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Clownfish: Why Tank-Raised is Better than Wild Harvested

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff


Clownfish continue to be one of the most popular marine fish in the aquarium trade. There are
few fish that are as beautiful and entertaining as the clownfish and with such a wide variety of
species, there is a species of clownfish that will be suited for just about any saltwater aquarium.

Tank raised clownfish have a lower mortality rate than their wild harvested counterparts, and
they have been aquacultured for more than 20 years. Clownfish are one of the most successful
marine species that have been tank raised and are available for the commercial aquarium trade.
The industry has continued to make improvements in aquaculture; especially with clownfish,
the farm raised fish offer many advantages over their wild harvested brethren. This article will
look at the advantages of both tank raised and wild harvested species.
Variety of species
There are over a dozen wild harvested species of clownfish available today and many of these are also available as tank
raised. If you truly want one of the very unique species, the only way to acquire it may be wild harvested, since some species,
though tank raised, are available only sporadically, and in limited numbers. However, the variety of available species that are
tank raised is increasing all the time and the majority of the most beautiful and desirable species are now available, including:
Ocellaris Clownfish
Percula Clownfish
Tomato Clownfish
Maroon Clownfish
Cinnamon Clownfish
Clark's Clownfish
Black and White Percula Clownfish
The False Percula (Ocellaris), Saddleback, Red Saddleback (Fire), Orange and Pink Clownfish, and the Australian Clownfish
are also being farm raised, but their availability tends to be more sporadic.
Accustomed to people
Wild harvested clownfish, when first received, may be shy and afraid of people. Tank raised clownfish are usually just the
opposite. Since birth, these fish have associated humans with food and often become excited when they see people
approaching their aquarium. Many aquarists soon become very attached to their tank reared clownfish that are always 'happy
to see them.'
Acclimating to aquariums
Acclimation from the wild to aquarium life is one of the most difficult and stressful transitions any fish can make. Moving
from one aquarium to another, as is the case for tank raised fish, is generally less stressful. They have spent their entire life in
an aquarium, so when you get them, they will merely be switching aquariums and are already used to confined spaces,
artificial foods, and more tank mates. If you obtain wild harvested clownfish, you must be very careful in reducing the stress
of acclimation; water quality must be excellent, light intensity high, and you may want to initially feed a diet of live foods or
frozen foods. Thus, tank raised specimens may be better for the novice reef aquarist. But remember, placing a tank raised
clownfish in an aquarium with poor water quality and improper conditions can lead to more mortality than properly
acclimating a wild harvested clownfish in pristine water conditions.
Exposure to shipping stress
Shipping stress is an always present factor for fish, and appears to be much more severe in clownfish when compared to many
other marine fish. Wild harvested clownfish are subjected to a much more stressful shipping process than tank raised fish.
Wild harvested fish need to be collected, exported, imported, wholesaled, and retailed. Tank raised fish go through fewer
handling stations and are able to handle the stress much better. In cases where tank raised fish are sold on-line, after they
leave the producer, they are often handled only once before reaching the new owner's home.
Aggression
Wild harvested clownfish are very territorial. They have been used to defending their small
space and their host anemone from invasion or attack by other clownfish. For them, it is either
keep their territory or die, so aggression is literally a way of life. Aggression may be a major
cause of stress and mortality in clownfish during shipping if the wild harvested clownfish are
kept in a small confined space, and not bagged separately. Check with your supplier to see how
your clownfish are shipped. When the clownfish are put in an aquarium setting, especially if
there is an anemone present, the aggression continues. If there is aggression during shipping or
in an aquarium environment, there is no place for the bullied fish to go. The result can be very
stressful or even deadly for these fish.

