How Long do Clownfish Live? (Clownfish Lifespan Explained)

As a saltwater fish owner, one of the first questions I asked myself was how long do clownfish live. These are among my favorite types of fish, and I wanted to know what to expect when I just purchased them. That was when I began to research the topic a little deeper. 

Clownfish live between 6 to 10 years on average in captivity. Providing them with the right tank size and water conditions will increase the chances of extending their lives. On the other hand, stressful situations such as inappropriate tankmates may shorten their lifespan dramatically. 

As we move forward in this article, I will elaborate on the specific steps you should take to extend the lifespan of your clownfish. That will be followed by the common mistakes you should avoid, which may harm your clownfish’ health significantly. 

How Long do Clownfish Live?

The Disney movie ‘Finding Nemo’ is partly responsible for the explosion in interest that clownfish have experienced over the last several years. Also, the fact that they are so colorful can’t be ignored. Everyone wants a clownfish in their aquarium. But how long do they live? The answer is both complicated and straightforward.

Technically speaking, clownfish can live anywhere between 6 to 10 years.[1] However, that is merely an estimate. It also has nothing to do with the potential lifespan of clownfish since there are multiple factors in the equation. 

That is to say, clownfish are not necessarily genetically engineered to live 6-10 years. That is simply the average lifespan that you see in the aquarium. However, as was mentioned above, that is merely an estimate. Those figures tend to vary with each aquarium and fish owner.

Some fish owners will tell you that their clownfish do not survive for longer than three or four years. And if that experience mirrors your own, you might be shocked to hear from other fish owners who have kept their clownfish for 10, 15, 20, 25, and even 30 years. 

This goes back to the point that was made above. The lifespan of a clownfish won’t be the same for every aquarium. While the average lifespan (6-10 years) is common in many fish, you will find fish owners whose clownfish either fall far below or drastically exceed those figures.

You should also consider genetics when it comes to clownfish lifespan. Some fish live longer simply because they have good genes. Others cannot survive for more than a few years because their genetics will not permit it. 

It has become fairly commonplace these days for fish owners to produce designer fish with special colors using selective breeding processes. While these clownfish are more attractive than their wild counterparts, they normally have shorter lifespans. 

They are bred with the intention of improving their aesthetic value. However, no attention is given to the impact such selective breeding will have on their health. As such, they die quicker. 

Responsible breeding practices can produce clownfish with extended lifespans. Still, you rarely see this in the common clownfish that you find in most pet stores. That is because the people who rear them are more interested in making a profit than they are in producing high-quality clownfish. As such, they show no interest in culling bad stock. 

There is also the issue of captive versus caught clownfish. Those that are caught in the wild do not live as long as their counterparts in captivity. This is because the process of catching clownfish in the wild and transporting them exerts a lot of stress. This reduces their lifespan significantly. 

Can You Extend the Lifespan of Your Clownfish?

When people hear that they can extend the lifespan of their clownfish, they immediately presume that they are expected to carry out complex genetic manipulation and selective breeding. But that isn’t true.

Precluding genetic factors, the lifespan of a fish is going to depend on the quality of care it receives. If your clownfish cannot survive for more than a few years in your aquarium, your own actions are to blame.

If you treat a clownfish appropriately, if you maintain the water in its tank, keeping the parameters within the required range whilst also providing a varied diet, the creature will survive for decades. A clownfish will live longer in captivity than it will in the wild because it has no immediate predators in an aquarium.

It also has all its needs met. Clownfish don’t live that long in pet stores because fish retailers neglect them. If you can avoid the negligent behavior that fish retailers have been known to manifest, your clownfish will live for a very long time.

How to Extend the Life of Your Clownfish

Like all pets, clownfish require maintenance. As long as you are holding them captive in a tank, they are entirely dependent on you. In other words, the length of their lifespan is going to depend on the effort you inject into caring for them.

If you can keep the following factors in mind, your clownfish are likely to live for several more years, possibly even decades:

1. Get the Right Tank Size

Clownfish cannot thrive in a small tank. They need a tank of at least 20 gallons. Also, if you have an anemone, the tank should be at least 50 gallons. Anemones need a larger tank than the clownfish themselves. 

A smaller tank will make your fish feel oppressed and crowded, especially if you have too many fish in the tank. Stress is not suitable for clownfish. It will attract diseases which can, in turn, reduce the life expectancy of your fish.

Regarding that topic, I highly recommend that you take a look at my aquarium kits buyer’s guide. I’ve reviewed there the 20-gallons tank, which I personally use. Getting that kit was one of the most cost-effective choices I made so far. I also mentioned there a 55-gallons tank that received hundreds of positive reviews online, in case you are willing to raise an anemone.  

2. Use the Right Heater

Clownfish live in water with temperatures ranging from 74 to 79 degrees F. You cannot maintain this temperature range without a heater. Some people think that they can use the ambient temperature to maintain the conditions in their tanks.

But that is not true. The ambient temperature is not reliable, and it takes your control in the situation. You cannot choose to raise or lower the heat. You need a heater to keep the temperature stable. 

