what anemones do clownfish like?

What Anemones Are Good for Clownfish? [A Complete Guide]

(Last Updated On: September 30, 2021)

Anemones and clownfish are the most common symbiotic relationship in the ocean. If you own clownfish in a tank, it’s natural to want to pair them with their tentacled partner. With that said, these organisms aren’t the easiest to raise. You’ll need to pick carefully to ensure your clownfish likes the new home.

The best anemone for your clownfish is whatever your clownfish picks. Pet clownfish don’t truly need anemones. They will host in whatever object they see fit. Sometimes, they won’t host anything at all, but you can still give your fish options. The most popular are the bubble tip, Haddon’s saddleback/carpet, and beaded anemones.

Less beginner-friendly options that clownfish like include magnificent, giant carpet, leathery, Merten’s carpet, corkscrew, sebae anemones. These are the kind found most naturally in the wild and pair well with specific breeds of clownfish. Just keep in mind that there’s little rhyme or reason as to how pet clownfish pick their anemones.

What Anemones Do Clownfish Like?

Clownfish like anemones based largely on their preferences. To avoid an excess of trial and error, it’s wise to begin with the anemones that your clownfish species naturally hosts in the wild.

Your clownfish may even reject this, however. Clownfish are picky creatures and may dislike the shape, color, size, movement, or even random factors about the anemone. After all, clownfish have been known to host even mushrooms and corals. That makes it increasingly hard to pin down their preferences.

With that said, some guesses are better than others. You can observe your clownfish’s behavior and see if it prefers to hide in certain areas. Then, look for any anemones that resemble that hiding spot, perhaps in terms of:

  • Color
  • Shape
  • Size

This won’t be a sure-fire way to get your fish to like your new anemone. However, it may raise your chances of getting an anemone that it likes.

What Kind Of Anemones Do Clownfish Live In?

Clownfish live in all kinds of anemones. This largely depends on their species, but clownfish can adapt and host anemones that they usually don’t. This is even truer for captive-raised clownfish. They are regularly known to host objects that are not anemones.

Nonetheless, you can expect clownfish to host anemones that they naturally host in the wild. Also, note that some anemones won’t host clownfish. That makes it wise to choose pairs that are known to bond in the wild.

Here is a quick chart for the common pet species of clownfish and the anemones that they are known to host:

ClownfishScientific nameNaturally Hosts
Ocellaris, False PerculaAmphiprion ocellarisMagnificent, Giant Carpet
Percula, True Percula, Clown Anemonefish, Picasso
Amphiprion percula
Leathery, Magnificent, Giant Carpet, Merten’s Carpet
Red cinnamon, black cinnamonAmphiprion melanopusBubble tip, Leathery sea
Clark’s Yellowtail
Amphiprion clarkii
Bubble Tip, Leathery, Corkscrew, Beaded, Magnificent, Carpet, Giant Carpet, Sebae, Haddon’s Saddleback Carpet, Merten’s Carpet
Tomato, RedAmphiprion frenatusBubble Tip, Leathery
Red Saddleback, FireAmphiprion ephippiumBubble Tip, Leathery
SaddlebackAmphiprion polymnusHaddon’s Saddleback Carpet, Leathery
Maroon, Spinecheek, White-Stripe, Gold StripePremnas biaculeatusBubble tip, Corkscrew
Orange SkunkAmphiprion sandaracinosLeathery, Merten’s Carpet
Pink Skunk, Pink anemonefishAmphiprion perideraionCorkscrew, Magnificent, Leathery, Giant Carpet

Which Anemone Is Best For Clownfish?

In the context of pets, the type of anemone that your clownfish hosts doesn’t really matter. That’s because clownfish host anemones to protect themselves, first and foremost. In a tank that is peaceful and well-maintained, there is hardly any need for protection.

Therefore, the best anemone for your clownfish is whichever one it likes the most. You can try to nudge your clownfish to pick a certain anemone. In the end, however, the best anemone for it is whichever one it ends up picking.

