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How to Create a Finding Nemo Fish Tank

A fun challenge for established hobbyists and an exciting sight for kids, creating a real life Finding Nemo aquarium is the goal of many fishkeepers who loved the 2003 classic film, and the immensely popular 2016 sequel. The bubbly and bright characters that make up the two films are captivating, and their real life equivalents are even more so. Of course, things aren’t quite so simple as the movie, and we definitely don’t recommend going diving and grabbing yourself a Nemo of your own, but we can certainly advise on the best ways to recreate the iconic Finding Nemo fish tank.

In order to create your own Finding Nemo inspired aquarium at home, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before you take on this immense challenge. Everything from fish compatibility to difficulty of care will affect the feasibility of such an endeavour, with any missteps risking the happiness of your Finding Nemo cast. To give yourself the best chance at creating a thriving and happy Nemo fish tank, follow our advice on the specific needs of each member of the Tank Gang, which fish can share an aquarium without fighting and what marine aquarium essentials you’ll need to create a healthy environment for your new friends.

Is it hard to create a Finding Nemo fish tank?

Unfortunately for beginners hoping to dive right into creating their own Finding Nemo fish tank, this is a challenge that should really only be undertaken by experienced fishkeepers. This is because marine tanks require a lot more work, time and money than is needed for setting up and maintaining a regular freshwater tank. On top of this, many of the species that feature in the Finding Nemo Tank Gang are very tricky to care for, making this challenge even more difficult. The work doesn’t stop once the tank is set up either, as marine aquariums also require an understanding of water chemistry to ensure that the basic parameters, such as the water’s salinity, are monitored at least once a week.

If you’re new to fishkeeping, however, there is still a way you can enjoy your own Finding Nemo fish tank replica. To find out more, jump to the ‘Finding Nemo fish tank ornaments’ section of this blog where we’ll advise on what you’ll need to create a freshwater tank that looks like the original without the challenge of caring for delicate marine aquarium creatures.

Responsible fishkeeping

While the Finding Nemo film introduced this fantastic hobby to an incredible number of people, it was also problematic. The rush of excitement created an unmeetable demand for certain species (especially Nemo himself) that led to unsustainable and unethical fishing. This isn’t something that should ever, ever be allowed to happen, and we’re sure Nemo and Marlin would agree. To ensure you enjoy the fishkeeping hobby responsibly, we would only recommend buying captive-bred fish and ethically-sourced fish for your aquarium.

Can you have a Finding Nemo fish tank?

With our important warnings out of the way, we can say that yes, it is entirely possible to create your own Finding Nemo fish tank at home. In fact, many of the saltwater fish we meet throughout the film are already considered popular aquarium fish, with Nemo and Marlin (Clownfish) as particular favourites for many fishkeepers. Unfortunately, while caring for the individual species is possible, combining them in a single tank as they’re seen in the original dentist’s Finding Nemo fish tank is another matter entirely.

While many of the fish who make up the Tank Gang could happily coexist under the right circumstances, there are a few members who are incompatible with one another. It wouldn’t take long, for instance, for Bloat the Blowfish to start harassing the smaller species of the gang, such as Jacques the Cleaner Shrimp. After this, you might even see the territorial Nemo the Clownfish and the aggressive Deb the Striped Damselfish start fighting.

Fortunately, there are ways to limit the dangers of fish incompatibility (which we’ll go into soon), enough even to create a real life Finding Nemo fish tank, complete with every member of the Tank Gang, but this would be an astonishing feat that would take a lot of time, money, care, maintenance and a very very big fish tank (at least a 200 gallon / 900 litre aquarium) to achieve. Because of this, and because of the risks to fish happiness that would remain even with all of these measures taken, we would recommend creating a more manageable Finding Nemo aquarium that features only your favourite (and friendly) characters.

What fish were in the tank in Finding Nemo?

Before the arrival of Nemo to the dentist’s fish tank, there were seven members of the classic Tank Gang. Each character, all the way from Gill to Bloat, are based on real fish species that you can host in your own saltwater aquarium. Every species has specific traits and needs that should be considered before you introduce them to your own underwater ecosystem, all of which we’ll go over next so you can make informed decisions.

