Premnas biaculeatus - Maroon Clownfish
The Centerpiece Clownfish
So you want a clownfish, huh? But maybe you’d like something a little different than Nemo. If that’s the case, the maroon clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus) may be just what the doctored ordered. “Maroon clownfish have got to be one of the most striking of marine tropicals,” says Bob Fenner, author of The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, and we’d have to agree. These beautifully colored fish are easy-to-keep, will host in a variety of anemones and, generally speaking, can make a wonderful centerpiece species so long as you keep a few simple things in mind. Tempted? Then read on.
Maroon Clownfish Distribution in the Wild
Alternatively called the spinecheek clown or anemonefish or the tomato clownfish, the maroon clownfish hails from the Indo-West Pacific where it can be found throughout the Indo-Australian Archipelago, including India, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, New Britain, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Australia itself. The maroon clownfish is a reef-associated tropical fish that can be found in relatively shallow waters of a meter or less and down to a about 16 meters. Preferring to live in pairs in the wild, this fish is commonly seen in protected coastal waters and lagoons where it frequently hosts in bubble top anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor).
Maroon Clownfish Morphology
As mentioned above, the maroon clownfish is sometimes called the spinecheek clownfish, and it indeed has a namesake preopercular spine. While called a maroon clownfish, it is only the females that develop the dark maroon coloring (sometimes quite dark), whereas the males and juveniles are a bright red color. There are both white stripe and gold stripe maroon clownfish, but they are actually the same species. In fact, it is possible for the fish’s striping color to change based on a number of factors, including nutrition. Like all clownfishes, the males are smaller than the females. Keep in mind, however, that, also like other clownfish species, the maroon clown has the ability to change sex with the dominant fish being a large female (up to 17 cm in the wild).
Maroon Clownfish Husbandry
Caring for a maroon clownfish in a saltwater aquarium is not difficult if several husbandry considerations are kept in mind. First and foremost, it is critical for the aquarist considering one or more maroon clownfish to remember that this fish gets big, and, more often than not, will become the dominant fish in the aquarium as an adult. As such, mixing the maroon clownfish with other smaller, more peaceful fishes (especially other clownfishes) in anything but the largest aquarium is not advisable. Instead, plan to have the maroon clownfish be the centerpiece of a forty-gallon tank with a beautiful bubble anemone host, or keep a pair in a sixty-gallon or larger aquarium. These fish have all the personality, intelligence and good looks to be the main attraction.
Alternatively, consider adding a maroon clownfish as the last (or very near the last) fish in an aggressive reef tank or semi-aggressive community tank with larger fishes. While it is not unheard of for maroon clownfish to damage coral while doing some of their own aquascaping, generally speaking, they are most content in a reef tank with plenty of live rock. It’s important to remember that the maroon clownfish, like other clownfishes, doesn’t need a host anemone, so it is entirely possible to keep this fish in a fish-only system or a system that may not yet be mature enough for an anemone (usually about six months).
Whatever set-up the aquarist decides upon for his or her maroon clownfish, the aquarium set-up should employ standard saltwater aquarium filtration and lighting. If the aquarist is intent on also keeping an anemone in which the clownfish can host, then the aquarium will need to have standard reef filtration (e.g., a protein skimmer that is preferably sump-based) and reef-ready lighting.
Feeding a Maroon Clownfish
When it comes to feeding a maroon clownfish, there is usually little trouble. In the wild, the maroon clownfish will feed primarily on zooplankton and benthic algae, but in the aquarium it will accept a wide range of commercially available foods and meaty bits of raw table seafood. In fact, clownfish will accept just about any type of marine-based diet they are offered. For optimum health, feed a varied diet.
There are a few other considerations to keep in mind when considering keeping maroon clownfish. It is best to acquire a mated pair if a pair is the goal, although two individuals of varying sizes (one large and one small) may pair up. If a maroon clownfish from a pair dies, the aquarist may add another maroon clownfish of approximately the same size. In either scenario, the aquarist must watch closely to insure that the dominant fish is not harassing the smaller fish to the latter’s detriment.
While the husbandry staff at Blue Zoo Aquatics recommends the aquarist quarantine all newly acquired fishes, this is particularly true in the case of wild-collected maroon clownfish. These fish are notorious for carrying various common parasites that cause infestations such as Amyloodinium, Brooklynellosis and Crypto. While we take the time to quarantine all recently imported fishes for you at our state-of-the-art facility in Los Angeles, the reality is that the stress of shipping and new surroundings can prompt an outbreak on even the healthiest-looking maroon clown. Be safe and quarantine!
Maroon clownfishes will breed readily in captivity, and, while a discussion of breeding your own maroon clownfish is beyond the scope of this article, do know that this is an excellent marine species for the captive breeder.