No, Clownfish cannot live in freshwater, and moreover, clownfish as a species need saltwater to survive and simply can't do so in a freshwater tank.
When referring to clownfish, most are referring to the clownfish species, which are a part of a marine saltwater fish family called Pomacentridae, the family of ray-finned fish.
There are a few different types of clownfish, ranging in size, patterns, and behavior. Most of them hang out in anemones in coral reefs, which can only be found in saltwater.
When it comes to popular fish, there are perhaps none more popular in the hobby than clownfish. Their popularity is primarily due to their coloration, patterns, and general charm.
However, there is some confusion with clowns that stems from their names. There are many other fish species that have adopted "clown" in their names.
These are the clown loach, clown knife fish, clown barb, clown rasbora, and clown pleco. All of these clown-named fish are freshwater fish, whereas clownfish are saltwater fish, So, if you are wondering, can different types of clownfish live in freshwater, then the answer is a resounding NO.
Are Clownfish Fresh or Saltwater Fish?
Clownfish are saltwater fish through and through, meaning they would certainly not survive in freshwater under any circumstances. They are a reef-associated species meaning that they live and thrive near or in reef environments in the wild and in captivity.
Adult clownfish typically reside in sea anemones in the wild. The unique relationship between the two has been well documented since the discovery of clownfish.
Anemones, like clownfish, will simply not survive in freshwater, and many people ask if clownfish need anemones to survive.
In the wild, clownfish are found in Indo-West Pacific, the eastern Indian ocean including Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Thailand, Malaysia, northwest Australia, Singapore Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan.
What Happens if you put Clownfish in Freshwater?
Over many years clownfish have completely adapted to saltwater environments. Their gills and kidneys are not able to handle freshwater, like most other saltwater fish, which means, if you put a clownfish in freshwater, they would, unfortunately, be dead within a matter of minutes.
If you put any saltwater fish in freshwater, the freshwater will enter the fish through the process of osmosis which will then enter its cells and cause them to swell, and then the fish will die.
There are some special cases where fish can adapt to both fresh and saltwater, but clownfish are certainly not one of them.
While you might curious to place a saltwater-dependent fish like a clownfish in freshwater, please don't, it will kill it almost instantly, clownfish also require an aquarium heater to survive. The best thing to do if you like the coloration and patterns of clownfish, but only have a freshwater tank is to purchase a similar-looking freshwater fish. Some examples would be the clown loach, or perhaps the Bumblebee goby.