Clownfish is undoubtedly on everyone’s wish list as their first pet fish, and I understand why. Their vibrant and goofy nature is a perfect example of a pet. But before welcoming your little buddy, you need to make sure to give it a proper home.

Clownfish are saltwater fish, meaning you need to create a saltwater setup in your tank. They don’t require much space, but 20 gallons tank is the minimum requirement for them. Tank water should be seawater or tap water with a proportionate sea salt mix.

If you are a newbie in this aquatic world and don’t know where to start, you have landed on the perfect article. I am about to show you everything you need to know about setting up your tank for clownfish.

Why Do Clownfish Need Saltwater Tanks?

In the wild, clownfish can be found in the pacific ocean surroundings, making it a saltwater fish. Even if your clownfish is a captive breed, they need salt water to survive and thrive. What will happen if you put them in the freshwater? They will die within a few minutes in a very inhumane manner.

So, you know how important this is for clownfish to survive. As a beginner, you may struggle with maintaining a saltwater tank because it needs lots of skill, experience, and time management. So, do not get discouraged if you fail a few times before you perfect to upkeep a saltwater tank.

If you are a beginner, it is better to start with natural or premade saltwater that is available in a local store. As you grow experience and confidence, you can switch to homemade saltwater. You can find lots of salt mixes for your tank and you can choose according to your taste and budget. But always use a refractometer to measure and maintain the salinity level.

If the salinity level is unbalanced due to poor water parameter setup or evaporation, your fish will stress out and suffer.

What Should Be The Size Of The Tank?

The minimum requirement of tank size for clownfish is 20 gallons. However, it may increase depending on your preference, equipment, and the number of clownfish you want to put in the tank. Usually, with a 20 gallons tank, a pair of clownfish with a few decorations and equipment is good to go.

Nevertheless, some aquarist suggests conserving the clownfish in 30 gallons tank at least. Their reasons are not that superficial too. Clownfish by nature are very poor swimmers. That doesn’t mean they don’t know how to swim. It just means clownfish require a lot of energy to swim even a little bit and their mobility is not very calculated.

So, without a medium to a large tank, they will find it hard to swim freely without hitting the walls or decorations. Also, equipment, decorations, and filtration setup take up a significant amount of space blocking their residence. But even so, a pair of 4-inch clownfish don’t need more than 20 gallons tank.

But you need to consider what type of clownfish are you welcoming. Clownfish breeds like Clarkii, or maroon grow to 6-7 inches when they become adults. For them, 20 gallons tank will be too small to thrive. In that case, you need to shift from 20 gallons to 55+ gallons tanks. If you have e plan to add more clownfish to the tank, it is wise to opt for a bigger option in the first place.

Water Parameters Requirement

Since clownfish are saltwater fish, their water parameters requirement is certainly different from freshwater ones. Mixing a salt mix into the water is not the only duty to set up your tank for freshwater. You need to correctly level up other requirements before you welcome your pets home.


Water temperature is something you can’t be nonchalant about when it comes to clownfish. Saltwater fish needs different set up of temperature to survive. Seawater fishes require 76°- 82° F, while freshwater fish can survive at 65° to 75° F. For clownfish specifically, you need to set your tank’s temperature at 73° to 80° F.

Salinity Level

Salinity level means how much salt the water contains in the tank. Needless to say, salinity level will be the driving factor while you set up your tank for clownfish. Usually, the salinity level of water is less than 0.5 PPT. But for the clownfish tank, the salinity level should be 1.02- 1.024 PPT. Use a test kit to always keep the salinity level in check.

Specific Gravity Level

Specific gravity level means the dissolved salinity level of the water. It determines the density of the water inside the tank. For clownfish, the specific gravity should be 1.021-1.026, which counts as 29-35 PPT. Since clownfish are poor swimmers highly dense water will make it more difficult for them to swim.

Ph Level

The ideal pH range for clownfish is 7.8-8.4. This is slightly in the alkaline range because it helps the invertebrates and corals to manufacture calcium-based products which will provide your clownfish with strong bones and skeletons. The alkalinity level of the tank can range from 142 to 215 PPT.

