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This month’s edition of ReefSlides offers a glimpse into the life of Clownfish and one of their weird antics that is sure to annoy many reefkeepers. In this next series of photos is a female Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus) judicially cleaning away the loose substrata in hopes of finding a suitable nesting site. This antic can begin as early as a year or sooner into their development, months or years prior to her actually becoming ready to release her eggs for the first time. Using her tail, the female will beat away at the sand, sending up large clouds of dust and sediment. It is not unusual for a female clownfish to reach the bottom glass in aquariums with over 5 or 6 inches of sediment. Surely this can become a logistical nightmare in a reef aquarium as the sand substrate will begin to take on all sorts of new shapes, hills, and valleys. This “house cleaning” of sorts will continue until she has uncovered a hard substrate of which she finds suitable to lay her eggs upon. At this point, the attention will then switch from procuring a nesting area to maintaining the nesting area. However, the tail-beating antics will not stop once the area has been defined. Instead, the female will continue to tail-beat the substrate, gradually increasing the overall size as well as ensuring the area does not become covered back over with sand. She will also become more ferocious as she defends this area from intruders, gradually getting worse until the time comes to release her eggs.

Although this can be enjoyable to witness, it may turn into a real pain in the rear as well. If the clownfish is kept in a reef aquarium, this sand cloud is sure to produce a fine layer of sediment across your corals. Without regular attention, this may become heavy enough to smother out corals and lead to their death. Daily attention may be needed to blow away the sediment from corals.

A reefkeeper can try to avoid situations such as this by supplying the female clown with a hard material destined to hold the eggs. The bottom of clay pots or the rough backside of ceramic tiles may act as a suitable substitute and encourage the clownfish to limit the amount of tail-beating she performs. If the reefkeeper wishes to attempt raising clownfish fry, these clay pots or ceramic tiles pull double duty and will make the removal of the eggs a simple task - provided you can out smart the female and not get attacked!

Photos courtesy of Travis Staut.
Text by Henry C. Schultz III.


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