News / Species Spotlight / No Bar Melanopus Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus) (05/25/17)

No Bar Melanopus Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)

Species Spotlight - No Bar Melanopus Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)
The Melanopus Clownfish belongs to the same species group as the Tomato Clownfish of the Philippines, the Red Saddle Clownfish of the Andaman Sea, and the Fijian Barberi Clownfish, but, unlike those, Amphiprion melanopus is far more widespread. Youll find it in most of Indonesia, throughout the island of New Guinea, and beyond into Micronesia and Melanesia.

Across much of its vast range, specimens show little variation in their color or patterning. Theres typically a single white bar behind the head, the pelvic and anal fins are black, and theres a dingy blackness along the sides of the body. There are some minor differences to be found in certain regions. Those from New Caledonia and Vanuatu are typically much more brightly colored and with relatively little black in the finsthese will likely be described as a separate species at some point.

Australian specimens are also subtly different. The dark coloration along the sides of the body tends to not encroach near the caudal fin, which results in a nice even arc extending from the back down towards the anal fin. Oftentimes, theres also a bit of yellow present at the back of the anal fin, extending this arc even further. Whether any of this is meaningful is unknown, as the group hasnt been studied enough to confirm one way or the other. Maybe these Australian A. melanopus are different enough from those elsewhere to warrant recognition as a distinct species or maybe not.

But one other peculiarity of the Australian population is the occasional appearance of specimens that are entirely lacking their white bar. These No Bar Melanopus Clownfish are a real rarity and something that serious Amphiprion aficionados know to look out for. These can easily be confused with another uncommon species in this group, Amphiprion rubrocinctus. This fish occurs on the other side of Australia, but, unlike its Coral Sea cousin, it has a yellow anal fin and only a small amount of black along the leading edge of the pelvic fins.

All of these closely related species are exclusively associated with the Bubbletip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor), and they can often be found in large groups when their host anemone is abundant. Its not uncommon to see images of dozens or even hundreds of specimens in close proximity, generally in shallow habitats where Bubbletips occur in dense agglomerations between branches of Porites cylindrica. This would be a fascinating ecosystem to recreate in an aquarium, making for a simple and lush display, full of color and movement.