Feisty Joker: Are Clownfish Aggressive?

are clownfish aggressive

Clownfish are some of the most beautiful fish in our oceans. They can be found in warm waters such as the Red Sea and Pacific and Indian Oceans.

These fascinating fish are incredibly social and communicate with one another through a series of popping and clicking noises.

They often live in schools that have strict hierarchies, with the most aggressive female being at the top of the structure.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the clownfish’s temperament and answer are clownfish aggressive?

In a nutshell, yes, clownfish are known to be aggressive. They are territorial fish that often get into fights and regularly attack and threaten other fish.

Are Clownfish Really Aggressive?

Clownfish are notorious for their aggressive behavior. They are known to be difficult for fish keepers and those that own aquariums as they are VERY aggressive and not suitable for beginners.

These fish grow up in competitive coral reefs in the wild, where they need to always be on alert in case of predators looking for a colorful meal.

It’s a non-stop fight for survival and a large part of why clownfish are so territorial and aggressive in nature.

Despite the friendly appearance and persona given to the clownfish in the Pixar movie Finding Nemo, this is not the reality of these fish.

Why Are Clownfish Aggressive?

Many people keep clownfish in aquariums and quickly find out that these fish can be extremely aggressive and difficult to keep.

There are a number of reasons why clownfish may be aggressive both in the wild and in an aquarium.

Wild Fish vs Aquarium Fish

One of which is that in the wild they live in competitive reefs and need to stay on high alert to ensure they are not eaten by predators.

Wild clownfish are generally more aggressive than those raised in aquariums for this exact reason. They need to keep their head on a swivel at all times and this makes them aggressive and territorial.

It’s all about survival and ensuring that the clownfish and its family can stay safe by defending their home and territory.

Lack Of Food

In the wild, food can be scarce for clownfish as there are many other species of fish, often much larger that are competing for the same food source.

They need to be fearless and confident to ensure they get a seat at the table and can provide a meal for their families.

If a clownfish doesn’t have enough food to eat, it will become increasingly aggressive in order to secure its next meal.


In the wild, clownfish have a fascinating symbiotic relationship with anemones and benefit from one another.

Clownfish will use the anemones to hide behind and for protection from predators, as the anemones have long, poisonous stingers that other fish won’t risk going near.

In return, the anemones feed off the waste and uneaten food from the clownfish, allowing them to survive.

This relationship is one that the clownfish rely heavily on for survival, and they will quite literally defend themselves with their lives if they have to.

Clownfish aggression can stem from protection anemones, especially in aquariums.

Fishkeepers may struggle to provide maintenance anywhere near the anemones without being bitten and attacked by clownfish.

Living With The Wrong Fish

If you’ve housed a clownfish with another species of territorial or aggressive fish, then they will most certainly get into fights with one another.

Clownfish need space to live peacefully in tanks, so it’s not a good idea to house them with other fish that may aggravate or harass clownfish.

Do Clownfish Get Along With Other Fish?

For the most part, clownfish can and do get along with other types of fish, providing they are small, non-aggressive, and not territorial.

As long as the other fish are not large enough that they could eat a clownfish, they will likely get on with them, but it’s important to monitor the relationship closely.

Below are some fish species that clownfish usually get along with:

  • Surgeonfish
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Basslets
  • Dartfish
  • Blood Red Fire Shrimp
  • Red Coris Wrasse
  • Damsels
  • Butterfly Fish
  • Foxface’s

With that said, clownfish have been known to attack and kill other species of fish if they do not agree with one another.

But this is usually due to a lack of space in the tank, and the fish feeling like they need to compete with one another for food.

Do Clownfish Bite?

Clownfish certainly do bite, they are known to attack hands if you’re cleaning out the aquarium for maintenance or trying to go near their anemone.

To protect yourself from bites, it’s a good idea to wear gloves when you’re doing anything inside the tank with clownfish in, even trying to feed them.

They do not like anything inside of their tanks, and a bite from a clownfish can be surprisingly painful if it gets you in between your fingers.

Which Clownfish Is The Most Aggressive?

With between 28 – 30 different species of clownfish, not all are as aggressive as one another.

The most aggressive species of clownfish are maroon, fire, and tomato clownfish, as these species tend to clash the most with other fish and be very aggressive.

These fish are for experienced fishkeepers only, and should not be kept if you’re a beginner or new to keeping fish.

Final Thoughts

So, are clownfish aggressive? Absolutely! These small, friendly-looking fish are much more aggressive than meets the eye.

They are defensive, and territorial and will defend themselves and their anemones with their lives if need be.

Clownfish are often found in warm oceans in coral reefs that are highly competitive and dangerous for such small fish.

They need to be aggressive in order to survive and ensure that they can eat.

Reefs are full of hungry predators that are looking for an easy meal, and if they come across a bright and colorful clownfish they won’t hesitate to strike.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you now know why clownfish are so aggressive and territorial.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to share it with others who may find it useful.