Clownfish Tankmates | What Fish Can Live With Clownfish?

Apr 29, 2022

Clownfish Tankmates

There are at least 30 known clownfish species. I don’t know how to put this, but they’re “same, same but different.” Clownfish, like any other fish, are much like people. While some are well-mannered and would make good neighbors, others would rather lead a solitary life. 

That’s because clownfish, once again like any other fish, have mannerisms, behaviors, and habits, which means they can experience and express an array of feelings like aggression and intimidation. 

Therefore, there are several things you should take into account when choosing clownfish tankmates. 

In this blog, I won’t just let you in on what fish can live with clownfish but also shed light on compatible anemones and invertebrates. 

Let’s begin without further ado! 

What Fish Can Live With Clownfish? 

From the fish family, the top 10 clownfish tankmates would be:

  • Chromis Damselfish 
  • Yellow Tang 
  • Mandarin Dragonet 
  • Pygmy Angelfish 
  • Blenny 
  • Red Coris Wrasse 
  • Dartfish 
  • Banggai Cardinalfish
  • Basslets 
  • Pseudochromis

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Now, let’s have an in-depth look at these fish’s needs and temperaments. Shall we?

Chromis Damselfish 

Credit: Brian Gratwicke (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Chromis cyaneus, Chromis viridis 
  • Origin: Caribbean and Indo-Pacific region
  • Size: 4-5 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful, Schooling 

Damselfish are often known for being territorial and aggressive – especially towards those from their own family. However, the beautiful chromis damselfish is an exception – luckily. 

Unlike most from the damselfish family, these fish love to live in large shoals and are known to be pretty peaceful. By the way, do you know clownfish themselves are actually a species of damselfish?

Chromis damselfish are often heralded as one of the lowest maintenance saltwater fish. They are calm planktivores that stay relatively small – growing only around 4-5 inches long. 

Besides their chill disposition, the other two reasons they’d make ideal clownfish tankmates are their hardiness and ease of feeding. 

The two most commonly bred species are green chromis and blue reef chromis damselfish. And since they’re commonly bred in captivity, it reduces pressure on wild stocks. 

All in all, chromis damselfish make excellent additions to just about any saltwater community tank. But as they are schooling fish, you should at least aim to keep 4 to 6 of them together. 

Yellow Tang 

Credit: Harum Koh (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Zebrasoma flavescens 
  • Origin: Hawaii 
  • Size: 8 inches 
  • Temperament: Docile but can get semi-aggressive

Yellow tangs are definitely the most eye-catching fish on our list today. And the best part is they behave just as good as they look! They are pretty docile fish that easily get along with most tankmates. 

From what hobbyists on different forums reported, a yellow tang’s personality can differ from one fish to another. But don’t worry – their aggression is only reserved for other tangs or fish with similar body shapes or colors. 

Therefore, the general practice is to keep only one yellow tang per system. 

And since clownfish look entirely different from yellow tangs in all departments, these two will get along pretty well and happily share a home. 

But even then, I’d recommend keeping tangs with clownfish species that can hold their own, like maroons and clarkiis. 

Like all tangs, yellow tangs are vegetarians. You can offer protein-rich, spirulina-based commercial food as well as blanched veggies. 

They are susceptible to hole-in-the-head disease, which arises from nutritional deficiency. So, you need to be extra mindful about what goes inside their systems. 

Mandarin Dragonet 

Credit: Ryan E. Poplin (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Synchiropus splendidus 
  • Origin: West Pacific region 
  • Size: 4 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful 

Mandarin dragonets look too good to be true, don’t you think? With deep blue bodies and orange accents, they look like a picture straight out of a coloring book. 

And they are not aggressive at all. Instead, they are peaceful and slow-moving creatures. Therefore, they make great additions to your saltwater tank. 

Owing to their subdued personalities, these fish are often on the receiving end of harassment by semi-aggressive and aggressive fish species. 

Besides the calm temperament, one primary reason these fish make excellent tankmates for clownfish is that they explore entirely different parts of the tank. 

