Clownfish have always been a popular addition for home saltwater aquariums because they are brightly colored and fun to watch. But the clownfish got a big boost after the movie “Finding Nemo” was released in 2003.
The clownfish, also called the false clownfish or the clown anemonefish, forms a synergistic relationship with an anemone host. The anemone provides protection to the clownfish and the clownfish helps keep the anemone free from parasites.
This creature is fascinating for many reasons; chief among which is that all clownfish are protandrous hermaphrodites biologically which means they are all born male but can become female if the need arises. When it is time to breed, one clownfish male in the group will change into a female.
In any clownfish group, there will always be only one breeding pair at a time.
Happily, the clownfish is a common, popular saltwater fish that is relatively easy to breed in captivity. This keeps the price reasonable, although there are also many other costs to consider when you are setting up a saltwater aquarium.
Clownfish Purchase Price
An adult clownfish can grow to measure 4.3 inches long. However, the average size of an adult clownfish is three inches and its typical lifespan is 6 to 10 years.
Interestingly, some captive clownfish have been recorded as living up to 18 years, which means you may be looking at a significant time commitment when you bring a clownfish home to stay!
Clownfish are grouping fish, which means they need to be with others of their own kind. Plus, you will need to prepare for more of them as your pair will likely mate at some point.
Captive aquarium clownfish do not necessarily require an anemone to be happy and healthy. But if you provide one, they will readily claim it and defend it as their territory.
If you do plan to provide an anemone, the bubble tip one is a hardy and popular choice.
Be sure to check compatibility before purchasing. Out of the more than 1,000 wild anemone species, clownfish can only pair successfully with about 10 of those.
Prices for fully-grown adult captive-bred clownfish range from $20 to $180. In contrast, a small clownfish (0.5” to 1”) price starts at $17 and for a medium clownfish (1” to 2”), price starts at $18.
Factors Affecting Clownfish Purchase Price
A number of factors can influence the clownfish price, including each of the following:
To date, more than 30 species of clownfish have been recorded. There are six basic categories or “complexes”.
The two most common types bred and sold in captivity are the Percula and the Ocellaris. These two common species will typically be the most affordably priced.
In addition, there is a genetic difference between the false clownfish and the orange clownfish that can impact cost, although the two species look very much alike and are frequently mistaken for each other.
In addition to the universally-recognizable orange and white striped variety of the “Finding Nemo” fame, a number of other clownfish species with different colors and patterns also exist.
“Naked” clownfish are non-banded, featuring a solid body color with accented fin tips of a contrasting color.
Colors can range from black and white to maroon, cinnamon, red, orange, pink, and yellow. The more exotic colors will demand higher prices.
As with many captive-bred aquarium fish, size can be a factor in the purchase price. Clownfish fry or “nanos” (very young fish) will typically be the least expensive.
Just be aware that your young 0.5” or 1” fry can grow to reach 3” or bigger so plan accordingly with tank size!
One positive aspect of purchasing young clownfish is that you can feel reasonably sure these fish were born and bred in captivity which reduces the stress on wild populations due to the pet trade.
One-Time Clownfish Costs
Despite living their whole life in the water, clownfish are not particularly great swimmers!
These fish mostly hide out in their anemone, feeding, and breeding there and only venturing out briefly as needed. Clownfish are also quite territorial and pairs will spend most of their time defending their territory from intruders.
As well, juvenile clownfish will naturally orient their dorsal (top) fin towards the dominant light source to help them geolocate for swimming. Top light placement is vital if you are keeping young clownfish.
This means your clownfish will need a particular type of aquarium setup to remain healthy and happy. Setting up your aquarium will likely represent the most significant expense for keeping clownfish.
For most clownfish species that grow to around 3” long, a 20-gallon tank will accommodate a pair nicely. For the maroon clownfish and other species that can reach 6” long in adulthood, a 30-gallon tank is considered a minimum for a pair.
For a 20-gallon tank, expect to spend $200 for the Innovative Marine 20 Gallon NUVO Fusion Nano Aquarium . A 30-gallon starter tank will cost around $350 and up.
You may prefer to get a saltwater tank kit that includes most of the supplies you will need. Costs start at $600.
The filter price for a saltwater filter that works with tanks up to 80 gallons starts at $38.
- Protein skimmer
A protein skimmer for a 20-gallon tank will start at $34. Larger capacity protein skimmers start at $56 and up.
- Temperature/pH tester
You can purchase a floating combination temperature and salinity tester like the HI98319 Salinity & Temperature Tester for $69. A more comprehensive monitor that measures ammonia, temperature, pH, water level, and lighting starts at $170.
A saltwater master test kit is another option to measure levels of pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Pricing starts at $30.
- Water heater
In the wild, clownfish reside in warmer tropical ocean waters. You may need to take the help of a tank heater to keep the water temperature at the required 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C) range. You can pick one up starting at around $55.
You can choose to purchase a living anemone for your clownfish to reside in or a coral reef will also do nicely. Another option is an assortment of live rocks with some aquatic plants.
If you opt for a bubble tip anemone, expect to spend around $40.
Live rock will cost around $8 per piece or you can purchase bulk rock for around $86 for 20 pounds of rock.
- Tank cleaning tube
A tank cleaning tube can come in handy to change out the water as needed. Prices start at an affordable $11.
Ongoing Clownfish Costs
Clownfish are known to be relatively healthy, hardy fish in captivity. Basic requirements include maintaining water pH, water temperature, salinity and purity, proper nutrition, and adequate space and shelter.
In captivity, clownfish are not known to be picky eaters and will readily consume plant and animal matter.
You can get pelleted food starting at $6 for a 50g pack. Ghost shrimp are similarly affordable, starting at around the same price for a 100g pack. Floating seaweed algae is another good food that starts at around $7 for every 45g pack.
- Reef crystal salts
Because your clownfish live in a saltwater environment, you will also need to use crystal salts to adjust the salinity of your tank as needed. Pricing is economical for a 25-gallon tank supply starting at $16 for 25 gallon box.