Please also remember that all fish, and marine fish in particular, are delicate and offer unique challenges for fishkeepers of all skill levels. Even expert marine hobbyists will struggle from time to time to care for all the individual needs of their tank residents, so if you’re looking to add a new fishy friend to your established aquarium or start a new Tang Gang from scratch, make sure you always do your research first.

To help you get started with your own Finding Nemo tank, we’ve included advice on fish compatibility for other members of the Tank Gang as well as some information on each member’s specific needs, but even with this head start in place, remember to follow the golden rule of successful fishkeeping and always check all the requirements of any species you choose to add to your tank. Your research should consider every element of your species’ needs and preferences including temperature, dietary requirements, tank size, social needs and more. We recommend being as thorough as possible and only taking on challenges you’re confident you can handle!

Gill - The Moorish Idol

One of the most difficult members of the Tank Gang to bring into a home aquarium, Gill is a Moorish Idol fish. As a schooling fish and an active swimmer, Moorish Idols are poorly suited to tank life, with a single adult requiring, at a minimum, swimming space of around 150 gallons. On top of this, Gill would also be an exceptionally difficult fish to care for, due to his typically picky eating habits and the necessity of creating a mature ‘live rock’ aquarium that could facilitate this diet.

Because of the incredible difficulty that is associated with caring for a Moorish Idol fish like Gill, we would recommend only the most experienced fishkeepers take on the challenge. However, if you’re still a beginner fishkeeper and Gill is your favourite character, you could always substitute the Moorish Idol for the very similarly looking (and significantly easier to care for) Longfin Bannerfish. A type of butterfly fish, the Longfin Bannerfish are quite passive and are unlikely to cause any trouble in a tank with other species. They are also considered easy to care for and shouldn't be kept in a saltwater reef tank as they may disturb soft corals. They’re also more susceptible to bullying from larger fish species such as tangs, and should be kept with similarly passive small fish where possible.

Jacques - The Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

One of the most true-to-life characters of the Tank Gang, if you introduce a Skunk Cleaner Shrimp to your Finding Nemo tank they will, like Jacques, spend a lot of their day cleaning. A member of the marine ‘clean up crew’, many fishkeepers include these as similar cleaning species to their tank to help keep up with regular maintenance. They also make a very peaceful addition to most tanks, rarely fighting with other shrimp (should you choose to have more than one) and get along happily with marine fish. The only fish a Skunk Cleaner Shrimp is likely to have issues with are predatory species, such as Bloat the Blowfish, who may attempt to eat little Jacques given the opportunity.

By all accounts, Jacques the Skunk Cleaner Shrimp is an easy addition to most saltwater aquariums, their only special needs being that they will require a tank size of at least 100L and need regular additions of iodine supplements to the tank, which is needed to produce a new exo-skeleton to replace the one they shed every 3-8 weeks.

Gurgle - The Royal Gramma

Another member of the Tank Gang which exhibits similar behaviours common to their species, Gurgle’s anxious, paranoid nature mirrors the hiding and darting movements of his real-life inspiration, the Royal Gramma fish. This species of fish is commonly included in saltwater aquariums and are easy to care for, their only real requirement being that they should be kept away from other fish of the same species. This is because two Royal Gramma fish will act territorially towards one another, sometimes becoming aggressive.

In terms of environment, a real life Gurgle would require a fish tank of at least 100L with plenty of hiding spaces. This means creating rocky structures and using decorations in the middle to low levels of your tank for them to hide in. You’ll often find that Gurgle will swim close to their favourite hiding space, and may even disappear for days at a time to hide between rocks if they feel nervous around or threatened by their larger tank mates.

Peach - The Sand Sifting Starfish

An uncommon appearance in home aquariums, Peach the Starfish would make a particularly unusual (and beautiful) addition to your Nemo tank. While Peach’s specific species of starfish isn’t clear, if you’re determined to introduce one into your Finding Nemo fish tank we’d recommend the Sand Sifting Starfish. This species’ achievable care level makes it suitable for beginners, though it’s imperative that she only be added to a well established tank of 75 gallons with a deep sand bed. Without this, Peach will have nothing to feed on and will starve quickly.

