True Percula Clownfish
The True Percula Clownfish, Amphiprion percula, is one of the most prized, loved and sought-after fish in the hobby, second to its very similar looking cousin the Ocellaris or False Percula Clownfish, Amphiprion ocellaris, (a.k.a Nemo). These two fish look almost identical to one another but have distinct natural distributions with almost no overlap. This beautiful little Orange Anemonefish is a fantastic addition to both beginner and advanced setups.
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Hardiness: Very Hardy
- Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (40 L)
- Size of fish: 3.5 inches (8.8 cm)
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
- pH Range: 7.8-8.4
- Diet: Omnivore
Table of Contents
Social & Compatibility
The Percula Clownfish colors range from almost completely orange or completely white, to white and black and many variations of these combinations. They are also known by such common names as the Orange Anemonefish, Eastern Clown Anemonefish, Eastern Clownfish, Blackfinned Clownfish, Percula Anemonefish, Percula Clownfish and the Orange Clownfish.
These Clownfish have been bred successfully within captivity many times and as a result many “designer” color combinations have been created. The “Picasso Clownfish” is a very popular term that is being used, as just like a Picasso- no two fish are exactly the same. Other variations include the Platinum Percula Clownfish, Snow Onyx Percula and Mis-Bar Percula.
You can be confident that you will be paying a premium when purchasing a Picasso fish or other designer variations. On the bright side, they are known for their long-life spans and durability in the aquarium, so your investment is well worth it if you look after them.
The Percula Clownfish is not as big as the Ocellaris as they will typically only reach around 3” long. They are in fact the smallest out of all the Clownfish but are still very hard to differentiate as their colors are so similar to one another -a very keen eye is required. When the Ocellaris Clownfish have their original coloring, they won’t have such thick, well defined black edging around their white bars. The True Percula Clownfish will be seen with this trait. The dorsal fin is the only other real distinctive difference between these two, with Percula Clownfish having 10 dorsal spines (and in rare cases 9) and the Ocellaris having 11. The Dorsal fin on the Ocellaris also has a larger front half.
These clownfish are the only members found in the Percula Complex. They do share a similar lineage with each other and surprisingly with the Maroon Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus, as well. This can be seen when observing their body shapes and swimming habits. Through molecular phylogenetic analysis biologists who specialize in fish have been able to show a common ancestry that all 3 of these Clownfish types share. This process is used to analyze DNA and protein sequences as well as many other things. It has even been suggested that the False Percula Clownfish and the True Percula would be put into the Maroon Clownfish genus as there is such strong similarities between them all.
True Percula Clownfish tend to always get along with other fish that are peaceful or semi-aggressive. Having an Anemone will protect them from other boisterous fish like the 5-line wrasses and don’t always seem too bothered by larger more intimidating fish. It is recommended not to house them with fish that could swallow them whole e.g. larger eels and Groupers. They should also not be kept in nano tanks with fish such as Dottybacks.
When compared to their cousins, they are a bit more aggressive towards their own kind, so it is best to either keep them as a mated pair or singly. They can be housed with Skunk Clownfish if both species have host anemones that are at least 2 feet apart from each other. Try avoiding housing them with the Maroon Clownfish and with most of the Clarkii Clownfish unless you have a very large tank. This is due to the fact that these fish are just to aggressive to be kept in close proximity to one another unless your tank is at least 6-foot-long or bigger and can allow each of the Clownfish an anemone located at opposite ends. Maroon Clownfish have been known to swim over to other sides of tanks that are 4 foot, just to attack other Clownfish.
The True Percula Clownfish has a fairly deep body, with an elongated body that is similar to that of the Maroon clowns and the Ocellaris. They will have 10 dorsal spines, and in rare cases just 9 with a deep dip in the middle of their dorsal fin which can make it look as though there is 2 of them. Their tail fin is rounded which does prevent them from being very agile swimmers.
An example of a Black Percula Clownfish
Clownfish are able to be kept in both large saltwater tanks or mini reefs. The True Percula is the smallest of all Clownfish variations, so a tank size should have 10 gallons at the minimum as long as water quality is maintained. This 10 gallons would be for 1 fish, with 20 gallons needed for a pair. If your tank does not have an anemone, ensure there are plenty of places to hide and do not add aggressive tank mates. Anemones are recommended but not essential for the Clownfish as they will adapt to their surroundings. They can be seen utilizing other corals, invertebrates, structures and substrates for safety. Live rock is recommended for both hiding in and foraging amongst.
If you are attempting to house them with an Anemone, ensure your tank is at least 55 gallons or bigger, which may change depending on species and individual anemone requirements. Clownfish do not require any specific lighting, but the anemone will do. It needs good water flow and the tank should be mature and well established, 6 months or more with over a year being preferable. Most other fish will spend their time avoiding the Anemones tentacles, while your Clownfish will be found nestled amongst them.
The tropical areas they live in are generally around 80° F (26.7° C), with temperatures of between 74° – 82° F (23.3 – 27.8° C) working best inside your aquarium. Anything above or below these ideal ranges can cause major problems for them. Optimal spawning will occur at temperatures between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). These fish will tolerate pH levels of between 7.8-8.4.
