More on the basic setup for clownfish breeding at home

This post is the continuation of the “how to breed Clownfish at home” post I put together a few days ago.

So moving through the list of equipment you will need to but in order to successfully breed clownfish at home. Next on the list is:


Basic Microscope

Purchasing a microscope may seem like an extravagant expense at first, but trust me. It’s well worth it in the long run. You may have poor eyesight, which means you may find it tough to see rotifers swimming in their culture vessel, even under the brightest light. Using a microscope to check a sample of water for rotifers will make the task of making sure your rotifer culture is going as planned much easier. You may also be faced with the difficult task of differentiating between different types of organism. It’s difficult to differentiate between copepods and other types of small organisms commonly found in established marine aquariums. Checking under a microscope will make this task much easier.

You can purchase a microscope fairly inexpensively these days. Chinese knock-offs are common on eBay or for example. I purchased my first unit from an online store. It is of chinese origin and suits me just fine. I bought a 40x to 400x magnification unit. For looking at rotifers and phytoplankton, you will find that this level of magnification is acceptable, with slightly higher magnification being advantageous especially when looking at different algaes, which are extremely small. I would also recommend that you buy a unit with a small battery powered light rather than a mirror that uses natural light to bring out the subject on the slide.

You will also need to purchase glass microscope slides, cover slips, and if you feel like it a couple of dual concave slides for viewing water samples more effectively.

Different phytoplankton cells have different shapes and having a microscope that enables you to determine the shape clearly will help you identify what type of phytoplankton culture you are looking at in case you are trying to culture your own culture from scratch, or isolating a potential culture by extracting a few cells out of a water sample, or by figuring out what has cross contaminated your phytoplankton culture.

Below are some typical images you would see under a microscope while you are breeding clownfish at home:

rotifer0527editA Rotifer under 400x magnification


A Copepod under 100x magnification

tetraselmis_algaeNannochloropsis microalgae under high magnification

220px-15_3klein2Tetraselmis microalgae under high magnification

You can see why its difficult to differentiate between different algaes from the two photos above, they are both green but the nannochloropsis has a slight oval shape rather than a spherical shape like the tetraselmis. It can be very interesting, educational, and rewarding to see what you are working with under a microscope!

Clear plastic Chinese Food containers

Using Chinese takeaway containers may seem a bit of a silly idea at first but they are actually very useful indeed.

When you are attenpting to catch the fry when they first hatahc late at night, you will be very glad to have one on hand. Because they are clear, they do not block the light which means they can be used as an excellent water scooping device for the newly born clownfish fry while they chase the light source all the way to the top. I will go into extensive detail on how to bring the fry to the surface in a future post. It requires a small battery powered torch among other things..

You can also use these containers to house sick larvae or larvae that are getting picked on during the first few days. These little fellas get huge really quickly. You can almost watch them grow in the first few days. Some individuals naturally get bigger than other during the build up to metamorphosis while others stay a bit small. You can use these containers suspended in the main grow-out tank to house the weak individuals to target feed them a bit more food compared to the rest to help them catch up.

You can also use these containers to house some injured or sick individuals. I have actually had success with this method in bringing sick larvae back from the brink of death by separating them micromanaging their food and water quality, ensuring the water they are kept in is pristine.

The containers can also be used to enrich a batch of rotifers with microalgae prior to feeding the rotifers to the clownfish larvae. The same can be done for the copepods and brine shrimp. Enriching means feeding them phytoplankton (microalgae) to make sure there is microalgae in the gullet of the organisms before they are released as food for the larvae in the grow-out tank. This ensures the larvae get good nutrition rather than filling their little stomachs up with the clownfish equivalent to potato chips.


The humble Chinese food container

If you found this post to be a good source of information stay tuned for he next one coming soon on the rest of the equipment you will need for breeding Clownfish at home successfully.

More about how to breed clownfish at home.


As mentioned previously. There are a few key items you will need to purchase or acquire to comfortably set yourself up for breeding clownfish at home. To continue on from the previous post, the nest thing you will need is

Some makeshift wooden shelving or shelving that will be suitable for housing your various cultures.


You will need a shelf unit with at least 3 levels

Level 3 – the top level

This level will house all of the phytoplankton bottles and air lines. The phytoplankton used to feed to rotifers need to be at the highest point to avoid any water or items falling into the phytoplankton and contaminating it, which will in turn cause the cultures to crash.


Level 2 – The rotifers

At this level the rotifers and rotifer culturing equipment which will sit on their shelf can not fall into the phytoplankton cultures which are directly above them. They can however fall to the next level below them but this wont pose any issues. The rotifers that fall below will end up getting gobbled up by the brine shrimp and copepods. You will also need provisions for airline tubing


Level 1 – the copepods and brine shrimp.

These guys are much larger than rotifers so having them fall into the rotifer culture will mean yum yum time for them and eventually zero surviving rotifers left to culture, the same can be said for your phytoplankton cultures, hence, these guys must be housed on the bottom shelf. They will need air like the rotifers and phytoplankton, so provisions for attaching the airline tubing also applies.

