Family : Pomacentridae
Text © Giuseppe Mazza
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The Saddle anemonefish ( Amphiprion ephippium - Bloch, 1790 ) belongs to the class of Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes, to the great order of the Perciformes, to the family of the Pomacentridae and to the colorful subfamily of the clownfishes, the Amphiprioninae.
The name of the genus “amphiprion” comes from the Greek “amphi” = “on both sides” and “priön” = saw, because on both sides of the head the preoperculum and the suboperculum show an indentation shaped like a saw.
The name of the species “ephippium” comes from the Greek “efippion” = saddle, due to the dark drawing, saddle-shaped, it has on the sides.
It is present in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. Indicatively, we find it along the African coasts in Kenya and then at the Andaman Islands, in India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
It lives up to 15 m of depth, where are at home its two symbiont actinias: the Entacmaea quadricolor and the Heteractis crispa.
It reaches the 14 cm of length with flat and tall body like the Amphiprion clarkii and the Amphiprion rubrocinctus. The dorsal fin, unique as customary in the clownfishes, has 10-11 spiny rays plus 16-18 soft, the anal 2 spiny rays and 13-14 unarmed, whilst the pectoral ones, ample and roundish, count 18-20 soft rays. The livery is flame-red, with a more or less extended dark spot, similar to a saddle, on the sides.
The Amphiprion ephippium nourishes of algae, small invertebrates and of the edible animal fragments passing close to it. Thanks to the protective mucus covering the scales, it is used since young to the poisonous tentacles of the two actinias hosting it and finds there, like all clownfishes, a safe haven. In exchange, it keeps clean the host, removing the parasites and the leftovers, and chases away the intruders who eat the tentacles.
It is a protandric hermaphrodite species: the males, while growing, can therefore when needed transform into females. In the communities present in the large actinias, we always note a dominant female, with the spouse and often some smaller males, that wait its death for moving up in rank. When this happens the surviving spouse takes the place of the female and changes sex for coupling with the bigger male of the group. The eggs are stuck on a rock, usually at the feet of the actinia. The male fecundates them and keeps the watch, ventilating them with the fins till the hatching, when the larvae disperse carried away by the currents.
Notwithstanding the undoubted beauty, it is a little frequent fish in the aquaria, because it has a reduced diffusion and seen its size it is expensive to despatch it, not to talk about the difficulty in furnishing, at the same time, one of the two symbiont anthozoans. In nature the populations can double their members in just 15 months and the vulnerability index of the species is by sure low: only 25 on a scale of 100.
Amphiprion calliops - Schultz, 1966; Lutjanus ephippium - Bloch, 1790.
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza