News / Species Spotlight / Look-A-Likes Tomato and Cinnamon (or Fire) Clowns (05/28/14)

Look-A-Likes Tomato and Cinnamon (or Fire) Clowns

The Tomato and Cinnamon clownfish are part of a larger group of clownfish called Ephippium. They all have a similar rounded body shape, most forms have a single white bar behind the eye and they all lay red eggs. Other fish in this group include A. ephippium and the clownfish formerly known as A. rubrocinctus, which has been reclassified as A. barberi.

So what makes these two fish distinct species? Well, they can be told apart, and they are both recognized by the scientific community. That being said there has been some discussion as to whether or not all the fish in this grouping are distinct species, or stable color forms of the same species (except for A. Barberi, which has been genetically identified as a separate species).

Intrestingly, these fish have been aquacultured for several years now, and because each culture facility is breeding for certain coloration, the distinctions between species is much more muddled when talking about cultured specimens. As an aside, all of these species have also been known to hybridize.

Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus)

The tomato clownfish has a pretty wide distribution, ranging throughout the Indo-Pacific. They can grow to a max length of about 5.5". Generally, when they are found it is as a solitary individual or adult pair. Because of this, if one of the pair are lost, replacement generally comes via migration from another anemone rather than a local subadult. Occasionally small males are displaced from breeding pairs by larger males that migrate in as well. They generally prefer Bulb Anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor), but will adopt others as a host.

Females of the species are usually darker red, often with a black saddle (see photo on right). Males and sub adults more likely to be brilliant orange. Several variations on this theme are seen throughout their range.

This is one of the hobby's great aquarium residents, being notoriously hardy when obtained from a reliable source. Aquacultured specimens are even more reliable. This is a great fish for moderate to aggressive aquariums with or without an anemone. They are likely to harass other more docile fish, especially other anemonefishes if kept in smaller aquaria. Aquacultured specimens will also likely to be slightly less territorial than their wild counterpart. They generally accept pellet foods before even leaving the QM facility.

Cinnamon (fire & dusky) Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)

Also frequently called "Fire or Dusky Clownfish" these clowns have a penchant for the same Bulb Anemones, but are spread throughout the entire tropical Pacific Ocean.

Cinnamon clowns are also extremely suitable for captivity; taking well to prepared foods, not needing a very large aquarium and being incredibly hardy. However, just like the tomato, they can be pugnacious, especially to congeners. Keeping them with docile fish should be done only in large systems.

These fish can attain just about the same adult size and depending on where the fish is caught, they colors can be remarkably close. The major visual difference between the two of these species is that this fish has black pelvic fins and slightly darker anal fins than the A. frenatus. (Photo on left is a very rare "Flame Melanopus" from the Coral Sea with brighter than average coloration, but still has the distinct black pelvic fins.). The subadults and males are not as brilliantly orange as frenatus either. Some of the variants from the Coral Sea lack the white head band. (see photo below for the no-bar color variant)

Scott W. Michael, Damselfishes & Anemonefishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2008).
Matthew L Wittenrich, Breeders Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2007).
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
In House Sources:
Adam Mangino, Eli Fleishauer