Clownfish Tank Setup (The Definitive Guide)

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Setting up a clownfish tank can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first saltwater aquarium. There are so many things to remember in the beginning making this journey frustrating at some moments. If you have a problem with this, you don’t need to worry because, in this guide, I will explain how to make the perfect clownfish setup.

It almost passed a year since I’ve set up my first saltwater aquarium. It was quite a journey that is still going strong. Since that was my first saltwater aquarium, I’ve decided to start small and set up a 20-gallon tank.

I was pretty limited in what I could keep with that tank size. But it didn’t matter because I wanted to keep a pair of clownfish. So my journey has begun.

Here is what I’ve learned from keeping clownfish in the last year and what was my initial clownfish tank setup.


What do you need for a clownfish setup?

You will need an appropriate tank, saltwater, live rock for biological filtration, a wavemaker for circulation, and a heater. Those are the bare essentials for setting up a clownfish tank. In addition, you can add a filter for mechanical filtration, sand, a lighting system, and a thermometer.


Clownfish are small fish and are perfect for nano tanks. You don’t need to start with a large tank to keep saltwater fish. In the wild, clownfish occupy small territory and never leave their homes.

In our home aquariums, you will often notice the clownfish hanging out only in one area. It doesn’t mean that you should place them in less than a 20-gallon tank. People keep clownfish in 10-gallon tanks, but for a beginner, it is wise to start with a slightly larger tank.

Larger tanks are better for convenience. It is easier to maintain good water quality in a larger tank.

See Also: What is the best anemone for clownfish


Clownfish are saltwater fish, and they need salt water to survive. You can buy premade or natural seawater from your local fish store or make it yourself. 

I make my own salt water because, in that way, I have better control over what I put in my saltwater aquarium. There are a lot of brands of salt mixes on the market, but in essence, they do the same thing.

Buy a reliable refractometer to make accurate measurements of the salinity level. The specific gravity should be at 1.025. You can keep clownfish in slightly lower numbers, but if you want to add corals later, you should stay at 1.025.

Another necessary thing to learn is how evaporation occurs in saltwater aquariums. The water evaporates, but the salt stays in the tank; therefore, the salinity levels go up. Always do the top-offs with fresh RODI water.

Live rock

The live rock is the backbone of your saltwater aquarium. It provides the necessary biological filtration for your fish and other inhabitants.

In the past, many hobbyists started their tanks with live rocks. Today, the best practice is to start with dry rock, add a beneficial bacteria with an ammonia source, and wait for the nitrogen cycle to finish.

See Also: How old do clownfish need to be to breed


Wavemakers are important because they help circulate the water. The circulation helps with the gas exchange and maintains the pH level stable.


Clownfish need the water temperature in the tank to be from 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. 

For keeping the water temperature stable, you will need a reliable heater, chiller, or fan for the summer months and a thermometer for monitoring.


Mechanical filtration is optional and is not need it to keep happy and healthy clownfish. However, if you want to add an extra layer to your filtration, go for it.


If you don’t plan to keep corals, the lighting won’t matter. Your clownfish will never know the difference between cheap and expensive lighting. 

Choose whatever suits you. However, if you want to keep corals, you need a proper lighting system. But that is subject for another time.

Test kits

There are a lot of great test kits on the market, but if you keep just clownfish, you won’t need most of them.

For starters, you will need ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite test kits. Those test kits are necessary to determine the stage of the nitrogen cycle.

See Also: What is the Best Coral for Clownfish

how to set up clownfish tank

How to set up a clownfish tank?

You bought all the essentials you need. Now is the time to set up the clownfish tank.

Tank setup

Clean the tank, but not with chemicals, and place it on the aquarium stand. Make sure that the stand can withhold the weight of the tank.

Find the appropriate position in your home for your tank. Don’t place it near a window because the direct sunlight may cause unwanted algae to grow.

See Also: Why is my clownfish twitching

Add equipment

Add all the equipment to the tank, including the rocks and the sand. Now is the time to make the aquascape for your tank. 

Preferably, you should do the aquascape outside and add it to the tank later. Add the salt water to the tank, and plug on all the equipment.

Nitrogen cycle

Before you add any fish, the tank needs to go through a nitrogen cycle. If you started with dry rock, you should add a nitrifying bacteria and ammonia source. 

The nitrogen cycle can last several weeks or as much as eight weeks. You should not add fish until you have undetectable levels of ammonia.

Add clownfish

When the ammonia levels are zero for several consecutive days, you can safely add clownfish to your tank. I waited two months to add a pair of clownfish, but some hobbyists do it sooner. 

Whatever you do, make sure your tank is fully cycled before adding any fish.

Final Thoughts

Here you have it! Guide on how to set up a clownfish tank. It wasn’t hard after all. Keeping saltwater fish should not be hard and intimidating because it isn’t. 

There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get it, there is nothing to stop you. Enjoy your clownfish tank. After a while, you will want to add corals, make other setups and add different fish. 

Trust me! I’ve been there.

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