How to Care for Fire Clownfish

Welcoming a clownfish and anemone to your tank

Red Saddleback Clownfish closeup with sea anemone - Thailand
WESchutt / Getty Images

Clownfish were made famous by the movies Finding Nemo and Finding Dory; movie viewers learned that all clownfish make their homes inside sea anemones, safe from intruders. They also learned that clownfish are attractive, relatively small saltwater fish that are sometimes kept in aquariums. Most clownfish, like Nemo and his father, Marlin, have bright stripes; the fire clownfish, however, loses its stripes as it grows into adulthood.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Red Saddleback, Fire Clownfish, Red Saddleback Anemonefish, Red Saddle Clownfish

Scientific Name: Amphiprion ephippium

Adult Size: 4 inches

Life Expectancy: 6 to 10 years in the wild; 18 years in captivity


Family Pomacentridae
Origin Eastern Indian Ocean
Social Aggressive
Tank Level All levels
Minimum Tank Size 30 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egg layer
Care Easy


8.1 to 8.4


72 F to 79 F

Origin and Distribution

The fire clownfish is native to shallows, reefs, and reef slopes at depths of six to 50 feet throughout the Indian Ocean. It is most likely to be found in the tropical seas from Thailand to Indonesia, and in the waters off the coasts of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Thailand, Malaysia, and Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. These fish prefer silty waters where visibility is low.

Like all clownfish, the fire clownfish live in and among sea anemones, where it feeds on planktonic crustaceans such as copepods and shrimp larvae. This species generally lives in pairs, inhabiting two species of anemone: the Entacmaea quadricolor and Heteractis crispa.  


The fire clownfish is the only Clownfish which does not have striping as an adult. In the juvenile stage, these fish have between 1 and 3 white stripes on their body and head. These stripes disappear as the fish grows to adulthood. At the same time, the fish develops a dark spot, or saddle, on their otherwise reddish body. The spot grows until it covers about half the fish as an adult. Fire clownfish also have 10 to 11 dorsal spines, two anal spines, between 16 and 18 dorsal soft rays, and 13 to 14 anal soft rays.


Fire clownfish are aggressive, especially when defending their anemone homes from other clownfish. They will gladly fight any fish that they perceive as a potential threat and are a danger to smaller, more peaceful species. While this species does live in mated pairs in the wild, you may be better off keeping just one fire clownfish rather than risking the possibility of a male and female battling.

When choosing tankmates, be sure to provide your fire clownfish with access to Buttletip anemone (Entacmaea Quadricolor) and Leathery Seal Anemone (Heteractis Crispa) or it will attempt to find a home among stony coral polyps and damage them. Other tankmates may including similarly sized, similarly aggressive species such as Tangs and Wrasse.

Care and Habitat

This fish is ideal for a reef tank. If there is not a host anemone available, it may wallow in the tentacles of the Toadstool coral or large-polyped stony corals. Provide an aquarium environment with plenty of live rock, hiding places, microalgae, and at least one host anemone. 

While they are beautiful, clownfish are also susceptible to a variety of diseases. They are also unusually sensitive to copper, which is an ingredient in many medicines intended for fish. As a result, you will need to keep a close eye on your clownfish pets to be sure they are healthy and check the ingredients on any medication you use to treat illness.


An omnivore which should have a varied diet including meaty food items and algae. A high-quality marine omnivore flake food with these items can supply adequate levels of these nutrients. Feed two to three times per day. Food choices may include microalgae such as spirulina, zooplankton such as cyclops, and small crustaceans such as krill, mysis, and artemia.

Sexual Differences

All clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites. In other words, they are born as males and, as they mature, they morph into females. The largest and most aggressive fish in the group is a female, and she is the only female to reproduce. Thus, if a pair of fire clownfish reproduces, one is a dominant female. If the female in the group dies, a juvenile male will change sex and become a new functioning female. To determine which of a pair of fire clownfish is the female, simply look for the larger fish.


Fire clownfish are easy to breed in a home aquarium, though raising the fry (babies) can be more challenging because they are so tiny. A breeding pair will stay close together in your tank. The female will lay her eggs on a flat surface, and the couple will defend their eggs from others in the tank community. Fire Clownfish eggs hatch in eight to 11 days (the timing depends upon the temperature of the water). Once the eggs hatch, you will need to shift the fry to a separate aquarium. Feed fire clownfish fry on rotifers and then, when they are a bit bigger, on baby brine shrimp.