For DiCaprio, it was Titanic. For Scarlett Johansson, it was Lost in Translation. Since 2003, when Pixar cast a clownfish in the lead role of one of its blockbuster animated films, dive guides and instructors the world over have been inundated with requests to 'find Nemo.' Luckily, these brilliantly bold fish rarely wonder far from home, which, coupled with their vivid orange colour, makes them a breeze to locate.

Yet not all is as it seems in the world of the clownfish. These remarkable little fish hate the limelight and are no strangers to defending their territories, while their domestic arrangements have raised a few eyebrows among Finding Nemo fans. So, without further ado, discover ten fascinating clownfish facts about the ocean's most famous fish.


1. Clownfish Are Anemonefish

Clownfish, also known as clown anemonefish, are one of thirty different species of anemonefish. As their name implies, anemonefish live in close proximity to a host anemone, taking advantage of its venomous tentacles for protection against predators.

2. Clownfish Are Easy to Spot

As one of the more distinctively dressed reef dwellers, clownfish are hard to miss. Their bright orange bodies feature three white bands with a black outline, while their fins and tail have a thin black margin. This lack of camouflage, coupled with their penchant for living in shallow anemones, makes them one of the easier reef fish to spot and identify. On the surface, this is an obvious clownfish fact. However, beware of imposters on the reef…


3. Clownfish Have Doppelgangers

Clownfish (Amphiprion percula) are very often confused with false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). At first glance, they look almost identical, however, false clownfish have thinner black bands between their orange and white stripes.

4. Give and Take

Clownfish know the value of a good partnership and share a symbiotic relationship with their sea anemone. You will know from our first clownfish fact that anemonefish stingers offer protection. In return, the clownfish uses its bright colours to lure dinner - usually smaller fish - to the anemone's stinging tentacles. The anemone also gets a cleaning service and benefits from the nutrients in clownfish number twos.


5. Clownfish Are Hermaphroditic

Within a clownfish colony, the largest fish is female, whereas the rest of the smaller fish are all male. Within the males, the largest one will assume the role of breeding male. However, if anything happens to the female, the breeding male will permanently change sex to become the matriarch.

6. How Clownfish Reproduce

As with many fish, the male takes a leading role in raising offspring. Before spawning, the male will prepare a nest by clearing a spot of bare rock near the base of the anemone. He will then encourage the female to lay her eggs before he passes over the eggs to fertilise them. Once fertilised, the male assumes the role of vigilant protector, fanning the eggs with oxygen-rich water until they hatch and flee the nest.


7. Clownfish Are Feisty

They may be small, but they're not shy! Clownfish are prepared to defend their host anemone and their nest, and should you get too close for comfort, they won't hesitate to give you a little nip. But fear not, their bites are harmless to humans. Take is as their gentle reminder and grant the little fellas some peace.

8. Clownfish Are a Social Bunch

Clownfish love a chinwag and communicate by slamming their teeth together to make a series of popping and cracking noises. Researchers have also found clownfish make clicking noises to larger males and a pop to smaller fish, indicating all this chit-chat might be to do with asserting dominance.


9. Clownfish Are Popular Aquarium Pets

Thanks to Finding Nemo, clownfish are some of the most popular aquarium pets, despite the film's message about the negative impact caused by capturing clownfish and other reef fish.

10. Clownfish Are Camera Shy

Clownfish are excellent at frustrating underwater photographers. Notoriously hard to capture, they seem to watch a photographer's trigger finger and have a habit of turning away at the very last moment.

The key to a successful clownfish photo shoot is patience. Take time to watch their movements, allowing you to better anticipate when they will turn towards the camera. Also, finding clownfish whose host anemone has closed provides a slight advantage as they tend to be less active. Plus, the vivid blue underbelly of an anemone makes a marvellous backdrop.

The best places for capturing stunning clownfish are warm tropical destinations with house reefs. The shallow nature of house reefs - like Wakatobi in Indonesia, Dauin in the Philippines or Hurghada on Egypt's Red Sea - means you can spend plenty of time with your clownfish, without worrying about air consumption and no-decompression limits.

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also like: Top Ten Seaweed Facts, Top Ten Mako Shark Facts and Top Ten Dolphin Facts.