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Facts about the Clown Anemonefish

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Two different species of clown anemonefish inhabit the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region. Clown anemonefish go by a wide range of common names including clownfish, orange clownfish and false clownfish. The two species are often given the common names "true clown anemonefish" and "false clown anemonefish."

Common Names

Both true and false clown anemonefish are commonly referred to as clownfish or clown anemonefish; sometimes the words "true" and "false" are used in conjunction with these common names as well. True clown anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) and false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) look very similar, although a few subtle differences distinguish the two species.


Both species are typically bright orange, although various shades of orange are possible for both. Both also have three white bars on their body: one behind the eyes, one behind the dorsal fin and one between the tail and the body. The false clown anemonefish has thick black outlines on the white bars, while the true clown anemonefish has thin black outlines. Some false clown anemonefish found off of Australia's Northern Territory are black with white bands.

Other Physical Characteristics

Both reach an average length of just over 3 inches, although they can grow to almost 4 1/2 inches. Both have rounded caudal fins and a perch-shaped body. The false clown anemonefish lacks the head bulge that is visible on the true clown anemonefish when it is viewed straight on. Another difference is the color of their eyes: the true clown anemonefish has bright orange eyes that blend in with the body; the false clown anemonefish has gray eyes.

Habitat and Range

The true clown anemonefish inhabits tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region. Areas included in their range include New Britain, New Guinea, Vanuatu and the waters off Queensland, Australia. Its habitat is typically marine lagoons and seaweed reefs. The false clown anemonefish has a much larger range throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including the Ryukyu Islands, Malaysia, southeast Asia and northwest Australia. Its habitat includes rocky reefs throughout the tropical marine waters. Both species form symbiotic relationships with anemones in their native waters, cleaning and aerating the anemones while the anemones in turn protect the fish from predators with their stinging tentacles. No one is sure why anemones don't sting the true or false clownfish, but it's thought to have something to do with the mucus layer that covers these fish.