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prohibited under copyright law. Site content, including photography, descriptions, pricing, promotions, and availability are subject to change without
notice. These restrictions are necessary in order to protect not only our copyrighted intellectual property, but also the health of pets, since articles or
images that are altered or edited after download could result in misinformation that may harm companion animals, aquatic life, or native species.
Tank raised clownfish are not nearly as aggressive. Because these clownfish are raised in a group setting without host
anemones, they usually do not develop these territorial aggressive tendencies. They are less likely to be aggressive to tank
mates or other species of clownfish. In fact, one of the advantages of many of the tank raised clownfish is that they can be
housed with other clownfish of the same or even different species. If the clownfish are added to the aquarium at the same time
when they are young, they will often live together peacefully for their entire lives.
Rearing offspring
Many aquarium owners that breed clownfish prefer tank raised species for several reasons. They claim that the young of tank
raised stock are calmer, more tolerant of cultured foods, and more tolerant of less than perfect water conditions.
Age of the fish
When you buy a small, tank raised clownfish you can be assured that it is less than a year of age. When purchasing a wild
harvested clownfish, especially a larger specimen, you may be acquiring a fish that is several years old. Clownfish in the wild
remain adolescents until they occupy a host anemone, so even some medium-sized specimens could be quite old when
captured. This is one of the most often overlooked benefits of tank raised clownfish. Because you are assured of acquiring a
young fish, you will get to enjoy it for its entire life span.
Parasites and disease
Parasites can greatly increase the stress and decrease the survivability of all fish. Parasites and bacterial infections can be a
major concern in clownfish. Tank raised clownfish are well managed to prevent parasites and generally do not suffer from
internal parasites like some wild harvested fish do.
Cost
Cost used to be a significant factor against tank raised clownfish, but due to improved technology and availability, this is
changing. Tank raised specimens may cost slightly more, but because of the improved acclimation, less aggression, and other
benefits, a tank raised clown may be one of the best bargains in the marine fish trade. As demand for wild harvested
specimens decreases, the demand for tank raised clownfish increases, and the availability and cost of the two will become the
same, and could even show a reversal.
Mortality
Mortality is a topic that many people in the aquarium industry do not like to
Mortality rates of fish, discuss, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Mortality exists in all forms
of the aquatics trade both in wild harvested and hatchery raised fish. All aquarium
regardless of whether they keepers should be very concerned with the issue and strive to reduce fish mortality
are wild harvested or tank in any way they can. In the case of clownfish, if the tank raised fish are cared for
properly, we can significantly reduce the stress and resulting mortality at every
raised, will be significant step along the way. The numbers lost in the capture, handling, and acclimation
if they are brought into an process in tank raised clownfish are much less than what they are in wild
harvested fish. When you factor the increase in losses of wild harvested clownfish
aquarium with less than resulting from disease, parasites, and aggression, tank raised clownfish definitely
optimal condtions. have distinct advantages.
Again, it must be emphasized that mortality rates of clownfish, regardless of whether they are wild harvested or tank raised,
will be high if they are brought into an aquarium with less than optimal condtions. In addition, it is important to obtain your
clownfish from a reputable source who can supply you with a healthy fish, as well as the information you will need to help
keep it that way.
Coloring and stripes
One of the issues that has arisen in the past concerning tank raised clownfish has been a
reduction in color quality and an increase in the number of fish with incomplete stripes or
variation from the wild harvested patterns. A tank raised clownfish may arrive with a dull
color, but this condition will often improve when a high quality diet is fed coupled with
excellent water quality. Concerning incomplete stripes or marking variations, they too, are
becoming less common and when they do occur, are often looked at as novelties of nature that
are unique and enjoyable. Because of the fierce competition and predation in the wild, many of
these clownfish with unusual markings become easy prey and never survive to adulthood. If
you find yourself the owner of one of these unique fish, consider yourself lucky.
Anemones
Clownfish and anemones are a natural. The reason that many aquarists want a clownfish is to
recreate that natural wonder of the bond between a clownfish and its anemone. However,
recreating that bond in an aquarium is not often as simple as it sounds, nor is it usually
recommended. It should be understood that clownfish in an aquarium do not need an anemone
to survive. In fact, in an aquarium setting, not providing a host anemone may be better for the
clownfish, the aquarium, and the anemone. Adding an anemone or coral will increase

Clownfish: Why Tank-Raised is Better than Wild Harvested - Page 2 of 3


Unauthorized use of any images, thumbnails, illustrations, descriptions, article content, or registered trademarks of Foster & Smith, Inc. is strictly
prohibited under copyright law. Site content, including photography, descriptions, pricing, promotions, and availability are subject to change without
notice. These restrictions are necessary in order to protect not only our copyrighted intellectual property, but also the health of pets, since articles or
images that are altered or edited after download could result in misinformation that may harm companion animals, aquatic life, or native species.
aggression in both wild harvested and tank raised clownfish.
In addition, anemones have very specialized needs and some species do not do well in an
aquarium. Under the care of an experienced aquarist, some anemones will survive and develop
a long lasting relationship with a clownfish. If you are a very experienced aquarist that feels the
need to recreate the anemone/clownfish bond, make sure you choose the correct anemone and provide the utmost care for it.
Bubble Tip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) is one of the best choices for most clownfish. Purchasing a tank raised
anemone has some of the same advantages as purchasing a tank raised fish. An alternative to anemones for many hobbyists
include: the Mushroom Leather Coral, Hairy Mushroom Coral, or Elegance Coral. These corals will often provide a suitable
host for the clownfish and are often much hardier than anemones. Remember that your clownfish does not need an anemone
to thrive and your clownfish will do great without one. But if it is this symbiotic relationship you are looking for, tank raised
clownfish will associate with anemones or corals just like wild fish.
In summary, if you are not set on a specific type of clownfish, the tank raised fish are ideal for most aquarists. They are
usually less stressed, often healthier, easier to acclimate, more social, less aggressive, and may live longer. So, if you are
interested in adding a clownfish to your aquarium, research the different species, choose the best one for your aquarium, and
join the ranks of aquarists that have made this one of the most popular fishes in the home aquarium.

Clownfish: Why Tank-Raised is Better than Wild Harvested - Page 3 of 3


Unauthorized use of any images, thumbnails, illustrations, descriptions, article content, or registered trademarks of Foster & Smith, Inc. is strictly
prohibited under copyright law. Site content, including photography, descriptions, pricing, promotions, and availability are subject to change without
notice. These restrictions are necessary in order to protect not only our copyrighted intellectual property, but also the health of pets, since articles or
images that are altered or edited after download could result in misinformation that may harm companion animals, aquatic life, or native species.