Clownfish make for the most adorable little pets, and if you are a proud clownfish owner you probably want them to thrive in their aquarium. As clownfish originate from the ocean where they live in the shelter of sea anemones and corals, putting some in their aquariums will make them feel more at home. So, first things first, which are the best corals for clownfish?
Anemones and corals have a symbiotic relationship with clownfish, so it is a great idea to get one for your little pet. Some of the best options include Bubble Tip Anemone, Duncan Coral, Hammer Coral, Magnificent Sea Anemones, Leathery Anemone, Carpet Sea Anemone, Torch Coral, Toadstool Coral, Aurora Anemone, Corkscrew Sea Anemone, and Zoas.
However, clownfish have a mind of their own, and different ones seem to host different kinds of corals and anemones. Clownfish that are directly taken from the ocean also react differently than the ones bred in aquariums. So it can get a little hard choosing the perfect coral. To make your decision easier, in this article I discuss 11 beautiful options and which ones your pet will love.
What Makes Coral Suitable for Clownfish?
In the ocean, clownfish live under the shelter of corals and sea anemones, i.e., they “host” them. Sea anemones and corals are quite different, as corals have a sort of skeleton and are harder, whereas anemones are soft and filled with water and can be rather squishy.
Providing a healthy environment for your clownfish is important, and will make sure they live a long and healthy live.
The clownfish and Anthozoans (Anemones and Corals) take part in a symbiotic relationship that is that the hosts provide shelter and protect the fish from predators and the fish provide nutrients for the host and also clean the leftovers of algae of other fish.
Though your pet clownfish will grow very well even without any Anthozoans in their aquarium, for generations they have been sheltered and it is instinctive to them. Plus, Anemones and corals can be beautiful. They can add to the overall beauty of your aquarium. So, you can easily impress guests with a little ‘ocean’ inside your home.
Did you know you can also add a silicone anemone to your clownfish tank as an artificial substitute. Your clownfish will also host these, and they can be a little more hassle free than real coral and anemones. They are not very expensive and are available here on Amazon.
Anemones are usually more popular amongst clownfish owners. However, different types of clownfish tend to ‘prefer’ different kinds of Anemones. Here’s a list of six different kinds of Anemones, all very beautiful, that your pet clownfish will love:
1. Bubble Tip Anemones
Bubble Tip Anemones are one of the most colorful kinds of Anemones with long, thin, finger-like extensions with a sort of bubble-like tip, that swirl about in the water. Apart from being beautiful to look at, Bubble Tip Anemones are also very easy to keep, as they are low maintenance and easily adapt to home aquariums.
Furthermore, they are the most common choice for hosts as different types of clownfish like Red and Black, Cinnamon, Clark’s Yellow Tail, Red Saddleback, etc all readily accept Bubble Tips. They are also very easy to propagate and are less predatory than Carpet Anemones.
2. Magnificent Sea Anemones
These are one of the biggest anemones there are, with a large blob-like disc for a body, with colorful and smaller tentacles and extensions. They often change color from bright reds, pinks to neon blue or purple.
They are rather difficult to maintain and require very good water conditions and the perfect lighting to thrive and stay alive. In one tank, they will host only one kind of clownfish and may host different types in other types. Skunk, Percula, Pink Skunk, and Ocellaris Clownfish tend to prefer this type of Anemone as their host.
3. Leather Sea Anemones
Ranging from beiges and yellows to greens, Leather Sea Anemones are one of the more subtle options, if that is the vibe you are going for. Also called Sebae Anemone, some of them have vibrant tips colored purple, mauve, or even blue. The tentacles look rather leathery, hence the name.
These are host to about 14 different kinds of clownfish including Tomato, Saddleback, Fire, Pink Skunk Clownfish, etc. This is one of the most commonly imported types of Sea Anemones, however, they might not always do well in captivity. Hence it is best for experienced aquarium owners.
4. Carpet Sea Anemones
This sticky carpet, like an anemone, is about 1.5 feet large, appearing in colors like blue, beige, green, orange, tan, etc. Their entire body is covered with small sticky extensions, making them look a lot like a carpet. They can be like a living room carpet for your clownfish.
