Breeding clowns is a very rewarding experience, and it's not nearly as hard as you might think.
Obviously the first thing you need is a mated pair. There are several
options to getting these. First learn to sex them... which is quite an interesting pursuit when it comes to clownfish.
In a group the female is the
largest, with the male as the second largest. All others will be juveniles and
gender-neutral. When one of the adults disappears, the next biggest will take its place.
Thus the male will become female and a juvenile will turn into a male. Once they
are female they cannot change again. In certain species there are physical
differences but it's not a real good idea to rely on this as they may have changed
sexes but not markings.
Buying an established pair is perhaps the easiest way to go. Many aquarium/fish stores have these or can order them for you.
Sometimes you get lucky and get a pair already spawning. Look for a pair
that hangs out together as this is a good sign that they are a true pair.
Another possibility is buying a group of juveniles and raising them to breeding age. This takes a good deal longer as some
species take quite a while to mature. Also certain species are more aggresive
and you may have to remove unwanted extras. Basically, you watch as the group matures and they will pair up by themselves. The female will be the largest, with the male next biggest. The rest should stay juveniles.
Establishing an adult pair can be a little tricky, and a close eye needs to be kept on them to make sure
that the female doesn't kill the male. Buying a large adult and getting two
smaller ones from a group and letting the female pick one is an approach that has yielded a
good deal of success. With maroons, try introducing just one male at a time and
keep a close eye on them.
It takes patience to get them to spawn, and there are a few things you can do to help.
- Use a good quality live food in combination with a well rounded diet. Fresh
shrimp frozen and then grated is a good nutritional source.
- Make them feel secure. Remove any aggressive fish that might make them feel
- Sometimes a good porno movie helps.
- Have more patience
- The larger species will need a 29-gallon and the smaller a 20-gallon tank.
- Some type of filtration that will not harm the larvae when they hatch.
- A clay pot or a piece of ceramic tile is a favorite to spawn on.
- A heater.
- A light on a timer -- regular day/night cycle is important.
Feeding the Larvae
This takes some preparation and is really beyond the scope of this page. I
recommend reading the Plankton Culture Manual from Florida Aqua Farms. Its tells
all you need to know and more about raising
nannochloropsis oculata, greenwater, and Brachionus sp.,
rotifers. They also can provide live cultures and starter kits. Rotifers are the
first foods and must be fed immediately to the larvae. Depending on the species
you'll need to feed them rotifers for the first 3 days to 3 weeks.
The Day of Hatching
When the eggs are first laid they are a bright orange. After a couple of
days the color fades and eyes appear. The male guards the nest and fans the eggs
to keep them oxygenated. Depending on the temperature, around day 8 the eyes will
become silver. This means its time to hatch.
At this point you must decide to stay up after the lights go out and catch
the larvae or move the eggs to the larvae tank. If you decide to leave them with
the parents to hatch you can shine a flashlight in the corner of the tank. The
larvae are attracted to the light and then you can either syphon the larvae out
or scoop them out with a ladle. If you move them you must keep the eggs aerated
gently with a airstone or fungus will set in.
The Larvae Tank
A simple 5 or 10 gallon tank works fine for a larvae tank. Add a heater and an
airstone and you're set. No real biological filtration is usually provided. I have
used live rock, but there's always a chance of bacteria infection coming from it.
Ammonia needs to be monitored. Adding Amquel or its equivalent when traces show
up have been beneficial. Having a bare bottom makes it easier to clean. You may
need to leave a light on the first few until the larvae develop their hunting
The first 10 days are the most crucial. This is the period when the greatest number are
lost. For some reason metamorphosis (around day 10) is very stressful. Immediately following this transition stage, the youngsters will begin developing their stripes... after which point you're pretty much home free. And free to enjoy your beautiful little clowns!