Do Clownfish Need To Be In Pairs?

People have been actively tank-raising clownfish for a long time since the appearance and qualities of this species are extremely captivating. Scientists are constantly observing and studying their behavior in the wild and their contribution is tremendous for those who are willing to raise a clownfish in the aquarium. However, we still see a lot of questions regarding the living conditions of this fish as the number of engrossed people is increasing drastically. In this article, we would like to talk about one of the major topics around clownfish and answer a very important question – do clownfish need to be in pairs?

Clownfish don’t need to be in pairs. Although they are perfectly capable of living alone it’s recommended to keep them in pairs to flourish better. Also, a single clownfish may become exhausted and stressed out of loneliness.

There is some controversy regarding this subject and we encounter different opinions whether clownfish can survive alone in the aquarium. Some people think that having a high number of fish in the tank may cause aggression and other considerable difficulties. On the other hand, they might call you vicious for keeping a clownfish alone in your aquarium as it will undergo tremendous loneliness. We are here to expand both viewpoints and provide necessary information about this topic. Let’s start!

Are Clownfish Happier In Pairs?

As we have mentioned, it is not an essential requirement to keep your clownfish in pairs in the aquarium. They are able to survive on their own and it has been proved based on several scientific analyses. However, they experience some difficulties while living alone and there are a lot of instances when they get extremely fatigued due to loneliness.

Another drawback of living alone is that the colors of your clownfish may become pale which is mainly induced by stress and tiredness in the captive environment. There is not much evidence to support this statement but some people have noticed these effects of a single clownfish.

It’s highly recommended to keep them in pairs as they thrive better this way and decrease aggression. This is the most effective way to rear clownfish as they are a pretty complicated species compared to others because of their capacity to change genders.

People have different standpoints regarding this matter and we can see that both sides have their arguments. In the next part of this article, we will examine these aspects and show you the benefits and downsides of having a certain number of fish in your aquarium.

How Many Clownfish Should Be Kept Together?

We have already noted that people still argue about the appropriate number of clownfish in the tank. They have valid assertions and it is not easy to determine the veracity regarding this topic.

Clownfish Need To Be In Pairs?
Clownfish Need To Be In Pairs?

One side thinks that it’s absolutely unacceptable to keep a clownfish alone in the aquarium as it will definitely develop extreme exhaustion and fatigue due to loneliness. As opposed to this belief other party considers that the low number of clownfish reduces aggression and facilitates managing the aquarium.

It’s hard to oppose any of these statements and it all depends on the species of fish in the aquarium. As we have said, clownfish are complex and unusual fish among other species.

The ideal number of clownfish in the tank would be two and we strictly advise to refrain from keeping more breeding pairs.

We will explain the meaning behind that. First of all, on most occasions, if your aquarium contains a high number of fish there are only one female and several male clownfish. When these female clownfish will select the mating partner, they will express dominance and bully every other male clownfish in the aquarium.

The aggression of the mating pair will most likely induce that subordinate male will remain small and lose the ability to develop substantially and as a result, it will never become a female. This is the reason why it is hard to keep multiple clownfish in the tank.

Another instance of aggression appears when you put a female clownfish in the aquarium consisting of a mating pair. Although male clownfish are not hostile towards females the chances of two female clownfish fighting are extremely high and oftentimes it ends up with fatal results.

While there are some circumstances of mating pair and subordinate males living relatively peacefully, you should still avoid having multiple clownfish in your aquarium to prevent the antagonism.

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

Will Your Clownfish Stop Fighting? Some Tips To Remember

If you decide to keep multiple clownfish in the tank you should be ready to face aggressive behavior and the following suggestions are very effective to keep them under control.

Clownfish pair
Does clownfish needs to be in pairs?
  • The proper aquarium – We highly recommend getting a large aquarium in order to reduce the need for territorial battles. Also, it will be great if you add some decorations and introduce anemone to your tank. This way they will live without any trouble.
  • The aquarium conditions – It is very important to keep temperature, water, and salinity within the conventional range. Otherwise, it will reinforce stress in your clownfish that will end up with aggressive behavior.
  • Captive clownfish – You should remember that the clownfish are more aggressive in the wild as they constantly fight for survival. Therefore, we recommend purchasing a clownfish that was bred in captivity because it will show less aggressive manners in the tank.
  •  The appropriate feeding – You need to make sure that every individual in your aquarium gets his share of meals. They are fighting to get food first and you can prevent this by dispersing their meal throughout the tank. As a result, aggression is reduced.

When A Female Clownfish Dies, Does The Male Becomes Female?

The biological procedures of keeping clownfish in pairs are extremely interesting. The uniqueness of this species is mainly caused because of their ability to change genders that is called hermaphroditism. However, in the beginning, they are neither female nor male and start as gender-neutral.

As we have highlighted above, their gender is determined when they fight in the tank and the dominant one will develop female gonads in the end. As a result, she will be the sole leader of the aquarium.

She will be the only individual in the tank capable of breeding and she will have the possibility to choose a mating partner. After some time of pursuing, they will produce eggs and the male clownfish will be responsible to look after them. When they will be hatched the male will let them flourish on their own.

This cycle is continued even after the death of a female clownfish. In this case, her mating partner who is the most dominant male will occupy her place and turn into the next female. He will have female gonads and choose a male clownfish to breed and maintain the sequence.

As you can see, the hierarchy of tank-raised clownfish is strictly sustained and it is the major purpose of aggression and hostile habits among them. Additionally, clownfish are pretty territorial creatures and they have an urge to defend their area.

For the most part, the aggression is revealed towards their fellow clownfish of different species. Generally, they can dwell peacefully with other creatures in the aquarium.

Can A Clownfish Live Alone?

Clownfish don’t need to be in pairs and they are totally capable of living alone. However, you should be ready to face some difficulties when you put only one clownfish in the aquarium.

As we have noted in the beginning, the single clownfish will often develop certain feelings such as weariness and exhaustion. This is mainly because clownfish feel lonely in the tank as they are used to dwell in groups in the wilds. As you notice, they resemble humans in this case.

Some people have also reported that the colors of their clownfish started to pale due to stress and loneliness. This is not scientifically proved and in most instances, you should not be afraid of keeping your clownfish alone.

Clownfish Pair
Pairing in clownfish

You may be wondering what happens in terms of gender changes and mating when clownfish live alone. They all start as gender-neutral first and whether they will become male or female is decided when you introduce two clownfish in the aquarium. They will start fighting and eventually, the winner will become the female and the obedient one will be male.

You should remember that when you have only one clownfish in the tank the gender does not bear any importance. It will definitely turn into a female since there is not competition and aggression in your aquarium and there is no point for clownfish to become male.


In this article, we have touched on an extremely important topic regarding the living conditions of clownfish. The majority of people have different viewpoints and it’s hard to decide what is the proper number of clownfish in the aquarium.

While it’s absolutely acceptable to have a single clownfish in the tank, we recommend keeping them in pairs. This way they will thrive better and live relatively peacefully. Also, we have provided information about the proper techniques to reduce aggression among clownfish. If you take the above-mentioned facts into consideration your clownfish will live happily in the aquarium.

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