Dissolved Oxygen Level

The oxygen level directly connects with the breathability of your clownfish. For your tank, you need 5-6 PPT of dissolved oxygen level. You should test the level every alternate week to maintain the status quo. If the level drops to less than 3, your fish will face difficulties and lead to death as well.

Temperature73° F to 82° F
Salinity level1.02 to 1.024 PPT
Specific gravity1.021 to 1.026
pH level7.8 to 8.4
Dissolved Oxygen level5-6 PPT

Equipment And Decorations

Your tank will require some necessary equipment, kits, and decorations for functionality or scenic beauty. You don’t need to overburden your tank or go for expensive versions of equipment. As a newbie, start with basic requirements and build up once you become an expert.

Sea Salt Mix

You can find numerous options available on the market for sea salt mixes. If you use premade or actual seawater, you do not need this. But it is safe to keep this in hand because, in evaporation, the water evades but salt in the water remains. It can be needed to balance the level. For the starter, you need to add one tablespoon of sea salt to 5 gallons of water.


You may think you can just drop a handful of regular sand on the tank and be done with it. But no, regular sands are extremely corrosive in nature and scar your clownfish’s skin. You need to fetch aquarium sand from a local store or Amazon. If you must use regular sand, rinse them thoroughly before putting them into water.

Filtration System

For saltwater fish, the filtration system is not an option or luxury, but a necessity. Because saltwater has more dissolved oxygen and salinity in the water, ammonia, and nitrates produced in the tank react more quickly with those than in freshwater tanks. Invest in a good quality filtration system that can run for a long time.

Live Rock

Live rock is rock from the ocean that works are a biological filter into the ocean and in saltwater tanks. They are basically fragments of reefs from old corals. For half a gallon of water, you should add 1 kg of live rock into the tank.


I can stress how important temperature is for a functional saltwater tank. Clownfish are too sensitive when it comes to temperature fluctuation. So, you need to provide heating in your tank without any pause. For every 50 liters of water, your tank will need 100 watts of heating.


Seawater aquariums can’t be placed under direct sunlight. So, your tank will need additional lighting inside the tank. It is wise to use 2-3 fluorescent lights. If you go for acrylic tanks for your clownfish, you can get built-in LED lights. You should opt for the lights with a timer so that they can be switched off during nighttime.

Set Up The Tank

Now that you have everything that you need to set up the tank, you can start building the new home for your clownfish. Before you add your fish into the water, always make sure everything is perfectly set up and matches up with the previous water parameters where they used to live. Let’s learn about the steps you can follow to set up the tank.

Place The Tank

You need to make sure your tank is set up in the right place in your home. You can’t place the tank under direct sunlight or in places that are too loud and cold. You should have a stand to put the tank in so that it can be at eye level to spot easily. Also, choose a place away from the television so that the radiation can’t penetrate the water.

Clean Your Tank

A dirty tank will suffocate your fish so hard you can’t even comprehend what went wrong. So, you need to clean up the dust and dirty substances from the tank. But never use any chemical cleaning products to clean your tank because the residue of such chemicals can harm your clownfish.

Add Water And Sand

Lay the sand on the bottom and fill the area with 3-6 cm of thick sand. Once the sand is set up, pour the water. If it is premade, you can directly add tap water that is aged to the tank. But if it is regular water, then you need to add salt mix proportionately. Leave at least 10 cm of space on the top layer.

Set The Heater And Filter

Dunk your heater on the bottom of your tank and place them securely so that it doesn’t move. After placing them on the bottom layer, turn the device on and set the temperature at 79° Fahrenheit. Also, set the filter on the top space and turn it on.


Before you put the clownfish in the water, you have to perform nitrate cycling. First, you need to perform a nitrate test daily and note down the reading. The reading should be zero for the first couple of days and spike up to a higher reading. From that, it will lower in gradual time.

After 1-4 weeks, the cycle will be complete when the reading will show zero again. That indicates that your tank is safe for any living organisms and no residue of any sort of poison is lingering in the tank. Now, you can safely place your clownfish into your newly set up tank.

Final Words

Welcoming a new pet fish into your home and life is always a matter of excitement. But you should ensure your little buddy has a warm and welcoming home to reside in and thrive. Follow the steps and build your clownfish the home it deserves.

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