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Why Your Clownfish Is Biting Its Anemone!

Clownfish are one of the three most commonly kept marine fish within the fish keeping hobby and with the Finding Nemo movie, they are commonly kept by people new to keeping saltwater tanks resulting in a large number of questions being asked.

With so many people wanting to get their clownfish to pair with an anemone, we often see people reaching out and asking questions about their clownfish biting its anemone with people wondering why this is happening.

It is considered normal for a clownfish to bite its anemone and it is not a sign of your clownfish having problems pairing with the anemone or the anemone stinging your clownfish.

Some species of clownfish actually have to bite or suck the anemone that they are paired with as a part of the process of maintaining their immunity to the anemones sting with most clownfish biting their anemone for short periods of time.

If you are worried about not having a suitable anemone for your clownfish then our article going over the best anemone for clownfish is probably worth reading.

We also have a dedicated article going over using a fake anemone with your clownfish as this is becoming an increasingly popular option too as most clownfish will still host a fake anemone but a fake anemone will not sting the other fish in your tank.

Why Your Clownfish Is Biting Its Anemone!

Some species of clownfish will have to bite or suck some types of anemone to encourage them to release their toxins to help the clownfish maintain its immunity to the sting of the anemone.

This is totally normal and is not anything to worry about with the majority of healthy anemones not having issues with a clownfish taking small bites from them every now and then.

Some clownfish can build up the habit of sucking on the tentacles of some anemones simple out of habit rather than for a practical use.

This does seem to be more common during the night and although we have seen a number of different theories online about why clownfish do this, no one really knows.

Although some species of clownfish will usually suck on an anemone for short periods of time to maintain their immunity, it is rare that they will suck on them for an extended period of time but this is becoming increasingly common in clownfish in captivity.

In the vast majority of cases, when a clownfish bites an anemone, it is not actually eating it, the clownfish is simply biting a tenticle of the anemone to fake an attack to trick the anemone into releasing its toxins to help adjust the clownfish’ immunity levels to the sting of the anemone.

This is why it is very rare that your anemone will actually have an problems as the clownfish is not actually eating it, simply biting it.

Is It Normal For A Clownfish To Bite An Anemone?

A clownfish biting or sucking an anemone at times is considered normal behavior as it is a natural process for the clownfish to maintain its immunity levels to the sting of the anemone.

Depending on the species of clownfish and type of anemone you keep, this behavior can take place as often as once per month but it is usually much rarer than this.

You should monitor any clownfish that consistently bites an anemone over a prolonged period of time though as it may end up causing your clownfish problems.

It is commonly overlooked by people new to keeping clownfish but they are not able to build up an immunity to the majority of anemone stings and some young clownfish can end up stuck in a look of biting an anemone to get it to sting them when trying to build up their immunity that can’t actually happen.

As we covered in our article going over how to treat black spots on clownfish, the anemones that can sting clownfish may leave marks on them and over time, these marks can develop into lifelong scars.

In some situations, they can end up proving fatal too so a quick Google search of the specific type of anemone that you have in your tank to make sure that it is clownfish safe is probably worth it if your clownfish is biting its anemone constantly for more than a couple of days, especially if you notice black spots forming on your clownfish.

Do Clownfish Harm Sea Anemones When They Bite Them?

For the most part, clownfish will not actually harm the anemones that they bite as they are not actually eating them but simply biting them to simulate an attack on the anemone to trick it into stinging them.

That said though, some anemones are extremely sensitive and a clownfish biting them can cause shrinking and over time, this can result in a lack of nutrients being available to the anemone.

We go into this in more detail in our article on why your anemone is shrinking but in some cases, an anemone can be so sensitive that even a shrimp or snail crawling over it can cause it to shrink.

This is why it is not fair to simply blame your clownfish for a shrinking anemone as there can be a large number of causes of it and these more sensitive anemones are usually not recommended for use in tanks with fish, snails, shrimp or any other animals due to how sensitive they are.

This is another reason why more and more people are switching over to a fake anemone in their tanks as it totally avoids issues like this as well as usually working out considerably cheaper than real anemones while also not presenting the sting risk to the other fish that you keep.

Still, if you are deadset on having real anemones in your tank then something like a bubble tipped anemone is probably going to be one of the lowest maintenance options available.


That brings our article going over why your clownfish is biting its anemone to an end and we hope that we have been able to help you better understand why your clownfish may be biting its anemone as well as why it is generally not a problem. Although some people do worry about their anemone, the clownfish is not trying to eat it and unless you keep particularly sensitive types of anemone, it should not cause it any harm.