View Full Version : Some Anemone Info

08-06-2011, 06:55 AM
As with all marine critters, you need to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you get an anemone. What they truly need to thrive might surprise you. The below is based on my first hand experiences and some information & articles I found on Reefkeeping magazine (reefkeeping.com) and one article published by Greg Peterson and Marina Peters.

Water Quality
Generally speaking, they need the same type of water conditions as SPS require. Anemones need: high levels of dissolved O2, a stable salinity at 1.024 to 1.026, a stable PH between 8.1 and 8.3, a stable temp between 76 and 78 F, stable calcium between 400 and 450, stable dKH at 8.0 to 12.0, magnesium stable between 1,250 and 1,350 ppm, nitrate at 0.1 ppm or less (0 is best), stable phosphate at 0.1 ppm or less (0 is best), and finally 0ppm of ammonia and nitrite. Just as with most all aquatic life, stable parameters and parameters at or near the desired levels is the key to a healthy and happy tank.

In my experience, my parameters are always within those levels and remain stable. The only thing I’m not completely positive on what the ideal phosphate and nitrate levels should be for anemones (mine are typically always at zero). I have read a lot of differing opinions on that and have not been able to validate the tolerable levels for an anemone. Most say anemones can tolerate a very small amount but need 0 nitrate and phosphates in order for the anemone to truly thrive. But having said that, it’s always best to have your phosphate and nitrate levels as close to 0 as possible as it helps avoid other issues such as algae growth.

Tank Stability
This is even more important to people who are newer to the hobby as compared to seasoned veterans (and just to be clear, I’m not claiming to be a seasoned veteran here either). The reason being is that tanks that have been set up and running for less than 6 months can be prone to wide swings in water parameters. However, this is a generalized statement (rule of thumb) that can depend on a wide array of factors like total water volume and cycling methods just to name two of them. It is always better to play it safe and wait until you know for certain that your tank is stable, or wait 6 months (or even longer). Most anemones cannot handle swings in water parameters very well at all.

Maintaining stability will also influence such things as how you dose your tank (should you need to) and your maintenance routine. It is always preferable to ensure any changes in the water are made slowly and over a longer period of time

Water Flow
Anemones need at least some water flow around them. They breathe by absorbing oxygen directly from the water. In the wild, anemones also need water flow to bring food to them and for carrying away wastes. Generally speaking, anemones will need moderate to low water flow. One of the most common causes for an anemone not to be happy in your tank is that they do not like the water flow around them. This will sometimes cause them to move until they find a spot in the tank that they like.

It’s always best to match the flow in your tank to the type of anemone that you have. For example, bubble tips will be OK with flows that are higher as compared to what a carpet anemone would like.

Lighting Requirements
Anemones need really good lighting to survive. They will get a lot of their required nutrients through photosynthetic processes. They contain zooxanthellae algae within their tissues that will allow them to use light for nutrients. Their lighting requirements are very similar to that of SPS corals. Metal halides or T5 HO fixtures traditionally have been the best choices for light fixtures. I have not used, nor have I been able to find a good source of info on LEDs lighting and anemones so I really don’t know for certain if LEDs will provide a anemone with enough light.

There is a lot of differing opinions over what a minimum light requirement should be. I have found as a general rule of thumb, 4 watts per gallon of 18000K or higher lighting should be a good starting point for tanks that are about 20 to 24” in height. Once again, that is only based on the success that I have had with my anemones.

Feeding anemones
There are a few schools of thought on this as well. Some people do not feed their anemone anything and they remain healthy in their tank for many years. IMO, you should feed your anemone at least 3 or 4 times per month to keep them very healthy and happy. You can even feed them up to 4 times a week if you want to accelerate their growth. I feed mine about weekly and they grow and spawn and seem to be thriving.

As for foods, stick to meaty foods that are high in proteins. Claims, Scallops, Shrimp, and Krull are all good choices to offer. Stay away from silversides as much as possible. Typically you are risking potential quality issues with silversides as compared to the other above listed choices. There are other options for food, but I have not tried any of them.

When you feed your anemone, make sure the food is small enough to easily fit in the anemones mouth. Place the food near the anemones mouth (as near as you can). I use a long pair of tweezers for this. Once the food touches the anemone, it should start to react right away. Anemones can take up to 2 to 3 minutes to take the food and put it in its mouth followed by closing it’s mouth. A stressed anemone will take longer. Just keep an eye on the other critters and fish in the tank as they usually will try to steel food form the anemone.

