Do clown fish really need Sea anemones? (Symbiotic analysis)


The amazing thing about the ecosystem is the interdependence between species and their adaptations to the surrounding nature. It is a clear perspective of life.
Symbiosis can be easily defined as a relationship of mutual benefit. In ecology however, it is used to define a state of close and prolonged association between two or more organisms of different species that normally benefits both members.
This definition drives me to my next point.
Classification of symbiotic relationships
There are three major classifications of symbiosis:
Mutualism- Occurs when both species benefit from the interaction.
Commensalism- Occurs when only one species benefits and the other do not gain or lose anything.
Parasitism- Takes place when only one species nourishes itself to the disadvantage of the other.
In respect to the above definitions, the symbiotic relationship between the sea anemone and the clown fish (Pomacentridae allardi) can therefore be classified under “mutualism”.
There are only 26 different species of clownfish and over 1000 species of sea anemones. But only 10 species of anemones can co exist with the clownfish species.
The clown fish uses the sea anemones for protection against its natural predators. Clownfish can safely do so because its body releases a thick layer of mucus that protects it from the stings of the Sea anemone tentacles.
In return, the clown fish also protects the anemone from fish that nibble its tentacles. One fish in particular that feeds on anemones are the butterfly fish.

There are other benefits besides offering protection to each other. The clownfish also provides nutrients to the sea anemone in the form of wastes.
Cases of clownfish luring other fishes to the anemones have also been witnessed. The sea anemones will then strike the advancing fish using its tentacles to dish out a paralyzing sting of nematocyst.
• The mucus coating of the clownfish is believed to be three or four times thicker than in other fish
• The clownfish is born with a mucus layer that is already thicker than average, but as it grows, it can mix its mucus with that of the anemone’s to create a stronger barrier.
So can clownfish survive without their anemones?
The clown fish has more to benefit from the relationship than the anemone. From experience the question should be how long will the clownfish survive without an anemone? It is always advisable to pair up your clownfish with anemones.
For this stories and more check out our website and catalogue.
We also feature the best species of clown fish and carpet anemones.

The Salarias fasciatus (Red-fin, Lawn Mower blenny)


There are numerous functional fish that I can share with you and in time I will.
As for today I will lay focus on the Salarias fasciatus or the Lawn mower blenny as it is commonly referred to.
All their adaptation in nature makes them worthy occupants of aquarium tanks as cleaners. They are indeed known to have great appetite for filamentous algae.
To begin with, Blennies are generally small fish, with elongated bodies and relatively large eyes and mouths.
In nature, they spend much of their time as bottom dwellers and are quite isolated. From time to time they burrow in sandy substrates or inhabit cracks and crevices in reefs.
In an aquarium set up the Salarius is considered an algivore (feeding on algae) but in the real sense it is a detrivore with plants only making 15% of its diet.

Note: Detrivores are detritus feeders/eaters. They obtain nutrients by consuming detritus (decomposing plant and animal parts as well as feces).

Salarias fasciatus
An average Lawn mower blenny has been recorded to take around 3000 bites of substrate per day, removing an average of 2.19 milligrams algae (growing on rocks); it should not be surprising that they can quickly decimate a crop of filamentous algae. (
They are heavy feeders and it is why they thrive in an aquarium set up.
• Feed on both algae and detritus
• Easy to feed and keep. Can know if it’s hungry by simply checking if its belly is swollen or not.
• They stir up sediment on rock, putting detritus in suspension where it can be removed by mechanical filters (larger individuals are especially good at stirring up detritus).
• They are disease resistant and have been known to resist marine diseases like the ich because of their lack of scales like other marine fishes.
• They have a good attitude and can be considered peaceful. They have been known to be only aggressive to fishes of its species and sometimes fishes smaller than its size.
I consider the Salarius f. quite an interesting addition in any aquarium set up; a fish that will literally earn its keep by devouring all the nuisance algae can bring in tanks.

Why you need a cleaner crew in your aquarium fish tank

Most people take pride in crispy clean aquarium fish tanks and will go to great lengths to keep their aquariums clean.

There are simpler ways to clean your aquarium and it involves adding some cleaner(s) crew into your tank. This will improve your tank in the following ways;


The beauty of an aquarium is first of all its appeal. Some of the marine species are quite colorful and will vibrant. They add enough life to light up any aquarium. Common cleaners comprise of snails, crabs, shrimps and starfish. They will decorate your saltwater tank and still manage to keep it clean.

Parasite control

A tank infested by parasites will no doubt lead to various fish diseases which will be costly to treat or even lead to the premature death of your fishes.

