Among the shrimp, frogfish and octopus of Dauin’s coastline, you can find a plethora of anemonefish/clownfish (same, same). We don’t just have one, two, or three, but at least seven different species of this characterful and famous little fish!
Found within the fleshy tentacles of 10 species of anemone, anemonefish spend their whole lives in the vicinity of their host. Their relationship is win-win (technical term = obligatory symbionts). In short, the fish are protected from predation by living within the stinging tentacles (a thick mucus protects the fish from being stung). At the same time, it provides cleaning and aeration services to the anemone.
What Disney didn’t tell you…
Like many reef fish, Anemone fish have an interesting way of doing things when it comes to producing baby “Nemos”. They’re sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they’re born male and have the ability to become female. Within the tentacles of one anemone we usually see several fish. The largest is typically the only mature female who nags and pesters the males on a daily basis. This way she ensures that their female hormones are repressed and never come to the surface (because the poor guys are so stressed out). When the female matriarch dies (or is eaten) the largest male suddenly has no one constantly nagging him. His hormones start telling him life would be much better as a woman. He then turns from male to female and becomes the group’s new matriarch.
So. The first five minutes of Finding Nemo would have gone slightly differently and Marlin’s character arch would have been (understandably) difficult to explain to 5 year olds.
When anemonefish make babies
Within the anemone, the big bossy female and the largest stressed out male are the only breeding pair. Between 600 – 1,500 eggs are laid under the romantic light of the full moon tucked under, or next to the anemone and fertilized externally. It’s then the breeding male’s job (under the watchful eyes of the boss) to look after those eggs to the best of his ability. Note to the male: do a poor job and many of the eggs won’t hatch. Put the time in and research has shown proper care and expert fanning (wafting your fins over the eggs to ensure they get plenty of oxygenated water) will reduce their development time and increase hatching success!
Note to divers: these guys will fiercely protect their eggs and pack quite a punch should you get too close and they decide to take you on. Thank goodness they’re no bigger than a large hamster. If they were, it wouldn’t just be Titan triggerfish that we run away from!
The Nemo effect
Following the film’s 2003 release demand for having your very own Nemo tripled, they now make up 43% of the global marine ornamental fish trade. Thankfully, under the right conditions, anemonefish will breed like rabbits in captivity. However, the majority of individuals in aquariums are still taken from the wild.
Finding Nemo in Dauin
Luckily it’s not just divers who get to see anemonefish. Along Dauin’s coast these species can be encountered from the shallows (literally in a few feet of water) to the deeper slopes of our reefs. Go slow, take your time and enjoy peering into the lives of these characterful fish.
Dauin’s Anemonefish species:
- False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
- Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkia)
- Saddleback anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus)
- Orange anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)
- Pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)
- Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus)
- Spinecheek anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)