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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

January 9, 2012

Designer Clownfish

By David Lass


While in general, the commercial aquaculture industry seems to be taking their own sweet time coming up with tank-raised marine angels, tangs or triggers, there is plenty going on with clownfish. In fact, all of the major aquaculture companies in the United States and in the Far East keep coming up with new and different “designer” clownfish. I’m not sure who was the first to come up with the designer cognomen, but it definitely fits—and for some of the newer fish the term designer also comes with the term “expensive.” Most of the producers have at least one of their premium fish that wholesales for around (or more than) $100.

Designer clownfish

While the market for $100 wholesale-cost clownfish may be somewhat limited, there are plenty of other designed clownfish that wholesale for between $20 and $50. Most of the new strains come from either A. percula or A. ocellaris, and the variants are primarily fish with more white on the body or with black bodies. The fish that have more white in the central portion of the body are usually sold as “Picasso clown fish” and they are graded from “Grade A” or “Premium” down, depending on the amount of white. The clownfish with pretty much 100 percent white bodies (most of them have some orange still on the nose and the outer edges of the fins) are usually designated with some “wintery” type of appellation, often having to do with snow, blizzards or the like.

Other batches of clownfish are offered as “misbars,” which basically means that they don’t have the complete striping pattern of the wild ocellaria or percula. In essence, the breeders have found out there is a market for fish they would otherwise consider “defective.” I have absolutely no problem with that. Years ago, the very popular “balloon” mollies, swordtails, etc. are fish the Florida fish farmers would cull out and through on the ground for the birds. The same is probably true with the first batches of “fat” comet goldfish, which we now call “fancy.”

If I come across as a bit cynical, that’s just the way I am. What the commercial aquaculturists are doing with creating new strains of clownfish is very admirable. It doesn’t seem that our clownfish “sport” as freely, or as dramatically, as do live-bearing freshwater fish such as guppies, platies or swordtails; and the different strains have been created by patient and applied selective breeding. Perhaps it will take a lot more clownfish than have been produced to date before the first “marble” or “tuxedo” or “long fin” fish shows up, but it probably eventually will. Meanwhile, there are quite a few very attractive designer clownfish available—and since all of them have been commercially aquacultured they are all very strong and hardy fish that will be disease-free and will thrive on any foods.

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