Home > Tips & Tricks > Ocellaris Clownfish 101 | Care & Info

Ocellaris Clownfish 101 | Care & Info

If you’re interested in setting up your first reef aquarium after falling in love with the cheerful ocellaris clownfish, you’re not the only one. These wiggly orange fish are not just fun to look at, they’re also easy to keep and reef safe. No wonder they’re probably the most popular saltwater aquarium fish species out there!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about caring for ocellaris clownfish. There’s a lot to learn about this fascinating species, so let’s dive right in!

Name (Common, Scientific)Ocellaris clownfish, common clownfish, false percula clownfish, clown anemonefish, Amphiprion ocellaris
Minimum tank size20 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature75-80 °F
Difficulty levelEasy

Ocellaris clownfish in the wild


This clownfish boasts a pretty wide range in the wild: it’s found from the Eastern Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.

This means you can come across it while diving in such places as Indonesia, Thailand, northern Australia, the Philippines, Japan, and other surrounding countries.

Natural habitat

In its natural range, ocellaris clownfish inhabit shallow reefs and lagoons with a maximum depth of around 50 ft. They don’t tend to move around a lot because, as you probably know, they maintain a symbiotic relationship with certain species of sea anemones.

Wild clownfish inhabit only three different species of anemones: Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla mertensii, and Stichodactyla gigantea. They spend almost all their lives hanging out around their anemone, enjoying its protection while keeping it clean and free of parasites in return.

The IUCN Red List considers Amphiprion ocellaris to be a species of Least Concern, meaning it’s not threatened. Unfortunately, though, the species is vulnerable to climate change, just like all other reef fish. Aggressive fishing methods for food and the aquarium trade can also affect the wild population.

Ocellaris clownfish underwater photo in the Thai Andaman Sea
Ocellaris clownfish photographed by the FantaSEA Aquariums team in the wild (Andaman Sea, Thailand)

Social hierarchy

In the wild, ocellaris clownfish actually form complicated social relationships with their own species. They live in groups, and a lot of drama can go on in and around a single anemone.

Every ocellaris group has one dominant pair, which is responsible for most of the reproduction. The rest of the fish are usually sexually immature males, which have to wait until their superiors move on or pass away before they can attain a higher rank.

Juvenile clowns are at the bottom of the ladder, often getting chased out of anemones by established territorial groups.

Did you know? All clownfish are born males, with some of them turning into females when they pair up. Females will dominate the anemone, and if the dominant female is removed, a male might turn into a female to take up her place. Yeah, nature is weird.

Ocellaris clownfish description

The ocellaris clownfish, also referred to as the common clownfish, is best known for its bright orange coloration with white vertical stripes and black fin edges. The species grows to about 4.3” in length, with the females being significantly larger than the males.

The ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) is easily confused with the percula clownfish (Amphiprion percula). That’s also why the former is sometimes referred to as the false percula clownfish! Real perculas will have more pronounced black banding around their white vertical stripes.

Did you know? Not all ocellaris clownfish are orange. Brown and black specimens also naturally occur in some areas, like around northern Australia.

Ocellaris clownfish in the aquarium

Ocellaris clownfish aquarium

The ocellaris clownfish is often said to do well in nano aquariums, but we personally prefer a tank of 20 gallons or up for ours here at FantaSEA. This gives them plenty of swimming space and makes it possible to add a few tankmates.

Now, about the anemone thing. You may be aware that anemones aren’t the easiest to care for in the aquarium. They need strong lighting, are sensitive to changes in water quality, and can cause trouble if they decide to move around. Even the easier species, like bubble tip anemones, can be challenging.

Luckily, clowns don’t actually need a host to survive. Still, seeing yours paired up with an anemone in your aquarium does make for a pretty darn cool sight. The solution? Offer a different kind of host. Although ocellaris clowns are very picky about anemone species in the wild, they’re a bit more open-minded in captivity.

Aquarists have had particular success with various corals in the Euphyllia genus, like torch coral, as ocellaris hosts. Leather (soft) coral, Kenya trees, Xenia, Duncan, and other corals may work as well. There’s no guarantee, but just try!

Did you know? Clownfish like the ocellaris have a pretty amazing lifespan. Most don’t make it too long due to bad care, but they can actually live for 20 years or more. You can read more in the article on clownfish lifespan.

Ocellaris clownfish underwater photo in an anemone

Ocellaris clownfish compatibility

As we discovered in the section on social hierarchy, ocellaris clownfish maintain complex social relationships with their own species. Although they can be kept solo in the aquarium, they’re usually a lot more active and fun to watch if they have a partner. You can keep more, but you’d need a large aquarium to make sure territorial quarrels don’t get out of hand.

It’s not a good idea to keep different clownfish species together. Again, they’re territorial, and your false perculas will definitely see other clownfish as competition.

When it comes to non-clownfish tankmates, the ocellaris clown is peaceful and also reef safe. Just make sure not to combine yours with larger and more aggressive or carnivorous fish, as this small species can easily fall prey to them. 

You can try the following:

And more! In terms of inverts, anything non-aggressive should work. You can consider some cleaner shrimp, small hermits, snails, and the like.

Ocellaris clownfish diet

These clownfish are omnivores that naturally feed on algae and plankton. They’ll pick leftover bits off their anemone and also munch on whatever worms and other wiggly creatures they can find.

In the aquarium, your ocellaris clownfish can eat pellet foods as well as frozen options like mysis and brine shrimp. They’re not fussy eaters at all!

Ocellaris clownfish in a reef aquarium.

Breeding ocellaris clownfish

In the wild, false percula clownfish are monogamous. Once breeding time rolls around, the male will begin showing off and chasing the female around, trying to entice her to visit a previously prepared nest near their anemone.

If all goes well, the female lays eggs in the nest, after which the male fertilizes and cares for them. The eggs hatch after up to 8 days, after which the larvae are blown away by the currents. The young metamorphose into real mini fish after around 2 weeks, at which point they start looking for an anemone to settle in.

In captivity, these clownfish are considered easy enough to breed, especially if you have some experience. We’ve created two handy guides for you in case you’re interested in giving it a shot:


Ocellaris clownfish are attractive fish that are suitable for beginning reef enthusiasts. If you’re not sure how to go about setting up your reef tank or simply lack the time, FantaSEA Aquariums can help. Just contact us with your ideas!


Iwata, E., & Manbo, J. (2013). Territorial behaviour reflects sexual status in groups of false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) under laboratory conditions. acta ethologica, 16, 97-103.

Nelson, J. S., Chou, L. M., & Phang, V. P. (1998). Inter-habitat migration of the anemonefish Amphiprion ocellaris. Asian Journal of Tropical Biology, 3(1), 19-31.

Nguyen, H. T. T., Tran, A. N. T., Ha, L. T. L., Ngo, D. N., Dang, B. T., & Geffen, A. J. (2019). Host choice and fitness of anemonefish Amphiprion ocellaris (Perciformes: Pomacentridae) living with host anemones (Anthozoa: Actiniaria) in captive conditions. Journal of Fish Biology, 94(6), 937-947.

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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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