Clark’s Yellowtail, False Percula, Ocellaris Clownfish, etc host well to Carpets. There are larger species called Giant Carpets and smaller types as well. These are a little rare in the aquarium trade business, as they are rather delicate and only thrive in matured reef aquariums.
5. Beaded (Aurora) Sea Anemones
With tentacles that look like a string of beads, the Beaded Sea Anemones are a great option to add to your aquarium. Though rather muted in color ( beige and creams ), the concentric designs make them look unique and beautiful. Each tentacle has beads like bulges, with white spots which together may form different designs.
Up to 7 different kinds of clownfish, like the Clarke’s Yellowtail Clownfish, can take Beaded Sea Anemones as hosts. It is more suitable for younger clownfish and is often called a nursery, as older clownfish tend to attach to different Anemones.
6. Corkscrew Sea Anemone
Originally found in muddy, sand bottoms of oceans, these are purplish-gray to brown in color and are more on the smaller side. They also have fewer tentacles than other anemones, and they are long and swirl around each other.
Corkscrew Sea Anemones usually host Pink Skunk, White Stripe, Gold Stripe, Maroon, Spinecheek, and Clark’s YellowTail clownfish. These do not always host clownfish, but even so, they will add to the beauty of your aquarium.
The Perfect Coral Home for Your Clownfish
Corals can also make amazing hosts that your clownfish will love. These are usually more rigid in structure. Corals (and even anemones) are an essential part of natural reefs and they also contribute to bettering the environment of reef aquariums as well.
Please note that a lot of these corals are also on my list of beginner friendly corals for a reef tank. You can find that one here for more inspiration.
Here is a list of a few corals that your clownfish might choose as a host:
7. Duncan Corals
Displaying vibrant colors such as pink, white, and cream with a white skeleton, Duncan Corals can make for a beautiful addition to your talk. Contrary to other corals, these have shorter tentacles and also few in number, such that the skeleton can be seen as well.
These are easy to care for and grow very fast. Ocellaris, False Percula, Orange Clownfish, etc tend to take a liking to Duncan Colonies. Though other types also can take them up as hosts and thrive in symbiosis. These do not sting, like a lot of other Anthozoans, and hence make it easy to introduce other corals as well.
8. Hammer Corals
Often referred to as Euphyllia Hammer Coral or Anchor Coral, these look unique with their T-shaped tips and puffy tube-like tentacles and can even remind you of mushrooms. They appear in colors of blue-gray to orange, and often even fluorescent green. Also check out my specific species spotlight for more info.
These do sting neighboring corals and are considered to be very “aggressive”, so give them plenty of room. True Percula Clownfish tend to like these as hosts, but the corals themselves might not be as welcoming. So, it is best to just test it out before making any stronger commitments with Hammer Corals.
9. Torch Corals
Torch Corals are also another beautiful species of coral, which have illuminated tips that make them look like thin torches. Sometimes also called PomPom or Trumpet, these have large, tubular tentacles and can often be bi-colored with different colors for the tentacles and different for the tips, making them look illuminated.
Though very beautiful, certain clownfish can even kill the corals with their “nuzzling” and can hamper expansion. But this does not always happen, with some clownfish like the Oscillera can host Torch Corals without any problems.
10. Toadstool Coral
Toadstool Corals are great for beginners in the saltwater aquarium hobby, as they are easy to care for, and almost any tank bred clownfish like Percula Clownfish, Osciellera, etc. will host them.
They look a little like mushrooms, and they are often called mushroom corals as well. They have a long stalk and an umbrella-like top which is covered with tiny white extensions, which may look like a carpet. They look fuzzy when fully extended and smooth when the toadstool retracts its polyps. The most common ones are peach or pinkish in color, while some may have green, “glowing” tips.
There are many different kinds of Zoa or Zoanoid Corals like the Paradise Zoanthids, Purple Heart Zoas, Todo Zoas, Blue Hornet Zoas, etc and they are all extremely vibrant and beautiful. Each of these has different designs, which are often in circular forms, with tentacles on the edges, and they display a wide variety of bright neon colors.
Zoanthids are popular, but can be dangerous due to toxins. Read my species spotlight for more info.
Different clownfish, like the Osciellera Clownfish, may choose the vibrant zoa as their hosts.
Introducing New Corals and Anemones To Your Clownfish
Anthozoans and clownfish together make up the fragile ecosystem of your aquarium. So while it is easy to care for these once they have settled in, there are certain things you should keep in mind when introducing a new coral or anemone into your aquarium.
