Keeping Dory and Nemo

You’ve no doubt heard that the “Finding Dory“, the follow-up to the wildly successful film “Finding Nemo“, has hit theaters nationwide.  With the popularity of both movies, I thought it might make sense to share my thoughts on keeping the two main characters (Dory and Nemo) in your home aquarium.  Finding a Dory (the Pacific Blue Tang, Paracanthurus Hepatus) and a Nemo (an Occelaris Clownfish) is easy.  Keeping them healthy for years to come; maybe not so much…

The common clownfish, which the Nemo character is based upon, is readily available and fairly inexpensive.  They do not require large fish tanks (20 gallons is sufficient to keep a couple of common clowns) nor do they require an anemone.  Indeed, anemones are delicate animals that insist upon good water movement, high quality water, and fairly intense lighting.  Most clownfish species (including the Occelaris) are available as small tank-raised specimens, and this is always a better option than a wild-caught fish.  Tank-raised fish are accustomed to captivity and less-than-perfect water quality, are conditioned to eat captive diets, and do not harm the native population of fish.  You may pay a bit more for a captive-raised clownfish, but it’s well worth the increased cost.

So what type of aquarium makes a suitable home for a clown?  Well, the bigger the better, but a simple 20 gallon saltwater system will suffice.  The tank should have some rock work for aquascaping, and some sand or crushed coral for a substrate.  The tank should ideally be equipped with a protein skimmer to remove dissolved organic waste, and it should have at least a reasonable amount of water flow (a minimum of 10 times the tank volume per hour, but ideally more).  Lighting is not a concern, and clownfish will readily eat most omnivorous foods (I personally prefer Spectrum pellets, by New Life).  In summation, common clownfish are fairly easy to keep, but still require good water quality and a varied, nutritious diet.

The striking Pacific Blue Tang (Dory) is less suited for a beginner aquarist.  Blue Tangs require much larger systems (small ones can be kept in 4 foot long tanks of 75 gallons and up; large ones will ideally have a 6 foot long tank of 125 gallons and up).  They require more rock work to hide in (ideally live rock, with a healthy growth of algae to nibble on) and more much more susceptible to parasitic infections like the dreaded saltwater Ich.

Like all tangs, P. Hepatus will need to be fed at least twice per day (they are grazers in the wild), and will most certainly need a good protein skimmer and a high water flow in the tank (ideally 20+ times the tank volume per hour).  Blue Tangs do not require intense lighting to do well, but will appreciate living in a live reef system, complete with better lighting and plenty of live rock.  They too are omnivores, but will need dried seaweed sheets on a daily basis.  In summation, Blue Tangs can be kept by reasonably novice aquarists, but will require much larger tanks, with better water quality and a more varied, vegetable-rich diet to thrive.  It’s probably best to wait 6-12 months to purchase one, until you’ve gotten the hang of keeping easier species in captivity.

I have kept my Pacific Blue Tang in my 90 gallon reef for 8 years and counting.  When I purchased her, she was a 3 inch sub-adult, and she is now a full 6 inches long and pleasantly plump.  When properly cared for, both Nemo and Dory will make for long-lived and extremely beautiful pets.  Just make sure you do your due diligence before buying either fish, and make sure that you are willing to commit to the care requirements of both species.