Do Clownfish Eat Their Own Eggs?

by | Blog, Breeding and Care, Saltwater Fish

1. Intro

In the fish world, things can get pretty cutthroat. Aquatic environments are just like the wild: Animals need to do what it takes to survive. It’s relatively common for some fish to eat their own eggs, or even their own fry. But do clownfish eat their own eggs? For the most part, clownfish are excellent at taking care of their eggs, and work to ensure healthy fry. They are attentive parents, making a home at an anenome in the wild, with the male clownfish guarding the eggs until they hatch.

Wild clownfish with fry

Although they’re well-known for the care of their own eggs, there are some exceptions: Stress, inexperience, or the culling of unfertilized eggs or infected eggs are all circumstances in which the clownfish will eat their own eggs without hesitation. Let’s take a closer look at this, and how you can prevent it.

Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links on this site may be affiliate links. This means we earn a tiny commission if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you, and we only link to products we recommend.

General Disclosure: We do our best to provide free, accurate, helpful information. However, we are not liable for decisions you make. When in doubt, please consult a veterinarian and/or professional aquarist.

2. Breeding Tank: What Food Do Clownfish Normally Eat?

Like most fish, clownfish need a varied diet to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need. When setting up a breeding tank, however, keep in mind that the fish need more energy for the reproduction process and to take care of the eggs, so you should feed them accordingly. Give them high-quality frozen and commercial food with lots of protein and nutrients such as brine shrimp, krill, mysis shrimp, algae, frozen food like frozen shrimp, and pellets. This is a good preventative measure to set the parents up to succeed by meeting their needs, so they have the energy to take care of their eggs and fry – And to avoid some of the issues listed below.

3. 7 Common Reasons Why Clownfish Eat Their Own Eggs


Clownfish tending eggs


Clownfish eat their own eggs for several reasons, from unviable eggs or starvation, to inexperience or illness. Let’s take a look.

3.1 Eggs Are Not Viable

It’s the responsibility of male clownfish to take care of the eggs – both healthy and unhealthy – until they hatch.

During this time, the clownfish male keeps an eye on the clutch, and if he finds any unfertilized egg or non-viable eggs, he’ll promptly eat them; This is because non-viable eggs can attract fungus and harmful bacteria, putting the entire clutch at risk.

Male clownfish will continue to guard the eggs if they’re viable, but not sick or infected eggs. But how can he tell which ones are viable and which aren’t? Unviable eggs are white and fuzzy, with fungus or bacteria on them. In contrast, viable eggs are crystal clear and embryo formation can be seen from the outside.

3.2 Inexperienced Parents

In the first few spawnings, clownfish won’t be able to fertilize most eggs completely due to lack of knowledge and experience of parent fish. When the eggs aren’t fertilized properly, they’re not viable – So you’ll find the clownfish eating them. Keep in mind that they’re wired to do everything they can to create baby clownfish; It just might take them some time to learn.

3.3 Fungal Infected Eggs

If the eggs of clownfish come in contact with the fungus, they’ll lose their color. Male clownfish will eat them to prevent the illness from transferring to the other eggs, doing his duty to ensure the rest of the clutch hatches successfully.

3.4 Poor Tank Conditions

This is the culprit of many problems in the aquarium, and here it’s no different. Excellent water quality, accurate parameters, a peaceful environment, and good living conditions are essential for the reproduction process of your clownfish (and all fish, for that matter).


Dirty aquarium filter

Super dirty aquarium canister filter.


If you don’t provide favorable conditions to your clownfish, they’ll get sick or stressed and will be unable to take care of the eggs properly. It’s a vicious cycle: If the clownfish parents are unable to take care of the eggs, the eggs are more likely to become sick or infected, leading to the parents to eat the damaged eggs.

3.5 Malnourishment

This one’s a little obvious, but it’s true. The reproduction process is lengthy and energy-consuming. If the clownfish parents don’t receive the nutrients and nourishment they need to replenish the energy they’re expending, they’ll get hungry and stressed out, and will eat their eggs to try to get the nourishment they need.

3.6 Health Problems

If your clownfish is suffering from any fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infection, then they may become aggressive due to the stress and uncomfortability of sickness. In this state of stress, they may attack and eat their eggs.

If the pair of clownfish is not healthy, particularly the male clownfish, this can be an issue. It takes energy in bulk to take care of and guard the eggs, so their health and the availability of calories are very much needed.

