A black tomato clownfish has recently been collected by RVS Fishworld in the Northern Philippines, and this one’s a beauty! Tomato clownfish are so named for their overall red body coloration which is transected only on the face behind the eyes by a single bar, but this black tomato clownfish had a different idea about what it decided to wear on the reef.
Not a species unto itself, the black tomato clownfish is an aberration of either a tomato clownfish, Amphiprion frenatus, or cinnamon clownfish, A. melanopus. It is not possible to ascertain the precise species that this black tomato clownfish belongs to since black pelvic fins is one of the distinguishing features between the tomato and cinnamon clownfish.
What makes the black tomato clownfish so interesting is that seeing aberrations of yellow colored reef fish, xanthism, is much more common type of skin color mutation which is widespread in a wide range of vertebrates from fish, to reptiles and even birds. When the skin colors go all black, this is called melanism, or an overabundance of the black pigment called melanin, which dominates nearly all other colors of the fish.
This melanistic form of the tomato clownfish is actually well documented in Southern Japan, and those specimens are usually photographed by divers. However, there is at least one report of a ‘rotten tomato’ clownfish emerging from a batch of regular A. frenatus tomato clownfish by Fisheye Aquaculture. This fish was spawned by normally colored parents but as the fish grew it actually lost this melanistic appearance.
The other interesting detail of the black tomato clownfish is its slightly reduced headstripe which doesn’t fully wrap around the top of the head of this fish. In other words, this black tomato clownfish from the Philippines is an almost perfect imposter of the McCullochi clownfish from Eastern Australia. However Amphiprion mccullochi has a white tail and pale face – it was a very rare species of clownfish in the aquarium hobby until about six years ago a few captive bred specimens were imported from Australia, and these subsequently bred and proliferated in captivity.
The black tomato clownfish is just the latest in a string of awesome fish collections by RVS Fishworld in the northern parts of the Philippines. With this part of the fish collecting world being developed with utmost sustainability in mind through net training programs, we can’t wait to see what other exciting fish will follow in the fin-wake of the black tomato clownfish.