Orange Clownfish, Amphiporion percula

The orange clownfish is a popular aquarium fish also known as the percula clownfish. It also is in a class called an anemonefish, because it is widely found around anemone. This association between the clownfish and anemone is one where the clownfish supplies the anemone with food, and the anemone protects the clownfish from predators. The anemone tentacles deliver a venomous sting but the clownfish are believed to be immune to the anemone’s sting. This is a theory of how the clownfish can swim within the anemone and not be harmed.

The natural habitat for the orange clownfish is in the shallow warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, northwest Australia, Southeast Asia and Japan. Found around coral reefs within the anemones at depths of a maximum of 40 feet. A single orange clownfish will inhabit a host anemone and will be aggressive toward another clownfish when trying to share the same host. Orange clownfish will not inhabit smaller anemones that are close to the shore line because of the lower salinity levels, lack of protection from predators, and exposure during low tides.

The orange clownfish grow to an average of 3.1 inches, but can grow up to 4.3 inches in length. The body is orange with three vertical white stripes, with the first located directly behind the eye. The middle stripe is centered on the body with a forward white bulge and the third is just in front of the tail. These bands are outlined with a black edge in various widths along with black edging on the fins. This fish is very similar to the ocellaris clownfish having the same markings. The only difference is the orange clownfish has ten dorsal spines and the ocellaris has 11.

This species feeds on algae, zooplankton, worms, and small crustaceans, bringing its food into the anemone host and leaving scraps for the anemone to feed on.

The reproduction of the orange clownfish can occur year-round. The spawning will take place in groups, where it is a sized-base hierarchy with a breeding female being the largest, a breeding male is second largest and 0 – 4 non-breeders. Each fish is born a male, and will only become female if the breeding female of the group dies. Then the breeding male becomes the breeding female and the largest non-breeder becomes the breeding male.

Spawning is done at night when the breeding male will attract the female by extending its fins, biting the female and chasing her. The average breeding cycle of a female is twelve years. She will lay approximately 400 -1,500 eggs in a nest close to a host anemone. After the female lays the eggs the male will fertilize them. The male will then protect the nest and periodically fan the eggs for proper oxygen circulation, and will eat any bad egg before it rots and damages the other eggs. The female will not help the male with the tending of the nest.

After 6 – 8 days the eggs will hatch when it is dark. The larvae will burst from the egg and swim toward the moonlight and ride the current into the open water. It will feed on plankton for about a week, then return to the reef and find a host anemone of its own. There is a specific chemical cue used for the clownfish to find a host anemone. Each clownfish will have a different cue. When the clownfish interacts with the anemone mucus is released over the entire body of the fish. It is developed by multiple touches between the fish and anemone. First the fish will touch the anemone’s tentacles with its fins, and then proceed with the whole body. This could take several hours to complete. To keep the mucus coating on the body of the fish, it must stay in contact with the tentacles at all times.

Other fish do not have this mucus coating and if it swims into the anemone it will be consumed by it. Sometime the clownfish will lure other fish into the anemone tentacles so it can feed.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Perciformes

Family: Pomacentridae

Image Caption: Amphiprion percula, commonly known as the Percula clownfish. Credit: CrisisRose/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)