Hakai Magazine


One Great Shot: Googly Eyes

Wide-eyed baby clownfish prepare to launch into the world.

Authored by

by Lilian Koh

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clownfish eggs

Spotting a bundle of unhatched clownfish is pretty special. Adult clownfish spawn every 10 to 14 days and lay as many as 1,500 eggs on rocks or other hard surfaces. As the larvae develop, they seem to peer, wide-eyed, out of their egg sacs. The transparent, five-millimeter-long babies emerge after about 10 days. I’ve yet to watch one hatch, as the actual timing is hard to predict and only happens in darkness.

I found this cluster of juvenile clownfish, covering a patch of rock about as wide as a side plate, during a dive near Anilao, Philippines. So much about the clownfish fascinates me: each individual has both male and female organs, for example. They live in pairs or small social groups with one large dominant female. If she dies, the breeding male rapidly changes into a female and takes over as the dominant fish.

A breeding male clownfish has the responsibility of tending eggs, guarding them or fanning them with his pectoral fins. It is definitely worth spending time watching clownfish behavior and interactions.