How to Breed Clownfish?

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Clownfish are adorable marine fish with peaceful temperaments and a notable tank presence.

Their coloring recommends them as some of the most handsome species you can get; it’s no wonder you want to breed them. But can you?

Today, we will dive into clownfish breeding to see what you need to see it through and how to ensure the procedure’s success.

Are Clownfish Easy to Breed?

Fortunately, clownfish are generally easy to breed, so long as you follow a few recommendations.

These include water quality, diet, the type of clownfish you’re breeding, etc.

Also, remember that not all clownfish breeds mate and reproduce equally as easily.

Maroon clownfish, for instance, are notoriously difficult to breed successfully due to their high environmental requirements.

At What Age do Clownfish Start Breeding?

This is a tricky clownfish question with a very interesting answer. To go straight to the point, clownfish will typically reach sexual maturity at around 1.5-2-years of age.

But this isn’t always in case. In some situations, the fish can go for years without reaching sexual maturity, and it all has to do with the fish’s physiology.

All clownfish are hermaphrodites, so they possess both male and female sexual organs. The problem is that hermaphrodite clownfish cannot reproduce, given that both sets of sexual organs are underdeveloped.

They will only mature when in the presence of another clownfish. At that point, one of the clownfish will become a male, while the other will turn into a female.

The problem is that the situation changes drastically in a clownfish group. Only 2 clownfish will change their sex in such a setting, while the others will remain underdeveloped males.

This is why it’s always recommended to only have 2 clownfish for breeding purposes.

Breeding Clownfish in Your Fish Tank

Now that you’ve learned the essentials of clownfish breeding let’s get to work. Consider the following when getting ready to breed your clownfish:

Setting Up the Breeding Tank

A separate breeding tank is necessary because you want to separate the clownfish parents from their eggs.

Clownfish can sometimes eat their own eggs, sabotaging the entire breeding process altogether.

The breeding tank should have sufficient space for the pair and the additional equipment and decorations you might add to the mix.

Live rocks are necessary to incentivize the fish to lay their eggs and feel more comfortable during the mating process.

Many aquarists also suggest throwing in some anemones as well, as they will make the clownfish feel at home and increase the spawning’s success.

While this is true, anemones are not essential for successful clownfish breeding. Not to mention, they are rather difficult to keep.

A steady day/night cycle is necessary for optimal comfort.

Getting a Clownfish Pair

Clownfish breed in pairs, so you should always have 2 in your tank instead of several. Even if you have multiple clownfish, they will still form pairs for breeding purposes and begin to bully and attack the rest.

So, you first need to introduce the 2 fish to one another, which is always bound to produce some sparks.

Any 2 random clownfish will be males with hermaphroditic and underdeveloped sexual organs.

Because they are males, they will naturally fight over dominance, with the stronger, bigger, and most dominant one becoming a female and the smaller and weaker one remaining male.

To shorten the timeframe necessary for the fish to complete their metamorphosis, make sure that one of the clownfish is drastically larger than the other.

That way, the larger specimen will quickly impose its will on the smaller one, kickstarting the mating process sooner.

As a pro tip, always be mindful of the place you’re getting your clownfish. Skip fish shops altogether, given that these generally mistreat clownfish and keep them in improper conditions. Instead, go for specialized clownfish breeders who can guarantee the fish’s health, age, and good genetic makeup.

Feeding Your Clownfish

Clownfish are omnivorous fish, but consume a lot of live foods when available. This is particularly important during the mating season, which typically contains plenty of nutrient-rich foods.

Provide your clownfish with a richer diet during the breeding process, prioritizing live foods like copepods (a copepod culture could help), shrimp, fish meat, fish eggs, insect and fish larvae, etc.

Clownfish may require 2-3 small daily meals to keep them in good shape and in the right mental state.

Providing them with a nutritious and well-balanced diet will spare them from having to occupy their mind with food. Instead, the clownfish will now use their energy for mating and breeding purposes.

