Friday 31 July 2015

How do I know if the fish is a clownfish?

If you happen to snorkel or scuba dive in the East Coast of Malaysia, especially in the islands of Perhentian, Redang or Lang Tengah, you might come across this cute looking fish, the clownfish.
But if you don’t have the opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive, you might also come across the clownfish while watching ‘Finding Nemo’. Yes, Nemo and daddy, Marlin are both clownfish and they belong to a sub family of Amphiprioninae in the family of Pomacentridae.
Altogether, there are 30 species of clownfish that are recognized and overall, the clownfish are yellow, orange, reddish or blackish in colour and many have white bars or patches. Some species such as the Ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris), the Pink Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion perideraion) and the Saddleback Clownfish (Amphiprion polymnus) can be found in Malaysia. 

How do I know if the fish is a Clownfish?

First of all, the clownfish will live near its host or home, the sea anemone. The sea anemone is a close relative of coral and jellyfish. They spend most of their time attached on rocks or coral reefs and wait for fish to pass close by to get trapped in their venom-filled tentacles. The clownfish, however, has a layer of mucus on its skin that makes it immune to the sea anemone’s lethal sting. That’s why they can live together!

The picture above is of a sea anemone. If you can spot it, there is a pink skunk fish swimming near the sea anemone.

The clownfish and sea anemone have a symbiotic mutualistic relationship, meaning that each will provide benefits to each other. The sea anemone will provide protection for the clownfish from predators as well as providing food which is basically scraps left from the sea anemone’s meal and also from dead sea anemone tentacles. The clownfish, in return, will defend the sea anemone from predators and parasites. The clownfish will also excrete nitrogen and this increases the amount of algae production. The high amount of algae incorporated into the tissue of the sea anemone will aid tissue growth and regeneration in the sea anemone. Studies have shown that sea anemones that have clown fish living with them grows faster compared to those that do not host a clownfish.

Is the biggest clownfish in the colony a male or a female?

The biggest and dominant clownfish in the colony is actually a female. There will be only one female in the colony. Clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites. Clownfish are born male, however when they mature, if necessary, will change into a female when the dominant female dies, and will lead the colony. 

Yes, the clown fish is very cute and bubbly. But clownfish are very protective of their homes. They will chase off anything that gets too near to their sea anemone. Sometimes even divers. But aren’t they cute. So every time you snorkel in the waters of Malaysia, try and spot a sea anemone, and then try to see if there are any clownfish living in the sea anemone. And please do not remove the clownfish from their sea anemone, because they might not be able to find their way back home. 

For those who haven’t seen clownfish in the wild, you can watch the video below. Enjoy!

Shared by Nensirati Supahan
Guest Blogger

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