Spine-cheek Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus (Bloch 1790)

Other Names: Spine-cheek Anemonefish, Spine-cheeked Anemone-fish, Tomato Clownfish

A Spine-cheek Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus, near Dili, Timor Leste. Source: Nick Hobgood / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY Attribution-ShareAlike

A bright red to brownish anemonefish with three narrow white to greyish bars on the head and body, and a large spine on the gill cover. Males are often more brilliantly coloured than the larger females.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Premnas biaculeatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Dec 2020,

Spine-cheek Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus (Bloch 1790)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from Scott Reef (14°S, 122°E), WA, and Darnley Is (9°35'S) to E of Slade Point (21°01S); tropical, east-Indo-west Pacific.
Lives in association with the anemone Entacmaea quadricolor.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin X, 17-18; Anal fin II, 13-15.


The female is 2–3 times the size of her male partner.


Feeds mostly on zooplankton and benthic algae. 


Spine-cheek Clownfish are protandrous hermaphrodites, starting life as males and changing sex into females. They live in a small group with a dominant female and several males of varying sizes. If the females dies or disappears, the second largest individual changes sex from male to female. The size difference amongst the males is maintained to avoid smaller and subordiante males threatening the highest ranking male.
Oviparous - form distinct pairs during breeding, and females lay demersal adherent eggs that are guarded and aerated by the male.

Species Citation

Chaetodon biaculeatus Bloch, 1790, Naturg. ausländ. Fische. 4: 11, Pl. 219 (fig. 2). Type locality: East Indies.


Dianne J. Bray

Spine-cheek Clownfish, Premnas biaculeatus (Bloch 1790)


Allen, G.R. 1972. Anemonefishes, their Classification and Biology. Neptune CityNew Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 288 pp., 140 figs.

Allen, G.R., 1975. Damselfishes of the South Seas. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey. 240 p.

Allen, G.R. 1991. Damselfishes of the World. Melle, Germany : Mergus Verlag 271 pp.

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G. R. 2001. Family Pomacentridae. pp. in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Bloch, M.E. 1790. Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische. Berlin : J. Morino Vol. 4 128 pp. pls 217-252.

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37372129

Behaviour:Lives with sea anemones

Biology:Capable of changing sex

Depth:1-18 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:16 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map