Unlike the confident and friendly Peach from the film, if you introduce a Sand Sifting Starfish to your Nemo fish tank she might try to eat Jaques the Cleaner Shrimp while Bloat the Pufferfish eyes her up for dinner - so it’s best to choose one of the three. Other than this, however, real life Peach would be a peaceful inclusion in your aquarium provided all of her needs are met.

Deb (and her sister Flo) - The Striped Damselfish

Portrayed as a friendly fish, if a little delusional due to her invention of her sister Flo, Deb is a Striped Damselfish. These fish are fairly easy to care for, making them suitable for saltwater aquarium beginners, but their aggressive nature makes them difficult tank-mates. Territorial and highly aggressive, these fish shouldn’t be kept in small tanks with other species as fights are likely to occur. In order to keep this under control, we would recommend keeping Striped Damselfish like Deb away from any other fish of the same species and monitoring their behaviour to any other non-aggressive tank occupants as they may fall victim to bullying.

All too often, beginner fishkeepers will introduce the territorial Deb first to their new tank but this is a big mistake and should be avoided. Instead, the best way to reduce the risk of an aggressive Striped Damselfish bullying smaller, more peaceful species is to introduce them later to the tank. By this point, your more peaceful fish will have had time to develop their individual territories without interference.

Bubbles - The Yellow Tang

A particularly striking inclusion to any saltwater tank due to his bright yellow colouring, Bubbles is a Yellow Tang. Tangs are a popular inclusion in many marine aquariums due to their relatively easy-to-care for nature, but there are a few things to consider when creating a community tank, like the Finding Nemo fish tank. Specifically, Yellow Tangs will become territorial when sharing a space with other tangs, including Blue Tangs like Dory.

Other than their territorial nature, Yellow Tangs also require a large amount of space as they are typically long-distance swimmers. The minimum tank size advised for a Yellow Tang is a 300L, 3 foot tank, but to allow them enough swimming space an even larger tank would be better. They are also a herbivore species and require live rock from which to feed, but they are also likely to accept dried seaweed or algae.

If you’re looking to introduce a Yellow Tang like Bubbles into your tank, you should also pay special attention to where you’re shopping. A very rare fish, conservation efforts mean that Yellow Tangs are protected by fishing bans and import from Hawaii is illegal. The result of these restrictions means that captive bred fish are very expensive, so this is something to bear in mind while making your choices.

Bloat - The Blowfish

Not the gentle (and sometimes cowardly) giant he’s portrayed as in the movie, Bloat is a Blowfish and, like other puffer fish in the Tetraodontidae family, he is classed as a predatory fish. Due to his large size and nature, a real life Bloat would pose a significant threat to his smaller tank-mates and shouldn’t be mixed with small fish species or shrimp.

Keeping a Blowfish alone also brings about its own expensive challenges, as the large fish would need a large tank and a protein skimmer in order to stay on top of the level of bio-waste it would produce. Not suitable for beginners, this tricky to care for giant requires a lot of attention, and could even pose a threat to any crustaceans you have and can destroy corals. Overall, while Bloat is undeniably exciting and interesting, he may be more trouble than he’s worth to keep.

How to create a Finding Nemo tank

The newest member of the Tang Gang, Nemo is a Ocellaris Clownfish and is one of the easiest to care for fish in the dentist’s tank. As such, if you’re creating your own Finding Nemo aquarium at home, starting with a Clownfish is the best first step.

Unlike Nemo, Marlin and Coral, Clownfish who live in tanks don’t require an anemone and will happily acclimatise to your saltwater tank in most cases. Typically territorial, we recommend keeping only a single or a pair of Clownfish in one tank as they’re likely to fight and become aggressive when faced with larger numbers of the same species. In order to help them claim territories in a larger tank with a community of fish, we also recommend ensuring there are plenty of rocky structures available as this will separate the space.

When it comes to choosing a Clownfish or pair of Clownfish for your Finding Nemo tank, you’ll also be met with more variety than you may have expected. In recent years, more and more new strains of Clownfish have been bred, offering fishkeepers a spectacular array of fish to choose from that range from the classic orange with white stripes to the dramatic black with white stripes.

How to create a Finding Dory aquarium

If your favourite character in Finding Nemo is Dory, or you preferred the second film to the first, you might want to take on the challenge of creating a Finding Dory aquarium. This would mean bringing the beautiful and characterful Blue Tang into your large 600L saltwater aquarium and populating it with plenty of live rock for the hungry tang to feed from.

Blue Tang fish, like Dory, represent a challenge to fishkeepers of all skill levels. They’re moderately difficult to care for and require a very large saltwater habitat to allow them to indulge in their active ‘just keep swimming’ ways. If you’re determined to care for your own Finding Dory aquarium, we would also recommend you keep them alone as these typically aggressive fish are likely to fight with other tang species.

Something else to consider when creating a Finding Dory fish tank is that Blue tangs such as Dory are more likely to suffer from white spot, ‘ich’ disease, than other fish. This shouldn’t deter you from welcoming the beautiful blue tang to your own aquarium however, simply read our helpful Guide to Treating White Spot to familiarise yourself with the symptoms and treatments available.

How to create a peaceful Finding Nemo tank

Issues of fish compatibility, such as bullying and fighting can be alleviated through a number of techniques which are listed below. Please keep in mind that every fish, even when they exhibit behaviour characteristic of their species, is unique and may act unexpectedly. Because of this, you should always pay close attention to how your fish community coexists, particularly when they’re first introduced to one another.

  • Always make sure that your tank is large enough to house all your fish and that all their individual environmental needs are met, such as ensuring hiding spaces for Royal Grammas and a deep sand substrate for Sand Sifting Starfish.
  • If your fish are acting territorially and are regularly fighting over space, try redrawing territories by rearranging rocks and decorations. This will encourage fighting fish to re-settle into a new territory.
  • Create convenient and regular hiding places for small, passive fish. This will allow them places to hide from larger fish prone to bullying.
  • Feed larger and predatory fish regularly as a full, well-fed fish is less likely to attack or harass a smaller fish than a hungry predator.

Unfortunately, if you’re struggling to keep your fish happy in their tank after trying the methods above, it may be time to take more drastic measures and remove the aggressive fish from the tank. Doing this should lessen the stress levels of peaceful fish, which should always remain a top priority for fishkeepers as a stressed fish can quickly become ill and is more susceptible to diseases.

Finding Nemo tank equipment list

When it comes to crafting a real life Finding Nemo fish tank, choosing members of the Tank Gang is only one half of the picture, you’ll also need to ensure all the practical environmental factors are taken care of. This can be very pricey and keeping on top of maintenance tasks for a marine tank will take up a lot of time, but if you’re dedicated enough it’s definitely achievable. To help you get started, we’ve included a quick shopping list below that includes all the essentials you’ll need for your new marine tank.

  • For starters, you’ll need a suitably sized fish tank that is big enough to support all the fish you’ve chosen to add to your Finding Nemo fish tank. At Aquacadabra, our tanks range from 10L all the way up to 900L, so unless you’re looking for a wall-sized aquarium to house every member of the Tank Gang (which we wouldn’t recommend), you’ll find what you need in our full aquarium collection.
  • If your tank doesn’t already have an integrated filter, heater and lighting system, you’ll need to ensure each of these essential components are bought separately. We sell a wide range of each element online and, should you need advice on which filter, heater or lighting system will best integrate with your chosen tank, our friendly experts are always on hand to share their wisdom.
  • To ensure suitable water movement for your marine tank, it’s also advisable to purchase a powerhead pump or wave maker. There's a full range of marine powerheads available in our collection online, so simply choose one that suits the size and water volume of your tank.
  • With the essential equipment covered, you’ll also need to consider water quality and chemistry by stocking up on marine aquarium salts and test kits. For a coral tank, we would recommend marine salts such as Red Sea Coral Pro, Aquarium Systems Reef Crystals Salt or TMC Reef Pro Salt, while fish only tanks are better suited to Red Sea Marine Salt, Instant Ocean Marine Salt or Tropic Marin Marine Salt. Both types of tanks would also benefit from test kits such as the Red Sea Marine Care Test Kit and the Red Sea Reef Mature Pro Kit.
  • You’ll also need a suitable live sand substrate to build the base of your marine tank. Take a look through our selection of sand substrates to find a suitable addition for your tank, though we would particularly recommend the options available from Nature’s Ocean, Caribsea or Aquaforest.
  • To improve biodiversity, and to help provide some natural filtration, you should also introduce a live ocean rock to your marine aquarium. Caribsea has a range of live rocks available at Aquacadabra that will be suitable for a Finding Nemo tank, such as the Caribsea Life Rock.

