Ever since the release of Disney’s 'Finding Nemo' anemonefish or clownfish are a sought after sight while diving or snorkelling in the Whitsundays. Luckily for us, there are a few clownfish families that call the Whitsundays home. Whitsunday Catamarans’ crew will take you to secluded anchorages where they will point out where you can find these funny fish.
In the Whitsundays you can identify 5 different types of anemonefish, all very colourful. They get their name from the anemones in which they live, which they have a symbiotic relationship with. Fiercely protecting and cleaning it, the fish get protection in return, as the anemone have stinging tentacles that will harm other fish. Their resident anemonefish are unaffected by the anemone’s stinging tentacles as they cover their bodies witha layer of protective mucous that stops the cells from stinging them. They are therefore able to live inside the otherwise harmful plant, where they are protected and safe, where they are raise their families.
A dominant female is the largest member of the group, and her mate, the dominant male, the second largest. There are also up to four lower-ranking males, which help cleanup and protection of any eggs. Although the female is the head of the family, she will show little aggression towards the males. However, top ranking males will fight with lower ranking males to maintain the strict pecking order. Sometimes, the lowest ranking male may be driven out and forced to seek a place elsewhere. He must look for another anemone host or he will die. If the female dies, the dominant male assumes her position within the hierarchy and over the course of a few days changes sex and then becomes the dominant female.
The Great Barrier Reef anemonefish is a nesting fish, which lays its eggs in or near of its host anemone. Before mating, the top male will become more aggressive with the female, where he will also begin to clear a nesting site nearby. He usually will do this on a rock close to the host anemone. The rock is cleaned of algae, sometimes with the assistance of the female, whereupon they will lay their eggs.
When spawning takes place, the female zigzags over the nest site, the male follows fertilising the eggs which have been deposited.
All the fry are born sexless - they develop into males first, and into females only if they rise to the top of the hierarchy within a particular hosted group. The male is the one who protects the eggs until they are ready to hatch, and once born, the fry are sent out into the big blue until they are ready to find their own anemone to call home.