All clownfish and anemonefish belong to the damselfish family but are in the subfamily Amphiprioninae. There are thirty species, all of which are are in the genus Amphiprion, except the lone member of genus Premnas – also known as the tomato clown or spinecheek anemonfish.
Although divers tend to call them all clownfish, the proper name for these beautiful fish is actually anemonefish. A few do rightfully hold the title of 'clown' but most earned it as a nickname based on their markings and waddling gait. Found in most of the world’s oceans, the highest numbers are concentrated around the Indo-Pacific region – there are 10 in Papua New Guinea but none in the Caribbean. The Seychelles and Maldives have their own indigenous species.
No matter what sea they are in, all anemonefish live in a close symbiotic relationship with their host anemone. As they have no inbuilt defence mechanism they live permanently amongst the stinging tentacles and develop a tolerance to varying in sting qualities by darting in and out of a new host until they become immune.
Anemonefish also have that delightful characteristic of being able to change sex. As juveniles mature they turn into little lads. There’ll be a gang of them all hanging around the Queen Mother and her consort – the oldest male in the group. As long as these two senior members are around, that’s the way things stay. The babes remain ‘sub-adults' until one of the adults dies and then the next one in the chain moves into the vacant slot. And if that means changing sex, no problem, they just get on with it.