Introduction to the Tomato Clownfish

The Tomato Clownfish (Also referred to as the Amphiprion frenatus) is one of the most rugged of the anemonefish. It is simple to tend, and doesn’t require any complicated or special set ups to please it.

This species is one of the most commonly seen, and easily available, and it is fairly priced as well. It makes a great option for the amateur saltwater aquarist because of its rugged nature. However, it will be combative towards other fish, particularly as a mature fish, so will require tank mates of a similar nature.

The Tomato Clownfish in a pet store tank

Tomato Clownfish Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Size of fish: 5.5 inches (14 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • pH Range: 7.8-8.4
  • Diet: Omnivore

Their colors range between tomato red to burnt orange, hence the more usual names Red Tomato Clown, Red Clownfish, Tomato Clownfish and the Tomato Anemonefish. Males will sustain their brilliant hues for the entirety of their lives, however the females will change into a dark brown color on the sides as they mature.

Young fish are stamped with three brilliant vertical stripes, but the two on the body diminish as they grow older, leaving the adult with just one band on the head. There are two color classes, a white-striped and a blue-striped, however the blue coloring can be hard to discern when they are young. A few other more common names acquired from the mature color patterns are the Blackback Anemonefish, Onebar Anemonefish and the Bridled Anemonefish.

The Tomato Clownfish pertains to a group of five anemonefish referred to as the Tomato Complex. All mature associates of this complex have a solitary stripe behind the eye region, with the exception of the Fire Clownfish Amphiprion ephippium or the Red Saddleback which is devoid of stripes. The Tomato Clownfish is one of the biggest members of this category, females are known reach around 5 1/2″ (14 cm) in length. But all members are big, with a strong build, coupled with an oval, deep-bodied shape. These fish are the most hostile of the clownfish complexes, and are particularly combative in smaller tanks. They will assault other obedient fish and lesser anemonefishes. They will also bicker with their own class, unless it’s a proven couple, so it is a good idea to house them singly.

A pair of Tomato Clownfish in their host anemone

These are ideal fish for amateurs, all the way up to professional. The bulletproof Tomato Clownfish can survive in a big, hostile reef or fish only tank due to their grumpy attitude. It is selective about its anemone, only being found initially in Bubble Tip Anemones Entacmaea quadricolor in the wild. Couples, particularly females, will accept only host anemones that are equal to their size. They have been successfully bred in captivity, and are usually available singly or as a couple. They are one of the easiest of the clownfish to rear through the larval cycle, and they also have a high hatch rate.

If housing just one fish, be sure to supply them with a tank that is at least 30 gallons. If you are housing a couple, or if you are wanting to add more fish to the tank, 40 gallons or more will be required. With or without an anemone, they will require properly sized power heads, live rock and a skimmer is also recommended on a bigger tank, and frequent water changes. These are rugged clownfish that have been noted to endure tank crashes. Although they are more lenient of the new saltwater hobbyist, they still require proper tank mates and decent water quality.

They are able to be kept with hostile fish like large angelfish and triggers, but adding the Tomato Clownfish first is advised. Tangs, dwarf angelfish and placid angelfish make ideal tank mates as well. In smaller tanks, they will annoy placid gobies and other fish. They can be housed singly or as a proven female/mare couple.

Aquarium Setup

Clownfish can be housed in either a mini reef or a saltwater aquarium. The Tomato Clownfish female tends to get fairly big, sometimes reaching up to 5.5” (14 cm), so a minimum tank size of 30 gallons (114 L) is advised for a single specimen. A minimum of 40 gallons or bigger is recommended for a couple and when housing with other fish.
In tanks devoid of an anemone, be sure to supply plenty of hiding spots. Though it will value a host anemone, it isn’t required as they will happily adjust to a salt water tank lacking one.

Sometimes, they will use an invertebrate, coral or even a rock structure as a surrogate. Live rock is recommended for the fish to forage off and hide in. Supply a region of slower moving water for them to feed. Aquariums with water temperatures ranging between 72° to 82° F (22 – 27° C) work well. Extreme temperatures over 90° F (32° C) or under 64° F (18° C) would be outside of their tolerance. Ideal breeding occurs at temperatures ranging between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). They can handle a pH range from 7.8 to 8.4.

Lighting is a not an issue, unless housing an anemone. If trying to house it with an anemone, a tank that is 50 gallons or bigger is required for the Bubble Tip Anemones E. quadricolor. The clown has no specific lighting demands, however this anemone will require high lighting. The anemone also requires excellent water quality and the tank should ideally be 6 months to a year old be, and be well established. They will swim on all levels of the tank, however if there is a host present, they will spend most of their time close to it, or in it, and they will become very hostile towards tankmates.

Compatible host anemones:

The Tomato Clownfish has only been spotted grouped with the Bubble Tip Anemone Entacmaea quadricolor in the wild.

Although sea anemones are a stunning addition to any reef environment, they are more difficult to keep. When housed with an anemone, the Tomato Clownfish will not stray too far from their host, but these clowns are known to be hostile, and will swim out to drive away other fish.

