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Related Articles: Brooklynellosis, Damselfish, Anemones, Premnas Pix

Premnas biaculeatus, The Maroon Clownfish


Bob Fenner

A pair (male upper left) at home off of Queensland, Australia

    Maroon clownfish have got to be one of the most striking of marine tropicals... with apologies to the "Nemo" lovers of the world... With their bold salmon red overall body and fin coloring, demarcated with white to yellow barring... As far as personalities go, Premnas are just as "comical" as other clowns when young... however, very often they can and do become belligerent... sometimes to the extreme with age and growth.

    Keeping this species is relatively easy, particular tank bred and reared stock as opposed to wild-caught. Though this amphiprionine will gladly host with a number of anemones and other stinging-celled life, it can happily and often less belligerently get along without such symbionts. Captive produced specimens can be easily acclimated to aquarium conditions, but wild-caught individuals should be carefully selected, dipped/bathed and quarantined for at least two weeks before introduction to a main/display tank. Imported specimens are quite susceptible to Cryptocaryon (marine ich), Amyloodinium (velvet) and Brooklynellosis ("clownfish disease")... and these protozoan parasites are WAY better "treated" by exclusion during quarantine, then trying to fight in your principal system.


 All other clownfish species (subfamily Amphiprionae of the Damselfish family Pomacentridae) are classed in the genus Amphiprion... The Maroon is monotypic... the only member of its genus, Premnas... the rest of its name, biaculeatus gives the most substantial reason/explanation for its separation: the presence of two (look closely) spines on this fish's gill covers.

Another common name for the species is "Spine-Cheek Clownfish". See the barb on the preoperculum now?

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available)

    What about the "yellow stripe" versus "white stripe" Maroons? These are the same species... and in fact, though they tend to stay one or the other, can and do change in the color of their banding on the basis of nutrition.

Behavior: See Territoriality

    Maroon Clownfishes can be, become outright MEAN... particularly if crowded, especially if placed with other fishes, clownfish species included, that will not "back down", recognize their obvious superiority. Some folks try to diminish this tendency to "rule all" in their Maroon tanks with the addition of anemones, more decor... this almost NEVER works.

About Cnidarian Symbionts & Tankmates:

    Maroons will take on a number of other organisms (and inanimate objects) as symbiotic hosts.... most naturally, the Bubble Tip Anemone, Entacmaea quadricolor is well-matched with them... and the matching of captive produced fish with captive produced anemone is especially sweet.

    Of all Clownfish species, Maroons are likely the very most changeable, flexible in their behavior, but also the downright orneriest as well. They can easily take on even larger triggerfishes, puffers, basses... and tear up hexacorallian tankmates... corals and anemones especially. The key descriptor in their intelligent care is "keen observation"... You must keep your eye on them, lest they "go ballistic". It is highly recommended that you intentionally place your Maroon/s last or close to last as fish livestock AND that they be what you want as the "alpha" fish... Even in tanks of a few hundred gallons. "Oh, I'm going to have a few anemones so I can keep different clowns together..." Think again... often Premnas will "hog" any and all such symbionts.

    Yes, Premnas will accept "strange bedfellows" like Trachyphyllia (Brain Coral), Flower Pot Coral (Goniopora), Plate Corals (Fungiids), all sorts of soft corals, even faux corals, rocks, powerheads and the like, but they do NOT need these organisms to live healthy, long lives... Tank bred specimens have very likely never been exposed to cnidarians period... and may not take to them in your system.


    This fish gets big... nearly seven inches long in the wild, just slightly smaller in captivity, and can be, to put it mildly, feisty with its own kind and other livestock. I would not place a single individual in anything smaller than a forty gallon, or two in a sixty. If mixing a new individual with an established one, it is strongly suggested to separate them for a good week, with a partition or my favorite, a floating plastic colander (spaghetti strainer). Put the "old" one in the colander, allowing the new one to become familiar with the system... AND closely observe them the day of actual fin-to-fin introduction.

    Premnas do best in "reef" type settings, irrespective of their tenacious personalities and the possibility of their tearing up sedentary invertebrates. They may dig in the substrate, particularly around a host organism/item, but this is nothing to be alarmed about. They greatly prefer a mix of rocky decoration to cruise about in, and your other agile livestock will appreciate this as well... to get out of sight of the Maroon/s.


    This fish has been spawned many times commercially over the last few decades. Times were that tank bred/reared Maroons were clearly inferior to wild-caught, with less color, some behavioral anomalies and at times, shortened lifespans... Nowadays this is far from the case, and except for folks who don't want to wait to bring up their own small individuals to pair, perhaps reproduce, captive produced individuals are far superior in quality, disease resistance, overall adaptation to aquarium conditions.

