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Species profile—Amphiprion akindynos (Barrier Reef anemonefish)


Animalia (animals) → Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) → Pomacentridae (damselfishes) → Amphiprion akindynos (Barrier Reef anemonefish)

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Species details

Animalia (animals)
Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Pomacentridae (damselfishes)
Scientific name
Amphiprion akindynos Allen, 1972
Common name
Barrier Reef anemonefish
WildNet taxon ID
Conservation significant
Wetland status
Wetland Dependant Species
Pest status
The Barrier Reef anemonefish has a brownish-orange body with a white tail. It has two white bars; one across the head and the other crossing the middle of the body. Juveniles are usually brown with three thick white bars. This species grows to 12cm in length.
The Barrier Reef anemonefish occur in tropical marine waters of the western Pacific from New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands to eastern Australia. In Australia it is found from the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea to northern New South Wales.
Distributional limits
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Species environment
The Barrier Reef anemonefish live in warm tropical reef waters and lagoons between 1 and 25m deep with temperatures ranging from 10 to 32°C. They inhabit areas only where one or more of the 10 favoured host anemone species are found.
The anemonefish has a very interesting social structure. Within a single anemone, the largest and most dominant fish is a female, the next largest is her mate, with two to four other males living peacefully within this social ladder. If the female dies, the next largest male will change sex within days and become the dominant female, and the second largest male will become the new mate.
The anemonefish avoid predators by staying in and around their host anemone, safe from bigger fish that are not protected from anemone stings. They may be preyed on when they are away from their host anemone, either as juveniles looking for a host or when ejected from their territory by another anemonefish.
They are able to live and safely shelter among anemones without being harmed by the nematocysts (stinging cells) present on the anemone's tentacles. The anemonefish are protected from harm by a special mucous substance which is present on their scales. Once accepted, the anemonefish incorporates anemone mucous onto its own coat until the anemone no longer stings it, recognising the anemonefish as part of itself.
The anemonefish imprint onto their host anemone during their larval stage and are able to follow a trail of chemicals released by this same host anemone, allowing these fish to return to the same species of host anemone to live and spawn. Once returning, the anemonefish has to rebuild its immunity (protection) from the stinging cells to avoid being stung. Anemonefish live between 6-10 years in the wild. They have been known to live up to 18 years in captivity.
Barrier Reef anemonefish are hermaphroditic (having both male and female reproductive organs), with young developing into males first and later into females if required. The spawning behaviour of this species has three main phases: courtship and nest preparation, followed by spawning, and finally nest guarding or incubation. Spawning usually occurs during the morning hours and can last from 30 minutes to more than two hours. During this process the female will swim in a zig-zag path over the nest and deposit eggs by brushing the nest surface. The male follows behind the female and fertilises the eggs as they are laid. The number of eggs deposited can range from 100 to over 1000, depending on the size of the fish. The eggs are about 3-4mm in length and attach to the nest surface by a tuft of short filaments (strands). The incubation period lasts for six or seven days and during this time both parents care for the eggs, with the male taking a more active role in these duties.
This species mostly eat zooplankton (microscopic animals in the water column), aquatic or marine worms and phytoplankton (microscopic plants in the water column). They may also feed on scraps of fish that have been captured by the host anemone.
Contributors: Danielle Hansen 16/10/2008; Wayne Martin 09/11/2008
Arvedlund, M., Bundgaard, I. & Nielsen, L. (2000). Host imprinting in anemonefishes (Pisces: Pomacentridae): does it dictate spawning site preferences? Environmental Biology of Fishes, 58(2): 203-213.
Fautin, D.G. & Allen, G.R. (1992). Anemone Fishes and their Host Sea Anemones. Western Australian Museum, Perth. Pp. 159.
McGrouther, M. (2006). Find a Fish: Barrier Reef Anemonefish, Amphiprion akindynos Allen, 1972. Australian Museum, Sydney. Accessed 16/10/2008, [].
Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R.C. (1997). Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press, Bathurst. Pp. 557.
Wenk, A. (2003). Amphiprion akindynos. Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Ann Arbor. Accessed 06/06/2008, [].
Profile author
Danielle Hansen (09/11/2008)

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Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

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Last updated
8 March 2022
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