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Clarkii Clownfish Care & Info | An Anemonefish With Attitude

Want an anemonefish for your saltwater aquarium and don’t mind dealing with a rather feisty species? The clarkii clownfish is known for its territorial nature, and it certainly lives up to this reputation, but it’s also a beautiful and fascinating species to keep.

Below, find everything you need to know about the clarkii clownfish: where it’s from, how to care for it, potential tankmates, and much more.

Name (Common, Scientific)Clark’s anemonefish, clarkii anemonefish, yellowtail anemonefish, sebae clownfish*, Amphiprion clarkii
Minimum tank size30 gallons
Minimum group size1M 1F
Temperature76-82 °F
Salinity1.020-1.025
pH8.1-8.4
Difficulty levelModerate
*This name is incorrect, as it actually refers to a different species: Amphiprion sebae.

Clarkii clownfish description & natural habitat

Description

The clarkii clownfish can easily be recognized as an anemonefish thanks to the vertical barring on the body that’s so typical of the genus (Amphiprion). However, it’s a little chunkier than something like an ocellaris. Its body color is dark brown to black rather than orange or yellowish.

This species reaches a maximum length of 6″, with males staying smaller than females. It usually has a dark body, yellowish face, white body bars, and yellow fins, but there’s a lot of regional variation in color and pattern.

There are a few anemonefish species that are pretty similar in looks to today’s subject, but they’re less common in the aquarium trade. These include A. allardi (Allard’s clownfish) and A. akindynos (Barrier Reef clownfish).

Commercial hatcheries have produced a few different clarkii varieties through selective breeding. You may find ‘Galaxy’ (with uneven white barring and spots) for sale, or possibly even hybrids of Amphiprion ocellaris × clarkii.

Did you know? Occasionally, breeders will find clarkii clownfish in their broodstock that are born with pale blueish half-moon spots in their eyes. These have been dubbed “Pearl Eyes” and are considered highly desirable.

Natural habitat

Clarkii clownfish have a wide natural range. They’re found in the Indo-Pacific, inhabiting reefs in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. The species pops up as far north as southern Japan.

Like other anemonefish, clarkiis like relatively shallow reefs (down to around 200ft) and lagoons. This is where their natural partners, sea anemones, are most common.

Wild clarkii clownfish aren’t known to be picky when it comes to their anemones. In fact, according to the handy Field Guide to Anemone Fishes and Their Host Sea Anemones, there are 10 species of anemones that host anemonefish. Clarkiis have been found inhabiting all of them.

The IUCN Red List considers Amphiprion clarkii to be a species of Least Concern, meaning it’s not threatened in the wild. The organization highlights its wide range and the fact that it’s considered locally common. Yay!

Did you know? Anemonefish tend to be highly territorial, and clarkii clownfish are no exception. As such, marine biologists were surprised to find they sometimes share their anemones with skunk clownfish such as the orange and pink skunk.

Hattori, 1995
Amphiprion clarkii anemonefish photographed in the wild in Thailand.
Clarkii clownfish photographed in the wild by the FantaSEA Aquariums team (Andaman Sea, Thailand). They’re highly territorial and will nip at you when you approach!

Clarkii clownfish aquarium

If you’d like to keep a pair of clarkii clownfish, keep in mind that they do grow relatively large. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is a good idea, although we personally prefer going for at least 40.

These anemonefish are considered relatively hardy. As long as the aquarium is fully cycled and mature, they’ll do fine, and they can be kept in regular reef parameters.

These fish are reef-safe and won’t bother your corals. In fact, they’ll do best in a reef-type set-up with plenty of live rock to hide in and establish a territory on.

Do you need an anemone?

The eternal question! We’ll keep it short: no, you don’t need an anemone if you’d like to keep clarkii clownfish. They will survive just fine without their hosts, which provide them protection in the wild that they don’t really need in our aquariums.

If you do want to give yours something similar, which we recommend so you can observe their natural behavior, they will host various corals. These include torch corals (hard) and leather corals (soft).

Prefer an anemone? Although they’re considered challenging to care for, some are easier than others. Clarkii anemonefish can be found with the reasonably easy bubble tip coral in the wild, so that would make a good choice in the aquarium too.

Clarkii clownfish portrait with anemone

Clarkii clownfish compatibility

The most important thing to consider when it comes to anemonefish like this one is that they can be highly territorial, especially when an anemone is present or they’re breeding. They’ve got quite the reputation! You’ll have to choose their tankmates carefully and provide plenty of space.

