Keeping a reef aquarium is arguably one of the best and most rewarding things you can do as an aquarist. Coral reefs are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world which contain a huge array of saltwater fish, and having a small part in your home is quite incredible. It’s also a bonus that these tropical saltwater fish are also some of the most vibrant and colorful around!

Clownfish are some of the most popular fish in the whole aquarium industry. There were fears that Finding Nemo brought about a huge spike in the sale of Clownfish, aptly called the “Nemo Effect”. This effect has since been seen to be limited, but nevertheless Clownfish remain wildly popular.

This article seeks to dispel some of the common myths surrounding captive bred clownfish and why you don’t have an excuse to not buy captive bred!

Myths About Captive Bred Clownfish

Myths About Captive Bred Clownfish

Captive Bred Clownfish Myths

1) Captive Bred Clownfish Won’t Form a Relationship with an Anemone

This one of the most common myths surrounding captive bred clownfish. This train of thought is that as wild-caught clownfish have been born and raised in the wild and have lived and had the symbiotic relationship with anemones before, that they will more readily do so in an aquarium.

This is simply not true. Captive bred clownfish will happily form the bond with an anemone, but can also survive without their anemone host. The bigger question however is if you are experienced enough to have an anemone and clownfish together in your tank.

Having an anemone host will make clownfish much more aggressive, as they will fight to defend their territory. This can have knock-on effects for your other fish and can change the dynamics and relationships between the fish. 

Also whilst anemones look pretty stationary, they can and do move around the tank. Whilst on the move they can damage coral and eat invertebrates. They can have very particular needs in terms of water quality and lighting.

2) Captive Bred Clownfish Won’t Breed

This is one of the stranger myths that is out there. And by strange we mean it makes no sense! The whole reason you can get captive bred clownfish is because they can be, well, captive bred. You can readily breed clownfish in your home reef tank.

Just because they have been bred in captivity doesn’t change their biology or instincts. You can raise a pair of juvenile clownfish to be a bonded breeding pair, or it is also sometimes possible to buy a bonded breeding pair. But the easy part is getting your clownfish to breed, the hard part comes after. 

If you want to be a successful clownfish breeder you need to have made all required preparations, especially when it comes to the correct feeding strategies. They need live rotifers, and also need daily water changes so they can actually see them to eat!

3) Captive Bred Clownfish Aren’t as Active

This is quite a strange myth that is normally put forward by pet stores which are selling wild caught clownfish. It’s totally not true, but shops which tell you all about how much better wild caught is than captive bred are just trying to get you to purchase from them instead of from sustainable and outright better suppliers. 

Clownfish which have been captive bred are used to human contact, and normally associate humans approaching the aquarium with feeding time. So they often become very active and excited when humans approach the tank, which is exactly what you want!

4) Captive Bred Clownfish Don’t Live As Long

Another complete falsality. The fact is that pretty much all animals live longer in captivity. This is also true of clownfish. First of all the vast majority, around 98%, of clownfish taken from the wild from use in the aquarium industry don’t survive past the first year. And around 80% don’t survive long enough to actually be sold. 

The life expectancy of a wild clownfish is between 6 – 10 years. In an aquarium though they are known to survive for up to 20 years. This is because you can carefully manage their diet and surroundings. You can ensure that they eat the correct foods, keep stresses to a minimum, and ensure that perfect conditions are maintained. Hopefully you won’t have any predators in your tank either! 

5) Captive Bred Clownfish Can’t be Housed Together 

Another weird myth as it goes against common sense. The myth is that captive bred clownfish are going to be aggressive towards each other or towards the other fish in your tank. However it is actually the other way around. 

Clownfish born and bred in captivity have been surrounded by other members of their own and other species. They are also used to the tank environment and human contact. Whereas wild caught clownfish are not used to humans, other fish, or an aquarium. This causes them great stress and they are likely to lash out. 

So aquarium raised clownfish are much less aggressive towards each other and other species, and are also used to the aquarium environment so are vastly less likely to die during introduction to your tank.

6) Wild Caught Clownfish are Brighter

We can finish on a myth that actually makes some sense, and we can see why it has become a myth in the aquarium industry. Wild clownfish feed on their natural and varied diet, which enhances their coloration. They are faced with breeding and predation pressures that naturally pick bright colors and strong markings. 

But does this mean that wild caught clownfish are always brighter? No, it doesn’t. Clownfish  can produce as many as 1000 eggs at a time, and so breeders can’t possibly keep on all the clownfish that are born. So while it may seem horrible, culls do happen. And most breeders cull the “undesirable” ones. THis means that the brighter colored clownfish are kept on to be sold. 

Diet also plays a big part in the coloration of clownfish. If you feed just basic food without any live or color-enhancing prey like krill, it’s no surprise that they won’t be as colorful. You want to be feeding your clowns food high in carotenoids. 

Wild caught clownfish

Conclusion

Keeping a reef tank is a privilege, and you are keeping a small part of one of the most diverse ecosystems right in your home. 

Part of this privilege is making sure you source everything in your tank ethically and sustainably. Hopefully this article has dispelled some of the common myths surrounding captive bred clownfish which say that wild caught are somehow better for your tank.

Remember that you should never buy wild caught clownfish! Always ask your supplier where they have sourced their clownfish from.

About the author

Authority Aquarium Staff

Authority Aquarium Staff writers are experts and aquarium enthusiasts, our in-house marine biologist fact checks all our content and reviews to bring you the best advice for your aquarium health.

Leave a Comment