    Pairs of this species... males are much more red, diminutive in size by comparison, can be purchased as such... or if one of yours should perish, another of the approximate size of the lost one may be introduced (within a few weeks to discount aggression). Raising your own broodstock is not hard to do, with the usual approach of acquiring a handful of small individuals and having them "grow-up together"... This requires either a good sized system and/or vigilant observation on your part, to notice pairing behavior and likely removing these... to other quarters.   

A wild-caught "pair" in a wholesaler's cubicle. The male is the smaller, lighter colored individual in the foreground.


    Small to large Maroons accept all foods with gusto. In the wild the species principally feeds on zooplankton and macroalgae, but in captivity they will gladly take flakes, pellets, frozen/defrosted... The species does best being afforded regular spontaneous feeding through the use of a live sump (refugium), but will also fare well being offered foods twice daily.

Diseases of All Sorts:

    As clean and easy to keep biologically disease-free as captive produced stock of this species is, the wild-caught is VERY often funky and gunky. Almost all imports are hosts to a goodly amount of parasite fauna... and coupled with the stress of captivity, handling, shipping, starving... a recipe for disaster IF not given respite from their journey, T.L.C. in quarantine for a few weeks to rest up... and for you to observe, possibly treat them for problems.

    Crypt/Ich and Amyloodinium can be treated with copper based medications and/or environmental manipulation. Brooklynellosis almost never responds to any treatment not containing formalin/formaldehyde. Be ware of "reef safe" and "herbal" voodoo, ingredients-label less treatments... they do NOT work. And do make sure and NOT attempt treatment in your main system... this must remain fish-less (free of hosts) for a good month, while you're treating your fish livestock (all of them) elsewhere. The logic of quarantine becomes immensely clear to any/all who have suffered these experiences.

A Premnas with Brooklynellosis. Treatment requires isolation from all invertebrate life, toxic medicines/non-selective poison use, careful monitoring of nitrogenous wastes (ammonia, nitrite), water changes, diligence... no fun.


    So... you can read this off like a checklist: Do you have a large enough tank (forty gallon for one, sixty for two minimum), that can use a "boss" fish? That you might have its hexacorallian organisms shredded? Lots of time to wait on a beautiful fish or two? Well, you just might be a candidate for Maroon keeping. Most problems with this fish are self-generated... people trying to keep them in too small a system, not as the alpha fish, buying large wild-caught specimens and not properly quarantining them... Avoid these common mistakes.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Allen, Gerald R. 1974. The Anemonefishes. Their Classification and Biology, 2nd Ed. TFH Publications, NJ.

Allen, Gerald R. 1975. Damselfishes of the South Seas. TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ.

Allen, Gerald R. 1979. The Anemonefishes of the World: Species, Care & Breeding; Handbook for Aquarists, Divers and Scientists. Aquarium Systems, Mentor Ohio.

Fenner, Bob. 1989. Popular marines: the Anemonefishes. Pets Supplies Marketing 2/89.

Frank, Stanislav. 1996. Zum geschlechtsdimorphismus einigere riffbarsche. Das Aquarium Nr. 323, Mai 1996.

Goldstein, Robert J. 1972. Anemone Fishes. Marine Aquarist 3(3):72.

Goldstein, R. J., 1982. Breeding Anemonefishes; Aquarist & Pondkeeper, pt 1 46(11) 1982, pt 2 47(1) 1982.

Henningsen, Alan D. 1989. An introduction to breeding Clownfishes. TFH 1/89.

Hoff, F., 1984. Pairing Clownfish, FAMA 9/84.

Juhl, Torben. 1992. Commercial breeding of Anemonefishes. SeaScope vol. 9 winter 92.

O'Malley, John. 1989. Potential problems with clownfish; despite their peaceful dispositions, clownfish prefer to be alone. AFM 2/89.

Stratton, Richard F.1989. The tomato clownfish. TFH 2/89.

Stratton, Richard F. 1994. The maroon clownfish. TFH 11/94.

Wilkerson, Joyce D. 1997 Clownfish; a guide to their captive care, breeding & natural history. Microcosm, VT. 216 pp.

Wilkerson, Joyce D. 1993. Clowning around; simple clownfish spawning and rearing facility. FAMA 6/93.

Young, F.A. & Guerrant, C. 1984. Raising Clownfish for the Hobbyist. FAMA 9/84.

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