While clownfish tend to swim in the middle and the surface, mandarin dragonets prefer crawling along live rocks as they hunt for copepods. 

These fish grow 4 inches long and can live for 10-15 years under proper care. 

Although mandarin dragonets are somewhat trickier to look after than other fish featured on our list today, their docile nature does make rearing somewhat easy. 

Just make sure you don’t keep two males together. Otherwise, they will frequently fight about food, territory, and females. You can keep just one or 2 in a pair. 

Pygmy Angelfish 

Credit: AES256 (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Centropyge species 
  • Origin: Indopacific region 
  • Size: 4-6 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful but can be semi-aggressive

Almost all saltwater angelfish species can live alongside clownfish in captivity. However, I chose pygmy angelfish for today’s list because they’re a better fit size-wise. 

At worst, pygmy angelfish are semi-aggressive fish that can sometimes bully docile fish. Thus, it’s not a good idea to keep them alongside subdued clownfish species like perculas. 

You should pair pygmy angelfish with clownfish species that can hold their ground when the time arrives. For instance, you could choose maroon clownfish. 

And by the way, they don’t tolerate other angelfish in the same environment unless the tank is huge. 

Pygmy angelfish have a knack for grazing on bryozoans, sponges, algae, and other organisms that grow on live rocks. Therefore, they spend a considerable amount of time at the base. 

And that’s a good thing because they won’t run into your clownfish often. 

But it also means that this species is not safe for reef aquariums. 

Nonetheless, their excellent hues more than make up for the damage they cause. 

Blenny 

  • Scientific Name: Blenniformes 
  • Origin: Fiji, Indonesia 
  • Size: 3 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful but can be semi-aggressive

To put it simply, blennies look stunning – nothing short of perfection. Thanks to their streamlined shape, they look like mini versions of eels. And they come in different shades like yellow, brown, silver, black, and orange. 

Since blennies mostly dwell at the tank’s base, they’ll seldom bump into your clownfish, who prefer staying at the middle and surface. 

This also means you need to add a sandy substrate so your bottom-dwelling 

Blennies don’t sustain scratches and injuries. 

Personality-wise, blennies have a pretty good temperament and are hyper-alert. They love to dart through the tank like a flash, which can be quite entertaining to watch. 

Blennies can turn semi-aggressive if the tank is too cramped or if there’s a competition for resources. And even though they are coral safe, they will occasionally hunt small planktons residing on the surface of algae and live rock. 

These fish only grow around 3 inches long and are disease-resistant for the most part. Therefore, they’re well suited for beginners and are almost found in all saltwater aquariums. 

Red Coris Wrasse 

  • Scientific Name: Coris gaimard 
  • Origin: Hawaii
  • Size: 6-8 inches in captivity 
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive

In the wild, red coris wrasse can grow over a foot long. But they clock in at just around 6-8 inches in captivity. Nevertheless, you will still need a pretty big tank to accommodate these fish comfortably. 

When young, red coris wrasse sport an orange body with spots or tiger stripes across the back outlined with black color. They almost look like elongated clownfish. 

As they grow big, their bodies take on a beautiful speckled blue coloration. The fins are adorned with blues, yellows, and reds, and the face is orange with green stripes. 

It’s important to note that red coris wrasse is inherently super active. 

As juveniles, they maintain a calm composure and are somewhat shy. 

However, as they grow up, they may develop a semi-aggressive personality. They’re especially known to get a bit territorial. 

With these fish, you can expect to see burying behavior quite a lot. Therefore, ensure that the plants and decorations are safely anchored to the base. 

Although these fish pose no harm towards clownfish or vice-versa, they don’t prefer sharing space with fellow wrasses. You can get away with keeping a mating pair, but two male red coris wrasses in the same tank is a recipe for disaster. 

Dartfish 

Credit: Rickard Zerpe (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Nemateleotris & Ptereleotris
  • Origin: Indo Pacific region 
  • Size: 4 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Dartfish get their moniker from their ability to dart to and from the boltholes in rocks and sands like a flash and an elongated profile. These fish are pretty identical to blennies and gobies except for one distinction – they love to spend a good chunk of their time in open waters. 

