Over the last 10 years there has been a ton of advancement in the saltwater aquarium hobby. Breeding and raising clownfish has become increasing popular among saltwater aquarium hobbyists. It can be fun and quite rewarding but it takes a lot of work and dedication to do it. This article is a quick overview on the process to clownfish.
The basic stages in the raising process are spawning, hatching, larvae and grow out. Through this site there will be more detailed information about each step for different species of clownfish. The basics of each stage is listed below
The first step is to get a pair of clownfish that is bonded. A bonded pair of clownfish will have an established male and female and for the most part the get along with each other. A bonded clownfish pair typically sleeps in the same location and you will see them flirt or shake at each other. The larger fish is the female and the smaller fish is the male. A bonded pair can be purchased together or you can raise two fish juvenile fish together and they will typically bond over time. Once you have a bonded pair if conditions are right they will spawn. They need to be well feed, given a suitable spawning location and have good water quality. Clownfish lay eggs and protect the nest. The male fans the eggs constantly to prevent them from getting a fungus. During this time the clownfish will be extremely aggressive towards other fish or even you so be careful when you put your hands in the aquarium. Once you have a nest you are on your way to raising clownfish.
Clownfish eggs hatch 6-9 days after they are laid depending on the species and the temperature of the water. When the eggs are laid they are the color of the clownfish that laid them. Maroon clowngish eggs are maroon or pink, Ocellaris are orange. The eggs will gradually darken and eventually you will be able to see eyes. Once the eyes start looking silvery or shiny the eggs should hatch that night or the next night. Clownfish eggs typically hatch a couple hours after the aquarium goes dark. One thing to consider is if you are planning on raising a lot of fish or if you just want to try and raise one or two batches of fish. If you plan to start breeding lots of fish it is best to try to get the clownfish pair to lay eggs on something removable to artificially hatch the eggs in the larvae aquarium. Otherwise if you plan to just raise a batch or two naturally letting the eggs hatch and collecting the larvae after hatch is okay but it is more time-consuming. Once hatched the larvae will be free-swimming but are delicate and the challenge begins.
One the eggs hatch the clownfish are now in a larval stage. They are not yet a fully function fish and are around a 1-2mm long. At this point you must raise them in a special larvae aquarium. Typically aquarists use either 5.5 or 10 gallon tanks about half full. Live foods of an acceptable size are required to be fed at all times in order to keep the larvae alive. The first food of choice for most aquarists are live rotifers. Rotifers cultures need to be established prior to hatch in order to have a source of food for the larvae. Rotifers in turn need to be feed live or frozen phytoplankton. A larval aquarium typically has all sides of the glass blacked out, a heater and an airstone. Daily water changes are done to keep the water clean since there is no filtration on a larvae tank. The larvae after 6-10 days will go through metamorphosis and become a fully functioning fish. At this point dry foods and baby brine shrimp can be fed and you can quit feeding the rotifers. A sponge filter can be added to filter the tank. They will begin to color up, get stripes and grow quickly. At that point they become easier to maintain but still require a lot of work. Once they are 28 days old you can start to be concerned about grow out.
Grow out is a period where they typically get transferred to a new aquarium to grow out the fish to sellable size. The new aquarium is larger with more water volume and heavy-duty filtration to handle all of the waste from the fish. It can even be an entire system with 100's of gallons of water and multiple tanks. At this point water quality and feeding is very important and will determine the quality and grow rates of the clown fish. Typical grow out times to get the fish to the 1-1.5" size can be 3 months to a year depending on the species. This phase if fun to watch the clownfish grow and develop their colors. Once they are a marketable size they can be sold to other hobbyists and to local fish stores.
Look for future detailed articles on these stages in future posts
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