I don’t know who came up with this name but naming the clownfish as clownfish was literally the perfect rendition. Behind their cutesy and bubbly nature, some creepy traits make us shiver like a clown.

Clownfish certainly possess a cannibalistic trait, and they feast on their babies after egg hatching is complete. After hatching, the fry will be on its own. So, they will be under attack by other fishes and even by their parents.

If you want to know more about this grotesque trait and ways of saving the fry, keep reading, as I am going to explain all there is about the cannibalistic behavior of clownfish.

Do Clownfish Eat Their Babies?

Clownfish indeed eat their babies after the hatching period is over. It may sound gruesome to you. But in nature, where clownfish habitats, their protection shield expires when the baby fish becomes a fry and eligible to swim and live on its own. The male clownfish protects the egg while the mother is on watch of the surrounding.

Once the eggs are hatched, the fish is left wild in nature. Certainly, other predators will not miss any chance to feast on them. Among the predators, their parents and other clownfish are also included. Since the fry are left alone, and they are a completely separate entity, parent clownfish are not entitled to protect them.

The parent fish, with their hunter instinct, can pry on their little kid. Generally, adult fish prefers fry and small fishes since they are comparatively less defenseless. It is easy to capture them and snack them on. With that instinct, the parent and adult clownfish will eat their babies since, after hatching, there is no parent-child bond between them.

Do Clownfish Eat Their Own Eggs?

You must be thinking clownfish are generous and forbearing to their eggs. Your logic is certainly rational since the eggs are still under the shield of their parents, and they are supposed to be protected until the hatching period. But boy, do I have news for you! The clownfish don’t even spare their eggs from devouring.

Before you judge, let me tell you, this act of eating eggs is certainly not intended to practice cannibalism. Rather it is to protect the eggs from the eggs. There are rational reasons why they feast on their eggs. Also, only the male clownfish participate in this activity since they play the main role of protecting the eggs.

Do Clownfish Eat Young Clownfish?

Eating young clownfish is certainly rare but not unheard of. Clownfish are omnivores, meaning they will eat any plant and meat when they are hungry. They will not even spare their little ones. Since clownfish are on their own after hatching, the young ones are not nurtured or protected by any adult.

Adult clownfish will pry on them if the young fish are small enough to fit in their mouth. Young clownfish are typically 4.3-6 inches in length. This is really an optimal size for the adult clownfish to convert them to a snack. And their method of devouring the younger ones is not pretty either. They will tear them into pieces and munch on them mercilessly.

This behavior is usually seen when the fish are on a bad or poor diet with little to no nutrition. The water condition of the tank also has some role to play. An inhabitable tank will make the residents more desperate and aggressive. Aggressive clownfish are the biggest threat to young fish and their eggs.

Do Clownfish Eat Adult Clownfish?

Clownfish are undoubtedly violent creatures who won’t hesitate to fight their own species for territorial acclaim and dominance over the tank. But will they be gross enough to eat their opponent? Yes, they will. Even though devouring adult clownfish is not a habitual thing, there have been incidents that confirm such a claim.

When clownfish hatch, they all grow up as males. As they step into adulthood, the dominant and stronger one converts into a female because as long as clownfish are concerned, female ones are dominant and rule the tank. When you add more dominant clownfish into that tank, a fight breaks out to claim the territory.

A fight is certainly violent and aggressive. But once the fight is over, the dominant won’t spare the opponent and let it go. They will mercilessly kill them. And sometimes, if they feel hungry and tired after the big fight, they directly piece the loser clownfish apart with their sharp, tiny teeth and devour them like victory dinner.

Why Do Clownfish Eat Their Eggs?

There are several reasons that drive the clownfish to eat the eggs that they were supposed to protect. Some reasons might seem belligerent, but usually, the reasons are really rational and befitting from their point of view. Here are some reasons why clownfish eat their babies.

Infertile Eggs

When female clownfish lay eggs, chances are half of them will be infertile, or the sperm of the male fish will not penetrate the eggs. Those infertile eggs will rot and will never be hatched. Also, bacteria and other viruses will spew from such eggs, risking the other fertile eggs and the overall environment of the tank.

A male clownfish can identify infertile eggs from good eggs. Fertile eggs are darker in color, and a dark spot will be visible to indicate the embryo. On the flip side, infertile eggs are pasty and pale white in color with no spots. By dissecting the good and bad eggs, the father will feast on the infertile eggs to protect the other eggs.

