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Fish of the Month
Issue: August 2003

Amphiprion ocellaris

CUVIER 1830


Iggy Tavares

Common Names: Clown anemonefish, ocellaris clownfish, false percula clown

Type Locality: Sumatra, Indonesia

Range: Indo-Pacific, eastern Indian Ocean, Astralasia, including Thailand, Malaysia, SIngapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and northwest Australia; found as far north as southern Japan.

Taxonomic Troubles: Technically none, as this fish was originally described as A. ocellaris. In the trade, however, it is consistently confused with A. percula, which is much less frequently encountered. The difference between the two is very slight, involving dorsal fin m

Size: maximum 10 cm (4 inches). A protandus hermaphrodite. Larger fish are females; smallest are immature juveniles; functional males in between.

Preferred Water Chemistry: Marine, tropical. Temperature 24 to 28 degrees Celsius (75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit). SG 1.025. pH 8.3.

Difficulty: Easy marine, ideal saltwater fish. Hardy and generally peaceful, except with other clownfish, including conspecifics. Pairs or small groups can be established starting with juveniles.

Tank Setup: A well-cycled tank of at least 30 gallons. Reef safe.

Feeding: Omnivore. A hearty feeder on all types of prepared and live foods.

Breeding: One of the first marines captively bred. Spawns cichlid-fashion and guards eggs. Planktonic larvae can be raised on enriched rotifers, followed by Artemia. Only tank-bred specimens should be purchased.

Description: Bright orange with (usually) three white vertical bands.  Variable amount of black edging to fins and color pattern areas.  Some individuals develop considerable black coloration in the orange areas.  A completely black morph with white bands occurs near Darwin, Australia, and is established in the hobby.

Notes: There's nothing false about this fish. It was erroneously called percula, and when the confusionw as sorted out, that specied was often called the true percula, while this one in contrast was called the false percula. It makes about as much sense as calling a donkey a false hourse because that's what you thought it was at first! Like Juliet's rose, however, by any name this is a fantastic aquarium species, now widely available as captive-bred specimens. Its perky colors and wiggle-waggle motion attract the eye, and the friendly, inquisitive nature adds to the appeal. One of the most popular marine species, and one of the best for the beginning saltwater hobbyist, the ocellaris clown is highly recommended for species, fish-only, or reef aquaria. It is also the one one which an aspireing marine ornamental breeder should cut his or her teeth. In the wild, a host anemone will house a group consisting of a breeding pair and often one or more small, immature fish, which will stay tiny their whole life unless one of the pair is lost. If a new male is needed, one of them will develop into a functional male; if the female dies, the breeding male will turn into a female, and one of the immatures will become the male. THus, a small wild-caught clown may be 10 years old! On the other hand, small tank-bred clowns are certain to be young fish. This species is excellent for beginning marine aquarists, but is popular with hobbyists of all levels, especially those who want to try breeding marine fishes. SAY NO TO ANEMONE!: The well-known commensalism between clownfish and various anemone species is a fascinating part of coral reefs. Wild clownfish cannot survive without a host anemone, and some anemones likewise need resident clowns. In the aquarium, however, the relationship is unnecessary, and while clownfish represent just about the hardiest, easiest-to-keep animals, anemone are tricky even for extremely advanced aquarists. In addition, captive-bred clowns--the only ones you should consider--may not successfully recognize and adapt to host anemone. So, enjoy your clownfish, but leave the anemone out of your tank.

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