Discussion - What is....

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I shoot people with a Canon
Staff member
Nov 8, 2006
Staffordshire, UK
Real Name
...your understanding of symbiosis?

Why do you think, out of the many marine fish, that life chose clownfish to host in an anemone?

Thinking in general terms, why do you think that clownfish host in an anemone, but, damsels do not?

If you could play god, and choose to change evolution, what fish would you choose to form a symbiotic relationship, replacing clownfish?


Guru at procrastinating
Aug 10, 2008
in your house!!
a good discussion thought niko,

symbiosis- the interactions between 2 different organisms.
I would not know why nature chose the clownfish to be hosting with an anemone, or why some fish form life long pairs and others dont, or why nature formed different water qualitys(marine, fresh, brackish). Nature is strange but intrigueing. I dont know why clowns host anemones and damsels dont but id imagine the personality of the clowns and damsels would have something to do with it. If i could change the symbiotic relationship id replace the clown with a neon blue goby simply for their wonderful colors small stature:)


Registered something or another...
Feb 25, 2008
It is to my understanding that clownfish are immune to the anemone's stinging tentacles,whereas the damsel lacks that adaptation. Why or how this adaptation occurred in the clownfish in particular is beyond me.

I don't think I would change anything,nature has perfected itself.and as the old saying goes, "If it aint broke don't fix it!".

Good way to get the brain cells firing Niko.


www.centralcoastreefclub. com
Oct 3, 2005
Just guessing .. but maybe something to do with the "waggle" clownfish have, making them not the best/fastest swimmers, forced them to adapt to being able to live in an anemone in order to escape other predators. As most of us have found out, trying to catch a normal damsel in a fish tank is near impossible without tearing down the tank, but clownfish are suprisingly easy to catch, especially for being in the damsel family.

severum mama

is a big bowl of wrong.
Dec 30, 2006
North GA
I've only seen this in person once, but it was fascinating....
A customer at the shop I used to work at brought in his fish for us to watch while he got a new tank set up. He had a couple clowns and a domino damsel, and it was the damsel that actually hosted his anemone rather than the clowns.


Bligh..The Demander Of Attention..
Jun 9, 2006
North Queensland, Australia
My understanding of symbiosis is that is a mutually beneficial relationship between two different species, and as a 'team' they are better off than as individuals. The clowns get protection and a safe breeding site, and the anemone gets a live in cleaner and food supplier.

I have no idea why clowns over any other species, I guess it would have come down to evolutionary chance and maybe the way the damsel family lived within the ecosystem. They use corals, acropora etc, for protection so maybe a species started living closer and closer to anemones for protection until it developed a way to live within the anemone and broke off as a sub-group of the damsels.

Whenever I go diving damsels are always near branching corals and if I scare them they dart straight into the corals. So I would assume that just using stony corals as protection works for them now so there's no current ecological pressure for them to change to be hosted by anemones. Give them a few million years and maybe all damsels will be hosted by anemones, who knows :).


Contain the Excitement...
Feb 14, 2007
Mobile, Alabama
Real Name
There is an ongoing debate of whether or not the anemone/clownfish symbiotic relationship is mutualistic or strictly commensal. The relationship does seem a bit one-sided at times. Some species seem perfectly adapted to protecting themselves, even from relatively large fish. Then again, anemones don't stop all predators of clownfish, either. There are many fish that are seemingly immune and would waste no time snacking on a clownfish. Anemones, on the other hand, seem to benefit tremendously, as their survival rate is far higher in the presence of clownfish. It is difficult to say.

As far as why clownfish, that is just the beauty of evolution. Fish that decided to stay with the anemone had more chances to reproduce. Whether or not that is a result of actual clownfish survival, egg survival, you name it--who knows (yet). There are some non-clownfish damsels that associate with anemones, such as domino damsels. As to why they stop that relationship as they grow older, see the comments above--I don't know. Definitely interesting to think about, though.