Of course, the type of anemone that you pick will have its limitations. Anemones can be tricky to raise, and some require special equipment and diets. These half-plant, half-animal hybrids require a great deal of care and attention. Some are also more readily available than others, which will also depend on your location.

Before getting your clownfish to host, an anemone needs to establish itself in the tank first. It is recommended to let a tank run for 6-8 months before adding an anemone. However, it’s ideal to wait a full year.

Note that many anemones are large. If you want natural anemone matches, be prepared for those which are 3 feet in diameter. Otherwise, you can pick non-natural anemone matches, which are smaller and easier to take care of. Here are common species known to be a favorite among clownfish.

Bubble Tip

The most popular anemone is the bubble tip. It’s also the easiest to keep, known to become hosted by many different species. Even those that don’t host them naturally have been known to adapt to a bubble tip.

This anemone is relatively hardy and does not require as many special requirements as other species. It is also relatively smaller, with a maximum growth size of about 1 foot.

This anemone is also easy to source. Because it’s simpler to raise, you can find it in pet stores more commonly than other species.

As a plus, the bubble tip is attractive. If your fish doesn’t host it, it definitely won’t harm the tank.

Haddon’s Saddleback/Carpet

Also known as the carpet or saddle anemone, stichodactyla haddoni is one of the most colorful anemones to host clownfish. The saddleback is easy to raise, lacking onerous requirements other than high light levels.

This species would be just as easy to raise as the bubble tips were it not for its size. Haddon’s saddleback regularly reaches 2 feet across, and sometimes even more. The anemone is also highly aggressive when stinging. 

Nonetheless, if you’re careful with stings, it’s worth considering them for your clownfish. You will need a large tank and ample lighting, but many clownfish species will be happy to settle in.


If you want a subtle appearance, consider the beaded anemone. It’s also known as heteractis aurora or the aurora anemone. It earns its name by looking like a string of grey pearls. 

The beaded anemone is a good choice for novices, as it is known to be hardy. At least, that’s true when it’s provided the right environment. The most challenging aspect of this anemone is that it likes to move around. Otherwise, it’s relatively easy to care for.

Because of its subdued color, the beaded anemone sadly isn’t a favorite among clownfish. That’s especially true for the most common pet species. An exception is Clark’s clownfish or A. clarkii. This species prefers beaded anemones, or you can test your luck with a different kind of clownfish to see if it adapts.

what kind of anemones do clownfish live in?

How To Get My Clownfish To Host Anemone

So, you’ve picked your anemone. Now it’s just a matter of encouraging your clownfish to host it. This will largely depend on the fish itself, but there are ways to nudge your clownfish in the right direction. Here are tips for getting a clownfish to host an anemone:

Use A Scraper Or Net

This is the most common tactic. Start by gently nudging your clownfish with a scraper or a net to get closer to its anemone. Be careful not to touch the anemone, or else it will close up. The goal is to introduce your fish to its new home, much like allowing land-based pets to smell each other.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of showing your fish its new anemone. If it doesn’t like it even still and refuses to host, you can move on to another tactic.

Tube Method

For the tube method, purchase an acrylic tube that will comfortably fit around your clownfish. It should be larger than your clownfish actually is unless you want to imitate a harrowing scene from Finding Nemo. The tube should allow the fish to swim through comfortably.

Position the tube so that it ends just before the anemone. You don’t need it flush with the new home. If you touch the anemone, it will close up.

Place the tube close enough so that the anemone is the first thing your clownfish sees when exiting the tube. Ideally, the position will make it so your fish can’t get distracted by other objects.

Once it’s positioned, gently place the fish on the other end of the tube. Give it time to swim to the other side, and let it explore the anemone on its own.

Tape Up A Photograph

While it sounds odd, this method of getting a clownfish to host is sometimes effective. You will tape a photograph to the side of the aquarium.

It may appear silly, but several aquarists swear by it, especially if your clownfish is stubborn. This photograph will depict a clownfish happily hosting an anemone. For better results, try picking a clownfish of the same species, matched to the same anemone you want yours to host.

