownfish and there are several reasons behind it.

  • Clownfish are able to host different kinds of species such as corals besides anemones
  • Clownfish get pretty aggressive when placed with anemone
  • Anemones are not able to survive long in an aquarium
Clownfish Need Anemones
Clownfish Need Anemones

If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:

What Will Clownfish Host Besides Anemone?

First of all, anemones are not one and only hosts for clownfish. It has a lot of possibilities when it comes to hosts and the major replacement for anemones can be corals.

There are different types of corals serving as a perfect host for the clownfish and sometimes they are more resistant than anemones. They include the Hairy Mushroom coral, Mushroom Leather coral, and Elegance coral.

Another reason is that clownfish are extremely aggressive and territorial. It is basically the only way to survive in the wild and you have to take into mind that the aggression continues when they are transferred to an aquarium. The results can be fatal in this case, so it might be better for clownfish, anemones, and the aquarium itself to keep them away. On the other hand, tank-raised clownfish are not as aggressive and they live comfortably even with different species.

How Long Do Anemones Live In Captivity?

Additionally, we would like to mention that the majority of anemones can’t survive long in captivity.

In fact, the studies have shown that only 1 in 20 anemones lived for 3 years in an aquarium, and needless to say, this is not a promising statistic.

Also, anemones tend to move around the tank all the time which can be quite dangerous for themselves as well as the aquarium.

As you can see these are the reasons indicating that the clownfish and anemones are perfectly capable of living independently. However, they benefit each other tremendously and in the next part of this article, we would like to describe their mutualistic relationship in detail.

Mutualism Between Clownfish and Anemones

Mutualism is a type of ecological interaction that has a beneficial outcome for every individual. The clownfish and anemones are perfect examples of this as they both provide great benefits to each other especially in the wild. A relationship like that is very rare in nature and therefore scientists have been studying it with a lot of enthusiasm.

Can Anemones Kill Clownfish?

Anemones furnish an excellent defensive source for clownfish with their stinging tentacles. They provide a shielding home and protect clownfish from different kinds of predators such as barracudas and groupers. It is a very convenient way for clownfish to survive in the wild and therefore they will always host anemones when they get the opportunity.

Do Clownfish need Anemones?

The main reason is that clownfish is one of the only species that don’t get stung by tentacles of anemones.

Although scientists have different opinions regarding this topic the fact is clear that clownfish are immune to anemones poisonous tentacles.

In exchange for providing shelter to clownfish, anemones get some benefits in several ways. First of all, clownfish also acts as a defensive source for them as they keep away polyp-eating predators such as angelfish and butterflyfish. Secondly, they make it easier for anemones to catch prey by luring other fish into their tentacles.

Additionally, clownfish are able to eat dead tentacles of anemones in order to keep them clean. However, the most benefit they provide for anemones is food in the form of scraps and feces.

These statements make it pretty obvious why they live so comfortably with each other and as we said, they are an excellent example of a mutualistic relationship that captivates not only scientists but a lot of fish enthusiasts as well. However, we would like to emphasize again that they don’t need each other to survive especially in an aquarium.

What Are The Best Type Of Anemone for Clownfish To Host?

You should have some knowledge about different kinds of anemones before choosing one. The majority of people think that clownfish will host every type of anemone. Well, that’s simply not true. One of the examples we want to point out is a Condylactis, also known as, Atlantic anemones that hardly ever host clowns.

When it comes to the best anemones for clownfish, our suggestion would be a saddle anemone and a bubble tip anemone.

The saddle anemone is believed to have the highest survival rate and it lives on reefs in shallow waters up to 40 meters down. As for the bubble tip anemone, it is a colorful one that is very popular among the different species of clownfish.

We would like to list some recommendations regarding how to choose an anemone for clownfish –

  • Anemones should have some reaction when you pick them up
  • We don’t suggest buying a white anemone
  • The tentacles should not be too short and thin
  • The mouth should not be too big as well
  • If the anemone is attached to a rock, you should not separate them and place both together in an aquarium

How Do You Pair Clownfish with Anemone?

The time required for clownfish to discover and pair with newly placed anemones is not determined. Some of them need few hours while others may take weeks and even months to do it.

Another problem you may encounter during this process is that clownfish will not show any interest in hosting an anemone even though it is the right one. There are several reasons behind it and most importantly the case is that the clownfish feels safe in the aquarium and it does not need protection from anemones.

We are going to give you some advice to solve this issue and form a symbiotic relationship between them easily.

Clownfish in Anemones
  1. First of all, it will be better to place both of them in a cramped space.
  2. You should wait until anemone is connected to rock before moving it into a tank. If you are not careful with this process it might never bond with clownfish.
  3. When you place anemone in the tank then it’s time to put clownfish and wait until it finds the anemone and starts pairing.
  4. Once you notice that the process has started it’s time to move them into the larger aquarium.

If the clownfish is hesitant to pair with the anemone, then there are some tricks you can utilize –

  • One of the most convenient ways is to make the clownfish less secured by adding some larger fish to your aquarium. By doing so, it will be forced to find a new shelter.
  • Another method you can try is to leave very little water in the tank in order to make clownfish swim near the anemones. However, this is highly risky and it should be used as a last resort.
  • Also, you can trick clownfish by attaching a photograph of another clownfish to the outside of the aquarium. This will make them think that their territory is invaded and they may dive into the tentacles of the anemone for protection.


In this article, we have described one of the most fascinating relationships of two different species. Scientists have been studying this mutualistic bond between clownfish and anemones with huge enthusiasm as it is extremely rare in nature.

We have answered the most common question regarding these two individuals – do clownfish need anemones?

Our conclusion is that although they provide tremendous benefits to each other clownfish don’t need anemones to survive! It can thrive and live perfectly on its own.

However, we have explained the amazing relationship between them in detail and showed you why they are a great example of mutualism in nature. We hope this article is informative enough for you to get familiar with this captivating bond of two different species!

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