Why Is My Clownfish Pair Fighting?

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A few weeks ago, I introduced two clownfish to my saltwater aquarium. I was hoping that they eventually become a pair and start spawning.

After a slow introduction, I’ve noticed that the clownfish are getting along, swimming together, and occupying the same area. I even saw them sleeping in the same position.

I’ve been more than convinced that they would pair up until I saw them chasing each other one evening. My clownfish pair was fighting, and I couldn’t do anything. I got scared and immediately started to research. 

It turned out it was nothing serious. It’s just normal behavior to assort who will be the dominant clownfish in the pair.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about clownfish pair fighting and why sometimes even established pairs start chasing each other.


Why Is My Clownfish Pair Fighting? 

Clownfish are fighting for dominance in the pair. Once they figure out who is dominant and who is the submissive clownfish, things should settle down.

Clownfish fighting is normal behavior. Or what it’s normal for a clownfish. 

If you started with two small juveniles, you would see a lot of this behavior just as I did. They will chase each other until they decide who will be the female. 

The stronger and more dominant male will become the female and eventually stop biting the smaller one. 

When you see one of the clownfish (usually the smaller one) start shaking, you know you have a pair. The shaking is a sign of submission.

However, it doesn’t mean that if your clownfish are paired, they won’t stop fighting. Even established pairs fight on some occasions. 

How long do clownfish fight for dominance?

It can take a long time for clownfish to establish their place in the hierarchy. If you buy two juveniles of identical size, they will probably fight for months up to a year.

I know it’s difficult to watch your clowns fighting, but you will get used to it with time. There is nothing much you can do about that. It’s their way of asserting the dominant-submissive relationship.

Will clownfish fight to the death?

Two clownfish will pair up and eventually stop fighting. However, if two of the clownfish in your tank are mature females, they will fight to the death.

Fighting among clownfish is natural, and a very small percentage ends up with the death of one of the clowns. Almost 99% of the time is because two females were put together without knowing.

The best way to ensure that you won’t end up with two females is to purchase two juveniles at once. 

If you already have one clownfish in your tank and you want to introduce a new one, make sure that the new clownfish is juvenile and smaller than the existing one. 

Clownfish living alone in a tank for a prolonged time almost always transform into females.

Clownfish fighting at night

Sometimes clownfish act normal during the day and start fighting when the night comes. We can’t know for sure why this is happening, but we can assume that something is wrong.

Turning the lights off might trigger the clownfish to act weird. Another possible explanation that came to my mind is the effect moonlights have on clowns. The moonlight changes clownfish’s color, making them act weird and start fighting.

How to stop clownfish from fighting?

You can’t really stop your clownfish from fighting each other. It’s in their nature, and it’s typical clownfish behavior. Juvenalis will fight until they establish who the female is.

The only action you need to take is if both clownfish are females. In that case, remove one of the clownfish from your tank, or they will fight to the death.

Interested to learn more about clownfish? Check out these articles:

Final Thoughts

Clownfish fighting is part of the maturation process, and there is nothing you can do. 

Just relax and keep observing your fish.

In no time, they will pair up, and the fighting will reduce or completely stop.

1 thought on “Why Is My Clownfish Pair Fighting?”

  1. I have had two ocelaris and a big tomato together in the same tank for 10+ years. The two always stay together in upper rear corner of the tank. Recently, the tomato and one ocelaris are tormenting the other ocelaris terribly. It just hangs out sideways along the water line and sometimes jumps quite violently. Why has this behavior shown up after so many years, with no other changes in the tank? It doesn’t seem sick.


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