3.7 Stress

Stress can absolutely cause clownfish parents to eat their own eggs, especially new parents. If the tank is overstocked, overcrowded, has too much light or sound, or doesn’t provide a proper place for the pair to prepare and tend their eggs, they’ll get stressed out. This can lead to a couple of different outcomes: 1) They’re too stressed to do their guardianship and cleaning duties for the eggs, causing the eggs to become damaged, and therefore eating them after, or 2) Creating general nervousness for the parents, causing them to eat even healthy eggs out of stress.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to have a separate clownfish breeding tank.

4. How To Save Clownfish Eggs?


Clownfish guarding eggs


On the whole, clownfish are very good parents and will guard, prune, and tend their eggs. By far, the best way to save clownfish eggs is preventative measures: Setting up the breeding tank correctly, providing the best possible environment, and feeding properly. But in some cases, you may just need to remove the eggs from the parent clownfish. Just keep in mind that sometimes clownfish eat eggs for normal reasons as a way to protect the other eggs.

4.1 Provide Proper Diet To Clownfish

If you feed your clownfish properly, you’ll help save the eggs as well as the baby clownfish that come later. Providing a good, varied diet (insects, worms, brine shrimp, frozen food) will give the parents the energy they need so they don’t pilfer from the clutch out of hunger, and so that the male can focus on eating only the sickly eggs he may find.

4.2 Eliminate Stressors

It’s a good idea to separate the clownfish family from other fish and allow them a separate breeding tank when possible to help eliminate any stress from other fish in the tank. If your fish is showing signs of stress, use process of elimination to determine the cause and remedy it. Reduce any bright lighting, make sure there’s no extra noise/vibrations, keep up your tank maintenance and water quality, feed a varied diet, and treat any illnesses promptly.

4.3 Remove The Eggs From the Parents

Removing the eggs from the parents’ tank is the most surefire way to save them, if all else fails. Depending upon the clownfish species, eggs hatch in 8-12 days, so this is a good time to place them in a separate tank.

This will not only save the eggs, but also provide a comfortable, safe environment for the future fry to grow.

4.4 Keep Eggs Well-Oxygenated

When clownfish eggs are well-oxygenated, they’re less likely to get infected or become unviable – Keeping them safe from decay. You can place an air stone in the tank to help support oxygenation in their living area.

4.5 Address Health Problems Of Parents

Clownfish eat viable eggs when they’re sick, hungry, or stressed. If you find signs of illness, quarantine the parents so that you can provide treatment and also to control the disease before it spreads.

4.6 Know The Experience Of The Parent Fish

After a few spawnings, this won’t be an issue. But in the beginning, the parent clownfish are inexperienced in the fertilization and care processes. After one or two spawnings, they learn and figure it out, gaining the experience they need to produce clownfish babies successfully. In the beginning, you may need to separate the eggs from the inexperienced parents, but this is a fine line as you also want them to gain experience.

4.7 Prevent Fungal Issues

The best way to prevent fungal infections is to keep the water and aquarium clean. Keep a well-filtered tank and perform weekly partial water changes at 20%, or whatever your tank needs to stay healthy. Oxygenating the tank properly will also help in the control of fungus growth.

Some aquarists use methylene blue to prevent fungus growth in the eggs.

5. Why Would The Male Clownfish Eat The Eggs?

Clownfish with eggs


The male clownfish is responsible for guarding the eggs. If he’s hungry or finds any abnormality in the eggs, he’ll eat them.

6. Why Are The Male And Female Fish Eating The Eggs Together?

Male and female clownfish eat their eggs together if they’re inexperienced, new parents, if they’re sick or stressed, or if there are sick and infected eggs.

7.     FAQs

7.1 How Does Clownfish Reproduction Work?

Clownfish are technically protandrous hermaphrodites; This is a science-y way of saying that they are able to change sex during their lifetime. They breed in groups and pair off; When the pair decides to reproduce, they find flat surfaces like substrates or tank glass for laying eggs.

7.2 Where Do Clownfish Lay Their Eggs?

Female clownfish lay eggs at the bottom of the tank in a nest they’ve prepared with the male clownfish; This is known as demersal spawning.

7.3 How Long Does It Take To Hatch The Eggs?

Clownfish eggs hatch in 8 to 12 days; The time of hatching eggs depends upon the species of clownfish.




To say that I’m obsessed with all things saltwater is a bit of an understatement. Aquarium Passion has served freshwater and saltwater aquarium hobbyists for over 10 years, and I'm committed to keeping the information accurate and free. My post-bac certification in Sustainability informs my writing about aquarium conservation efforts. When I'm not writing at AP, I'm out in the ocean or researching weird fish.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *