As I sit here watching my tank, you can’t help but be drawn to the unusual behaviour of the pair Clownfish I have in my aquarium. I know I am not alone in this, one of the most common posts I see on Facebook groups is “is this normal for Clownfish”, the post is normally coupled with a video of one or more Clownfish hosting something they are not expected to, or the fish spending it’s entire day bobbing around in one single spot.
I have a lovely pair of clowns. A reasonable sized female and a small male. They bother no-one, and happily share their bed at night with a Royal Gramma, a Carberryi Anthia and an Orange Shoulder Tang. There is not a hint of aggression for anyone and they all sleep in one little cave together, it’s cute and confusing all in the same breath. I guess they are just an odd family that have all adopted one and other as their own.
The female Clown has a routine, she spends about an hour hosting their home (just a rock with a cave in it), then she swims up to the other end of the tank with the Tang, returns to her cave and spends another hour hosting it. She is like clockwork with it.
The male, well, he is the one who has triggered me to write this article. It’s very rare for him to move more than about 6-7 inches from the entrance to their cave. He spends his day very close to home, but he spends most of his day with his nose to the sand bed, I guess looking for treats, but he spends his entire day watching one bit of the sand bed, then he picks at it, then goes back to watching that one bit.
Now, I know this fish is healthy. He swims normally when it is food time and on the rare occasion he isn’t spot staring, and he eats well, all water parameters are spot on… he is just an odd fish! He is so obsessed with watching that one spot in the tank, that I actually find it hard to get a photo of him where he is not looking at that sand spot.
Is it due to tank breeding?
Because I know I am not the only one who has an “odd” Clownfish it got me thinking, do Clownfish naturally have a form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), or is this what happens to tank bred fish that begin to loose their natural instincts. Most Clowns these days are tank bred, which is fantastic for the hobby and our ocean reefs, but I do wonder if keeping them in tanks with very little stimulation as juveniles is what has lead to this repetitive behaviour.
I know that hosting one spot and not moving around very much is natural behaviour for the Clownfish, and it’s easy to see how they end up hosting a rock or powerhead, sump return or even your glass cleaner, that is in a way natural to them. I don’t think staring at one spot continuously, or taking a tour of the tank with a Tang every hour is natural!
My sand sifting goby, sifts sand and builds nests all day. Natural. My Royal Gramma cruises the rock-work looking for snacks. Natural. All the other fish in my tank exhibit all the signs of natural behaviour.
I would be really interested to read an article by someone who has actually studied a group of Clowns in different habitats with different up-bringings to see if tank breeding these fish is slowly turning them insane or at the very least causing OCD like behaviour.
That’s just my thoughts for the day, let me know if you have a Clownfish that has OCD or if you have any thoughts on this ramble!