Dartfish are incredibly peaceful and easygoing when kept in a community tank – especially zebra dartfish. However, like most fish, they’re intolerant of the company of their own kind. 

All things considered, dartfish are a peaceful species that make excellent additions to most community tanks. They usually keep to themselves and seldom pick fights with anyone. 

Since they don’t grow too big, clocking in at around 4 inches, you can house them with most clownfish species with no qualms. They also make an excellent choice for nano reef tanks. 

Given a dartfish’s comparatively subdued personality and petite size, you should not house them with larger, more aggressive tank mates that can harass or prey on them. 

So, while percula and ocellaris clownfish would make awesome neighbors, you’d want to steer clear from tomato and maroon clownfish.

Banggai Cardinalfish 

Credit: Rickard Zerpe (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Pterapogon kauderni
  • Origin: Indonesia 
  • Size: 3 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful but can get semi-aggressive 

Banggai clownfish, also often known as Kaudern’s clownfish, is a stunning specimen with a silver body and vertical black stripes. The body is dotted with small white spots that are more easily noticeable on the pelvic, dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. 

Temperament-wise, these fish are non-aggressive community fish that are also reef-safe. They will not pick at corals or other invertebrates or fight with other residents of the tanks. 

There’s every chance that banggai cardinalfish and clownfish will peacefully cohabitate in the same tank as long as the parameters are right. 

Although these fish swim in mid to top levels just like clownfish, they mostly stay in the water column, swimming back and forth in a flicking motion. So, these two fish will seldom run into each other. 

Like all cardinalfish, banggai are nocturnal beings. Therefore, you should ensure plenty of ledges and caves in the tank where they can hide. 

Although not aggressive toward other species, these fish don’t really enjoy the company of their own kind. Therefore, you should exercise a good deal of caution when adding more than one banggai clownfish. 

With that said, it’s not entirely impossible to house multiple banggais together in the same tank as long as your tank is sufficiently large enough. 

Basslets 

Credit: Brian Gratwicke (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Grammatidae family
  • Origin: West Atlantic 
  • Size: Up to 4 inches 
  • Temperament: Territorial 

Basslets don’t refer to a single kind of fish. It’s a term reserved for a group of certain Atlantic fish, and most of them make good neighbors for your clownfish. 

Royal gramma is the most commonly found basslet species, best known for their purple and yellow bicolor pattern that sets them apart in any community tank. 

Some other popular basslet species include the blackcap basslet and assessor basslet. 

These fish tend to demonstrate aggression towards their own kind. Therefore, the rule of thumb is to add just 1 basslet per tank. 

However, these fish are peaceful towards other tankmates of similar size and temperament. 

They are known to be somewhat territorial if placed in a cramped tank. 

They often lay claim to a single cave or grotto and don’t mind attacking if an intruder drops by. 

But don’t worry – since clownfish don’t dwell in caves and are similarly-sized as basslets, they make a great match. 

But keep in mind that basslets need slightly subdued lighting, which may make raising sea anemones a bit difficult. 

Pseudochromis

  • Scientific Name: Pseudochromis fridmani 
  • Origin: Red sea
  • Size: Up to 3 inches 
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive 

The subfamily Pseudochrominae includes about 60 fish, like dottybacks, ideally suitable for many home tanks due to their small size, hardiness, disease resistance, easiness of feeding, and remarkable coloration. 

Although they can be aggressive towards other pseudochromis or fish with similar body shapes, they get along fairly well with clownfish. 

If you are planning to add pseudochromis fish to the community tank, you need to ensure plenty of caves and hiding places for the fish to feel secure. 

A tank with several live rocks would make an ideal environment for these fish because they tend to stake a claim on caves and rocks. And since they love hiding so much, you will only see them during feeding time. 