Do anemones need clown fish ?.......... No they do not. Anemones are perfectly fine without them. There are certain benefits to having clown fish hosting in your anemone though. Benefits like: the clownfish will defend the anemone from all other fish and some critters in the tank, the clown fish will place uneaten food on the anemone (basically feeding it) and the clown fish will gain protection from other fish by hosting in the anemone. However, both the clown fish and anemone can be perfectly healthy and happy without each other.
If you are going to get a pair of clown fish to host in your anemone, make sure you get the correct type of clown fish that will naturally host in your anemone. As a general rule of thumb, not all clown fish will host in all anemones.

Other Tank-mates
For the most part reef tanks are pretty safe for anemones. There are not too many critters that will potentially harm your anemone. In the wild, some anemone predators include certain types of nudibranchs, bristle worms, butterfly fish, large angelfish, and large puffers. Even if a clownfish pair is present and hosting in the anemone, predators can nip at the anemone until the anemone eventually dies from the constant stress or injuries.

On the other hand, an anemone can represent a risk to other tank inhabitants. They are very opportunistic feeders grabbing and eating almost any smaller slow moving fish or invert that may come in contact with their tentacles. Although I have never personally seen this, I have found a lot of examples of anemones eating: gobies, dragonets, seahorses, snails, crabs, and blennies, Certain carpet anemones are more likely to snack your fish as compared to other anemones.

One of the best and natural ways to protect your anemone from potential predators and to help prevent other fish and inverts from becoming the anemone’s snack, is to keep a pair of clownfish in the tank that will host in your anemone. The clownfish will claim the anemone as their home and they will protect it. But please keep in mind that you do not need to have clown fish to keep your anemone happy. I would actually suggest waiting until your anemone is around ½ grown before getting clownfish. Clownfish can sometimes be rough on an anemone so you want to make sure the anemone is big enough to take all that lov’n.

Wandering Anemones
Anemones move because they are not happy with the spot they are currently sitting in. This could be for a great many reasons. Sometimes this can be an indication that something is wrong in the tank or the result of something that you might have changed. The things you would want to look into are
1) Water quality. You need to make sure all your water parameters are in line and that they are stable
2) Lighting. Make sure your lighting is bright enough and at the correct K value. If your bulbs are older than a year, consider changing them.
3) Water flow. This could be one of three things, a) there could be too little flow (but often it’s too much), b) there could be too much flow, and c) there could have been a resent change in the flow
4) Security. The anemone might be having trouble getting it’s boot (foot) in a spot where it feels safe. Sometimes that is because the substrate is not deep enough or there is no safe rock location

Once you have found what is causing the anemone to move, you can correct that to allow your anemone to settle into a spot he likes

Happy Anemones
Once you get to know your anemone, it should be easy to tell when it’s happy. Below are a few signs you can go by as well:
A) They are not hiding, remaining out in the open.
B) The color looks normal for that particular species of anemone. Quit often, they will also have a brown tint or undertone in the coloring from the zooxanthellae inside. Be cautious of died anemones. They will typically have been dyed a bright and attractive color. When dyed, the anemone will typically have a universal coloring throughout its body.
C) They should be fully inflated and look firm.
D) The mouth should stay closed.
E) The anemone should not be closed / retracted for long periods of time.
F) The anemone should have a strong feeding response. If you place a pc if food anywhere that comes in direct contact with the tentacles, the anemone should grab it right away and move the food into its mouth.
G) The foot should remain at least a little sticky, and the tentacles somewhat sticky as well. Some species of anemones will have stickier tentacles than others

Not Happy Anemones
The below are signs of a stressed or potentially sick anemone. Keep in mind you have to properly acclimate your anemone into your tank (both the water and the light), just as you would for sensitive fish with the addition of slowly acclimating the anemone to your lighting as well. Improper acclimation can cause many of the below symptoms and it could get worse. As anemones are very biologically simple creatures, they have a very tough time dealing stress. These signs can include:
A) The anemone is expelling a long and stringy brown liquid. This could be a sign the water conditions are not good and you anemone is expelling some of its zooxanthellae. This can be a serious condition. Just be sure the anemone is not expelling food wastes (keep in mind there is only one opening to the digestive system).
B) The anemone seams to shrink and expand a lot. Anemones will deflate and then re-inflate as a way of changing the water inside of them flushing out wastes. If this is continually happening (say daily or more), or if it remains shrunk for longer periods of time, your anemone might be having problems or is stressed
C) The mouth is open when it is not eating or expelling wasts
D) When an anemone moves into the rocks and hides from sight. (with the exception of rock anemones)
E) It won’t eat
F) Your anemone looks pale or almost colorless, otherwise known as “bleaching”. Basically this is another symptom / result of the anemone expelling zooxanthellae or was not properly acclimated to your tank lighting.
G) The mouth remains open or perhaps even extended although the anemone is not eating. In extreme cases of stress, the mouth will appear inverted.
H) The anemone will not attach its self

08-06-2011, 06:56 AM
Some Types of Anemones
IMO, anemones are among the more difficult inverts you can get. In my experience, some anemones are more difficult than others as well.

