How To Train Clownfish To Host An Anemone (Tips & Tricks)

Image Credit: Reef Tank Resource
Image Credit: Reef Tank Resource

How To Train Clownfish To Host An Anemone (Tips & Tricks)


Clownfish are one of the most recognizable fish in the hobby due to their big movie moment in Pixar’s Finding Nemo. The little orange clowns are great for beginners who are still getting a hang of the nuances of the hobby. One of the biggest draws to the fish is their willingness to host anemones. It can be really exciting watching your Clownfish peek out of the anemone tentacles and a great talking point for the young and old alike.

As much as Clownfish and anemone are often spoken about in tandem, it can be difficult on occasions for Clownfish to swim into their new home. But don’t worry there are some workarounds to entice your fish to host the anemone, it just takes some patience.

How to train Clownfish to host anemone

There will be times when you can acclimate your Clownfish to your aquarium and they will swim straight for your anemone but there will be times when the Clownfish could care less about the anemone’s alluring shelter. There are a few methods you can try depending on when your Clownfish were introduced to the reef tank compared to the anemone so let’s cover some of the most effective ones.

The tube method

The way to effectively carry out this strategy of introducing your Clownfish is to acclimate the anemone to the reef tank first. Once the anemone is content and latched onto a rock, then you can start to acclimate your Clownfish. Once The Clownfish is ready to join the tank’s ecosystem, you will want to obtain an acrylic tube large enough for your Clownfish to comfortably maneuver through. The last thing you want is to get a tube that is just big enough where your Clownfish will be reenacting a scene from Finding Nemo and squirming to get down the tube. Here is a great video showcasing the process.

When you have a large enough tube, position it carefully where the exit to the tube is just about touching the anemone. You don’t want to shove the tube down into the anemone as it will frighten it and potentially cause the anemone to close up. The Clownfish won’t be able to begin moving in if the anemone is closed. Once the tube is in position, carefully place your Clownfish in the tube and let it swim. It might take some time but eventually, it will find its way towards the anemone.

When trying to get clownfish that have already been introduced to your reef tank to host a newly acquired anemone, it’s best to remove your clowns from your aquarium and place them in some kind of quarantine tank for a couple of weeks. Once enough time has elapsed, then reintroduce them to your main reef tank with the tube method.

Encourage them

You can encourage your clown to move towards the anemone with a net or scraper. The goal is not to force the clown down into the anemone but to show them where it is. Sometimes they don’t understand or are hesitant to move in so the extra encouragement can make a difference.

Some hobbyists claim hanging up pictures of Clownfish in anemone actually encourages the fish to host anemone. This in all likelihood is a false correlation but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Give your fish some examples of what you expect from them, maybe they’ll take the hint. Pictures might sound silly but they might be the key to the success you’re looking for.

Patience is more important

There is a possibility your fish will move right out from the anemone. That’s okay. Let the two have some time together and maybe in a few weeks, the Clownfish will change its mind. There is no rule that the Clownfish has to like the anemone but they strongly prefer them. Monitor your fish for the next few weeks and see if anything changes in its behavior. After it’s been a little while you might consider getting a net and carefully guiding the fish towards the anemone or trying the tube method again. If that doesn’t work, then check out the last method on the list.

The last resort method

If you are desperate to have your Clownfish and anemone begin their relationship but your Clownfish just won’t cooperate, you can try to separate both from the main tank. First, take the anemone and get it acclimated to a smaller quarantine tank or sump. Add your Clownfish to the same tank when the anemone looks like it has established itself and is happy. Now that there are fewer distractions, there is a larger possibility that your Clownfish will wisen up and host the anemone. Wait and see if the clown takes to it but if it doesn’t in the first 10 minutes or so then simply monitor the tank for a few weeks (if your tank is prepared to support the fish and anemone). If the clown takes to the anemone, congratulations! Now you can begin the process of transferring the anemone and Clownfish back over to the display tank.

Will tank-raised Clownfish host anemones?

Yes, they can but there is a possibility that you will need to put some work in to convince your reef tank-raised Clownfish that hosting the anemone is a good idea. If the Clownfish isn’t new to your tank, it’s likely that the clown already has its preferred territory in the tank. There is a chance they will be interested in the anemone after it has been added to the reef tank but in most cases, the Clownfish won’t care. The best way to introduce Clownfish and anemone is to acclimate the anemone first and then add your Clownfish.

How long does it take a Clownfish to host an anemone?

That really depends on the Clownfish and I’m not talking about the species in this case. Some Clownfish will swim straight for a vacant anemone if they become aware of its existence but others might take a few days or even weeks to begin moving in, while others might not move in at all. It really depends but you can take steps to try to facilitate the match more efficiently.

Can a Clownfish host multiple anemones?

They most certainly can. A Clownfish will host anywhere where they feel safe and can claim it as their own. If there are multiple places in the tank that they feel safe, they might have multiple hosting spots but they also might be deciding which spot is their favorite in the tank. Eventually, they might calm down and pick one host over any other but only time will tell.

Can two Clownfish host an anemone?

