By Amelia Wenk
(1.77 to 5.12 in; avg. 3.54 in)
The body and head of adultare both a brownish orange color. Two black-edged white bars encircle the body. The first bar runs across the top of the head just behind the eye and can be discontinuous and constricted (thin). The second stripe runs around the body at the mid portion of the dorsal fin. The caudal peduncle and caudal fin are both white. individuals have 10 to 11 dorsal spines, 14 to 17 dorsal soft rays, 2 anal spines, and 13 to 14 soft anal rays.
Juveniles are usually brown with three thick white bars. Sub-adults are usually yellow with two thin white bars. Both adults and juveniles and are often confused with (Allen, 1991; Fautin and Allen, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2002)and . However, have a more distinct color difference between their body and tail than adult and tend to have a darker orange color with bluish bars.
The larval period ofranges from about 8 to 12 days. Although not known for certain, many believe that during this period the larvae are planktonic, “living in the surface waters of the ocean, where they are passively transported by currents” (Fautin and Allen, 1992). At the end of this period, the fish will descend to the bottom of the sea and begin to acquire the color patterns associated with juveniles. Once they get to the bottom, the young will begin to search for a host anemone. Without the protection of the anemone there is a high likelihood that a fish will be eaten by its predators and there is evidence that there is a high mortality rate at this stage of development (Fautin and Allen, 1992).
Arvedlund et. al. (2000) have found evidence thatimprint onto their host anemone during their larval stage and are able to follow a trail of chemicals released by this host anemone, thus allowing these fish to return to the same species of host anemone to live and spawn. However, once returning to their host anemone a fish cannot simply swim into the anemone because it may get stung. According to Fautin and Allen (1992) it can take several hours to become fully acclimated to the anemone once it is located. The acclimation process consists of a series of progressively longer contacts with the tentacles. are initially protected from nematocyst stings by a thick mucus coat. However, over the acclimation process, the clownfish incorporates anemone mucus into its own coat until the anemone no longer stings it, apparently recognizing the fish as part of itself.
Even once a fish locates a host anemone it is not guaranteed a place to live. Within the anemone, there is an intricate social hierarchy. Allbegin life as males. Within a given anemone, the largest fish is the female and the next largest fish is her mate. There can be several other males in this structure; however, they generally do not have much chance of mating. If the female dies, the next largest male will become a female and the second largest male will become the new mate. In this structure the female is the dominant fish and her mate is the second most dominate. The remainder of the fish must compete and fight for a place in the anemone.
(Fautin and Allen, 1992; Arvedlund et al., 2000) (Fautin and Allen, 1992)
Breeding intervals in the wild are unknown.
Breeding may occur throughout the year.
Mated pairs occupy the same anemone. Several days prior to spawning, there is increased social interaction between (Arvedlund, Bundgaard, and Nielsen, June 2000; Fautin and Allen, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2002; Richardson, Harrison, and Harriot, 1997)males and females. Usually the male becomes more aggressive and will pursue and bite his mate. He also displays himself either in front of his mate or beside her by fully extending his dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. During this time, the male also selects a nest site, usually on bare rock adjacent to the host anemone. The male will spend considerable time clearing the site of algae and debris using his mouth. Sometimes the female will join in. Spawning usually occurs during the morning hours and can last from about 30 minutes to more than two hours. The female will swim in a zig-zag path over the nest with her belly brushing its surface. This brushing causes several eggs from her ovipositor to be dislodged. The male will follow behind the female and fertilize the eggs as they are laid. This will continue until all eggs have been dislodged.
The number of eggs deposited can range from about 100 to over 1000, depending on the size of the fish and on previous experience. The eggs are elliptical and are about 3 to 4 mm in length. They adhere to the nest surface by a tuft of short filaments. The eggs will incubate six to seven days before hatching. (Arvedlund, Bundgaard, and Nielsen, June 2000; Fautin and Allen, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2002; Richardson, Harrison, and Harriot, 1997)
Barrier reef anemonefish are hermaphroditic, with young developing into males first and only later into females if conditions are appropriate.
Barrier Reef anemonefish are nesters. Males guard the nest from predators and fan the nest with the pectoral fins to remove debris. (Arvedlund, Bundgaard, and Nielsen, June 2000; Fautin and Allen, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2002; Richardson, Harrison, and Harriot, 1997)
pre-fertilization (provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (protecting: male).
Individuals generally live between 6 and 10 years in the wild. However, as noted earlier, there is a high mortality rate during the larval, fry, and juvenile stages, which correspond to life stages when the fish do not necessarily have the protection of a host anemone.
As noted before,has a very interesting social structure. There is a single dominant female in each social group who is the largest of all the fish inhabiting an anemone. She has a single male mate who is the second largest fish. Between two and four other smaller males can also live in the anemone. There is generally an amicable relationship between the female and her mate, and any aggression by the female is displayed as ritualized, non-harmful behaviors. However, aggression is more pronounced between the all of the males. There is a distinct pecking order where the largest male spends time chasing and bullying the next largest male, who in turn bullies the smaller fishes. Attacks may be so severe as to drive away the smallest fish (generally the newest member of the hierarchy) who must find another anemone to live in or die. Again, as noted before, when the female dies, the largest male will assume her position. Almost immediately after she is gone, the largest male will begin displaying behaviors similar to the previous female. Within days the male will actually change sexes and become female and the next largest male will become the mate. (Fautin and Allen, 1992; Carver, 2002)
Communication and Perception
Barrier Reef anemonefish use visual cues to communicate among themselves. Chemical communication via their protective mucous covering is essential to their symbiosis with anemones.
Barrier Reef anemonefish primarily eat algae and zooplankton. Copepods and larval tunicates are among the most common items found when their stomach contents are analyzed. The adult pair of fish (the female and her mate) are the largest fish in the social hierarchy. They tend to stray further from the host anemone to gather food than do the smaller non-dominate fish. It is speculated that one reason for the rapid growth of the mate and the second dominate male when the female dies is that the fish can spend more time feeding and less time competing for a place to live. (Fautin and Allen, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2002)
aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; echinoderms; cnidarians; other marine invertebrates; zooplankton .
- larger fish
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no negative affects of anemonefish on humans.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Amphiprion species are important as research organisms in understanding mutualism.is popular in the aquarium trade and is an important member of the ecosystems in which they live. They contribute to the color and interest of reef ecosystems, thereby attracting tourism.
IUCN Red List: [link]:
No special status.
US Federal List: [link]:
No special status.
No special status.
Barrier Reef anemonefish are not listed as endangered on any international database.
Amelia Wenk (author), University of Michigan.
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.