One of the more common and easier anemones to care for, are the bubble tip anemones (BTA). These anemones can get around 1’ in diameter and would need a minimum 20 gallon tank for a species only tank. I personally would not recommend anything smaller than a 30 gallon tank for these guys. They typically like to attach themselves in the rocks and like moderate flow. The unique “knobby” or “bubble” tentacles make this anemone easy to identify. They are commonly found in a sandy brown color, and can also be found in bright purple or other bright colors. Keep in mind the tentacle “bubbles” , and base can have slightly different color variations. This would be pretty normal.
There is also a lot of variation to the size and shape of the bubble formations near the ends of their tentacles. At times, these bubble shapes can shrink in size to being almost un-noticeable. They have also been known to reproduce both sexually and asexually in aquariums. It is very common for these anemones to split in the a aquarium when they are kept in idea conditions.

If you would like clown fish, consider the below list of some the clown fish that have been known to readily host in these anemones. I found this list in reefkeeping magazine
Amphiprion Clarkii
Amphiprion Ocellaris, ocellaris clown fish or false Percula Clownfish
Amphiprion Akindynos, or barrier reef clown
Amphiprion Bicinctus, or two-band clown
Amphiprion Chrysopterus Blueline or Orange fin clown
Amphiprion Ephippium or fire clown
Amphiprion Frenatus, or tomato clown
Amphiprion latezonatus, or wide-band clown
Amphiprion. Mccullochi, or Mcculloch’s clown
Amphiprion. Melanopus, or cinnamon clown
Amphiprion omanensis, or Oman Anemonefish
Amphiprion rubrocinctus, or Australian clown
Amphiprion tricinctus, or three-band clown

Below is a pic of my BTA just a few weeks after it split
Below are pics of a red and a blue BTA I found on Live Aquaria’s website
And the last BTA pic is one that I found on Interior Reef and Marine’s webpage

08-06-2011, 06:57 AM
The more difficult anemones will include sand anemones (Heteractis Aurora), long tentacle anemones (Macrodactyla doreensis) and Sabea anemones (Heteractics crispa)
The Long Tentacle Anemone can get over 1.5 ‘ in diameter with its tentacles reaching 6” in length. There tentacles are typically a sandy brown color but can be found in other brighter colors. Some people state you can keep a LTA in a 20 gallon tank. IMO, they will need at least a 40 gallon tank (40 gallon breeder that is) for s species only tank. They enjoy a moderate flow and have been known to attach themselves in the sand and on rocks. They are not known to reproduce in an aquarium. The sand and sebea anemones have almost identical requirements to the LTA

If you would like clown fish, consider the below list of some of the clown fish that have been known to readily host in these anemones. I also found this list in Reefkeeping magazine.
Amphiprion Clarkii, or just clarkii clown
Amphiprion. Akindynos, or barrier reef clown
Amphiprion Bicinctus, or two-band clown
Amphiprion Chrysopterus, orange fin clown
Amphiprion Ephippium, or fire clown
Amphiprion. Latezonatus, or wide band clown
Amphiprion Leucokranos, or white bonnet clown

I got the below pic of a LTA from Live Aquaria’s website as well.

08-06-2011, 06:58 AM
The sea anemones (Sand anemone) will get to a fare size as well reaching around 1’ in diameter. They typically like to attach themselves in the substrate and like low to slightly moderate flow. And just like with the long tactical anemones, they are not known to reproduce in an aquarium. Although you can keep them in a 20 gallon tank, I would still recommend a 30 gallon or higher.

If you would like clown fish, consider the below that have been known to readily host in these anemones. This is another list I found in reefkeeping magazine
Amphiprion Akindynos, or barrier reef clown
Amphiprion. Bicinctus, or two-band clown
Amphiprion Chrysogaster, or Mauritian clown
Amphiprion. Chrysopterus, or orange-fin clown
Amphiprion Clarkii

I wish I could remember where I found the below pic of a sand anemone, but I’m have trouble reading the name of who took the photo on the upper right hand corner of the photo.


