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Many of us got interested in saltwater fish by seeing clownfish and anemones. It is a very common desire to eventually want to pair your clown with an anemone. While a captive raised clownfish is a easy to care for fish, an anemone is considered a more difficult to keep invertebrate. They require stability, a high amount of light, and good flow. I’m writing this guide because I get asked a lot from clients how they can keep an anemone. I’m going to focus today on the easiest to keep anemone that a clownfish will host – the bubble tip anemone.
- Anemones are generally difficult to keep
- The best anemones to keep as a first-timer are Rock Anemones or Bubble Tip Anemones
- Anemones do not need to be quarantined or dipped
- Anemones can be induced to split either through stress or from frequent feedings
What Makes Anemones Difficult to Keep?
Let’s start with the big question here – why are anemones so difficult to keep? Anemones for one are invertebrates that are closely related to jellyfish, not corals. They do not require calcium shell-like hard corals and comprise a single organism versus a colony. Because they are a single organism, this makes them more sensitive to changes than most corals. They also have a bad habit of moving around a lot and getting stuck on a wavemaker or gyre – which can lead to the death of it and the possibility of nuking your entire tank!
Along with moving around a lot when they getting settled in, they also will sting any corals near their space. They will dominate over any corals near them way worse than what you see with LPS corals. If the anemone moves to a new location near some prized corals, be prepared to move those corals out of the way within 24-48 hours.
Anemones also require a lot of light. The ideal range of PAR is 220-350. That puts them into SPS lighting territory. You will want to purchase the Best Reef Lighting you can budget if you are looking to keep one of these.
Lastly, anemones require a lot of stability in the tank, these are not the first inverts you want to place into your tank. It is recommended that you wait at least 6 months before you add one. You should wait until you are experiencing a good amount of coralline growth in your tank before considering one. Coralline algae growth is the one of the major sign of stability in a reef tank. If you are growing coralline and your Alk and Cal are staying stable, then you are well on your way to keeping an anemone.
Types of Anemones
Before I get into talking about the bubble tip anemone, let’s talk about the other types of anemones available for sale in the hobby and why they are bad choices for a first time anemone.
Sebae Anemones are colorful anemones that are usually hosted by Maroon clown fish. They tend to anchor on the sand versus the rock. You will want a deeper sand bed for them to anchor or make an “anemone” lagoon for them to home in. They are notoriously bad shippers and require nearly perfect water quality to thrive. They are considered one of the more difficult anemones to care for.
Carpet Anemones are big and beautiful anemones. They are also known as very deadly anemones as they often will eat fish. They are best to kept in a clown fish only harem type of tank. Even knowing where they fit in best, they are hard to keep thriving long-term. They have a very high morality rate in the hobby with 90% of them dying within the 1st year of captivity. These are not for beginners, and honestly really shouldn’t be in the hobby with exception to aqua-cultured species.
Otherwise known as the corkscrew anemone. These anemones get large like the Carpet Anemones and require near perfect water parameters. They prefer anchoring on a sandy substrate. They do not require as much light as other anemones, but they are sensitive to changes. Another not recommended anemone for first timers.
These are extremely colorful anemones found in the Caribbean are are actually not difficult to keep. The main drawback with them is that clownfish will not host them. They only require a moderate amount of light (150-350 PAR works) and they will adjust to lower PAR in the tank. These are actually good anemones if you want to add a splash of color to your reef tank. Just be aware that they have all the negative characteristics of other anemones in that they will sting nearby corals and they will move until they find a comfortable spot for them. They do move around a lot less than other anemones. This would be a good first time Anemone.
Bubble Tip – The Best for Clownfish
Let’s now talk about why bubble tip anemones are a great choice for a first time Anemone. They are more colorful than long-tentacle anemones and less prone to eating fish like a carpet anemone. They are also the one anemone that will host nearly all varieties of clownfish in the hobby including Ocellaris, Maroon, Tomato, Clark’s, and Skunk clownfish. They are the one Anemone that you can find locally among hobbyist as they regularly split so finding an aquacultured bubble tip anemone is fairly easy.
Like other anemones, bubble tip anemones will move but they move the most of all anemone varieties so covering your powerheads and wavemakers is essential to keep them from getting injured or killed.
These are hardy anemones that that your clownfish will host and ideal as a first time anemone with the intention of a clownfish hosting it.
Care (Lighting, Flow, Feeding, Selection)
Bubble tip anemone care isn’t as difficult as other types of anemones, but you do need to ensure that you have a stable and ideal environment for them. Let’s go over lighting, flow, feeding, and proper selection to maximize your success.
For bubble tip anemones, you will want a higher output of light. 220 – 350 PAR is ideal for them. This means that you will need a more powerful reef light to ensure they thrive, check out our Best LED Lighting for Reef Tanks post for a list of recommended lighting setups for a bubble tip anemone.
A powerful LED (Quick Note – the links below include affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase) like an Ocean Revive or Hydra should do the trick for them. Hybrid T5/LED systems work great as well.
Bubble Tip Anemones require a moderate amount of flow. It is argued in the the hobby that too much flow will make the anemone stretch out and lower flow will retain their bubble tentacle shape. Check out our Best Aquarium Wavemaker Review posts for a list of recommended wavemakers. Make sure you get covers for your wavemakers.
