Blackback Anemonefish, Amphiprion melanopus Bleeker 1852

Other Names: Black Anemonefish, Black Anemone-fish, Black-backed Anemonefish, Dusky Anemone-fish, Fire Clownfish, Red-and-black Anemonefish

A Blackback Anemonefish, Amphiprion melanopus, on Milne Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queemsland . Source: Andrew J. Green / Reef life Survey. License: CC by Attribution


A blackish anemonefish with a yellowish to reddish snout, belly, dorsal and caudal fins, black pelvic fins and a mostly black anal fin. Most individuals have a white bar with a narrow dark border on each side of the head that is often connected over the top. Small juveniles are red with one or two additional white bars at mid-body and base of the tail.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Amphiprion melanopus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024,

Blackback Anemonefish, Amphiprion melanopus Bleeker 1852

More Info


Cape Leveque to the Bonaparte Archipelago, Western Australia, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, to at least Broughton Island, New South Wales. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the tropical western-central Pacific: Bali, Indonesia, east to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Caroline Islands, Marianas, Kiribati (Gilberts), Nauru, and the Marshall Islands.
Inhabits lagoons and outer reefs, and is commensal  environments, and feeds predominantly on planktonic copepods and algae. Usually lives in commensal association with the anemone host Entacmaea quadricolor, although may also be found with Heteractis crispa and rarely with Heteractis  magnifica.


Max length 12 cm


Adults have blackish sides, and the snout, belly, dorsal and caudal fins are yellowish to reddish; pelvic fins black, anal fin mostly black. Most individuals have a white bar with a thin dark border on each side of the head that is connected over the top.

Small juveniles are red with one or two additional white bars at mid-body and base of the tail.


Anemone fishes have small home ranges and live "family" groups. Males and females form strong pair bonds, and the male chooses a nesting site on bare rock close to his anemone host. He clears the site of any algae and debris, often aided by the female. She lays her eggs onto this surface.


A popular aquarium fish that has been bred in captivity.


Similar Species

Although somewhat similar to McCulloch's Anemonefish, Amphiprion mccullochi, in having a white bar on each side of the head, A. mccullochi is dark brown and the white bar is not connected over the top of the head in adults.


The specific name melanopus is from the Greek melano (= black) and pous (= foot) in reference to the blackish pelvic fins of this species.

Species Citation

Amphiprion melanopus Bleeker, P. 1852, Natuurwetensch. Tijdschr. Nederland. Indië 3: 561. Type locality: Ambon, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Blackback Anemonefish, Amphiprion melanopus Bleeker 1852


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

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. 3381-4218, 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. 

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

Arvedlund, M., Larsen, K. & Winsor, H. 2000. The embryonic development of the olfactory system in Amphiprion melanopus (Perciformes: Pomacentridae) related to the host imprinting hypothesis, Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 80(6): 1103-1109

Arvedlund, M., McCormick, M.I., Fautin, D.G. & Bildsoe, M. 1999. Host recognition and possible imprinting in the anemonefish Amphiprion melanopus (Pisces: Pomacentridae). Marine Ecology Progress Series 188: 207–218.

Atherton, J.A. & McCormick, M.I. 2017. Kin recognition in embryonic damselfishes. Oikos 126: 1062–1069. doi:10.1111/oik.03597 247-270

Bleeker, P. 1852. Nieuwe bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van Amboina. Natuurwetenschappelijk Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 3: 545-568. See ref at BHL

De Vis, C.W. 1884. Fishes from South Sea islands. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 8(4): 445-457. (described as Amphiprion arion, type locality South Seas)

Godwin, J. 1994. Behavioural aspects of protandrous sex change in the anemonefish Amphiprion melanopus, and endocrine correlates. Animal Behaviour 48: 551-567.

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

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.

Jenkins, A., Allen, G., Myers, R., Yeeting, B. & Carpenter, K.E. 2017. Amphiprion melanopus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T188491A1882866. Accessed on 08 August 2022.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

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.

Whitley, G.P. 1933. Studies in Ichthyology No. 7. Records of the Australian Museum 19(1): 60-112 figs 1-4 pls 11-15 (described as Amphiprion verweyi, type locality North West Islet, Capricorn Group, Queensland)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37372024

Biology:Lives with anemones

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-20 m

Fishing:Popular aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max weight:12 cm

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map