08-06-2011, 07:00 AM
Among the most difficult anemones to care for are some of the different types of carpet anemones
The giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla Gigantea) will get over 1.5’ in diameter, and will frequently get to around 2’when kept in ideal conditions. In the wild can get well over 3’. There tentacles are the longest of all carpet anemones but much shorter than a long tentacle or BTA. The tentacles will be around ¼ to ¾ inchs in length. I like to think of it as looking like 1960's shag carpeting. A lot of people recommend that you will need at least a 40 gallon breeder tank for one of these guys (species only tank), but I would highly recommend no less than a 75 gallon would be best. They will also do best with stronger flow. I have seen these guys plant themselves almost directly into the flow of a return pump line. They also require slightly more lighting levels as compared to other anemones (they are the highest demanding for light). Typically they will be a brown or sandy color but other less common colors like green, blue, purple, and pink can also be found. Even harder to find colors include red and a dark blue. They are not known to reproduce in the home aquarium
If you would like clown fish, consider the below list of some of the clown fish that have been known to readily host in these anemones according to information that I found in reefkeeping magazine
Amphiprion Percula, or percula, includes Picasso clowns
Amphiprion Ocellaris, or ocellaris clown fish or false percula clown
Amphiprion. Clarkii
Amphiprion Akindynos, or barrier reef clown
Amphiprion Nicinctus, two-band clown
Amphiprion percula, or percula
Amphiprion perideraion, or pink skunk
Amphiprion rubrocinctus, or Australian clown

Another pic from Live Aquaria’s website


And a pic I took at our SW LFS here in town


The carpet or saddleback anemone (Srichodactyla Haddoni). These anemones get to be 2’ in diameter and have been known to grow very fast. Most people feel they will need nothing less than a 40 gallon breeder tank for a species only set-up, but I would recommend they should be kept in a 75 gallon tank. They have very short tentacles that look more like colored bumps rather than tentacles. I like to think of it as looking like commerial grade carpeting. They typically like to plant themselves in the sand. They too can come in color variations such as green, blue, and purple. More rare colors are red and pink. They are one of the more aggressive feeders quickly snatching up anything the comes in contact with it’s tentacles. Their tentacles should be extremely sticking making it very hard to handle these guys
If you would like clown fish, consider the below that have been known to readily host in these anemones. This list is also from reefkeeping magazine.
Amphiprion ocellaris, or ocellaris clown fish or false percula clown
Amphiprion akindynos, or barrier reef clown
Amphiprion chrysogaster, or Muritisn clown
Amphiprion chrysopterus, or orange fin clown
Amphiprion clarkii
Amphiprion. Polymnus, saddleback clown
Amphiprion sebae, or just sabae clown

The below is a pic my red haddoni carpet anemone just after I had put him in my tank
And just one last note on anemone reproduction. You can search the internet and find a lot of information / instructions / examples of how to frag anemones. IMO, this is a bunch of hogwash. In the wild there are only two different species of anemones that are known to commonly reproduce by splitting, all other anemones reproduce sexually.
There are some fragging examples that I found which shows recently fragged anemones a few days after being cut up. Even in some of these examples, they state a pretty high mortality rate (50 to 75%) and none of them offer evidence of how the anemones that survive the procedure are doing 3 months, 6 months, or a year afterwards. IMO, you cannot frag anything with a mouth and a stomach and expect it to survive or remain healthy.
Below are a few links to published articles that speak to anemone reproduction. Please read them before you frag a anemone (I forgot were I found those links).
http://www.wifeofnerd.com/images/Broadcast%20spawning%20of%20E.%20quad%20H.%20crisp .pdf

http://www.wifeofnerd.com/images/Embryonic%20development%20of%20E.%20quad%20H.%20cr isp.pdf


08-06-2011, 02:01 PM
Wow, that's a lot of info, Cliff. WEll done putting it all together.

Not sure if you ran across this link in your anemone searches, its one I referred to a couple times, before I rehomed my BTAs for splitting too much (my tank at 30" long just too small).


08-06-2011, 03:00 PM
Great link thanks for sharing

08-30-2011, 01:06 AM
excellent read, i want a sw tank more now ..... >.>

08-30-2011, 02:58 AM
It's also interesting to note, that captivity is the only place you find the combination of A. ocellaris, and E. quadricolor

08-30-2011, 04:23 AM
You rock for this. :)

08-30-2011, 10:01 AM
Thanks everyone

I'm glad you found it helpful

10-11-2011, 12:47 AM
Loved this article! I want nothing more than a SW tank that is just an anemone and clownfish, but I think I am going to have to wait till I have room for another tank. Thanks for all the info and the great pics!

11-13-2011, 05:25 PM
I forgot you had posted this Cliff! I shall look it over buddy.