Your best bet is to go for fish that are peaceful and won’t bother the clowns, but steer clear of overly delicate species. Gobies make a good choice since they inhabit a different water layer. Dwarf angelfish, royal grammas, blennies, and dartfish are also suitable. Avoid other clownfish.

As for its own species, clarkii clownfish are best kept in pairs. In the wild, anemones are inhabited by larger groups, but their complex social hierarchies (led by a large, dominant breeding pair) aren’t very peaceful.

Small new additions to the group will be at the bottom of the pack. They can be bullied pretty relentlessly, which is probably not what you want in your tank. Even in single pairs, the female can be pretty cranky towards the male and regularly kick him out of their anemone or coral host!

Did you know? Like other clowns, this species is a protandrous hermaphrodite. It starts its life as a male, but if the dominant female in a group dies, the largest male will turn female to replace her.

Clarkii clownfish diet

Wild clarkii clownfish are omnivores. They eat pretty much any small (planktonic) bits they can find. One study found their stomach contents to consist of a mix of “various larvae (barnacle, tunicate, crustaceans and gastropods), copepods, algae, fish eggs and ctenoid scales”.

Their unfussy nature when it comes to food means you won’t have trouble getting your clarkiis to eat in the aquarium. You can feed twice a day, offering foods like commercial flakes or pellets, algae tablets, nori, mysis, brine shrimp, and much more.

Breeding Clarkii clownfish

Clownfish like clarkiis are considered easy to breed compared to a lot of other saltwater aquarium fish species. The specimens you’ll find for sale are more than likely tank-raised (yay!), and if you’re looking to take your skills as an aquarist to the next level, you can consider trying your hand at breeding yours.

Because they’re widely raised on a commercial scale, a lot has been written about breeding clarkii clownfish. Here are some findings that can help us with our home-breeding operations:

  • Warm water seems preferable. The larval growth and survival rates were much better at 84.2 °F than at 73.4 °F.
  • According to a 2011 paper, larvae can initially be fed Brachionus plicatilis rotifers. From day 5, baby brine shrimp can be introduced, and eventually replace the rotifers.
  • Interestingly, a 2012 experiment concluded these fish can successfully breed and be raised in brackish water.

Ready to give it a try? Have a look at our full post on clownfish mating and eggs, as well as our post on raising clownfish fry to find out what to do once the larvae hatch.

Did you know? In the wild, clarkii clownfish spawning is synchronized with the full moon.

Baby clarkii clownfish in a beaded sea anemone.
Cuteness overload: tiny baby clarkii clownfish in a beaded sea anemone (Heteractis aurora).

Conclusion

A pair of wiggly clarkii clownfish inhabiting a beautiful anemone or coral can really liven up your aquarium. If you’d like your own clownfish tank but aren’t sure how to go about setting it up or simply lack the time, we can help!

Contact FantaSEA Aquariums so we can design, set up and maintain your aquarium for you, so all you have to do is enjoy it.

Sources & further reading

Fautin, D. G., Allen, G. R., Allen, G. R., Naturalist, A., Allen, G. R., & Naturaliste, A. (1992). Field guide to anemonefishes and their host sea anemones (p. 78). Perth: Western Australian Museum.

Ghosh, S., Kumar, T. A., Nanthinidevi, K., & Balasubramanian, T. (2012). Reef fish breeding and hatchery production using brackishwater, a sustainable technology with special reference to Clark’s clownfish, Amphiprion clarkii (Bennett, 1830). International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, 3(1), 56.

Hattori, A. (1995). Coexistence of two anemonefishes, Amphiprion clarkii and A. perideraion, which utilize the same host sea anemone. Environmental biology of fishes, 42, 345-353.

Khoo, M. L., Das, S. K., & Abd Ghaffar, M. (2018). Growth pattern, diet and reproductive biology of the clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris in waters of Pulau Tioman, Malaysia. The Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Research, 44(3), 233-239.

Sahandi, J. (2011). Reproduction of Persian Gulf anemone fish (Amphiprion clarkii) in captive system. Aquaculture, Aquarium, Conservation & Legislation, 4(5), 704-708.

Ye, L., Yang, S. Y., Zhu, X. M., Liu, M., Lin, J. Y., & Wu, K. C. (2011). Effects of temperature on survival, development, growth and feeding of larvae of Yellowtail clownfish Amphiprion clarkii (Pisces: Perciformes). Acta Ecologica Sinica, 31(5), 241-245.

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Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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