News / Species Spotlight / False Percula Clownfish (12/30/15)

False Percula Clownfish


  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Percifromes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Amphirion
  • Species: ocellaris

The false percula or common clownfish, Amphirion ocellaris, is one of the most popular aquarium fish. Once made even more famous by the movie, Finding Nemo, the orange body and three distinctive white bands make them quite attractive. A. ocellaris is similar in appearance to A. percula, but their geographic distributions do not overlap. A. ocellaris has 11 dorsal spines and 17 pectoral rays that further help distinguish between the two species. Their middle white band is also pointed anteriorly. There are several different colormorphs available today. One is a rare black melanistic variety that is found in the Northern Territory of Australia. Other varieties are known to include irregular stripes and some which are in very high demand have a mottled color pattern. A. ocellaris is one of 27 other species of clownfish which are commonly referred to as anemonefish. The ocellaris reaches a maximum size of 8 cm and like most other clownfish species; the female is larger than the male. They are protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning all individuals develop first into males and then possibly females. Their life span is believed to be from 6-10 years in the wild, although captive bred specimens have been documented to live 25 years or more!

Natural Habitat

The False Percula occurs from Northwest Australia through Southeast Asia to as far north as the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. They are commonly found on coral reefs and lagoons at depths of up to 60 feet. Their primary food source is small zooplankton and they also graze on various types of turf algae (mostly to clean rocks for spawning). A. ocellaris, like other clownfish, must reside in an anenome for protection. It is here that a pair will lay eggs on the rocks, typically underneath the large oral disc of an anemone. When the female dies, the male will grow within weeks to become female while a new male is recruited or a resident sub-adult (if present) will assume the male position. It is this symbiotic relationship with anemones that has fascinated biologists, divers, and hobbyists for years.

Aquatic Care

Clownfish are very hardy and many aquarists have even used them to cycle their tanks. Due to advances in technology along with a better understanding of the process the supply of maricultured clownfish has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Several commercial farms alone have supplied hundreds of thousands of these fish into the US market. Maricultured and Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) certified fish are the future and the ocellaris is the model species.

When selecting a False Percula from your local pet store, one should look for any signs of white spots or sheen on the body. Clownfish are very susceptible to ectoparasites, such as Oodinium and Marine Ich. The breathing rate of the fish should also be monitored closely as early signs of disease become apparent through labored breathing and vertical/irregular swimming. Clownfish are omnivores and eat a variety of prepared foods from frozen enriched brine and mysis, to pelleted and flake foods.

A single A. ocellaris pair will lay between 400-600 eggs on the substrate (demersal), such as live rock, coral bases and aquarium glass. Larval rearing requires live newly hatched brine shrimp and rotifers making it very labor intensive. Reproduction has been heavily documented and there are several available books and many articles available specifically for breeding Clownfish. If anemones are to be kept with A. ocellaris, one should try Entacmaea quadricolor, as it is the hardiest. People often ask if maricultured clownfish will go into anemones and the answer is the same for wild caught; it is highly probable but not guaranteed. If you are looking to place two False Percula clownfish in the same aquarium, there are several ways to increase your chances of making a successful pair. Choose either two small fish or one large and one small then add them to the aquarium at the same time. A. ocellaris is typical of other clownfish species, only one species per tank, due to aggression towards other species and conspecifics (other than a mated pair). Large tanks (300 gallon or bigger) with lots of live rock can house more than one species or even multiple pairs. Their hardiness, fascinating swimming motion, and association with anemones make the False Percula a great aquatic pet.