Breeding aquarium fish is a fun experience and a logical step for more experienced aquarists. Clownfish are no exception in this! They can be bred and raised in the aquarium with a little effort.
If you’re interested in breeding clownfish, or if you found some clownfish eggs in your tank and are wondering what to do, keep reading for everything you need to know about breeding clownfish!
Clownfish eggs: The parents
If you don’t already have a clownfish pair but are interested in purchasing one for breeding purposes, it’s important to consider some things when choosing your fish. First off, there are huge differences in prices for different clownfish species and pairings. Secondly, your chances of success can vary based on how you pair the male and female.
Juvenile “basic” clownfish species, like the common ocellaris clownfish, are pretty affordable. Selectively bred “designer” clownfish, on the other hand, can run you hundreds of dollars.
The obvious problem with saving some cash and going for juvenile clownfish is that females can take a long time to sexually mature. You might end up waiting up to 2 years before you see the first spawning attempts!
Alternatives are trying to pair up a mature female with a younger male or going for a bonded or breeding pair. Of course, you’ll have to find a trustworthy seller, as anyone can throw two clownfish into a tank and say they’re bonded! A breeding pair (that has bred before) is the most secure option, but even then, there’s no absolute guarantee they will breed again.
Did you know? Pairing clownfish might be tricky, but at least with juveniles there’s no need to try and figure out their sex. The larger of the two will simply turn into a female if the need arises!
Setting up your breeding tank
Once you’ve acquired your clownfish pair and are confident they’re both of breeding age (at least 2 years for the female and 6 months for the male), it’s time to get them into the mood.
If you’re serious about breeding clownfish, the best option is to set up a separate breeding tank. This makes it much easier to ensure your pair gets the right nutrition and that water quality is optimal, both of which are very important.
The breeding tank doesn’t have to be a masterpiece: even a 10-gallon set-up is fine for the smaller species of clownfish, given you’re able to keep the water quality high. Bigger does tend to be better, not because the clowns will necessarily need the space but because larger aquariums are simply easier to keep stable!
Inside the breeding tank, all you really need is the proper equipment and a clay pot. Other décor will just make things more difficult down the line! A tank with a sump is ideal, because water quality can quickly go haywire with the amount you’ll be feeding your pair.
Conditioning for clownfish eggs
Once you’ve got your breeding tank set up and the pair is in there together, there are two factors that you’ll have to work on. The first is water quality, the second is diet.
For clownfish breeding, it’s generally preferable to lower the salinity of your aquarium a bit. A specific gravity of 1.020-1.022 should work well in most cases. Additionally, most aquarists swear by increasing the temperature of the breeding tank to around 83-84 °F. The water should be pristine, with low nitrate levels and absolutely free of ammonia and nitrite.
Did you know? You’ll probably quickly start having to deal with explosions of algae and cyanobacteria in the breeding tank. Not the prettiest thing, but not worrisome either! Just keep one panel of the aquarium clean so you can still see what’s going on.
Aside from water quality, you should be focusing on the pair’s diet. They should be in top condition for successful spawning and raising of the fry, as well as feel like there is plenty of food for any potential offspring.
Live fish foods are a great option that your clownfish will really appreciate, especially during this time. Aside from that, frozen foods and high-quality commercial foods work well.
You should be feeding 3-5 times a day, pretty much as much as your pair will accept. Do make sure to remove uneaten foods immediately, as they can quickly foul the aquarium water!
Did you know? Wild clownfish breeding habits are dependent on the lunar cycle. They tend to spawn around the appearance of a full moon or a new moon. This is when spring tides occur.
So how do you know your clownfish pair is getting frisky? Actually, there are some pretty clear signs. This species tends to do some work on their nest before starting the spawning process. You might see them biting at the substrate (if you’re using any) or at the clay pot you’ve provided.
If your clownfish are in your display aquarium with other fish, you might notice the pair become more territorial. They chase away anyone who comes too close and can be quite aggressive about it! You may also be able to see the female’s ovipositor: the tube that she uses to lay her eggs.
The actual spawning process involves another good cleaning of the laying area, after which the female approaches their chosen spot and lays her eggs. Then, the male deposits his sperm to fertilize the eggs and voilà! Potential baby clownfish are in the making. The male will tend to them while they develop.
If your clownfish pair successfully laid eggs, congrats! You’re halfway there. Head over to the article on raising clownfish fry to find out what to do next.
Frequently asked questions
Clownfish eggs start out as small orange dots, but they grow quite quickly. Before long, the eggs will elongate and start to develop visible eyes.
Right before hatch time, you can clearly see tiny fish in the eggs. Really quite fascinating!
It really depends. There can be as little as 100-200 eggs, but there can also be over 1,000.
Don’t worry though, you won’t end up with hundreds of clownfish. The reason the female lays so many is that the vast majority of them simply never make it to adulthood for one reason or another.
As mentioned, the male clownfish will tend to the eggs until they hatch. He will scope out any that are not viable or damaged, and yes, he will eat those.
Sometimes all of the eggs will be eaten, especially during the parents’ first few attempts. Don’t worry, they have their reasons! Just let them try again. Make sure they’re well-fed and stress-free.
Breeding aquarium fish like clownfish requires some dedication but can be a fun project. If you’d like to have your own clownfish aquarium in your home or office, we can help! FantaSEA Aquariums designs, builds and maintains custom aquariums for our clients. Just contact us here with your ideas.