Algae removal

Orange Scissors

You do not want to own a saltwater tank blooming with green algae or brown algae. Algae are notorious and fond of growing in areas you cannot reach to clean yourself. But the good thing is there are cleaners whose natural diet is algae. For example, the turbo snail is a heavy feeder of algae and will clear your tank walls and sand bed of this nuisance. No algae are safe when you own a couple of shrimps, snails and crabs. They will even clear the algae that are hidden on crevices.


Cleaners will eat just about anything in your tank. They feed on all the left over foods that your fish will not eat. They feed on detritus (a fancy way of saying they feed on fish wastes). These cleaning crews are indeed “bottom dwellers” but that’s what makes them interesting. They literally feed themselves and require minimal maintenance from their keepers.



Cleaners like the shrimp will feed on parasites. Larger fish often seek the services of shrimps and open wide their gills and mouths for the shrimps to feed on the parasites. This is considered therapeutic in the as they rid the other fish in the tank of stress caused by infections from parasites.

As an importer of marine fish from Africa, there are other reasons why we recommend cleaners for your tanks.

  • Cleaners are compatible in almost all tank setups
  • Cleaners repopulate very fast in the wild

How a Cleaner Can Eliminate Aggression

There is no doubt that a clean environment leads to a relaxed mood and the same case is true in the ocean as it is in real life.

The perfect cleaner in this case is Labroides dimidiatus commonly referred to as the blue streak wrasse which specializes in keeping the aquarium free from parasites and extends its services to cleaning other fish too. If you have a keen eye you will realize that in tanks occupied by the blue streak wrasse the fish are usually less aggressive. This is because it offers the kind of service we humans call therapeutic. They nibble parasites from the body, mouth and gills of other fish.

How they operate

They form a kind of a station and attract larger fish to their stations by making strange, oscillatory swimming movements, and the fish then stops to get cleaned. Wrasses enter the mouth and gill openings and remove any ectoparasites and diseased tissue.

Cleaner Wrasse - gills

The larger fish not only refrain from devouring these small cleaner fish, but actually readily open their mouth and gill cavities so that they are able to clean.

This is clearly a mutualistic relationship between cleaner wrasses and various larger fish of the ocean.

blue wrasse mouth.jpg

Fact File:    

  1.  Feeds on crustacean ectoparasites and mucus of other fishes
  2.  It consumes a large number of parasites 1218  each day or 5 parasites per minute  and most of the prey items were juvenile gnathiid isopods.
  3.  Maximum lifespan is estimated to be four years
  4.  Males and females are the same in colour,    juveniles are black with a single blue stripe  running from snout to the upper part of caudal  fin.
  5.  Cleaning stations are occupied by a pair of  adults, a group of juveniles or a group of  females accompanied by a dominant male. A female becomes a functional male if  the dominant male disappears.

As a precautionary measure to fight parasites it is best to let the blue streak wrasse occupy your tank but this is just an insurance policy against parasites. Other measures should also be taken to fight off tough parasites like the saltwater Ich.

Blue streak wrasse are usually energetic and will bring life to any aquarium they occupy. However, only one cleaner per 15 fish is suggested  and a tank with not less than 50 gallons of water will ensure their chance of a long life.

This article has been taken under fish for thought. Next week we will feature Pest control, join us and discover the best fish for this daunting task.

KMC symbo


New strides


Kenya Marine center has had a tremendous year influencing change of attitude and perception in the aquarium industry in Kenya.

After a decade of hard work and dedication to the business finally, rewards are trickling in from all corners of the world and even at home.


Stakeholders meeting at Kenya Marine Center facilities

Recent meetings with stakeholders from the aquarium industry in Kenya have seen us in the front line for discussions and implementation of a management plan that will see the future of the aquarium business safeguarded.

A visit from the Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KMFRI) to our facilities has opened talks to further sustain the exploitation, management and conservancy of Kenya’s fisheries resources.


From Right CEO Kenya Marine Center Jochen Federschmied holding talks with KMFRI government officials. (Center) Asst. Director KMFRI Jacob Ochiewo 

The points in discussion

  • Fishing methods
  • Nursery and breeding grounds for fish
  • Environmental protection
  • Availability of fish
  • Improved image of the industry
  • Employment opportunities amongst many other concerns

As a proud member of Ornamental Fish Industry (OFI) and now a major partner with KMFRI Kenya Marine Center is in the core of the campaign to conserve the ocean reserves by insisting on its message and policy of hand and net fish only.

OFI logo

“Through such platforms and discussions I can say we are on the verge of a breakthrough to finally achieve the true worth of the aquarium industry potential.” CEO Kenya Marine Center Jochen Federschmied.