After hatching, clownfish larvae are swept up by currents and travel kilometres away from their birthplace. They then sniff their way back to their home “suburb”!

Clowning around

Clown anemonefish, or simply clownfish, get their name from their bold, blotchy colours that are alike the facepaints worn by clowns. Their symbiotic relationship with a host sea anemone is what counts them as “anemonefish”. There are at least 17 species of clownfish found in Australia, with 4 found in Western Australia. The species made famous by Disney’s Finding Nemo is the ocellaris clownfish, also sometimes called the false, common or Western clownfish, and is found in WA’s far north.

Home sweet home

Clownfish live in a sea anemone- they’re animals related to jellyfish that have stinging tentacles. Anemonefish are picky about their pad- they will inspect an anemone before investing in it. They will tap the anemone’s tentacles with their fins and body to make sure it is a suitable home.

Slime’s the secret

Clownfish are immune to the stings of anemones because they are covered in a protective slime! By living in the stinging cells of sea anemones, clownfish are protected from predators and have a safe place to lay their eggs. In return, clownfish keep anemones clean and chase away anemone-eating butterflyfish.

Noisy neighbours

After carefully selecting a home, female clownfish will fiercely protect it. They clack their jaws together to make a threatening sound, which acts as a noisy alarm to deter intruders.

Power parents

Clownfish make great parents! The male will actively clean and care for the eggs, sometimes even forgetting to eat! It’s up to the female to then protect the nest and her mate. It they are successful, clownfish may then mate for life.


A clownfish’s funniest trick is a transformation- they’re all born boys and then the biggest will turn into a girl!


Magnify a clownfish in AQWA’s Creatures up Close exhibit!