Presented by Charles & Linda Raabe
Mactan Island, The Philippines
© 2008 All Rights Reserved


    There is nothing that will catch a visitors eye faster than an anemone with a clownfish snuggled in it. I have had the fortune of having had a few different species, all of which did very well for me, but not for my reef aquarium. In that they easily out compete corals for space and have killed a few of my corals when they either grew large enough to reach and sting the corals or when they decided to up and move, which of course means that during their travels, they can do a lot of damage to corals that can not get out of their way. I highly recommend that anemone be kept in a species specific tank all to their own.

Photo by Charles Raabe

    I do not recommend an anemone for newly established tanks or the inexperienced reef keeper either. The stress of being shipped and moved between numerous holding tanks puts a great strain on these creatures and not all will do well or survive even with our best attempts. As with purchasing fish, I would want to know that the anemone has been at the local fish store for at least a few weeks to ensure it had at least survived the journey somewhat intact. Newly established aquariums also pose a threat to anemone as the biology of the tank in such a new setup is usually never firmly established or balanced yet. Which can cause water quality issues that will quickly effect the anemone.

    Take great care in the selection of your new anemone also, study the various species, of which I will try to provide links to, and do your best to pick the healthiest looking one in the holding tank. What you want to look for is good coloration as per the species type, If you see one that looks as if it has been bleached white, pass that one up. Anemone host and depend upon symbiotic algae just as corals do. If they have lost their symbiots then it is just a matter of time before its demise. It should also have full,firm tentacles extended. One that is all shriveled up and remains so, is not a good choice. Also keep in mind that with all species, there are types that are more delicate than others. This is where studying comes in handy.

   A Note about White Anemones :  Far to often I see photos of recently purchased anemones that are white. While a white anemone may appear beautiful, it is however, a very bad sign that the anemone has bleached. Keep in mind that anemone, just like most corals, have zooxanthellae within their tissues, hence the need for intensive lighting just as you would provide for most corals. Being white simply indicates that the anemone has expelled or lost its symbiotic zooxanthellae, which without, the anemone can slowly decline and die. While there are some naturally occurring white anemones, they are of the species that we would not see for sale at a fish store. The commonly offered species, such as the sebae and carpet types should have some coloration to them, usually a golden brown, as shown in the below photo.
   If you have recently purchased a bleached anemone, all is not lost as the anemone might be able to regain its zooxanthellae and recover. During its recovery, it is important that you feed the anemone a bit more often than usual as it does not have the zooxanthellae to provide for its needs. When feeding such an anemone, do so with very small pieces of seafood, such as shelled, uncooked shrimp or any type of fresh meaty seafood.  Hopefully in a matter of a month or two, the anemone will begin to regain itself and return to its former glory.

ClownFish and their host Anemones
 ( A very good resource )

Photo by Charles Raabe


  Feeding an Anemone  -  Since this seems to be a subject most often asked about, I will try to give it some clarity. Which as with every subject within this hobby it is one of what you want to accomplish and how the anemone is kept. Which I feel can be broken down into two categories.

  An Anemone with no clownfish -  Since I believe that clownfish, by their just hosting an anemone will provide for all of its food by either swimming out and bringing food back to the anemone or by defecating upon the anemone, which with the amount of time a clownfish hovers above an anemone, this alone is probably the largest source of nutrients for the anemone. A recent study done on wild anemone backs this up by showing that anemone in the wild that do not have clownfish hosting them will not survive long as well as not growing at the rates that other anemone do that have clownfish. As such, if your anemone does not host a clownfish, then you should target feed the anemone once a week with any seafood meat such as shrimp or fish meat. Each piece should be no larger than 1/4th inch cubed. Any larger, and the anemone may spit out the remainder as it is unable to digest large pieces quick enough before the food begins to spoil within the anemone.

  An Anemone with a clownfish - As noted above, as long as there is a clownfish hosting an anemone, it has no need to be target fed by you. It will do just fine with what the clownfish provides for it. Why add more nutrients (food) to your system if its not actually required.

  Propagating Anemone -  While anecdotal, it may still be a valid observation that if you want your anemone to split or reproduce, frequent water changes along with target feeding the anemone every 3 to 4 days seems to induce the anemone to split (clone). This makes sense to me since for any animal to have the energy to reproduce, it must have the protein available. I also believe that the better water quality and the abundant food cues the anemone that it is in a very suitable environment capable of supporting more anemone like itself, a kind of trigger if you will.





An Illustrated Glossary of Sea Anemone Anatomy
( Please take the time to fully explore this site )


 Sea Anemone Identification , biology and distribution  -  The best resource I have found for anemone, a must see site!

 Introduction to Sea Anemone Anatomy - " Although sea anemones are among the simplest of animals, they possess one of the most complex structures in the animal kingdom: the nematocyst, or stinging capsule. Their possession of this feature places sea anemones in the phylum known as Cnidaria, in which jellyfish, corals, and hydra are also found. "

 Glossary of Sea Anemone Terms - " This page contains a list of terms and definitions relevant to sea anemones and their anatomy. "

 Sea Anemone Anatomy - Nematocysts  - " Contains images of sea anemone nematocysts, which are the stinging capsules characteristic of the phylum Cnidaria. "



  The primary causes of sea anemone mortality or health issues within the hobby are probably the lack of :
1) proper feeding,
2) lack of proper physical conditions, temperature, salinity, pH, water flow rates and overall water quality.
3) placement in tanks with animals that can chemically kill them.
 Any "mushroom" polyps, soft corals, or sponges are the prime sources of potential problems. The chemicals they release (allelopathy) may work over very short distances and be "localized" in their responses as not all animals of a given species will have similar responses to similar poisons. What may effect one species may not bother another.

