Tennessee-based Sustainable Aquatics is releasing a new variety of Ocellaris Clownfish this week that they are calling the Color-Changing Ocellaris. These fish are the offspring from a single pair of normal Amphiprion ocellaris. Some of the offspring randomly undergo a rapid transformation (less than 2 months usually) from the normal orange coloration to a black color form reminiscent of the more common Black Ocellaris.
Unlike the Black Ocellaris that most people are familiar with, the black coloration in the Color-Changing Ocellaris starts at the nose whereas in a Black Ocellaris, the nose is generally the last place to turn from orange to black. Since not every sibling undergoes the color change from orange to black, SA only sells transitional fish (starting to show the color change) and fully transformed fish (black) from this line.
For the hobbyist who wants to see this change happen, the experience comes for an elevated price. Given the short transition time, these aren’t a fish you will want to let sit at the dealer for weeks on end – by that point it could be too late. The quality of the final black coloration is different from a normal Black Ocellaris – Matt Carberry of Sustainable Aquatics relayed that
“the black is a bit more of a ‘chalky’ black, but I think the pictures wash it out a bit. At first-glance it’s difficult to tell them from a normal Darwin.”
Sustainable Aquatics told us they simply do not know much about this genetics of this fish – we believe they assume this trait to have a genetic basis since occurring only in the offspring of one broodstock pair. While the Color-Changing Ocellaris has been in the development pipeline for a couple years, it hasn’t revealed its secrets. SA also doesn’t know how the offspring of the fish that have transformed to black will turn out.
While we’d love to speculate further on the possible genetic changes that could cause this random development of melanin in the skin, there simply is not enough information available on this peculiar form of Ocellaris Clownfish.
(ed. note: The Black Photon Clownfish bred by Dr. Sanjay Joshi also displayed a kind of rapid color change from orange to mostly black with the change occuring from top to bottom. That strain was the result of a cross between a black ocellaris and a onyx percula clownfish.)