Tomato Clownfish Quick Aquarium Guide

 

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) – A minimum of 30 gallons is required for a single fish, with 40 gallons plus for a pair. If keeping with an anemone a larger tank of 55 gallons or more is recommended.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Rock structures with ample hiding places are important when there is no anemone present.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any – They have no special lighting requirements though if kept with a host, the anemone will need its appropriate lighting.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – The optimal temperature for good quality eggs and larvae occurs with temperatures of 79° F to 82° F (26° – 28°C).
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • pH Range: 7.8-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any – Provide areas in the tank with calmer water flow for feeding.
  • Water Region: All – If they have a host anemone or coral then they tend to stay in the same vicinity. They will stray from the anemone to chase other fish.

A closeup of the Tomato Clownfish

Fish Keeping Difficulty

These clownfish are extremely rugged and easy to cater for. Amateur aquarists will discover success with the Tomato Clownfish as a first endeavour in the saltwater hobby. Yet, even though they are fairly bulletproof, inferior water quality will still induce disease and illness. Actioning normal water changes, feeding them various foods and having ideal tank mates will keep your anemonefish living a long, good life.

These clownfish affiliate with an anemone in the wild, but they are entirely content without one in the aquarium. These clowns are just as cheerful finding find sanctuary in the rockwork. If you are trying an anemone though, wait until your tank is well-established (At least 6 months old) prior to adding this clownfish, to obtain experience with adding calcium and testing, magnesium and other supplements. They will adore their Bubble Tip Anemone, but they will also become very hostile against other tankmates if there is one present.

Foods and Feeding

The Tomato Clownfish are an omnivores. In the wild, they tend to feed on planktonic copepods, filamentous algae which comprise of planktonic fish eggs, small shrimp and crustacean larvae. Supply a varied diet that comprises meaty foods such as brine shrimp and frozen mysis, shrimp flesh and finely chopped fish or any frozen/thawed prepared foods. They will eat a small amount of algae in the tank, but not a great deal.

As such, they should also be fed pellets and flake foods with Spirulina added, particularly if there is not enough algae in the tank for them to feed on.

Feed mature fish twice a day, and juveniles 3 to 4 times per day, anything they will devour in around 3 minutes, even in a reef habitat. This is particularly crucial in keeping your copepods population from diminishing. Supply a region in the tank where the water is not overly strong to allow them to feed easily.

TOMATO Clownfish Quick Feeding Guide

  • Diet: Omnivore – Try to use products with Spirulina if there is not enough algae in the tank.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Pellet / Tablet: Yes
  • Live foods (fish, shrimp, worms): Varied live food within their diet – while not necessary they may be beneficial to condition them for spawning. A great option is to feed them small feeder shrimp that are gut loaded with nutritious food.
  • Vegetable Food: 50% of their diet
  • Meaty Food: 50% of their diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day.

A video showing this the Tomato Clownfish in a community tank

Gender

Males maintain their brilliant reddish or orange coloring throughout their entire lifetime. Females are usually .4” to .8” (1-2 cm) bigger, and although similarly colored, will change to a dark brown on their sides as they grow older.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Tomato Clownfish has been successfully bred in captivity, and the fry successfully raised. They are generally one of the easiest if not the easiest clowns to spawn in captivity as far as the survival rate and the hatch rate of the larvae are concerned. In captivity, they lay approximately 400 eggs every 10 to 14 days. These eggs incubate in around 7-8 days, and their larval stage is only 9 days. When the fry are 6 to 7 months old, they are allowed to be sold.

The Tomato Clownfish are known to drift further away from their host anemone more than other clowns. Males in the wild are notorious for leaving their mates, kick out a lesser male in a close by anemone and acquire his female, who sequentially does the same thing to the next smaller fish.

Clownfish performances during romancing, dependant on the couple, comprise of angling away from each other so their abdominal surfaces are close, or angling towards each other with their dorsal surfaces near each other, meanwhile thrashing their heads or one or both may participate in head standing. Clownfish do not breed for the entirety of their lives, and will cease breeding several years prior to their life expectancy being over.

A video showing a Tomato Clownfish laying her eggs

The Tomato Clownfish will breed when the water temperature is 79° F or above. A few days before breeding, the male begins to nibble at the substrate in rising intensity and frequency to lure the female. At the same time, the female belly begins to bulge with eggs, and may associate with him in biting the substrate, but not always.

Once the couple has settled on a breeding site, they will completely cleanse the surface for correct egg adhesion. The region is usually near by the anemone, which provides the security of its tentacles. Prior to breeding, if the eggs are close to the tentacles, the clownfish couple will nibble at the anemone to make it withdraw, thereby exposing the full breeding site. The female places her stomach against the surface, and then quivers and pulls herself methodically across the surface, leaving a train of red eggs and will continue this in a spherical pattern until she has placed all of her eggs. The male will then come up from behind her and quickly fertilize the eggs.

Breeding happens two or three hours after sunset, and will usually last around 1 1/2 hours with the clutch of eggs tallying on average between 309 to 551 eggs, with the average being 440, dependant on the size of the female. The bright red eggs are mouthed and fanned to ensure they are kept free of debris, fungal infections, and to keep them well oxidized while they develop.

Within 8 to 10 days, dependant on the temperature of the water, the eggs will hatch 1 to 1.5 hours following sunset. By the 8th day after hatching, they change into post-larval fish. Then they begin to look like smaller versions of their parents.