What Do Clownfish Eat (Guide)

Image Credit: Conger Design via Pixabay
Image Credit: Conger Design via Pixabay

What Do Clownfish Eat (Guide)


Finding Nemo was a cultural touchstone in many ways and one of the easiest to see is the explosion in the popularity of orange Clownfish. Clownfish, as a species, are relatively easy to care for, unlike Nemo in the film. A common and beautiful beginner fish, the clownfish often finds itself in many aquarist’s homes. Thanks to their easy and flexible diet, the Clownfish makes basic care needs a relatively simple task.

The Backstory of the Clownfish

Clownfish belong to the family Pomacentridae and have over 30 species! The Clownfish species that are the most popular are the ones that resemble little Nemo. Those species are the Amphiprion Ocellaris or the Ocellaris Clownfish and the Percula Clownfish. Clownfish can be found in warm waters like the Pacific Ocean. Clownfish live in sheltered spaces in reefs using another species like anemone for protection.

These fish enjoy water with a temperature between 74 and 79-degrees Fahrenheit and a ph between 7.8 and 8.4. If you need more information regarding how to set up your first aquarium, please check out some of the other articles related to tank preparation at Reef Tank Resource.

What do Clownfish Eat?

Clownfish are considered omnivores because they can eat both algae and flesh and this helps to make feeding them a simpler task. A typical Clownfish diet can consist of fish eggs, larvae, copepods, algae, worms, and small crustaceans.

Clownfish are one of the few saltwater fish that can be fed regular fish flake food. However, if you want your Clownfish to live its best aquarium life, you will need to make some changes. A Clownfish’s diet is diverse in the wild which means that your Clownfish will be at its best if you are trying to replicate that natural diet as best you can. The best way to do this would be to feed them meaty foods such as Brine shrimp, Krill, or Mysis as well as ensuring that your fish are getting their algae, too.

Best Food For Clownfish

Live Copepods

Live food is best for any fish. If you have a refugium put copepods in there to grow.

Frozen Mysis

Frozen Mysis shrimp is considered the best non-live choice for feeding clownfish.

Freeze Dried

Freeze-dried Mysis is another great source of nutrituion for clownfish.


Pellet food is perfectly fine for feeding clownfish and more convenient.

Getting the Necessary Greens

Depending on what the algae levels are in your aquarium tank, you might consider providing your Clownfish with pellets that have spirulina in them. These pellets will help to ensure that your Clownfish are receiving their recommended dose of vegetables. Seaweed sheets can also be bought and placed on the walls of the tank with clips.

Clownfish love Nori seaweed especially. This provides your fish the opportunity to peck at the seaweed more naturally than if it was in the form of a pellet. It can look a little tacky with a clip though so I would recommend rubber banding your seaweed sheets to a rock. The rock will hold it to the aquarium floor, and you won’t have to look at your aquarium through a seaweed curtain.

Live and Frozen Foods

Live meaty foods are great for the overall happiness of your Clownfish and are a great way to acclimate a Clownfish to its new environment. Live food can be found at your local pet store.

You can also provide your Clownfish with small frozen foods. Cooked mussels, shredded octopus, chicken livers, and cockles are all great examples of food that can be given to your Clownfish. You want to make sure that the food is prepared properly for your Clownfish, which means cutting up the pieces into small enough pieces and thawing or cooking the food appropriately.

How Often should Clownfish be Fed?

Adult Clownfish can eat once a day but that is not recommended. You will want to feed your Clownfish twice a day if the fish is matured and 3-4times a day if the fish is still growing. You might prefer to break up their foods into smaller portions throughout the day to help balance out the fish’s health.  However, you choose to schedule your Clownfish feeding, you will want to keep it consistent. Personally, I would try to create a feeding schedule using an excel sheet to make sure I didn’t neglect my Clownfish’s health.

Do Clownfish Eat Their Babies?

I mentioned Clownfish will eat fish eggs but that does not include their own. Clownfish will protect and care for their own eggs up until they hatch. Once the Clownfish hatches, they are adults in the eyes of the parents and the newly hatched Clownfish are on their own. What this means is that the baby clownfish are at risk of being eaten by other tank mates or even their own parents.     

Do Clownfish Need Anemones?

Clownfish do not necessarily need an anemone to survive in your reef tank. Just like with their diet though, your Clownfish might not be at their best without this crucial partner in their life. Anemone and Clownfish provide many benefits to one another that can not be overlooked when designing your tank for Clownfish.

Anemone will help to give your Clownfish some protection and thus create for them a place where they feel safe. This safe space can also be a food source for your Clownfish since anemone waste is food for Clownfish.

Make Sure to Plan Carefully

If you care for your Clownfish properly, your little orange pals could live on average between 3-5 years in their tank. Don’t worry though, that is just an average and if you take good care of your Clownfish there is potential to live beyond that 5-year mark. Wild Clownfish can live up to 10 years in their natural habitat, and those are the standards that we strive for in our Clownfish care.

You will want to keep in mind how many Clownfish and anemones are in your tank because, as we have discussed, Clownfish can be territorial. The last thing you want is to introduce a bunch of Clownfish to a tank only for them to fight over who gets to live in the anemone. Anemones have needs, too. Anemones require lots of light and excellent water conditions to thrive. When considering introducing an anemone into your tank make sure that you are thinking about how to best accommodate the anemone’s needs as well as your Clownfish’s needs.

Finally, some Clownfish prefer some types of anemones over others. I recommend reading upon which anemones are great to pair with which type of Clownfish. For the popular orange Clownfish (Ocellarisand Purcula), Magnificent Sea Anemone, and Giant Carpet Sea Anemone are both great pairing options.

Other Facts to Keep in Mind

Okay, your Clownfish is successfully fed but what else might need to live its best life? Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you care for your Clownfish.

  • When feeding Clownfish, remember to feed your fish slowly. It is much easier to add more food to your aquarium than it is to try to take out the excess food. Preventing excess food from being in the tank will help to mitigate the buildup of algae over time.
  • 15-25 percent water change weekly (depending on tests and what your feeding schedule is like) to ensure that the Clownfish are living in a clean fresh tank.
  • Juvenile Clownfish need to be fed near their “safety zone” and all Clownfish should be fed in an area where there is no strong water flow to allow for easier feeding.

The Not So Funny Side

Though Clownfish conservation status is not in direct threat of extinction, their habit’s homeostasis is at risk. Ocean acidification and coral reef habitats dying put Clownfish in a precarious situation. The need to conserve these environments is crucial for the future success of not just this species but many reef-dwelling fish.


Clownfish are a great starter fish due to their flexible diet and low care needs. You need to be consistent in your feeding schedule and cleaning of your tank. These small orange fish will add a nice splash of color to your aquarium and with much less upkeep than some other saltwater fish. Plus, the symbiotic relationship that they have with anemones can be a huge boost in the look of your aquarium.

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