Facts you didn’t know about clownfish: Part 1 [Guest writer]

The S.E.A. Aquarium is celebrating the beautiful world of reef with TeREEFic World, happening from now until 30 April 2015. In this two-part post, our guest writer talks about the clownfish which lives among the reef.

by Bernard Teo, Admin & HR I/C SMUX Diving Team 8th Executive Committee (2013-2014)

The animated movie Finding Nemo threw the clownfish into the global spotlight and captured the imaginations of the young and old worldwide.

I was in Primary 6 when the movie first launched. Like many of my peers, the movie was my first exposure to coral reefs and fish.

The movie was a critical success due to the brilliant plotline and cinematic effects that cast a spell over everyone, generating $936,743,261 in box offices worldwide, remaining the fourth most watched animated film of all time.

The main take away most moviegoers get from the film is that Nemo is an adorable clownfish. But did you know that clownfishes are a family of fishes with various subspecies? Nemo’s extended family live in many areas but they all share the same characteristics but in some cases they look different.

The many different types of clownfish

Common clownfish

Common clownfish
Common clownfish

Nemo’s real name is actually Ocellaris clownfish, False Percula clownfish or Common clownfish. They are found in different colours, depending on where they are located.

For example, black fishes with white bands can be found near northern Australia, Southeast Asia, and Japan. Orange or red-brown clownfishes also exist with three white bands spanning from its body and head.

Pink skunk clownfish

Pink skunk clownfish
Pink skunk clownfish

Photo source

The pink skunk clownfish is pink overall with white line down the back and a white head bar. They feed most heavily on algae. Studies have shown that this fish is not protected from all of the host sea anemones and as a result it can only live in certain anemones.

Orange skunk clownfish

Orange skunk clownfish
Orange skunk clownfish

Photo source

The orange skunk clownfish is orange with a white stripe on the dorsal ridge. It is found in the centre of the Indo-Pacific area, especially by the Philippines and Christmas Island. Other known locations include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Melanesia, and north to southern Japan.

Yellowtail clownfish

Yellowtail clownfish
Yellowtail clownfish

Photo source 

The yellowtail clownfish or Clark’s anemonefish is colourful with vivid black, white and yellow stripes but the exact pattern differs based on where the fish is from. Usually, the yellowtail clownfish is black on its upperside and orange-yellow on its abdomen.

It lives in varying depths from less than 1 to 55 m. They have also been observed associating with large stony corals and soft corals in the wild and may temporarily refuge there. They are not stung by many anemones even if they do not live in one.

Dusky clownfish

Dusky clownfish
Dusky clownfish

Photo source

The adult dusky clownfish usually has a brick red with black on the body, pelvic and anal fins. There is a single head bar that can be blue or white. Juveniles may have one or two additional body bars. Females often have a blanched or whitish “face”, while in males the head is bright red.

As many as 150 individuals have been reported from a colony that covered an area of 36 square metres. If the group of anemones is small enough, an adult pair may defend the entire colony.

Spinecheek/Maroon clownfish

Spinecheek clownfish
Spinecheek clownfish

Photo source

The spikecheek clownfish lives on fringing coastal reefs, lagoon patch reefs, and outer reef faces. Rather than living in groups, they live in pairs and inhabit large, solitary bubble-tipped sea anemone. Most individuals are red overall with three broad white bars, one on the head, one on the body, and one at the base of the tail.

The juveniles and males are bright red or reddish orange with brilliant white bars, while females are a deeper red or reddish brown with greyish bars. The females grow to more than three times the size of their male partners.

Now that you have seen the variety of clownfish, come to S.E.A. Aquarium and see if you can spot the different clownfishes.

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