Immature Parents

When two clownfish jump into adulthood and gain the maturity to start spawning, there is a high chance they will go crazy at the thought of eggs and babies, like humans. They will panic and be stressed out, but unlike humans, they often end up eating their eggs. But after a few spawning, the crazy cycle will stop, and they will start reacting to eggs with normalcy.

Young parents tend to eat freshly laid eggs or newly hatched fry as soon as they come into being. The male clownfish are mostly at fault, as it is their duty to protect the eggs. Young male clownfish have been reported to abort their duty by either devouring the eggs or leaving the eggs unprotected and defenseless to other predators.

Fungal Or Bacterial Infection

Various types of bacteria and fungi lurk through the tank or generate from the eggs. These sorts of bacteria and fungi can attack any kind of egg, fertile or infertile. If one egg is infected, it will spread around the area in no time. Bacteria and fungi don’t discriminate, and all the eggs are equally at risk.

In such a stage, the only acceptable option is to eliminate the infected eggs from the good eggs to stop the spreading and protect the uninfected eggs. That is why the father identifies the infected eggs and eats them. If you want to prevent fungi or bacteria attacks on the eggs, keep the tank clean and keep an eye on eggs during the breeding season.

Ailing Parent

If the parent or adult clownfish are sick, infirm, and in bad health, they tend to stress out and become aggressive in nature. Poor gut health, faulty respiratory system, broken bones, non-functional gills, and many more reasons may put the clownfish in bad condition. In such a stressful situation, the parent will become the predator.

Sick and ailing clownfish, out of stress, attack other clownfish and other fishes. If your clownfish regularly attack other fish and the eggs, immediately take them to medical attention and diagnose the issue behind such behavior. Meanwhile, keep them in quarantine or in a separate container with the same water quality to protect the eggs.


Breeding season really brings out the aggressive self of the male clownfish. They become angry, aggressive, and belligerent while they are on the egg-protecting responsibility. If you add additional stress to it, the outcome will be chaotic and messy. Stress is the biggest reason the parents become unkind to their eggs.

To keep their stress under control, you need to keep the water parameters on the tank balanced and checked. If the stress of the clownfish is triggered by other fish or other elements, it is wise to keep them away. Also, a healthy and nutritious diet is extremely important for stress management. A poor diet will certainly increase the chance of egg feasting for clownfish.

Population Control

Fishes with cannibalistic instincts rationalize their baby-eating as a method of population control. In wild nature, predators keep the environment in balance by creating stability among the species. Clownfish lay thousands of eggs on one breading session, and hundreds of fries come alive from them. If they fail to control such a population, their own existence will be in question.

How To Protect The Baby Clownfish?

If you claim to be an aquarist or at least aspire to be, you need to protect the babies and fertile eggs from their negligent parents. The good news is there are ways you can mediate cannibalism by taking some good initiatives and care. Let’s see how you can protect the babies.

Ensure The Clownfish Is Captive-Bred

Clownfish born and brought up in the wild usually live a very aggressive life inside anemone of corals. Since they are extremely territorial, they don’t like someone to invade their space, whether it’s their own baby or not. When you bring such aggressive fish into your tank, their territorial instinct will not fade away.

Rather, purchase captive-bred clownfish. They are born under responsible surveillance, and their territory dominance instinct is mitigated at the very beginning. When you bring other clownfish, previous ones will not feel so threatened and grow violent inside the tank.

Separate Before Hatching Period Is Over

Separation is the wisest thing to do when it comes to protecting baby fish from their violent parents. With an acrylic divider, glass, or plastic material, divide the tank so that aggressive fish can’t invade other’s territory. You can also create different territories with corals and direct them to stay within their designated area.

Bring Clownfish In Pair

Usually, in a pet store, clownfish are sold in pairs. And that is for a good reason. If they are accustomed to and tolerant of each other, you can rest assured that violence will not break out. The fight for territory dominance breaks out in their adulthood when the dominant clownfish converts into females. If the fish are used to each other before that and have a good understanding, they will not attack their babies and each other.

Include A Nutritious Diet

Clownfish are omnivores, and they don’t discriminate on foods. So much so that they will identify their babies as food too. To avoid such a situation, make sure to provide them with plenty of food and nutrients, both plant-based and meat-based. Don’t forget to wear gloves when you add food to the tank because clownfish will not spare your finger from turning it into food.

Final Words

Nature gives us waves of shock in many ways. I am sure a rational man can never justify such baby-eating, but for clownfish, this act is implemented through them the evolutionary process. They take such cannibalistic blame on them just to protect their species and control their population.

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