The female also needs adequate nutrition to produce and maintain the eggs.

Keeping Water Clean

The breeding tank should contain clear and clean water. Vacuum the substrate regularly, remove any residual food and fish waste, and change 15% of the total water volume weekly.

Depending on the environment, you may even need to perform more frequent changes.

A good filtration system is also necessary for moderate water movement and balanced water chemistry.

Stimulate Breeding in Clownfish

Fortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stimulate your clownfish’s breeding behavior.

Clownfish will breed if the conditions are right. To place them in the right state of mind:

  • Clean their environment with unbending regularity
  • Increase the water temperature slightly, preferably around 80 F
  • Ensure a live-food-based diet
  • Only keep a pair
  • Ensure a well-balanced light cycle

Besides that, your clownfish only need peace, and everything will unfold itself.

How Many Eggs do Clownfish Lay?

The clownfish female can lay between 50 and 1,500 eggs, depending on her age, reproductive prowess, environmental conditions, and genetic makeup. Females tend to lay more eggs as they age, up to a point.

It’s worth noting that not all eggs will hatch. Some will remain infertile, while others will die naturally due to bacterial or fungal infections.

The male’s role, aside from protecting the eggs from any potential predators, is to discard the bad ones. So, it’s common to see the clownfish male eating the bad eggs.

How Long It Takes for Clownfish Eggs to Hatch

Clownfish eggs hatch 5-10 days after being produced. The female will produce some more after the first batch has hatched, which is why you should always have a breeding tank ready.

How Many Fry do Clownfish Have?

The answer to this question depends on numerous variables, such as:

  • Water conditions
  • Whether the female gets to eat her own eggs before the male forces her out of the area
  • Whether there are other fish in the tank that could eat some of the eggs
  • How many eggs are being fertilized
  • How many of them get spoiled along the way due to bacterial or fungal infections, etc.

This being said, considering the fact that the clownfish female can lay up to 1,500 eggs in one sitting, the answer is many.

Clownfish can have many fry, more than you can handle with your one tank.

Do Clownfish Eat Their Fry?

Yes, they do. The interesting part about clownfish is that the male will viciously protect the eggs from everyone, including the mother.

But his parental instincts will be gone the moment the fry are born. So, everybody will attempt to eat the fry, including the other clownfish and their own parents.

You need to invest in a breeding tank if you want to save as many fry as possible.

Caring for the Clownfish Fry

Once the eggs have been fertilized, you need to set up a well-designed plan for when the fry will hatch.

Consider the following tips:

  • Remove the male – Once the male has fertilized the eggs, its presence will play no other role in the process. Relocate the male to the main tank to preserve the fry’s lives.
  • Set up a nursing tank – This should be separate from your breeding tank because you may need to use the breeding tank again in a couple of weeks. The nursing tank should have a decent filtration system, plenty of plants, an air stone, and dim lights. Keep the filter’s power to a minimum, so as not to disturb or suck in the tiny fry.
  • Feeding time – Clownfish fry start eating as soon as they’re hatched, so be ready for that. Rotifers make for the ideal meal during this time. You can get these micro-animals from fish shops, or you can grow them yourself in a culture environment. Make sure you get saltwater ones because not all rotifer species can survive in marine environments.
  • Water quality – Go for daily water changes, moving 20%-40% of the water during each session. If you don’t do that, the clownfish fry won’t be able to see the rotifers swimming around them due to their poor vision. So, the water needs to be crystal-clear. Water temperature should be slightly higher to support the fry’s accelerated growth rate. Aim for values between 77 and 81 F.

Other than that, patience is key. Not all fry will reach maturity, which is to be expected, but the rest should grow pretty fast, especially in optimal conditions.


Clownfish aren’t exactly a breeze to breed, but they aren’t too difficult, either. For the most part, 2 clownfish paired together in the same habitat will kickstart the breeding process soon.

The difficulty comes with creating the ideal setting for the fry to thrive and saving as many eggs as possible.

You will find that even these tasks get easier with time.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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