In theory, this should teach your clownfish that the anemone is meant to be hosted. However, it could also work because the fish is scared of seeing another fish in its territory. Whatever the reason, it’s still worth trying.

Add More Fish Or Use A Mirror

As a last resort, you can intimidate your clownfish into hosting anemones. Clownfish do so because they need protection from their enemies.

In a peaceful and regulated tank, they might not feel the urge to hunker down. Therefore, adding a degree of risk (whether real or fake) can urge your clownfish to host.

This can be done by adding more fish. It might seem cruel, but an anemone should theoretically make your clownfish feel better. This is a good method to employ if you are adding more fish to your tank anyway. Bigger fish raise your chances of success, even if they are of a shy and peaceful species.

Aside from that, you can add a mirror to the side of the tank. When your clownfish sees another clownfish (which is actually its reflection), it will become territorial. Hopefully, this will encourage it to hide in its own anemone. Once your clownfish gets used to its home, you can remove the mirror.

Separate Both

When all else fails, you can try to separate both the anemone and clownfish in their own isolated tank. If the clownfish doesn’t have anything else to do, there’s a better chance of it hosting the anemone it’s kept with.

To do this, transfer the anemone first. Once it has established itself in the new tank, you can transfer the clownfish. Wait for the clownfish to host its new anemone for as long as the set-up allows.

which anemone is best for clownfish?

Do Clownfish Need Anemones?

In the wild, clownfish need to host anemones to raise their chances of survival. Your fish, however, doesn’t need one.

Pet clownfish may host an anemone out of preference, assuming there is nothing else in the tank. However, because all their needs are taken care of, clownfish don’t truly need an anemone to survive.

How Long Does It Take For Clownfish To Host Anemone?

You can expect your clownfish to host an anemone between a couple of days to a couple of months. The amount of time required largely depends on your clownfish’s preference.

Some clownfish may never take to the anemone you provide. There are tricks you can leverage to encourage your clownfish to like its new friend. However, some fish will utterly refuse and never bond with the anemone you want it to.

Why Do Clownfish Live In Anemones?

Clownfish and anemones are an iconic duo of marine life. Researchers and hobbyists alike have long marveled at how these two organisms cohabit.

The anemone and clownfish have a symbiotic relationship. This means that both animals benefit from the bond. Researchers believed that this was a one-way benefit for many years, wherein only the clownfish earned protection. However, recent studies have shown the bond to be more complex than this.

Prevent Predators

Most of all, clownfish host anemones to hide from predators. Anemones can sting predators that would wander by. The clownfish, which is immune to its sting, can use the anemone to stay in cover and escape attacks from diligent enemies. In return for protection, clownfish fight off the butterfly fish that try to eat the anemone.


According to the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, the ammonia-rich poop of the clownfish can act as fertilizer to the anemone. This helps it to feed and grow in its own right.

Furthermore, clownfish increase the amount of nutrients anemones can eat. Clownfish do this by wriggling themselves through the anemone’s tentacles, increasing oxygen and water flow. This behavior has also been observed on fish who host coral reefs, like gobies and damselfish.

The stronger and healthier the anemone is, the more protection it can offer to the clownfish. This makes it work to its benefit as well.

Do Clownfish Like Fake Anemones?

Some clownfish like fake anemones, while others do not. It can be hard to predict how your particular fish will react. Across the board, clownfish have been known to host things that are definitely not anemones. From plastic decor to water filters, clownfish can make a home nearly anywhere.

Artificial anemones are often made from rubber or latex. When placed in a tank, they look just like the real thing. This can be a good alternative if your clownfish refuses your anemones, and it’s getting expensive.

Fake anemones can also be easier to manage for beginner aquarists. Real ones often require pristine water conditions and highly specific feeding needs. What’s more, they cannot survive in a tank that has not been established for at least 6 months. For beginner aquarists and new tanks, it might be a good idea to turn to anemone alternatives, like fake ones or even corals.