Ocean Life: Clown Anemone Fish
Clown fish (amphiprion percula), also famously known as Nemo from the movie ‘Finding Nemo’, are one of the most recognizable tropical fish. They are bright orange in color with three distinctive white bars across their body. Clown anemone fish do not grow to be very large in size; in fact, they only grow to be about 4.3 inches (11 centimeters) in length. According to National Geographic, they live an average life span of 6-10 years in the wild.
Where They Live:
Clown fish are found in tropical, marine reef habitats in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, Northern Australia, the South East Asia region, and the Western Pacific. Their primary home are anemones. Before the clown fish can actually take up residence in an anemone, they first perform an elaborate ‘dance’ with it. This is done by gently touching their bodies with the anemones’ tentacles. They do this until they become accustomed to their anemone and its stings. In fact, clown fish have a layer of mucus on their skin which allows them to be immune to the anemones’ painful stings. This also benefits the clown fish by protecting them from predators and intruders.
Their diet mostly consists of tiny algae, copepods, zooplankton, and isopods. Clown fish also eat the left over particles of food from the anemones’ captured prey and even the dead tentacles of the anemone itself.
How They Mate:
Clown anemone fish are very different when it comes to mating. Their groups have a strict dominance hierarchy. In the group, only the larger and dominant female and male will be the ones to reproduce, which is through external fertilization. Before this happens, the male builds a nest on a bare rock substrate that is close to the anemone and that will also provide protection against predators. The male then attracts the female through courting, which is characterized by chasing, biting, and extending its fins. When the spawning begins, the female will swim over the nest multiple times to release her eggs and then the male will swim over the eggs to fertilize them. The female lays about 100-1,000 eggs; this number depends on the age of the fish. The eggs are orange in color and very small in size (measuring 3-4 mm in length).
Did you know that all clown fish are actually born male? Once they mature, they then have the ability to switch their sex to female. However, the change is irreversible. This sex-change will only take place if they are becoming the dominant female of a group.
What Do You Think?
How many species of fish do you think live in anemones?
Answer: There are actually 28 known species of anemone fish. Most of these fish live in the anemones of shallow waters in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Western Pacific.
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