True Percula Clownfish Aquarium Guide
- Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (76 L) – A minimum of 10 gallons is required for a single fish, with 20 gallons plus for a pair
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes – Strict water maintenance is required
- Live Rock Requirement: Yes – Will hide in caves and secluded sections of rock-work
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Any
- Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
- Breeding Temperature: 79°F to 83°F (26.1°C to 28.3°C)
- Specific gravity: 1.023 – 1.025 SG
- pH Range: 7.8 – 8.4
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Any
- Water Region: All areas, usually around their host Anemone
The True Percula Clownfish is recommended to all hobbyists and especially beginners as they are durable and easy to care for in the home aquarium- especially if they have been bred in captivity. They are known for being pretty resistant to most infectious diseases and are rarely seen with any. Members from the Amphiprion group are known for being hardy and will respond well to being treated with copper or medicine if they do get infected. Like most other Clownfish, they can be bred with proper techniques and raised well in tanks.
It appears that wild caught specimens are more often in better physical shape than their Ocellaris cousins. This is probably because of the high demand for the Ocellaris variety and fetch a higher price. However, they will need more time to adapt to the home aquarium than the captive bred ones, with clean water and live foods greatly increasing these chances. As they are used to having host anemones, wild caught fish should be provided with an anemone. An anemone doesn’t need to always be provided if the other tank mates are peaceful and non-confronting. If they are put into stressful situations, and can’t hide in an anemone, they will fall ill to disease and die as is typical with all saltwater fish. Having an anemone to host them allows you much more freedom when choosing appropriate tanks mates.
The True Percula Clownfish is an omnivore. In the wild they will be seen feeding on algae, very small shrimp, polychaete worms, fish larvae, planktonic fish eggs and Anemone tentacles. You should provide a diet that is varied with meaty foods like brine and mysis shrimp and finely chopped shrimp and fish. It is also good to feed them flakes and pellets with Spirulina added if your tank does not have much algae in it.
Adults should be feed twice a day with 3-4 feeds being offered to juveniles. They should consume their food in about 3 minutes. Keeping them fed will ensure your tanks population of copepods is sustained. An area in the tank where water flow isn’t too strong is recommended so they can feed easier.
True Percula Clownfish Feeding Guide
- Diet: Omnivore
- Flake Foods: Yes – Clownfish specific flake food
- Pellet Foods: Yes – Clownfish specific pellet food
- Live foods: Occassionaly, especially for a breeding pair when they are spawning
- Vegetable Food: 10% of their diet
- Meaty Food: 90% of their diet
- Feeding Frequency: Several times per day. Keeping them well fed will stop them eating copepods or nipping at other corals.
Females are larger than the males. True Percula Clownfish have been bred very successfully in captivity with fry reared. All Clownfish will be undifferentiated at birth but will switch sex later on in life if needed. Social cues will see them change into juvenile males and when the opportunity presents itself, the most dominant one will switch to become a female fish. In order to gain a pair, ensure you get 2 different sized fish so that the larger will quickly take on the female gender and the smaller male remains as he is. Clownfish will not spawn for their entire lives with this stopping many years before their life expectancy is over.
In the wild they will spawn when the water is 79°F to 83°F (26.1°C to 28.3°C) as well as in captivity. It is quite important to feed them with nutritious foods in order to fatten them up. Courtship will occur between 3-5 days before spawning, with the females belly beginning to swell with eggs during this time.
As males and females get closer to spawning they will enthusiastically clean an area of rock located very close to their host anemone. This is where their eggs will eventually be stuck onto, so it needs to be cleaned properly. Various rituals can be observed such as touching their ventral surfaces, head standing and leaning towards each other shaking their heads as their dorsal surfaces are touching.
When females are ready to lay their eggs, they will nip at the Anemone, so it retracts and exposes the spawning site. They will then lay their eggs with the male quickly following with fertilization. Late morning to early afternoon is when most spawning is known to occur which can last up to 3 hours. A clutch of these eggs from the Percula Clownfish can be anywhere between 60-700 with an average of 300. Eggs will hatch on the eighth day which usually occurs during the night at around 1 hour after the sun has set and will hatch within a two-hour period where the larvae will eventually ascend into the water column.
Between 8-16 days after, any larvae that has survived from not being eaten or survived fungus or other maladies in captivity, will become free swimming Clownfish. The search for their host anemone will begin for protection asap. There are two forms of recognition of the host anemone that will occur when these fish are actually still growing in their eggs. The first is the scent that each individual anemone gives off when the eggs have been laid, or the actual visual recognition of their parents who are swimming amongst the tentacles. Interestingly, it has been recorded that the Elephant Ear Mushroom coral will emit a similar smell that can lure young juvenile fish to the clutches of this large mushroom, ending their new life very quickly.
In captivity, they will lay between 300-600 eggs per nest and will generally spawn once a month but may also spawn more, around every 3 weeks. The True Percula Clownfish is known to mature more slowly than the Ocellaris Clownfish. These Clownfish will take around 7-8 months to just grow 1.5 inches which is usually when they are considered ready for the market. Ocellaris Clownfish will reach this size a couple of months earlier.