True Percula Clownfish vs Ocellaris Clownfish (Guide)

Jeff Kubina, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Jeff Kubina, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

True Percula Clownfish vs Ocellaris Clownfish (Guide)


Clownfish are one of the most popular reef fish for saltwater aquariums but many people don’t know that there are actually different kinds of Clownfish. The two most commonly thought of, when thinking of Clownfish, are often the True Percula Clownfish and Ocellaris Clownish, also known as the False Percula. These fish have the orange bodies and black stripes that are often thought of when Clownfish are mentioned but though they look similar, there are differences between the species.

What is the difference between Ocellaris Clownfish and a True Percula Clownfish?

The biggest differences are in their physical appearances. Though they may be subtle to some, they are different enough that people try to breed the species to create desirable patterns of stripes. Take a look at the breakdown below to get a better sense of the differences in their appearance. The key is to focus on their color distribution, eye color, and dorsal fin spines to spot the differences.

There does appear to be some false perceptions about why these fish are different. Often people assume that the False Percula Clownfish is captive bred hence the name but that isn’t the case. Both species are originally wild-caught.

ocellaris clownfish
Nhobgood Nick Hobgood, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ocellaris (or False Percula) Clownfish

This species can most commonly be found in warm waters like off the coast of Northwestern Australia and Southeast Asia.

  • Thin black lines outlining the white stripes
  • Dark eyes with a little hint of orange
  • There are only 11 spines that make up the dorsal fin
true percula clownfish
Image Credit: Bolívar Sánchez via Flickr

True Percula Clownfish

This species can most commonly be found in warm waters like off the coast of New Guinea and The Solomon Islands.
  • Thick black lines that outline the white stripes
  • Much more pronounced orange eyes
  • There are only 10 dorsal spines that make up the dorsal fin

See how similar these fish are? It’s no wonder that people often mix them up. Reminds of the alligator vs crocodile identity crisis but once you know the subtleties, it is easy to tell the difference between the two fish. Nothing, whether a Clownfish has 10 dorsal spines or not, is probably too tough for a moving fish but the color is much easier to pin down. The secret is the black lines are they thick or thin?

Is Nemo a Percula or Ocellaris?

The reason that Clownfish are so popular today is because of the Pixar movie Finding Nemo which stars the lovable Clownfish, Nemo. But what type of Clownfish is Nemo so you can say that you have the correct species of fish for the namesake? Nemo in the movie is a False Purcula or an Ocellaris Clownfish. The easiest way to tell is the thin black lines that both Nemo and his father Marlin have. Now, the next time someone wrongly names Nemo’s species you can correct them.

Can Ocellaris and Percula Clownfish live together?

Yes, they can! In fact, the two species are so similar they share a lot of similar behaviors and even host the same type of anemone. Many people even choose to mate the two to create specific designer Clownfish. They can be great pairs but you should stop at just the one pair of clowns. Adding additional Clownfish to your tank will risk territorial aggression between the fish. It is best to keep things simple with only two. There might be a possibility of having more if you have a huge tank but it is always better to air on the side of caution.

Do you need an anemone for Clownfish?

You do not need to introduce anemone to your Clownfish. They will be just as happy with enough live rock and spaces to swim around and hide in. However, the symbiotic relationship between Clownfish and anemone can be beneficial to the fish and create a unique display in your aquarium. Both True Percula Clownfish and False Percula Clownfish host the same species of anemone so even if you have both types of Clownfish in your tank and are trying to mate them, the anemone can still be shared.

What are the different types of Clownfish?

There are way more types of Clownfish than just the Amphiprion Percula. Here is a quick list of the other types of Clownfish you might see while shopping for your next fish.

  • Cinnamon Clownfish
  • Tomato Clownfish
  • Maroon Clownfish
  • Clarkii Clownfish
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish


As you can see, there are a ton of different kinds of Clownfish living all over the world. This is important to know so you are providing adequate care to the correct type of Clownfish. For example, the Cinnamon Clownfish won’t get along with any other kinds of Clownfish. The care needs for all these different types will not reflect the same needs as True Percula or False Percula.

What is the lifespan of a Clownfish?

It depends on the type, just how long the individual can potentially live. A True Percula can live upwards of 20 years but there are reports of females living much longer. The False Percula on the other hand is reported to live about six years. However, these are averages and your specific Clownfish will only survive as long as you can give it an aquarium environment that it can thrive in.

How many Clownfish can I keep together?

For the average aquarium, it’s best to keep your Clownfish population to only two. This is because the fish tends to be territorial and can become aggressive towards tank mates. They may be small but they are feisty orange fish. However, the species are flexible as we have discussed previously. The True Percula Clownfish and False Percula Clownfish will happily get along with one another if they are the only two present in the aquarium. However, if you are considering other types of Clownfish to pair with your False Percula, you will need to research if that specific type will get along with it.

Are Clownfish good for beginners?

Clownfish are one of the best starter fish for a multitude of reasons but the most talked about is their feeding. Clownfish are omnivores so they have a little flexibility in their feeding habits. Feeding your Ocellaris or Percula will only take some Brine Shrimp and frozen fish but there are other meaty options that they will love just as much.

You will want to ensure that you round out their diet with some veggies in the form of pellets. The most difficult thing that might come with owning a Clownfish is if you are trying to have them host an anemone and it isn’t for the reason you might be thinking.

The Clownfish will most likely take to the anemone no problem if the anemone was introduced before the Clownfish but adding your anemone after your True Percula has already been introduced might make your job harder. There is a possibility that your True Percula already set up camp in a lovely set of rocks and isn’t too excited to move into a new home.

Your fish may be thrilled with the new potential home and host it right away. In other cases, you will need to be a little more creative to have it host the anemone.

Clownfish tank setup

There are slight variations between the needs of different Clownfish but if you are focusing on Amphiprion Ocellaris or True Percula, then read on.

Amphiprion Ocellaris doesn’t need a lot of space to thrive so you are okay with opting for a smaller tank if you are only interested in having a few fish. In a small reef tank, you also run the risk of there being more issues since waste can build up faster since there is less water. A larger reef tank that you can expand on and have a more lax cleaning experience might be the best option for beginners.

Ideal water parameters

Amphiprion Percula and False Occelaris will both require a tank with the following parameters.

  • Temperature – 73-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH – 8.0 – 8.4
  • Specific gravity – 1.021 – 1.026
  • Water movement – More moderate water movement
  • Lighting – Depends on whether you are keeping anemone. If yes, you need intense lighting but if you are only keeping True Percula and Ocellaris Clownfish then you can get away with more moderate lighting conditions.

Final thoughts

The Amphiprion Percula and Ocellaris Clownfish are some of the most recognizable fish you can include in your aquarium. They may be separate species, but they get along quite well when paired and will both host the same anemone. They make great fish for beginners, so why not go out and try to include some in your next tank build? And remember if you are going to name your Clownfish after Nemo, the species is Ocellaris and not the True Percula.

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