Mollie Fain

These fish are seen with either orange or black skin with three horizontal white stripes. They usually grow to an average size of 4 inches and 3 inches long. This species of clownfish are able to form a symbiotic relationship with another organism called Actiniaria or the sea anemone. These are part of the phylum cnidaria because of their stinging tentacles.

The organism I have been researching is the Ocellaris Amphiprion which is commonly known as the False or Common Clownfish. It is a fish that lives in coral reefs and shallow lagoons, in general they are found in warm waters near Japan or Australia [1].

The clownfish helps the sea anemone by ventilating and eating algae off their tentacles while the clownfish gains a home and protection from predators. This relationship between them is actually made possible because of mucus. The sea anemone is able to sting predators but not the clownfish because clownfish have a thick layer of mucus that protects them from the sting. If it were to be stung then it was because its mucus layer got wiped off [1]. 

The one between a clownfish and sea anemone, is known as a mutualistic protocooperation symbiosis because they both benefit from each other but is not an obligatory relationship [2].

The life cycle of the clownfish is very interesting. Clownfish are actually hermaphrodites, which means they are born as males and then mature into females later [1]. This has a part in their hierarchy and breeding. Dominance is based on size, and it’s always the largest female who is in charge [4]. If the female dies, the male who was her partner, will fill the gap by changing genders to take control of the group [4]. The anatomy of the fish changes along with behavior, the fish will court the other fish just like the previous female. 

The clownfish’s breeding season is year round and usually in tropical waters. If there is a family living within a sea anemone, the eggs will be laid near them for protection [1]. The male will guard these eggs until they hatch which would be four to five days [1]. 

For my umwelt, I will describe how the clownfish feels in its sea anemone. I can see the familiar tentacles of my home in front of me. I swim past some coral and see my family nibble on the algae of the anemone. I am eager to be home. I swim towards my family and watch as the leader female lay her eggs on coral next to the anemone. The male takes his place and circles around the coral, he watches out for predators. I am only a juvenile and very small thus I am part of the lower hierarchy. I swim away from the group and pass through the tentacles of the sea anemone, I barely feel anything through the layers of my mucus. As I swim through my home, I feel very safe. 

This is my clownfish animation that I made from cut out pieces of paper and watercolor. The sea anemone had twenty four plus tentacles that were cut and taped with string. I did this to replicate the flow of real anemones in the sea. The cut out clownfish is the same on each side so I could easily flip it when I wanted to change the direction of its path. The animation depicts a clownfish swimming around in its home, which is the sea anemone. The clownfish quickly rushes into the tentacles of its home when it spots the shadow of a boat. It stays hidden in there until the danger passes and then goes out of frame to swim around freely.




An Exploration of the Clownfish. (2005). Retrieved May 16, 2020, from

Brenner, L. (2019, March 02). What Is a Symbiotic Relationship? Retrieved May 16, 2020, from

Roux, N., Lami, R., Salis, P., Magré, K., Romans, P., Masanet, P., . . . Laudet, V. (2019, December 20). Sea anemone and clownfish microbiota diversity and variation during the initial steps of symbiosis. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from

Casas, L., Saborido-Rey, F., Ryu, T., Michell, C., Ravasi, T., & Irigoien, X. (2016, October 17). Sex Change in Clownfish: Molecular Insights from Transcriptome Analysis. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from