Not only are clownfish not fond of water that is too hot or too cold, but they do not respond positively to wild fluctuations. When these occur, your clownfish will consistently go under stress and perhaps even fail to breed. 

On that matter, encourage you to read my review regarding my favorite aquarium heater. That was the only device that kept my water temperature stable enough for delicate fish such as clownfish and seahorses. Do not compromise on heaters. They play a significant role when it comes to your clownfish’s health.  

3. Choose the Right Location

Put your tank in a peaceful location. Keep it away from busy rooms with a lot of human traffic. You should also keep the tank far from radiators, windows and air conditioners because they can affect the temperature of the water, causing unwanted fluctuations.[2]

Keep in mind that high traffic areas will stress your clownfish and perhaps even encourage them to jump out of the tank, as I elaborated on this article. If that had happened to you already, you might find there the solutions to prevent that from reoccurring. 

4. Get a Few Decorations

Clownfish need large tanks that provide them with plenty of room to swim. But you should also add decorations and plants, especially if you have chosen to pair your clownfish with aggressive species.

Clownfish can survive in tanks without plants and decorations. But they are more likely to thrive if they have places in the tank where they can hide. This is one of the reasons why some fish owners prefer to pair clownfish with anemones. Anemones give clownfish a sense of security.

However, some clownfish have no interest in hosting anemones. In such cases, you should endeavor to create hiding places that they can use to secure their privacy. However, try to avoid sharp edges objects. These could harm your clownfish’ fins. 

5. Consider the Number of Clownfish

Clownfish are very territorial, and they tend to manifest aggressive behavior when you add other clownfish to their tank. If you are new to the species, most professionals will encourage you to keep only two clownfish in your container.

They will eventually pair off and breed. If you have multiple clownfish, the breeding pair will probably harass the other clownfish in the tank. You can probably get by with five or more fish because the harassment will be more spread out.

But you have to think about the size of your tank. Do not crowd your fish. The chances of violent confrontations tend to increase. Also, it is more challenging to keep the aquarium and its water clean. 

6. Feed Them Right

Clownfish need a regular diet. They should be fed two or three times a day. Do not give them more food than they can eat in three minutes. As most professionals will tell you, they are not picky eaters. As omnivores, they will consume almost anything you add to their tank.

However, you need to balance their diet. Omnivores eat both animals and plants. You need to keep this in mind. You can feed them live foods, frozen foods, and freeze-dried foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

But you should remember to add flakes and pellets to their diet, specifically flakes and pellets that will add vegetables to their meal. Some clownfish can survive on the algae they find in the tank.[3] But you are still encouraged to add veggies to their meals were possible. 

This ensures that they are getting a balanced diet. 

  • If you can avoid overfeeding and underfeeding them, they should be fine. Any food they fail to eat should be removed from the tank before it spoils the water.

You may also feed your clownfish seaweed, like Nori. That will be highly beneficial for your fish and possibly extend their lifespan. If you are not sure how to do so, take a look at this article I’ve written. I mentioned there the right amounts and techniques to introduce Nori to your clownfish. 

7. Consider Tank Mates

Clownfish have an aggressive streak. But it only becomes a problem when they are housed with their kind. Clownfish live in hierarchical societies that encourage them to fight for dominance against one another. 

As far as other species are concerned, clownfish have peaceful temperaments. If you can pair them with smaller and equally friendly creatures like wrasses, butterflyfish, and damselfish, they should be fine.[4]

Species like eels, triggerfish, and groupers are too aggressive. Angelfish and tangs are not necessarily a danger to clownfish. However, the fact that clownfish are slow swimmers means that fast-swimming fish are going to become a source of stress for them.

8. Keep the Water Consistently Clean

To maintain the health of your clownfish, you need to keep their tank clean. That means buying and installing a filter. You should also make an effort to remove excess food and waste. Buy tools that you can use to clean the bottom of the tank. 

  • Dirty water is going to make your clownfish sick. And sick clownfish won’t live that long. 

Keep an eye on the pH and void chemical imbalances. Change the water regularly to keep it pristine, but don’t change it so frequently that you exert undue stress on the clownfish. If you notice signs of sickness such as lethargy, bloating, and discoloration, take immediate action.

Conclusions

Clownfish live 6 to 10 years on average. However, their lifespan may vary widely and is mainly up to the fish owner. As mentioned, the only thing you need to do to extend the lifespan of your fish is caring for them.

If you’ve done everything right, perhaps genetics have played their role. It could also be that you’ve bought sick clownfish from the pet store. That is why you should pay attention to their appearance and companions before making a purchase. 

I hope my article had answered your question regarding the lifespan of clownfish. If you have any hanging questions, feel free to contact me. I will do everything in my power to get back to you as fast as I can. 

References

  1. https://www.fantaseaaquariums.com/fishes-care/how-long-do-clownfish-live-all-about-clownfish-lifespan/
  2. https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Your-Fish-Live-Longer
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphiprioninae
  4. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/clownfish/#Tank_Mates

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