Clownfish can live for up to a decade in the tank. They are pretty hardy and will go about their routine every day. But the downside of keeping only one in your tank is that one clownfish cannot breed.
You will need to add another clownfish to the tank if you want to breed clownfish. Check out these steps below to have your own pair.
How To Pair Clownfish
There are two main techniques to pair clownfish; growing them out in the tank or adding a new fish to the reef aquarium. The grow-out method is pretty straightforward because nature takes care of everything.
For this technique, you only have to buy two small juvenile clownfish and introduce them into the reef aquarium. You have to introduce them at the same time. Eventually, they will naturally establish a dominant-submissive relationship, leading to a pair bond.
The second technique is introducing a new fish to the reef aquarium. This is the focus of this article.
Set Up Your Reef Aquarium
This is perhaps the most important and the first step to pairing your clownfish. You need a saltwater aquarium where you will sustain the lives of your fish.
It must have a good filtration system, a good pump, and a lighting system to regulate day and night. You may also need a heater if you stay in a cold climate.
For a pair of fish, getting at least a 20-gallon tank would be best to make enough room for them to swim around comfortably.
Know the Clownfish Species
Pairs will only be possible with the same species of clownfish. There are more than eight popular clownfish varieties. These include True Percula clownfish, Common clownfish, Maroon clownfish, Tomato clownfish, Cinnamon clownfish, Pink skunk clownfish, Clarkii clownfish, etc.
Putting together different varieties will not work. The dominant fish will become aggressive towards the submissive clownfish and may even injure it. Other varieties like the Maroon clownfish are very belligerent and will never back down from a fight unless the situation is life-threatening. So it is best to pair only the same species.
Get a Juvenile Clownfish
Since you already have a clown fish in your tank, there is a great risk of adding the same sex with the same fish in your tank. It would be best to choose a small juvenile. This will prevent sex compatibility problems as the older clownfish will naturally metamorphose into a female.
Clownfish hatch as gender-neutral. They are protandrous hermaphrodites. They essentially start as sexually immature. Although they become physically mature in about a year, their sexual maturity depends on social signals from the environment, like the absence of a female.
Keep the New Fish in a Breeding Box
Your dominant clownfish already living in the reef aquarium will not accept your new clownfish immediately. It will perceive the juvenile fish as an intruder invading its space. Keeping the fish in a breeding box is one of the best ways to introduce your new clownfish to the tank.
You want to fix the box in the tank and add some water from the aquarium to help your new clownfish get used to the water. Place the box near the established territory of the dominant clownfish.
Observe the dominant clownfish to see how she interacts with the juvenile fish in the box. If she displays aggression toward the juvenile, you want to wait until she has cooled off her temper from the invasion of her personal space before you try an introduction.
Rearrange Your Aquascape
Rearranging the decorations in the reef aquarium is a great way to put your clownfish together. Rearranging the aquascape eliminates the territory that the dominant clownfish may have.
Since there is no territory for the female to lay claim to, bonding becomes easy for both fish.
Introduce the New Clownfish
After rearranging your aquascape to mix the territories, you can properly introduce the juvenile fish clownfish to the tank.
Get your favorite fish net and release the juvenile clownfish into your reef tank.
Monitor the Clownfish Pair
You want to watch how they interact. The dominant clownfish may not accept the juvenile immediately and may even become belligerent. You want to stand by with a net to rescue your juvenile clownfish at the slightest sign of aggression.
Return it to the aquarium after a few hours. Repeat the process for about three days until they start to form a bond. You can write that juvenile off as incompatible if they do not bond after three days. But the chances that they will not bond is very slim.
Signs of a Successful Pairing
Here are some signs that confirm a successful clownfish pairing.
Female Clownfish Will Become Inseparable From the Male
They usually start by accepting each other—the bonding graduates to the stage where she becomes inseparable from him and follows him around the tank. Mated pairs will usually sleep in the same place.
Sometimes, she may have to assert her dominance by fighting. You will typically find the male crouching down in fear near their usual host territory. But sooner or later, she will take him back.
This is the ultimate sign of a successful pairing. Spawning events such as nest clearing or laying eggs in the tank is the ultimate sign that you have a bonded pair.
This is why many aquarists usually want to keep a bonded pair; to breed more clownfish.
The Pair Will Stay in the Same Host Anemone
Apart from staying together most of the time, the pair will remain within the same anemone.
If there are no anemones in the tank, they will typically stay in the same hide or rocks or any other favored part of the tank.
Some hobbyists have succeeded in keeping a few bonded pairs in a very large aquarium, but they usually keep a few anemones in the tank.
Must I Pair Clownfish?
No, it is not necessary to do so unless you wish to breed them. Clownfish live for years.
But if you want to breed clownfish, you must match a female and a male clownfish together. They will lay eggs that will hatch to give you more clownfish.
If you do not wish to breed clownfish, you can keep only one fish in your tank. But it would be best to keep it with sea anemones, especially if your reef tank has other fish.
How Long Does Pairing Clownfish Take?
Sometimes, it takes a few months. But the average time it takes to pair clownfish is about a month or less. Some other aggressive species are challenging to pair and may take as much as two months.
If you watch closely, you will typically see the male begin to twitch around the female.
How Many Clownfish Can I Keep in My Tank?
Yes, you can keep more than one clownfish in a tank, but the general rule is to keep two clownfish only. If you keep more than two clownfish, the dominant fish will be paired with the male. This will naturally put the odd clownfish in danger as the paired duo will bully it to death.
However, many experienced aquarists have kept more than a pair of clownfish in the same tank. Their trick is keeping a big tank with many decorations to limit confrontations by reducing how often they see each other.
They also keep the number even. The pairs can set up territories on either side on either side.
Do Clownfish Kill Each Other?
Clownfish may be aggressive and injure each other in a fight. But they rarely kill each other.
However, if you put a female clownfish in a tank with an already established female, the two clownfish will likely fight to the death as only fish can be dominant.