Need advice concerning my stressed clown fish

Captain Ron

Reefing newb
I bought a clown fish for my 37 gallon tank 2 weeks ago. He is the only fish in the tank. After a day or two he had gotten used to the tank and would eat the food pellets I fed him twice daily like they were laced with crack cocaine. I figured he was happy, doing well, and was used to the tank. He would swim up to the glass any time he saw my wife or I looking at him. I think he was checking to see if we were going to feed him. During these past two weeks I have been experimenting with a DIY led light I had built, occasionally turning it on and off and varying the brightness.

Fast forward to this past Friday. My snail order came in from reef cleaners and I added them all to the tank. I think this freaked out my clown fish but if I recall he still ate dinner Friday night and ate breakfast Saturday morning. On Saturday (2 days ago) I built a canopy out of wood to hold my LED lights. After I put the canopy on the tank I turned on the lights and they were pretty bright, but not any brighter than in previous days. My clown fish went totally nuts. He started darting all over the tank, swimming back and forth really fast, and his top fin was clamped down to his body. I turned off the light and have left it off since then.

Sunday he appeared more calm. I put up some plastic on the outside of the tank to block the ambient light on half the tank and the fish mostly took up residence there. He also did the zen meditation thing (basically flapping fins slowly just maintaining position) on the top of my rock work in the center of the tank. He did not eat sunday though the did look as the food pellet fell past him to the bottom of the tank.

This morning I tried feeding him again. He came up to where I was trying to feed him, saw the pellet almost sort of moved to it but let it fall uneaten. He is hanging out in the center of the tank, just above the rock, moving his fins slowly. His fins appear okay and not clamped. He appears calm, but uninterested in eating.

Any advice? How long can he go without food? Should I purchase a small separate tank and keep him there all by himself until he starts eating? Should I remove the snails and put them in a small tank?

Thanks for any and all advice.

-Capt. Ron
A few things - it is perfectly normal for clowns to hangout only in one area of the tank - they will host anything and it sounds like yours has set up camp in the center of your tank. Clowns don't swim like other fish - they often bob up and down or wag their bodies back and forth - perfectly normal for them, although I've also seen them dart around when excited, aggressive, etc.

Second, you don't need to feed as often as you've been feeding. Most of us feed every other day, and it sounds like you've been feeding twice a day. He might just not be hungry, or may have changed his taste for pellets. Have you tried feeding him frozen mysis or a blend like marine cuisine? If not, you could try that - but don't feed the whole cube at once - 1/4 to 1/3 of the cube should be more than plenty every other day - and it will be enough for your snails and inverts, and anything else in your tank (for reference, I have 9 fish, about 50+ snails, 2 shrimp, an urchin, 2 crabs, and tons of coral and still only feed 1 small cube every other day).

3rd, give him time to adjust to the changes in his environment - new lights, canopy, etc. I think removing him would stress him even more. Clowns are pretty hearty and I would expect him to adjust within a week. I doubt the snails are even on his radar screen. Do you have enough rock in the tank for him to hide in?

Bottom line is that I wouldn't worry about it, clowns are clowns and are going to act in odd ways all the time!
Thanks for the response FishyReef.

I do have some archways made of rock that he could fit under but I have never seen him under them. Also I have a solid blue plastic backing on the back of the tank so he could hide between the rock and the back of the tank.

How long can he survive without eating? Sounds like more than 2 days. I will cut back to feeding him only once a day for now, and perhaps transition to once every two days.

Previously when I tried feeding him frozen mysis he wasn't very interested. I can try 1/4 cube tonight. I hear some people mix it with garlic juice. Should I try that or just try the plain mysis shrimp?

I considered picking up Rod's food from the LFS but the person there recommended against it claiming it would muck up my water quality and that I was better sticking to the pellets I already had.

-Capt. Ron (clownfish newbie)
Actually Rod's food is among the best. If you're that worried, rinse it off first (I always rinse my frozen food off). And definitely feed sparingly.

As for eating, I once had a firefish who went MIA for 3 weeks. No sign of him at feedings. I took him for dead. But he came back out eventually, skinny, but very much alive.

Definitely try to change up the food once in a while. I only feed pellets once in a while as an extra treat. Otherwise, my fish all get mixed frozen foods once a day.
on the topic of feeding, i feed mine about 4 times a day with a couple pinches of food, and they always seem pretty hungry when i feed them. ive recently switched to mysis shrimp and they seem to LOOVE it. But how do i know if im feeding them too much or too little? i have 2 clowns and a damsel
If given the oppertunity, fish will eat to the point of rupturing their stomach, so they will always be 'hungry'. Once a day is sufficient for most fish
My clown fish seem to eat more flakes than they do the mysis shrimp that I have been feeding my basslet and cardinal. I'm feeding 1/4 cube twice a day and a small amount of flakes. Is this a problem. Would the clown fish not be eating the mysis cause they are pretty big and the clowns are tiny or what?