The humble yet mighty Anemone fish
This beautiful fish is part of a larger family known as Damsel fish and they can be found in many areas in the Indian Pacific Ocean.
As I am sure you are aware Clown fish have distinct coloring’s in the form of orange white and black but did you know there are up to 30 different types of Anemone Fish with many variations, depending on the area they are found, this can including their color, (which can also be pink, yellow or maroon) size, markings and habitat choice.
Let’s find Nemo
These tiny fish shot their way into the hearts and minds of so many when ‘nemo’ got the staring roll in a classic pixar film, but we wanted to introduce you to the real deal and show why these fish are just such amazing creature.
As i am sure you are aware these little fish have a symbiotic relationship with their homes, the Sea Anemone. By symbiotic we mean that they have a long term, mutually beneficial relationship, a living bond, with their chosen home.
Clown fish will choose their anemone. Once the fish decide on their chosen anemone, they will perform what looks like an elaborate dance with the tentacles of their new house. This ‘dance’ means that the fish will get stung in different areas of their body. The reason for this is to get used to the specific poison of that anemone, they are getting acclimatized to the venom.
Growing up needs a thick skin
Anemone Fish have a specially adapted mucus layer that surrounds their bodies which acts as a shield to the poisons in the stinging arms of the Anemone. They will spend their lives in a single anemone and in return, for cleaning and keeping unwanted intruders away, they will have a safe habitat for as long as they live.
The anemone fish use different movement patterns to encourage water flow through the anemone which stimulates growth, their waste also gets absorbed into the anemone in a style of ‘fertilizer’ giving the anemone different nutrients from the algae that the fish feeds upon
These fearless fish will sometimes swim out into the crazy world of the reef, attracting the eye of larger fish, they then carefully encourage these fish, with a life or death chase, back home, to the stinging anemone who will kill the intruder with their poisoned ‘arms’ providing a meal for itself and also many left overs for the enjoyment of the clown fish. It’s a tale of predator becoming prey because of the courage of the humble anemone fish ‘lure’.
Family is the name of the game
Anemone fish tend to live in small family groups and will be made up of one dominant female (the largest fish) and one dominant male and a number of juvenile males.
Anemone Fish are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they are all born males and when they are mature, they will then have the ability to become female.
If the dominant female is to die the dominant male will become female and the next largest male will become the dominant male. This relationship means that there is only ever one pair of clown fish mating at a time in a specific group, the other males are there to help with maintaining the health of the anemone until they might get the chance to become one of the dominant pair.
The school communicate through a series of clicks and cracks which they create with sharp movements of their mouth. This is thought to be how they keep hierarchical structure in place and maintain dominant positions and identify successors.
Fathers know best….
The dominant male will be in charge of the nesting site, he will clear a flat rock near to the anemone (or bring something over when a rock is not suitable) and during nesting times the female will lay between 100 and 1000 eggs which the male will fertilize and protect them for the incubation period of 6-10 days.
During this time, he will waft water across the eggs to keep them clean and will also eat any unfertilized or algae covered eggs to protect the others from infection.
There are studies that show that the males will fan the eggs at different rates depending on the abundance of food at the time, less fanning will result in fewer eggs hatching but possibly more surviving when done at a time of lower food.
We are lucky to have a number of different species present just in front of our dive shop in Juara Scuba Academy House Reef including the False Clown fish (Amphiprion Ocellaris), the Skunk Clown fish (Amphiprion Akallopisos), Clark’s Anemone fish (Amphiprion Darkii) and Pink Anemone Fish (Amphiprion Perideraion)
These species tend to choose the Magnifica, Gigantea or Mertensil Anemone which have beautiful colourations.
These fish are a big hit with all the divers who love to see them interact with their anemone and fall in love with their heroic attempts to ‘save their homes’ from the impeding monsters (us) that sit and watch them. They have been seen, on many occasions, swimming up too divers to ward them on their way like a territorial dog at the gates to its house.
Each individual has such great character, you can understand why they were chosen to lead the cast by Pixar, it’s hard not to fall in love with such a courageous creature.
Sadly, it’s not all easy swimming for the Anemone Fish
Sadly though, our Juara anemone fish are under threat.
Although the waters around Tioman island are protected as MPAs they are being threatened by global changes in water temperature, acidification and bleaching events that are affecting the anemones they so desperately rely upon and the coral reef that they feed on, nest on and swim in.
They belong to a complex eco system which is being swung out of sync due to global warming, overfishing, pollution/plastic leaching and negative tourism.
We just hope that reading a bit more about these great fish will encourage you to support efforts to protect our reefs, create and support sustainable fishing techniques and help in some way to reduce the worlds carbon emissions and plastic waste production. There is still so much to tell and learn about these big character clownfish as well as many other fish species we have here in Juara
Come find Nemo with us
If you are interested in learning more about ‘Nemo’ why not try one of our ecological specialties such as ‘fish identification’ where you will learn different identification techniques from one of our expert species instructors.
Or you can come out on a fun dive with us to meet our friendly underwater work colleges and see them in their natural habitat, we offer shore and boat dives as well as half and full day dive trips.
For more information on courses, fun dives and packages please do not hesitate to get in touch and remember “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming” (Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’)