Feeding (What Do They Eat)
Bubble tip anemones require regular feeding to stay healthy. You will want to feed your anemones at least once or twice a week. For smaller anemones, I would recommend that you feed them Reef Roids directly. As they get larger you can opt to feed them mysis shrimp and eventually move on to larger chucks of frozen food like LRS reef frenzy, sliversides, and even fresh shrimp from the super market. Once a clownfish hosts an anemone, it will also attempt to feed your anemone.
When selecting a bubble tip anemone for purchase, I highly recommend that you purchase an aqua-cultured specimen over a wild caught one. Anemones that are splits from captive kept anemones tend to do better than wild caught ones, have a less potent sting, and can also be obtained at cheaper prices — especially if you get them from local hobbyists. Knowing this, here is what to look for:
- Look for an anemone that is firmly attached to the substrate or glass and is well expanded
- The mouth is the best sign of health for an anemone. The mouth should not be gaping open. A healthy specimen should have it’s mouth closed up and somewhat puckered
- Look for smaller anemones. 3-4 inches in diameter is ideal. They tend to ship better than larger anemones and bubble tip anemones (BTAs) can grow quickly
- Look at the health of the foot. It should not be damaged or cut. Observe how the anemone is caught and ensure it it pulled from the tank safety. An anemone with a damaged foot will often not thrive and perish
Below is a sample of a damaged foot so you know what to look out for:
Types (and Pictures)
Bubble tip anemones come in a variety of colors. Below are several of the most popular types. Always check your local hobbyist forums and groups to see if you can get splits locally. Ebay auctions and postings are also a good place to get cheaper bubble tip anemones for sale over the name brand online shops – which often will highly mark up anemones.
A fairly common and cheaper bubble tip anemone. It’s fairly easy to find these online or through hobbyist groups available for sale.
Rose bubble tip anemones are the signature anemone of all BTAs. They are the most common bubble tip anemones you will see for sale and they tend to be prolific propagators. They aren’t too expensive. This would be the anemone I would shop off if I was looking at purchasing my first bubble tip anemone.
Rainbow bubble tip anemones are the first subset of BTAs that fall under the exotic category. There are many different varieties of them and several will easily sell for $100+. They are great looking specimens and will add an exotic color to your reef tank.
Black windows are the signature exotic BTA in the hobby. Their blood red color is hard to find in any coral or invert and they contrast well with several designer clown varieties. They are pretty expensive usually command a price of several hundred dollars even for splits that come directly from a hobbyist.
Propagating (Reproduction and Profit?)
Bubble tip anemones are one of the easier anemones to propagate in the hobby. They are actually quite lucrative as many local fish stores and hobbyists will be happy to purchase your splits from you. There are various reasons why an anemone would split – some good and some bad. I’ll go over the methods here.
The Bad Way – Stress Induced Splitting
When an anemone is stressed, a survival instinct can be triggered where the anemone will split into order to preserve themselves. Sometimes a new hobbyist will purchase a bubble tip anemone and be excited that their bubble tip anemone is splitting all over the place, but that is not a sign of a thriving anemone. Usually something is off like the salinity, nutrients, or even lighting.
If your anemone is splitting like crazy, test your parameters and your lighting to see if something is wrong. Likewise, some hobbyist do use this knowledge to their advantage to split anemones faster. I feel that it is not the best way to propagate to them and a rather cruel way to make a quick buck.
The Good Way – Feeding Induced Splitting
Feeding your anemone a lot is a good way to get them to split faster. What I mean by this is that you do not overfeed with large chucks of food, but instead to feed them often. Keeping them well feed will make them grow and split naturally. This is the best way of propagating. You can see a time lapse of an anemone splitting for reference below.
One of the biggest advantages of going with anemones over corals is that Anemones theoretically will not carry coral pests or parasites. This is because the anemone lacks the hard surfaces for parasites like ich and velvet to encrust on and many coral pests will simply not survive the sting of the anemone. If you subscribe to the no quarantine methodology (which I recommend you do not, but I know many hobbyist will not QT), anemones are the ideal pop and drop invert with only starfish outshining them (starfish do not require quarantine – just rinse them in display tank water).
If you are going to introduce an anemone directly into the tank, rinse the anemone in your display water to get as much of the former tank water out of it. The anemone will only carry free swimmers of parasites within the water they hold.
For those of us who subscribe to the quarantine everything camp, our work here is less burdensome than with corals. Because the anemone will only carry free swimmers, all parasites will simply die off in only 16 days in a fish less quarantine system. That is way less than the standard 45-76 days (Your range is dependent on your risk tolerance) you see recommended for coral quarantine. Keep in mind you will need to have an appropriate reef light and to have all your filters and powerheads covered as the anemone WILL move during the quarantine process.
Bubble tip anemones are one of the most rewarding inverts you can keep during your reefing journey. They split regularly and grow very fast introducing you to the world of coral and anemone trading. Because clownfish love them, you get to provide the natural environment that many of us want to provide to our beloved clownfish pairs. My goal in writing this guide was to advise you on want you need to do in order to have success with bubble tip anemones. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below so we can discuss. Thanks again for reading :).
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