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Old 10-20-2005, 10:09 PM   #1
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Clown Mystery

First, I want to say that this is a wonderful site and I have learned a lot from Steve-S and the other folks that respond to questions.

Now, for my question. I have a 120 gallon reef tank. I have two Perc Clowns (false) that I introduced at the same time about 7 months ago. They have both done extremely well and have always gotten along. A couple of days ago they started fighting - extreme fighting. All the other fish are doing fine and stayting out of it - this is just between the clowns. One of them is winning and he continues to swim during the day and eat. The other one is hiding during the day and does not come out to eat. Again, all other fish are doing fine and water conditions have remained constant. All corals are also doing very well and show no signs of change.

Does anyone know why my clowns got along for 7 months and now are fighting. I think I am going to have to donate one back to the lfs unless someone out there has some good advice for me that resolves this problem.
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Old 10-20-2005, 11:09 PM   #2
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I too am having the same experience. In my case, I completely re worked the layout in the tank. After that the female started seriously harassing the male. He still comes out and eats but the female is pretty aggressive. I chalked mine up to either changing the layout on them and causing stress or just damsel fish being damsel fish. In my case I promised myself I would move the male to a 10G QT I have here if he wouldn't come out and eat anymore. In your case, I would monitor it for a while. Be sure to look real close when they go at it. At first I thought it was violent too, then I realized she wasn't causing any damage and in fact they still came out and 'danced' together pretty regular. As for now they stay at opposite ends of the tank. She won't let him near the open brain they both previously hosted in. Looks like he got the boot...Not exactly an answer, but thus far my experience shows its just life as the inferior clown male. We shall see what others post..

GL!
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Old 10-20-2005, 11:19 PM   #3
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I had 3 in a QT tank together and one started getting picked on to the point it had just given up on life. I moved it to a 30gal QT by itself for 3 weeks. I introduced all of them to the main at the same time and they have been friends ever since. I would recommend moving some rocks around in the area they mainly stay in.
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Old 10-20-2005, 11:43 PM   #4
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Is one of the clowns much larger than the other? Is any actual physical damage occuring or is it just very aggressive posturing, etc.?
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Old 10-21-2005, 08:49 AM   #5
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Thanks for the responses.

Regarding the questions above from Hoops, both clowns are identical in size. Yes, there is definitely physical damage being done to the clown losing this fight. I can see his fins are showing signs of damage and his color is faded (I think because he is hiding and very stressed). The clown that is winning looks as good as ever.

As far as moving rocks, good suggestion, but that is going to be very difficult for me. They hang out in an area that has a 40 lb rock that is the cornerstone of my 200lbs of liverock (by the way all from liverocks.com - great product). If I move this rock, I'll have to move all my rock before it's all said and done - and I don't want to do that. Also when the clown that is hiding does come out, he will go to the other side of the tank and the other clown will track him down and still attack him, so I don't think moving things will help. Still really puzzles me since they got along so well for so long before this.
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Old 10-21-2005, 02:07 PM   #6
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If they are both identical in size, it seems as though you may have purchased two mature females (approx. what size were they when you purchased them?) as over 7 months one should have definitely become the larger female and one remained a much smaller male over that timeframe. The other possibility is that the tank is that big they did not pair off and both matured into females (did they hang out together in the tank all the time since you purchased them?) in which case even rearranging the tank may not help.
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Old 10-21-2005, 09:34 PM   #7
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They have both been identical in size since I bought them. Perhaps your thought that I may have purchased two mature females is possible. They were both probably just under an inch when I bought them. Now I would estimate they are about 1.25 to 1.5 inches. Again, initial size and growth has been the same for both. The only real difference between them is one is just a little brighter in color than the other. This is the one dominating the fighting.

I don't think your second suggestion applies here. Yes, the tank is big for clowns, but they hung out together for the past seven months - day and night - never separated. Now it's a fight to the death.

Maybe this is a stupid question, but how can you tell if you have a male or female?
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Old 10-22-2005, 12:01 PM   #8
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Hmmm....my thought wasn't that you had bought two females, but perhaps maybe that they "grew up" in two different sections of the tank since it was so large and had both become females. From what you describe, that does not seem to be the case.

To give a quick summary of sexing clownfish, as juveniles, all clownfish are pretty much gender neutral. In the absence of a female, a clownfish will normally grow quickly and become one (they are the top of the hierarchy). If paired or more, one will assume this position and then the next strongest juvenile assumes the role of the male. If more clowns than this pair are present, the remaining juveniles will stay relatively small and remain gender neutral. If the female would die, the male of the pair becomes the female and one from the group would become the male and so on and so forth. Once a female, they cannot change back.

In your case, 1.25-1.50 still seems relatively small as the large females are normally well over 2". Perhaps there is a temporary war over who is going to be the dominant clown and become the female (obviously one is winning)?

I have never seen this personally, my clown pairs have always established their roles quickly and without much aggression. You could try sectioning the tank for a bit to allow the other to recover or remove it to a hospital tank and try to reintroduce later. Or, remove the fish and in a few months introduce a very small clownfish (as small as you can purchase). This would better guarantee that the larger would be the dominant female and the small one would have no reason to challenge and become the male.
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Old 10-24-2005, 10:32 PM   #9
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Hoops, thank you for the response and info. I generally understood how the gender of clownfish changes, but your write-up provides detail that really helps. I was hoping that perhaps your thought that "this is a temporary war over who is going to be the dominant clown and become the female" was the case. Unfortunately, the fighting is not really letting up. The clown that is loosing does come out once in a while to eat and also at night (interestingly, at night they still fight but not as much). In the end, he (or she) still ends up taking a direct hit from the other clown and is really looking battered. Your other suggestion to partition the tank is going to be difficult. I can't really do that because the 200 lbs of live rock that I have spans the entire length of the tank - just don't see how I would do that and I don't want to mess up my other fish and corals. Unless you or someone else thinks I should give this more time and see if the fighting ends, I think I'm going to donate one of the clowns to the lfs. The fighting has been going on for a week. Still can't figure out what happened - unless it is just taking longer for these two to establish thier roles.....
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