Why are my Clownfish Swimming Vertically? {2 Reasons Here}

Are you worried that your clownfish is swimming vertically? Is this something I should be worried about?

Below, I will review all you need to know about clownfish and their swimming patterns.

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Why are my Clownfish Swimming Vertically?

Clownfish swim vertically
when they can locate a host spot that they can call home. Clownfish are weird fish species and are most likely to have erratic swimming patterns, and this does not indicate that something is wrong with them.

Clownfish Swimming Vertically

2 Reasons Your Clownfish is Swimming Vertically

Your clownfish could be swimming vertically due to varying reasons, such as having identified a host spot where it feels comfortable or due to the presence of an anemone.

Some common reasons why clownfish swim vertically include:

  • Identified host spot 
  • Presence of an anemone 

1.    Identified Host spot 

When you notice that your clownfish is swimming vertically in one spot, it could be a result of discovering a comfortable spot where it feels like home.

The clownfish is often attached to a particular tank region and is not shy about sticking to the spot it most feels safe in.

2.    Presence of an Anemone 

The clownfish could also be found swimming vertically when there is an anemone present in the water.

The flower’s presence would lead to the fish constantly moving around the same spot in a bid to release its scents to the anemone to make it get familiar with it and prevent it from stings.

Clownfishes, just as the name implies, are naturally weird little fishes who exhibit traits you might not find in other fish species.

They are called “clownfish” for a reason; therefore, swimming vertically by their host spot isn’t that odd for the little guys.

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Is it Normal for Clownfish to Swim at the Top of a Tank?

Yes, it is quite normal for clownfish to swim to the top of the tank. They do so to breathe and obtain enough oxygen. Newly introduced clownfish swim might swim at the top of the tank to get familiar with the new environment.

Clownfish are erratic fishes, but they often love to move to areas that they like and feel comfortable swimming in, such as areas close to the anemone, coral reefs, or rock, as these features mimic their natural Habitat.

Clownfish might also swim to the top of the tank when they are recently placed in a new aquarium tank.

They do this to acclimatize themselves with the new surroundings, and when they feel more comfortable with the tank, they might move closer to the bottom and swim around the coral reefs and rocks.

Why is my Clownfish Swimming Vertically in One Spot?

Clownfish would swim vertically in the same spot when they are new to an aquarium as they try to acquaint themselves with the anemone in the tank. They also do so when they crave for anemone.

The presence of an anemone in the fish tank would make the clownfish embark on a swimming pattern referred to as “scenting,” where the clownfish attempt to familiarise itself with the anemone in the fish tank as this makes it feel safe.

Therefore, there is nothing to worry about, and the fish is expected to return to regular swimming pattern after a short period.

The fact that clownfish are drawn to an anemone doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to provide one for it, as they would be just fine even without it.

The fish is characterized by wanting a host spot it could swim to and feel safe, which is why it is naturally drawn to the anemone – not that it cannot survive without it.

Why do Clownfish Swim Up and Down?

Clownfish could be swimming up and down the tank due to stress. Stress in the clownfish could be caused by various factors such as poor water conditions of the aquarium tank or overstocking of the tank with multiple fishes.

Maintaining clean and healthy water in an aquarium is very important to reduce the stress level that fishes in the tank are likely to face.

When keeping a clownfish in a tank, you should endeavor to take adequate care to reduce waste chemicals that build up in the tank- this can be done by performing frequent water changes.

Another contributor to the stress level of clownfish in an aquarium is overstocking or overfeeding, and this can occur where many fishes are kept in the same tank.

Some fish species tend to release more waste than others, and this could lead to the reduction in the ability of the microbes that process the fish waste from successfully executing their job effectively.

Overfeeding can also contribute significantly to this as fishes tend to excrete more waste when they are overfed, and this may lead to contamination of the water leading to increased stress levels for the fish.

Why do my Clownfish Stay at the Top of the Tank?

Clownfish may swim to the top of the tank for reasons varying from lack of oxygen to factors relating to the fish trying to acclimatize itself to the new tank, such as searching for a host spot.

You could notice that your clownfish is finding it difficult to breathe and is practically gasping from lack of oxygen while at the top of the tank.

This could indicate that the fish is currently uncomfortable with the oxygen levels in the tank, and you could correct this by filtering the water in the tank or providing cleaner water with the right PH and heat levels to ensure it is well aerated to guarantee easy breathing for the clownfish.

Your clownfish swimming to the top of the tank may not necessarily be a cause for alarm and could imply that the fish is trying to acclimatize itself to its new surrounding.

It could achieve this by swimming to spots near the top of the tank as it releases its scent to the water to attract the anemone and feel safe.

Typical Behavior of Clownfish in a New Tank

The typical behavior that clownfish might exhibit when recently introduced into a new tank could range from swimming near the top of a tank, swimming vertically in one corner of the tank amidst other behavior.

A recently introduced clownfish into a tank might be seen swimming around a particular spot as it seeks to understand its environment fully. This might result in it swimming in a spot that has a coral, rock, or an anemone which is a bit like its natural habitat.


Clownfish could also be found to be sorting out dominance in the tank, especially when different sexes of the fish are placed in the same tank ( the females are often the dominant fishes); therefore, you could notice one fish appearing to pin the other fish down as it asserts its dominance.


Clownfish recently introduced in a tank might also exhibit traits like swimming vertically in the tank, and this could be due to its discovery of an anemone to which it is familiar and tries to release its scents to ensure that it doesn’t get stung in the coming days. These behaviors are expected to alter as the clownfish become more and more used to the new tank and relate well with its environment.


Hello, I'm Jason. I'm the guy behind HelpUsFish.com. I volunteer at my local fish shop and I created this site to offer tips and advice on the fish I care for.