The relationship between Nemo and anemone

The Amphiprion percula, also known as the clown anemonefish is made famous by the Pixar movie, “Finding Nemo”. However, not many know that the clown anemonefish can dance too! It belongs to the Family Pomacentridae and “are in the subgroup Amphiprioninae in this family” (Tan, 2008). The following paragraphs will describe this dance, its purpose as well as a brief discussion on the interdependent relationship between the clown anemonefish and anemone.


The clown anemonefish goes through a dance with the anemone before residing in it. The dance includes, “gingerly touching tentacles first to its ventral fins only, then to its entire belly” (Fautin & Allen, 1992, p. 5). The video below shows the dance when the anemonefish enters the anemone at the 35 second mark.

Clownfish & anemone

The clown anemonefish is only able to enter the anemone when it has been “acclimatised”. “Acclimatisation” occurs when a layer of mucus is formed from the anemone onto the skin of the anemone fish, “making the fish surface chemically disguised as another part of the anemone” (Hodgson & Smith, 1990, p. 584). “Acclimatisation” can take from as short as a few minutes to several hours to be completed. After “acclimatisation”, the anemonefish becomes immune from the lethal sting of the fish-eating anemone. The clown anemonefish usually returns to the anemone at least once per minute to “maintain its protective layer of mucus” (Fautin & Allen, 1992, p. 5).


The relationship between the anemone and the anemonefish is a mutually beneficial one. Being brightly-coloured, the clown anemone fish makes easy prey for many predators. Predators would then be stung by the anemone during the hunting process. This results in a meal for both the clown anemonefish and anemone. In addition, the clown anemonefish’s constant movements can “keep the water circulating and the anemone’s immediate area clean” (Leonard, n.d., p. 3). Thus, their relationship can be summarised as such “protection is provided by the anemone, cleaning by the clownfish, and nutrition by collaboration between them” (Leonard, n.d., p. 3).


Fautin, D. G., & Allen, G. R. (1992). FIELD GUIDE TO ANEMONE FISHES AND THEIR HOST SEA ANEMONES. Western Australia: Julian Humphries and Diane Sherman, The MUSE Project. URL:  (accessed on 30 March 2013).


“Coral Reef Communities as Prime Resources for Analysis of Evolution and Physiology of Behavior” by Edward S. Hodgson and C. Lavett Smith. American Zoologist , Vol. 30, No. 3, Science as a Way of Knowing: Neurobiology and Behavior (1990), pp. 559-594. Published by: Oxford University Press. URL: (accessed on 29 March 2013).


Leonard, A. (n. d.). SYMBIOSIS AS A METAPHOR FOR SUSTAINABILITY PRACTICE INHUMAN AFFAIRS. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: The Complementary Set. URL: (accessed on 29 March 2013).


“Clown Anemonefishes, Amphiprion ocellaris,” (n. d.). URL: (accessed on 30 March 2013).


“Anemonefishes (Amphiprion) on the Shores of Singapore,”  by R. Tan. Wildsingapore, December 2008. URL: (accessed on 30 March 2013).


“Clown Anemonefish Amphiprion percula,” (n.d.). National Geographic. URL: (accessed on 29 March 2013).


“clown fish & anemone,” by alx1joss. alx1joss YouTube Channel, 24 February 2007. URL: (accessed on 29 March 2013).


“Two Nemos,” by CameliaTWU. Flickr, 3 July 2011. URL: (accessed on 29 March 2013).


“Safely living among the anemones, a clownfish swims in the warm waters off Papua New Guinea,” by Wolcott Henry. National Geographic, n.d. URL: (accessed on 30 March 2013).