If you’re new to saltwater fishkeeping, or just need a refresher course before taking on this new project, you can also visit our ‘How to Set up a Marine Aquarium’ blog post which details all the necessary equipment and steps you’ll need to get going.

Finding Nemo fish tank ornaments

While building your Finding Nemo tank, you might notice that, while you have some of the famous members of the Tank Gang, your completed tank doesn’t quite look the same as the original. This is because the dentist in the film made the mistake of using plastic plants and ornaments as well as fake, coloured substrates to decorate his own tank. These fish-killing mistakes would mean that his tank occupants wouldn’t last very long in real life, and nor would the decorations as the salt water would discolour the plants quickly.

Unfortunately, because the ornaments used in the original tank are so iconic, creating a perfect replica that can support a healthy environment for your marine fish simply isn’t possible. Because of this, we would recommend choosing what is more important for you; having the Tank Gang or having the Finding nemo fish tank ornaments. If you decide on the former, abandon this section and prioritise creating a healthy environment for your fish. On the other hand, if you’re happy with an easy to care for freshwater aquarium that looks like the original tank without any of the Tank Gang, you can do so by browsing the wide range of plastic plants, aquarium decorations and substrates to help you build a realistic replica of the Tank Gang’s home.

To get started on building your own replica (but freshwater) tank, take a look through our popular Finding Nemo fish tank ornaments below, including the artificial long-stemmed plants, the scuba diver helmet and the ‘Aquascan’ water tester. If you’re feeling particularly creative and inventive, you could even try to recreate the iconic bubble treasure chest or ‘ring of fire’ volcano, using air diffusers and bubble wands from our collection of aquarium air stones and diffusers.

BiOrb Easy Plants (Tall x2), £11,99

Recreate the long-stemmed green plants from the original Finding Nemo aquarium with the pack of two tall plastic plants from BiOrb. Available in short, medium and tall heights to suit any sized fish tank, the BiOrb Easy Plants will effortlessly create a lush green environment for your fish.

Ocean Rock 20kg, £67.95

One of the most practical Finding Nemo fish tank ornaments available at Aquacadabra, this Ocean Rock not only helps to create a realistic looking replica tank, but also provides useful hiding spaces for smaller fish. This type of rock can also be placed in freshwater or marine aquariums, making it a suitable choice for the Tank Gang or their freshwater cousins.

Seneye USB Home V2, £97.99

Another practical inclusion to have in your Finding Nemo fish tank, the Seneye USB Home V2 is a fun nod to the ‘Aquascan’ from the original film which also offers a convenient alternative to regular manual water testing. Most fish react poorly to changes in water temperature and pH, so monitoring these along with other water parameters is the best way to ensure the continued happiness of your fishy friends.

Aqua One Diver Helmets, £19.54 - £36.79

Among the more iconic Finding Nemo fish tank ornaments, the scuba diver helmet from Aqua One mimics the helmet Nemo finds himself hiding in when he first wakes up surrounded by the Tank Gang. Unlike the clunky, metal version seen in the film however, the scuba helmet from Aqua One is made from a fish-friendly resin and is hand painted for pops of green, red and yellow.

Whatever Finding Nemo aquarium you create, whether you opt for a marine aquarium with some members of the original Tank Gang or prefer to build an easier freshwater tank that resembles the original design, remember you can always contact the friendly experts here at Aquacadabra for specialist guidance and use our handy advice blogs such as ‘How many fish should you put in a fish tank?’ whenever you need.