Hybrid clownfish mostly take a backseat to clownfish varieties in the marine aquarium captive breeding world but wild clownfish crosses like Thielli clownfish and white-cap clownfish are always in high demand. We tend to think of wild clownfish crosses as mostly coming from the pairing of two different species but unusual accidental hybrids of clownfish have been showing up at ORA for years between species that were never even paired!
The unusual accidental hybrid clownfish were first spotted at ORA in 2009 while sorting through a regular batch of ocellaris clownfish. A few specimens were identified which had different shape, color and size from the brood and it was clear that these showed some characteristics of the maroon clownfish; these were never in the same aquarium together, but they were in the same system of flowing water. Barring the extreme unlikelihood of Chimeras or vestigial traits, it was determined that these accidental hybrid clownfish were likely the result of cross fertilization through the aquarium plumbing.
As mentioned by ORA, it seems improbable that sperm could travel through the pipes to fertilize the eggs of clownfish pairs in another aquarium. However, given the high concentration of sperm in a closed system and that most clownfish species all spawn within a narrow window of time at dusk, if you keep enough clownfish pairs on the same aquarium system and you raise enough fish it is almost inevitable that some cross-fertilized offspring would appear.
In addition to the first maroon x ocellaris clownfish that ORA discovered they have also encountered other accidental hybrids on their farm. These include clarkii x ocellaris, maroon x tomato and a few unidentified crosses as well. Hybrids of unlikely clownfish pairs have also been found in the wild and just a couple weeks ago, Aqua Terra Distributors sent us some pictures of a maroon x tomato clownfish hybrid and what appears to be a polymnus cross with another species.
As with the accidentally fertilized clownfish at ORA, we imagine that a whole host of unusual clowns exist that were created by different species pairs of clownfish spawning in relatively close proximity. Since the idea of accidental hybrids has been planted in our mind we’ve actually spotted quite a few maroon clownfish, especially from the Philippines, that were a little bit off. Perhaps you’ve seen them too but did not know how to ascribe the unusual color and form of a particular clownfish you saw at the LFS. If you’ve seen some unusual clownfish in your day please sound off in the comments and visit the ORA blog for more information and tons more pictures of the accidental hybrid clownfish.