 Sea Anemone Profiles - " Species profiles and care tips. "

 Be a host to your Anemone - " Great overall article on their care and selection "

 Keeping Anemones - " Part of the problem is that these anemones are not really "reef" animals in the typical sense of the phrase, and part is that husbandry of anemones is poorly understood. "



 Ceranthids (tube anemone) - Not considered a true anemone, and are not the fish killers that hobby lore makes them out to be.

 Entacmaea quadricolor  (bulb tipped anemone) - One of the most popular species kept, further evidence suggests that the appearance of its "bulbs" relies upon having a clownfish hosting the anemone and not so much on the available light intensity.

 Heteractis crispa (sebae anemone) - One of the most commonly available species, yet seems to be a troublesome anemone to keep.

 Heteractis magnifica (Ritteri anemone) - Another splendid looking anemone which clownfish will host. Requires stronger light intensity than most other species.

 Macrodactyla doreensis (Long tentacled anemone) - Will burrow into sandbeds and can get to be a large specimen.

 Condylactis sp. ( Condy anemone) - An Atlantic (Caribbean) species.

 Stichodactyla sp. (Carpet anemone) - Can easily become a very large animal and is quite capable of capturing fish within an enclosed space. Some species can inflict a very painful sting upon humans as well.

To be continued as I find relevant information



   Within the last two years or so, I have seen at least 6 different types of anemone and their various color morphs, which I believe just depends as it does with corals, on their normal depth range which determines the intensity of light they or more specifically, their zooxanthellae (symbiotic algae) receive, as with corals, the greens and browns (including tans) are always found in very shallow water, hence very intensive light, while the reds and blues tend to be far deeper.
   I have never seen any type of anemone that was not on/in a rock or coral head, and never on top of the rocks, always on a side which they then extend a bit to be able to spread out on an average of about 45 degrees from horizontal, a large majority of them also will be right on the sand but always in a crevice or a small sand bottomed cave within the side of a rock. Carpet anemone tend to not extend their foot as deeply as other species I have collected. It also seems that all types prefer their "hole" to be of a size that they can swell and fill it completely, maybe this is their way of sealing their hole from unwanted intruders and may explain why most anemone seem to move about a lot within our tanks, they may just be looking for the right "fit". For my anemone I always create a specific hole for them,usually at a slight angle, and just slightly larger than about two inches from the top of their base, not from their foot. This almost always works, and have noted that if when first placed and you can catch them in the act of moving and put them right back where they started from, they will usually always plant themselves then.

Photo by Charles Raabe
A typical location for anemone, between the vertical wall of a rock and the bottom substrate

   I have seen a lot of recommendations on the feeding of anemone, I for one have never seen an anemone in the wild capture anything to eat, not even a small fish. In fact, most types of anemone have a hard time to hang onto a wiggling fish, If you have ever tried feeding a small live fish to an anemone, you will see what I mean, unless you shove the fish down deeply to allow the maximum number of tentacles to get a hold of it, the fish will wiggle free. Plus the fact I have never seen a wild born fish that did not know to steer clear of an anemone at all times, although it has been observed now in Indonesia that hawk fish, cardinal fish and other types have now learned to host with anemone just as the clownfish and domino damsels do. I also have never seen domino damsels in the wild that were not hosting an anemone, in fact, there are more domino hosted anemone than there are clown hosted ones. I firmly believe that while an anemone is very capable of consuming large meaty items, they very rarely get that chance in the wild, of the few species that I maintain in my reef tank, I never target feed any of them, if they have a clown host, the only time they eat "meat" is if the clowns swims out and grabs a piece and dutifully "feeds" it to the anemone, the anemone without a clown do not get fed and still grow at fast rates for me. Which begs the question, is it really necessary to feed an anemone three times a week?
   One other obvious observation from my experience with managing a LFS and from what I see posted within the forum is that anemone do not travel well, taking an educated guess, I would say that 2 out of three anemone do not survive their first year in captivity, most, their first month. Which is a shame for a creature that is capable of living beyond one hundred years. Any species of anemone that I collect from the wild has always done extremely well for me. The only thing that I can think of at this time which would cause an anemone to not being able to handle long distance transportation is the rough treatment they get, after all they are really just bags of water, and am sure being bounced around roughly does their internal organs harm, that and enduring weeks of being kept basically in less than ideal conditions. Then after moving from one tank to another during their journey, they then get tossed under intensive lighting and yet another set of water parameters. Which is why water and lighting acclimation is very important if they are to have any chance at all.

Identification and Control of Aiptasia

Eric Borneman's Aiptasia control recipe:
100ml distilled water, 1 teaspoon Red Devil lye (sodium hydroxide), and 2 teaspoons calcium hydroxide (kalkwasser). Mix well and use a PD-Tip or dispensing syringe. Turn off water flow and let sit for one hour before turning flow back on.
Note: This mixture is also effective in killing just about anything you put it on, including out of control xenia, polyps and even some hair algae types.


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