They most certainly can. In fact, Clownfish often like to pair up and live in anemone but you should make sure they are introduced at the same time. If a Clownfish starts its symbiotic relationship with anemones and another Clownfish tries to move in on its territory months later, chances are that the new Clownfish will encounter some resistance from the original Clownfish. It is always best to acclimate the two fish together first and then try to introduce them to the anemone. It’s like if you were trying to buy a home. You wouldn’t buy one and be happy when a stranger showed up to share it.

Can Clownfish live without anemone?

Of course! The main point of anemone is to prove Clownfish with shelter from predators. In an aquarium environment, the Clownfish isn’t necessarily in danger so anemone isn’t required. As long as you have small caves or other areas in your live rock for your Clownfish to claim as their own, they will be happy.

A confined space they can use for their own emotional support is needed. Clownfish are territorial and appreciate the small space so making sure there is an area available for them to call their own is the only real requirement besides feeding them. Anemone just looks really nice in the tank.

Should I get anemones for my Clownfish?

Whether you get anemones for your tank is entirely up to your own personal preference. As we have discussed already, there are few benefits for your fish to host anemone other than that it makes a great display. Clownfish can be just as happy without anemones as long as they have space to call their own. Whether that be a small rock outcropping, caves, or other structures, Clownfish like to feel safe and in control.

The only thing you really need to consider is if you are prepared to care for anemones. Anemones can be tough to care for due to their more strict water parameter needs. They are a little more finicky than their Clownfish friends so be sure that your tank will be ready to support the specific anemone.

Will an anemone eat a Clownfish?

No, that’s the Clownfish’s whole shtick as they are immune to the anemone’s stings so Clownfish can safely use them as shelter from other fish. Anemones can prove to be a danger to the other fish in your tank, especially your bottom-dwelling fish. Make sure to monitor your fish’s behavior to see how they are swimming around the anemone to see if it might prove to be an issue in the future.

What type of anemone do Clownfish prefer?

The type of anemone you Clownfish prefer will depend on the specific type of Clownfish that it is. An Ocellaris Clownfish and True Percula Clownfish will host several types of anemone, like Hetearactic Magnifica and Stichodactyla.

However, these types can be more a little unruly as they grow and aren’t for the average hobbyist. You can certainly try to use these species but they will require some extra research on your part. Instead, Ocellaris and True Percula can host Entacmaea Quadricolor or even Bubble Tip Anemone will work well with these Clownfish. That might seem restrictive but don’t fear, the Bubble Tip Anemone actually has several variations so you can have some choice in what color your Clownfish will be representing in your aquarium.

Ocellaris & True Percula Clownfish

  • Entacmaea Quadricolor
  • Bubble Tip


Bubble Tip Anemone is also incredibly versatile in its Clownfish match-ups. Different Clownfish species and different anemone species will have different reef tank requirements and habits. Making sure to get the proper match is crucial in ensuring that the fish will host and both will be comfortable in the tank.

Here is a quick rundown of other kinds of Clownfish and the types of anemones that they will be happy to host. There are plenty of other options but these are some of the most common that you might consider for your aquarium.

Pink Skunk Clownfish

  • Leathery Sea Anemone
  • Corkscrew Sea Anemone

Orange Skunk Clownfish

  • Marten’s Carpet Sea Anemone
  • Leathery Sea Anemone

Saddleback Clownfish

  • Haddon’s Sea Anemone

Spinecheek Clownfish

  • Corkscrew Sea Anemone
  • Bubble Tip Anemone

Do Clownfish feed their anemone?

That depends on who you ask! Clownfish have been known to bring food into the anemone but there is a division in the reason why that might be. Some people claim the Clownfish is trying to feed its anemone pal but most people think it’s just the Clownfish being greedy.

The fish will likely try to hoard food for itself only for the anemone to start eating some of the rationed scraps. Whether intentional or not, Clownfish do sometimes feed their anemone homes.

What does anemone need to thrive?

Many anemones will need the following requirements to thrive in your reef tank.

  • Temperature – 76 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Specific gravity – 1.024 – 1.026
  • pH – 8.1 – 8.3

You will also need to ensure that your anemones have plenty of water movement as the movement of the water is what transports oxygen for them. The exact amount of flow that you will need will depend on the type of anemones you have in your aquarium. Some will only need low to moderate flow while others might need a higher flow.

Their lighting needs aren’t anything extreme but you should ensure you have a full spectrum light that will meet their needs. You will also need to consider your anemone’s diet. “what?” I hear you saying, “I thought they got their food from the clowns and the water?” While they do get a portion of their sustenance from the water, you shouldn’t rely on it being their sole source of food. 

Also, the hoarding habits of your clown are not an ideal backup plan because you don’t know if your clown will have that particular habit. Feeding them doesn’t have to be too often. In fact, once a week at most should suffice. They can eat meaty foods like scallops or shrimp.

Final thoughts

Clowns can be a little fickle when officially moving into their new anemone homes but if you stick to the tips outlined above, your clown should be hosting in no time. 

You want to take the time to properly set up your tank for both Clownfish and anemone before you start to try to bring the two together. It will save you time and energy if all their needs are already met before you begin the hosting process. 

Finally, sometimes clowns can be just that, a clown. You might need to be a little forceful to make the clown understand where its shelter is. Maybe it doesn’t see it or understand but eventually, it will eventually click in its brain that it is a great shelter for it. Clowns can be a little funny like that.

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