Also, note that it is probably a good idea only to keep one pseudochromis per tank. However, several hobbyists have experienced success keeping them in pairs when introduced to the tank simultaneously. 

So, that was our conclusive list of best clownfish tankmates from the fish family. Now, let’s look at their symbiotic relationship with anemones. 

Best Anemones For Clownfish 

Clownfish and anemones have a symbiotic relationship. Within a few days of hatching, clownfish search for an anemone to host them. While the fish receives protection and food scraps from the anemone, the anemone gets essential nutrients from fish waste. 

All in all, it’s super interesting to observe this unique interspecies friendship. Therefore, hobbyists often raise clownfish and anemones together. 

But while looking after clownfish may be easy, it takes a good few years of experience and knowledge to raise anemones. For instance, they have particular lighting needs. 

Here’s a quick list of compatible clownfish and host anemone species:

For Cinnamon, Red, and Black (Amphiprion melanopus) Clownfish:

  • Leather Sea Anemone 
  • Bubble Tip Anemone 

For Clark’s Yellowtail (Amphiprion clarkii) Clownfish:

  • Bubble Tip Anemone 
  • Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Leathery Sea Anemone 
  • Beaded Sea Anemone 
  • Malu Anemone 
  • Magnificent Sea Anemone 
  • Giant Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Corkscrew Sea Anemone 
  • Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Haddon’s Sea Anemone 

For Maroon, White-Stripe, Gold-Stripe, and Spinecheek (Premnas biaculeatus) Clownfish:

  • Corkscrew Sea Anemone 
  • Bubble Tip Anemone 

For Ocellaris (Amphiprion ocellaris) Clownfish:

  • Giant Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Magnificent Sea Anemone 
  • Haddon’s Saddle Carpet Anemone 
  • Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Bubble Tip Anemone 

For Orange Skunk (Amphiprion sandaracinos) Clownfish:

  • Leathery Sea Anemone 
  • Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone 

For Percula (Amphiprion percula) Clownfish:

  • Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Leathery Sea Anemone 
  • Giant Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Magnificent Sea Anemone 

For Pink Skunk (Amphiprion perideraion) Clownfish:

  • Corkscrew Sea Anemone 
  • Giant Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Leathery Sea Anemone 
  • Magnificent Sea Anemone 

For Red Saddleback, Fire (Amphiprion ephippium) Clownfish:

  • Bubble Tip Anemone 
  • Leathery Sea Anemone 

For Saddleback (Amphiprion polymnus) Clownfish:

  • Leathery Sea Anemone 
  • Haddon’s Sea Anemone 

For Skunk (Amphiprion akallopisos) Clownfish:

  • Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone 
  • Magnificent Sea Anemone 

For Tomato, Red (Amphiprion frenatus) Clownfish:

  • Bubble Tip Anemone 
  • Leathery Sea Anemone 

Best Invertebrate Tankmates For Your Clownfish

Our shortlist of best invertebrates for a clownfish tank includes:

  • Blood red fire shrimp
  • Hermit crab
  • Peppermint shrimp

Blood Red Fire Shrimp

  • Scientific Name: Lysmata debelius 
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific region 
  • Size: 2 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful 

Blood red fire shrimp is hands down the most popular invertebrate in the hobby. Look at the photo, and you’ll clearly know why! 

Since these shrimps only grow around 2 inches long, they make great companions for smaller clownfish species like pink skunk clownfish. 

Fire shrimps are cleaners. Like other shrimps from Lysmata species, fire shrimps wave their brilliant white antennae to invite fish over to remove their loose scales, skin, and parasite. 

They’re not picky at all about what they put in their mouths. They can eat both fresh and prepared foods. 

These shrimps are hardy but also a little shy. Therefore, if the tank is too brightly lit, they will spend a good portion of their time hiding. They are usually active at dusk and night – scrounging for leftover pellets and flakes.

Hermit Crab 

  • Scientific Name: Paguroidea 
  • Origin: Global
  • Size: 0.5 to 4 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful to semi-aggressive 

Hermit crabs are definitely the most diligent members of any given cleanup crew. Although their preferred meal choice would be detritus and leftover food, they also prefer grazing on hair algae and slime algae. 