You can build of obtain a shelf with 4 or more shelves but make sure that you adhere to these general rules so cross contamination does not occur. Breeding clownfish at home becomes much easier if you stick to these rules.


You will need up to 8 glass bottles, old wine bottles will do. I typically go for the clear ones as they are better for judging how well your phytoplankton cultures are coming along. I guess they are typically between 1 – 2L in volume, some glass bottles can be up to 3L which is even better, the larger the culture housing vessel the better.


Next on the list:

  • Air pump
  • Airline tubing


Obviously the next two items are the air pumps and the airline tubing.

Ideally you need to run a separate pump for each level on your shelf, again to avoid cross contamination. Murphy’s law says if it could happen, it probably will, so avoid it. Run one pump for the phytoplankton. Another for the rotifers, and the last one can be shared between the copepods and brine shrimp. You will need sufficient airline to get the job done. Use cable ties or tape or whatever tickles your fancy to fasten the tubing to the shelving and make a tidy job of it. Put an air line inside each culture vessel and ensure bubbles are coming out of it and stirring things up slowly. The idea is that it must help keep stuff from settling at the bottom while feeding air into the system, you can use some plastic air taps to regulate the airflow to help get an even feed of air through each line. It will make managing the set up a lot easier. Breeding clownfish at home is supposed to be fun, and keeping a tidy low maintenance setup will definitely facilitate the process.


I will elaborate further about the clownfish breeding setup in a future post.



How to Breed Clownfish at home.

How to breed clownfish at home?


So, you have been keeping a marine aquarium or several marine aquariums for a while now, and your clowns have decided to start laying eggs? What do you do?

I was in the same place as you when I first started. It wasn’t easy, but I did get there. I was dedicated and I did achieve my goal. Here is a summary of what you will need to learn in order to successfully breed clownfish:

  • How to obtain and culture phytoplankton
  • How to raise rotifers
  • How to obtain and culture copepods
  • How to obtain and culture brine shrimp
  • How to obtain a breeding pair and get them to successfully pair up and mate, if they aren’t already
  • How to catch the fry when they hatch
  • How to grow the fry out past metamorphosis


The list looks daunting but if you have been asking yourself how to breed clownfish at home, the above list will point you in the right direction for sure if you follow them.


The purpose of this post however is to give you an overview of breeding clownfish at home, and I will give a more in depth description of each of the points as time goes on. As mentioned earlier, to breed clownfish you need dedication. To be honest with you, from my experience I have found that it is not as tricky as it seems, at least these days. The makeshift breeding setup I currently have consists of:

  • Small Glass tank 30L
  • Old 200L plastic chemical drum cut in half
  • makeshift wooden shelves
  • 8 glass bottles approximately 3 litres each
  • airline tubing
  • 2 air pumps
  • air line fittings
  • old clear chinese food containers
  • a cheap flashlight
  • a cheap microscope – optional


As you can see most of the stuff you need is pretty much junk you may already have lying around let me go through the 30L tank and 200L chemical drum in a bit more detail, with the rest to follow on a future post:

Small glass tank 30L – Grow out tank

30L is an approximation, but I do not recommend going much bigger. One thing I noticed at my first attempt to breed Ocellaris clownfish is that the larvae are extremely small. If you where to compare them to a mosquito larvae, I would way they are at least a 3rd of the size. Putting them in a large tank seems like a good idea from a water pollution management perspective but in reality you are making it more difficult for the clownfish larvae to line up and attack their food, expending more energy in the process.

One solution around this is partially filling a large tank, for example if you have a 30L tank, you fill it to about half way full. During the first few days you will do a water change 1 – 2 times a day to ensure pollution is kept to a minimum in the fry tank. Every time you top up, you add a smidgeon more of water as the larvae start to grow. One of the challenges of breeding clownfish at home is time constraints. Having a large grow out tank with the intention of getting around frequent water changes is one solution, but make sure you do start with much less water when the fry first hatch.


Old 200L plastic chemical drum cut in half

The old chemical drum is 200L. You cut it the middle of the height and you’ve got yourself two sturdy tubs to culture Rotifers and Copepods. Just make sure you clean both ends out thoroughly. The end that has the two removable cap holes needs to be thoroughly waterproofed. I got around this with trusty old silicone glue.




Once this part is done you need to find a big enough space to set up shop. To set up a tub from scratch what I do is keep 100L of old tank water from my main marine display tank, I will then boil this tank water on the stove 10L at a time and allow to cool before adding it to the tub 10L at a time until the tub is full. It takes time but this precaution means you have greater control over what’s in your culture, as boiling the water kills the crap out of anything that might still be living in there, leaving nothing but seawater and fish waster nutrients behind. Conversely, you could make up water from scratch with new artificial salt, or use expired salt. I have done all three ways and they all work just the same, its just the old tank water method is cost effective. Once the tub is set up and full of water the next part is to set up the aeration, and depending where it is located, you may have to place a heater inside of each tub. If you’re still interested in breeding clownfish at home, stay tuned for my next post. I look forward to it, but for now I have to cut it short as this post is getting mega long!


George Ramon