Clown fish are the most well known of a group of fish known as anemone fish. Anemone fish have a unique adaptation that allows them to thrive where few animals would dare to venture. They live among the deadly tentacles of the sea anemone, an animal that roots to the coral and resembles a plant more than an animal. The anemone has a sting that can paralyze, allowing the anemone to draw the prey fish in and devour it slowly. They instinctively sting almost any animal that touches them.
Anemone fish have a mucous that is sugar based, rather than protein based, as with most fish. It is believed that this prevents the anemone from recognizing the clown fish and anemone fish as a source of food. Clown fish rapidly retreat into the anemone whenever a predator swims near. They stay close at all times and are known to be loyal to one anemone for long periods of time.
This symbiotic relationship benefits the clown fish by protecting it from predators. The clown fish eats the dead tentacles and scraps of food that have been captured by the anemone. The anemone benefits from being able to consume the feces of the clown fish. The clown fish also protects the anemone from predators and parasites. The movements of the clown fish also aerate the tentacles of the anemone. It is also believed that the bright colours of the clown fish attract predators that come to eat the clown fish but end up being preyed upon by the anemone.
Clown fish are among the most sought after of all salt water tropical fish due to the love for these beautiful creatures among aquarium owners. Due to the Disney film “Finding Nemo”, few fish are as readily recognizable or as adored as clown fish.