Popularised by the animated movie Finding Nemo, a cloud of colourful western clownfish (two-bar anemonefish) (Amphiprion bicinctus) enthrall two young visitors at the Aquarium's popular Nemo exhibit.

In their natural habitat clownfish live in a close, mutualistic relationship with their anemone host. The anemone is a filter feeder and captures minute particles of food from the water passing over its tentacles.

The clownfish, which hover constantly in the waft of the ocean over the anemone's arms, increases the efficiency of this process by fanning water across the anemone’s surface as it darts in and out of the tentacles. The fish also help to keep the anemone free from parasites and rotting food particles.

A colourful array of western clownfish. Photo courtesy of flowcomm

In return for its services, the anemone provides safe housing for the clownfish among its venomous tentacles.

Clownfish are able to survive the myriad of stinging cells by secreting a layer of protective mucus from their skin. Because of this special adaptation, it is important for clownfish to avoid physical contact with any abrasive surface (including human skin) as the mucus layer is easily removed, which will result in them losing their special protection.

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