Clownfish are a staple of the reef-keeping hobby, given their incredible beauty and a wide variety of species, they never seem to get old or go out of fashion. Their symbiotic relationship with anemones is just an extra bonus.
Considering how many different species, and then varieties of clownfish there are, we wanted to create a blog post explaining the differences, and how to identify them.
When identifying clownfish, it’s important to distinguish between a species type and then any “designer” names that come along with it.
Some of the common designer names you might see, are “Wyoming White” or “Phantom Clownfish”. A Phantom Clownfish is still an Ocellaris, but it’s widely called a Phantom if that makes sense?
We’ll first dive into different species of clownfish and then cover the most popular designer variants in the second half. Each clownfish we mention will also have some anemone pairing recommendations, but to learn more about this we recommend reading our ultimate guide to clownfish hosting.
Lastly, we’ll mention an expected price for each type and design of clownfish. We won’t be naming a specific price, due to inflation, currency conversion, and other factors, but will describe them using words like “cheap”, “average”, or “higher end”.
Ocellaris Clownfish (False Percula)
Ocellaris Clownfish are likely the most well-known species, and typically what people think of when they hear “clownfish”. They are distinguished by their darker eyes, eleven dorsal fins spines, and thinner black lines.
You may occasionally see them called a “False Percula”, which can get really confusing. It gets this name because of how often Ocellaris and the next Clownfish on the list are confused together.
Not to dive into logic class, if something is “False”, then by definition it is not that thing, and therefore an “opposite”. In the aquatics world, the opposite of a Percula is an Ocellaris.
Percula Clownfish (True Percula)
Percula Clownfish are likely the second most common species of clownfish, are classified as clownfish with a brighter orange color, and darker stripes.
They also have a bit more orange in their eyes, and one less dorsal fine spine.
Even experienced aquarists get them confused with Ocellaris, as they look so similar on first glance.
Tomato Clownfish are another common type of clownfish and are most easily identified by their darker red bodies and a single white stripe between their pectoral fin and their eye at maturity.
While they are young, it’s possible to see one with three stripes, but these will fade over time.
Tomato clowns are known to be some of the most aggressive species of clownfish, so keep this in mind when pairing them with other clownfish or tank mates.
Next on the list is the Maroon Clownfish. Similar to Tomato Clowns, they are a dark red, although not typically as dark as a Tomato, they almost always have three stripes across their bodies.
They are the most aggresive out of any clownfish and also grow to be the largest at around seven inches.
Pink & Orange Skunk Clownfish
Skunk Clownfish get the name due to the white stripe that goes down their back and their body coloration. They come in two main colors, pink, and orange. The pink and orange variants are in fact different species, but given their similarities, we combined them into one spot on our list.
They are known to be some of the most docile clownfish, so if that’s important to you and you want to include a clownfish in your tank, they can be a great choice.
Sebae Clownfish are best classified by two large white stripes that go across their bodies, and a yellow tail.
Saddleback Clownfish are a somewhat common species of clownfish best identified by their large back stripe, that looks like a saddle that might go on a horse.
They come in a wide variety of colors, from a dark red (seen here), to a black color.
When it comes to designer clownfish, these are created intentionally through a process of selective breeding. Selective breeding describes the process where species are bred targeting a desired trait.
This is not to be confused with genetic engineering, which involves the addition of genetic material, into the animals DNA, and is extremely unnatural and looked down upon in the hobby.
Designer Clownfish are generaly much more expensive than normal clownfish, given all the work that went into breeding them, and the fact they each have a unique, rare, appearance.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s jump into the most common breeds. ORA Farms seems to be leading the way when it comes to designer clownfish, so we’ll be sharing their websites and pictures to make this guide.
Lastly, we’ll be commenting what species of clownfish each designer breed is, so that you can reference the clownfish anenome pairing guide.
Snowflake clownfish (Ocellaris Base) are one of the most common designer breeds, and are named after their unique snowflake looking stripes. No Snowflake Clown has the same pattern!
Black Snowflake clownfish (Ocellaris Base) are similar to the previously mentioned snowflake clown, just that it’s completely dark with the same snowflake stripe design.
The Davinci or Gladiator Clownfish (Ocellaris Base) can be identified by the merging of the stripes.
There’s different grading scales for designer clownfish, and a Davinci with two connected stripes like the image below would be considered Grade A.
It get’s the name Davinci as it’s said their stripes look like paint strokes.
Next up, is the Misbar Clownfish (Ocellaris Base).
This designer breed is most easily characterized by a partial bar of its middle stripe.
Because of the incomplete bar, you’ll get much more orange on the fishes body.
The Longfin Clownfish (Ocellaris Base) is a pretty unique fish, characterized by the appearance of, you guessed it, long fins.
Longfins are often mixed with other varieties in order to make the breed ever more distinct.
The most common morph is the Longfin Phantom Clownfish.
Frostbite’s are pretty common, and get the name due to their white bodys with blue colorings, giving a “cold” look or effect to the fish.
Frostbite Clownfish also come in a black or dark variety.
Naked Clownfish (Ocellaris Base) are one of my personal favorite morphs, and have the appearance of being “naked” due to the lack of stripes or much other coloring.
The Wyoming White Clownfish (Ocellaris Base) is known for it’s lack of pigmentation across a majority of its body.
The Picasso Clownfish (Percula Base) is an awesome looking clownfish morph that’s characterized by it’s darker colorations with a larger unique extended white middle srtripe.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Lightning Maroon clownfish (Maroon Base).
What sets Lightning Maroons apart from Maroon’s, is the appearance of lightning bolt designer or other unique patterns in its stripes.
That’s all we’ve got for designer clowns for now!
If there are some popular ones we missed, be sure to let us know and we can make some additions to the list.
Frequently Asked Questions
Designer clownfish are made through a process of selective breeding, where clownfish that exhibit a desired trait are bred with others with the same desired trait.
After several generations, they will be much more distinct from their original form.
Generally speaking, yes, most clownfish breeds can interbreed with each other and have viable offspring.
Now that you have an idea of all the different species and variations of clownfish out there, you should be much more suited to make a purchase, or identifying ones you see.
If there is anything to take away from this article, is that there’s a difference between a species of clownfish, and a designer breed.
Species are genetically different and found in the wild, where designer clowns have been selective bred in fish farms for desired traits.
In order to find out what types of anemone a certain clownfish kind will take to, you’ll want to start with the species, and not the designer breed.