The first and most important rule is that you should not place corals and anemones together in your tank. Anemones sting and can kill corals and also other fish. They will even sting humans mildly when touched. So, you must be careful with them. Clownfish themselves are protected by a slimy layer that covers their body, so they do not experience any stinging and co-exist.
Apart from that, both anemones and corals require very specific conditions to thrive and be healthy. Here are some things that you should check and adjust according to the species of coral or anemone you plan to introduce into your aquarium.
Depending on the species, you will need different water conditions. You should acclimate the water in your aquarium beforehand, and ensure that it is maintained. Water salinity, pH, and temperature should always be moderated at a temperature that suits your Anthozoa.
Some of these hosts also photosynthesize. Depending on where they naturally occur in the ocean, they are exposed and accustomed to different amounts of sunlight reaching them.
This must be maintained, according to the species and compatible lighting sources should be installed inside the aquarium. For example, Bubble Tip Anemones require high-output lighting or LED lights. So, these must be present in the aquarium for the host to thrive.
Where you choose to place your host candidate is also an important factor. This is because certain types of Anthozoa move around a lot, and some others are virtually immobile. So, depending on how they behave, they need to place appropriately, in a way that is beneficial for them to grow and co-exist with the other things in the tank.
Some hosts may even expand onto things like pipes, pumps, and filters that are present in the tank. Often anemones like the Bubble Tip get sucked into the pumps. So make sure those are protected beforehand.
Though corals and anemones make the perfect companion for clownfish, such is not true for all fish. They can be toxic to the overall aquarium environment. Most types of either usually eat other fish as well. So, ensure that the other fish in the tank, if any, will not be harmed by the presence of a coral or an anemone.
Size of Aquarium
This is a lot more obvious, but certain types of corals and anemones can grow and reproduce in large numbers and can end up taking a lot of space. So before getting a new one, keep the existing size of your tank in mind, so that it does not become overcrowded after a point.
Even if you are bringing in the host for your clownfish, you have to realize that the host itself is also another living, breathing organism. Though not all types of corals and anemones require to be fed regularly, as they can get nutrition from the clownfish, some of them do.
They usually tend to need proteins, and small cut-up pieces of sea-food are perfect. So it is best to stock up on those and feed them according to what they demand. Remember to always be careful while handling them, because they can sting.
What if Your Clownfish Doesn’t Like Its Host?
Clownfish seem like they have very specific tastes, and they can thrive even without a host. But most tank-bred clownfish will host almost anything they want to, some of them even hosting the corners of a tank, or a powerhead, or the filter in the tank. They do whatever they please. So, there is no hard and fast rule as to which clownfish will host which coral or anemone.
The suggestions I have listed are based on the most common experiences of different clownfish owners and of course from their behavior in natural environments like the sea bed. However, if your clownfish is behaving differently and not ‘liking’ their new host, there is nothing to worry about. This is pretty common among clownfish grown in captivity.
There is nothing really for you to fix in such a case, as corals and anemones are not even necessary in the first place. So, you could just leave them there, and if your clownfish do not end up liking your choice, they will just find another host. Or you could introduce some other different kind of a host and see whether they like that.
Sometimes though, even if the clownfish love the host, the host does not reciprocate and may stop expanding like with Torch Corals. In such cases, the corals can also die. The whole process is therefore just trial and error, as each clownfish is different and they behave differently. So, the best approach is to experiment differently and check which ones work best for you.
With the growing popularity of people finding their own Nemos, reef aquariums are also becoming more and more popular. It is surprisingly easy to maintain large tanks, and start with saltwater aquariums and it is fast becoming a very fun hobby for a lot of people.
Saltwater aquariums with clownfish (BTW, check out this page to learn what clownfish eat) are the perfect vessel to store, grow and display your amazing collection of corals and anemones. Especially since clownfish like to live in small numbers, filling the tank with corals and anemones fills up space, and it can be interesting and fulfilling to see and grow these two together in their symbiotic relationship.
So, if you are a reef tank enthusiast and you own clownfish, you should check out the wide range of options available for your clownfish to host. Now that you are more informed, you can choose the best corals for clownfish that you own. Best of luck!