Smaller hermit crab species like the scarlet reef hermit crab and blue-legged hermit crab make excellent tankmates for clownfish as they can even thrive in smaller aquariums. 

With hermit crabs, personality can take different forms. However, one of the most crucial personality traits is boldness. Their bold nature has been associated with various behaviors like inclination toward exploration and curiosity. 

Peppermint Shrimp

  • Scientific Name: Lysmata wurdemanni 
  • Origin: East Atlantic and the Caribbean
  • Size: 2 inches 
  • Temperament: Peaceful but territorial 

Peppermint shrimps are small saltwater invertebrates that grow just about 2 inches long as adults. They have transparent bodies adorned with red stripes – making them look super striking. 

Given their petite size, they make good tankmates for clownfish. 

Peppermint shrimps are most commonly known to eat aiptasia (glass anemone), which is considered a pest in the saltwater aquarium hobby. 

Like all other shrimps, peppermint shrimp require iodine supplements routinely added to the tank water to help them shed their exoskeleton. 

Feeding these shrimps is no hassle as they actively scavenge the tank for any traces of uneaten food and detritus. But you may want to fortify their diet with sinking shrimp pellets.

Five Things You Should Know Before Setting Up Community Clownfish Tank 

Clownfish may be the poster child of marine fishkeeping hobby, but they’re often subjected to wrong treatment owing to a lack of information and an abundance of misinformation. 

Therefore, before setting up a community clownfish tank, you should consider factors like the tank’s minimum capacity, their gender-bending ability, symbiotic relationship with sea anemones, and the requirement for certain accessories. 

You Will Need A Big Tank

Raising a single moderately-sized clownfish requires at least 20 gallons of water. However, if you’re planning to set up a clownfish community tank, the requirement steeply rises to 100 gallons or above.

You will need to allocate space not just for the fish but also for reefs, plants, wavers, etc. 

All Clownfish Are Born Male 

Do you know all clownfish are born male, and only the most dominant one in the group has the privilege to transform into a female? So a typical clownfish school would include an alpha female, a breeding male, and a bunch of sexually immature males who have no role in reproduction. 

And if you plan to keep more than one breeding pair in the same tank, you will once again need to invest in a pretty big tank. Otherwise, it will only lead to frequent duels between the pairs. 

Clownfish And Sea Anemones 

Clownfish share an endearing interspecies friendship with sea anemones. The fish benefits from the protection and food scraps anemone provide, whereas the latter benefit from the nourishment that clownfish’s waste offers. 

Raising clownfish isn’t tricky if you get a few basics right. However, raising anemones is a whole different story. For starters, you will need to allocate plenty of space and lighting for these marine invertebrates. 

Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to add anemones to your clownfish tank. In a captive setting, these fish can do perfectly well without anemones as well. 

Invest In Better Equipment

At Urban Fishkeeping, we believe in buying nice rather than buying twice. However, it doesn’t mean you need to go all out and spend a fortune on equipment. 

Make sure to do your research first before getting any equipment. There are plenty of affordable yet well-built options available out there. 

That being said, don’t cut corners when getting essential accessories like a heater or a filter. 

Final Words! 

With a few exceptions, clownfish are easygoing fish that do well in most community aquariums. Therefore, when it comes to choosing suitable tankmates for them, you have many options. 

The 10 fish we shortlisted to be honored as the best tankmates for clownfish are dartfish, yellow tang, mandarin dragonet, pygmy angelfish, chromis damselfish, blenny, basslet, pseudochromis, red coris wrasse, and banggai cardinalfish. This is the list of what fish can live with clownfish. 

As for invertebrates, you can choose from blood red fire shrimp, peppermint shrimp, and hermit crabs. 

Recommended Readings!

Black Ice Clownfish Care Guide | Everything You Should Know

Good Names For Clownfish | Orange Names and Couple Names

Can Clownfish Live Alone? Real Answers Only!

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.