Clownfish Breeding

Common clownfish, amphiprion ocellaris guarding a nest of eggsAfter several months with no known spawning attempts, the common clownfish pair (amphiprion ocellaris) in my display tank have gotten back into a regular breeding pattern.  Since the beginning of September, they have spawned three times.  Interestingly, they have designated a different corner of the aquarium as their breeding territory than the last time around. Their substrate of choice is actually the aquarium glass. In fact, I believe that my attempts to give them a ‘suitable’ alternate spawning substrate is what drove them out of their old territory, which is now occupied by leaning tiles and small panes of glass—all of which would allow me to easily remove the eggs to a hatching vessel on the day of hatching—but alas, the clownfish are disinterested in helping me in that cause and have just picked another corner of aquarium glass to spawn on.

I am also fortunate to have success getting  a second pair of common clownfish (also amphiprion ocellaris)—originally hatched and raised by ORA—to initiate spawning  twice over the past three weeks.  This second breeding pair of clownfish I have had for less than a year, although the female was a mature-sized fish when I purchased them from a local fish store.

Unfortunately, about two months back, my phytoplankton culture crashed, so I need to get my phytoplankton and rotifer cultures back up and running if I hope to try raising any of the clownfish larvae.

Here are a couple of pictures of the second common clownfish pair (amphiprion ocellaris) , in and around the clay pot they useAlternate view of the common clownfish breeding pair as a spawning substrate, guarding their eggs.  These pictures were taken on the third day after spawning, and you can see the dark pigments of the clownfish larvae through the transparent egg casing.  In just a few more days they will be ready to hatch.


  1. Could you tell me how old the Clownfish were when they started to breed. And have the fry ever reached maturity in your main aquarium or did they just get eaten by the other tank mates. My clownfish are currently with an anemone so i want to know if i keep them in the main tank will the fry seek refuge in the anemone or get eaten. I have damsel fish, regal tang, bi-colour angel fish and 2 cleaner shrimp. Plus a secretive marine betta. They are in the same tank as the clownfish.

  2. Author

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Age with saltwater fish can sometimes be a challenge to estimate because you never really know how old they are when you get them. I do know that they were aquacultured (vs. wildcaught) which makes it easier to estimate–since aquacultured common clownfish are often sold when about 1-1.5 years old. The very first pair I had to spawn was a 4-5 year old female with a 2-3 year old male. The second spawning pair I had were larger when I bought them (perhaps 3-4 years old by time of spawning). As far as survival of the larvae–I’m unaware of any reports of clownfish larvae surviving in a community tank. The anemone won’t protect them. For the first several days, clownfish larvae drift among the plankton before they return to the reef and protection of an anemone. The odds of them surviving that process are pretty low. Thanks for the great questions, I hope that helps.

  3. Thank you for your reply. I thought they had to be a few years old will have to wait a couple more years. I have been looking at turning a spare tank into a clownfish breeding tank, and so will probably buy a breeding pair.
    Again thanks for your feedback.

  4. Author

    Good luck. Would love to share your success and what you’ve learned so please report back if you have success.

  5. Hi Al, Thanks for the work you do….I can’t wait until the next issue. I have a pair of clown fish that spawn frequently. I too have been unsuccessful in raising the fry.

  6. Author

    Thanks for the kind words, Loretta. I do appreciate it. In terms of ‘the next issue’, I post new articles every Friday Morning…and there is a special series coming up in March 2017. Stay tuned. Sorry to hear that you’re having trouble raising the fry. How far along do you get them? What are you feeding them? What are you noticing? Eventually, I did get things to work out. I’m sure you will too.

Leave a Comment