The Orange Clownfish (Amphiprion percula) is a popular fish among the coral reefs, and can be found in most aquatic centres. Many children will liken this species to the popular film character Nemo, although Nemo is actually based on the Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). Other names for this species include the True Percula Clownfish, Blackfinned Clownfish and the Eastern Clown Anemonefish.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
The Orange Clownfish (also known as anemonefishes) live among the sea anemones on coral reefs and lagoons. This species inhabits the shallower, warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, off northwest Australia including the Great Barrier Reef, southeast Asia and Japan. Preferred anemones need to be large enough to provide protection, it is commonly associated with the Ritteri Anemone (Heteractis magnifica), the Sebae Sea Anemone (Heteractis crispa) and the Giant Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).
The orange clownfish, as its name suggests, has an overall orange elliptical shaped body. The head, middle of body and tail base have a broad black-edged white band, with the middle one bulging out slightly towards the head. The dorsal fins are rounded, as is the black and white edged caudal fin (tail). All fins have black edges, although they vary in their thickness. Adults usually grow to about 8cm (just over 3 inches) although larger specimens have been recorded as big as 11cm (4.3 inches). Although very similar to the ocellaris clownfish, this species has 10 spines on the first dorsal fin, the ocellaris has 11, and on the ocellaris the dorsal fin is higher where the spines are.
DIET, BEHAVIOUR AND REPRODUCTION
The orange clownfish lives within its sea anemone home for protection. It helps the anemone by cleaning it of algae, chasing away fish that may nibble on the anemone (sometimes emitting a high pitched sound) and luring prey fish towards the anemones stinging tentacles (nematocysts). The orange clownfish is immune to the anemones stings, and its fecal matter helps feed the anemone. This relationship is known as symbiosis, or mutually beneficial. The orange clownfish mainly feed on zooplankton, algae, marine invertebrates and small crustaceans.
The reproductive system with orange clownfish is extremely complex. Small groups contain a matriarch (dominant breeding female), a breeding male and up to 4 smaller non-breeding males. Interestingly all the clownfish are born male, but if the matriarch dies the breeding male is able to change sex to take her place, this is known as protandry (male change to a female) and is a type of sequential hermaphroditism. In this instance the largest of the non-breeders becomes the breeding male, all others remain non-functional. A non-breeder will only ever get a chance to breed if a dominant male or female dies, and even then it depends how large he is compared to his fellow non-breeders! Males will attract a female in a series of displays including darting, chasing and fin flexing. Females will lay between 400 and 1500 eggs per cycle. The female lays the eggs through an ovipositor (egg-laying tube) which protrudes from her belly area, and the male then fertilizes the released eggs. The male is extremely protective of the eggs, he will regularly aerate them and will eat any bad eggs to keep the nest free from rot and bacteria.
OTHER NOTABLE INFORMATION
Although generally orange, the orange clownfish does come in other patterns and colours. As the image above shows there is also a black and white variant. Others include all white, black stained orange (as can be seen in these photos), and many other combinations of black, orange and white although the bands always remain white.
The orange clownfish is at present not threatened.