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Clownfish won‘t go into anemone - what can I do?

Thanks to the cult film Finding Nemo the Amphiprion ocellaris, better known as clown anemone fish, is also a household name for non-aquarists - and in marine aquaristics it‘s undoubtedly one of the most popular fish. The small, merry sea water fish doesn’t only impress with their unique appearance but are also quite easy to care for and thus a suitable beginners. 

Nemo fish and anemone - a beautiful symbiosis

A special feature of clownfish is that they live in symbiosis with anemones. As in nature they prefer Stichodactyla gigantea, Stichodactyla mertensi and magnificient anemones as symbiosis partners but also accept other species such as Entacmaea quadricolor, Heteractis crispa and Macrodactyla doreensis.

The fish live in the anemone as couple or in groups and get protection against predators from it’s poisonous tentacles (the clownfish itself is protected from the poison by a special secretion). In exchange the fish clean the tentacles of the anemone and protect it against predators like butterflyfish - a perfect interplay. 

Why my clownfish won‘t accept its host anemone?

Although the symbiosis is actually a natural behavior of clownfish some aquarists struggle with the problem that the fish won‘t go into the anemone. This is nothing unusual and can have different causes. For example if the host anemone is in an unfavorable position in the tank, e.g. in the area of, more aggressive fish, the clownfish might feel uncomfortable and avoid the anemone. In addition there may be problems when the start-up phase of the aquarium hasn‘t been completed yet. 

What can I do to get the fish in the anemone?

In general the anemone fish should be given time after being placed in the aquarium - because every animal gets used differently to the aquarium and may need longer to find its way into the anemone. There have been cases where the fish has gone into the anemone after several months. Some animals don‘t even go into anemones but into other corals like Euphyllia instead.

Aquarists have already created the most unusual ideas to get the clownfish into their anemone faster. For us it has already been helpful to keep fish and anemone together under a salad bowl. In addition it‘s useful to place the animal in the direct vicinity of the anemone in the tank. But of course there is no guarantee for success and the most effective method is still one: Patience.

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