Bubble Anemone

Entacmaea Quadricolor - Rose Bubble Anemone

In my opinion the rose anemone is not only one of the most beautiful anemones for the reef tank, but also one of the most successful anemones in captivity.

There are a lot of different names for them:Entacmaea quadricolor, bubble tip anemone, bubble anemone, rose anemone, to name a few.

If you were to pick on thing in reef tanks that defines the hobby you can’t beat a clown fish in an anemone.  This symbiotic relationship is legendary and has become ever more popular with the thousands of children out there that know them simply as Marlin and Nemo.  One of the tanks I take care of is always surrounded by children yelling Nemo and Dory.  There are a lot of things that must be covered as far as lighting, water quality, and tank mates, I will briefly discuss some of the most important things to consider before you go out and purchase your anemone.

1. Have you tested your tank for nitrates? How stable is your salinity and temperature?

There are many different things you can test to make sure your reef tank is healthy but nitrates are one of the best indicators of overall tank health and how ready it is for anemones.  If you have problems with ammonia you probably also have high nitrates so test your nitrates first.  If your nitrates are high increase the number of water changes you do for a few weeks.  Don’t do a huge water change as that can not only influence your temperature and salinity, but it also can upset the balance you have created of beneficial bacteria.

I would say that stability is one of the top contributors to a healthy reef tank.  Temperature and salinity fluctuations are very stressful for most saltwater animals. Remember their environment in most cases is stable.  While the reefs temperature may fluctuate by a few degrees a year, your tank is likely fluctuating by a few degrees a day.  The best solution is to check your tanks temperature right after the lights go out and to set your heater to that temperature if it is within an acceptable range, usually right around 79 degrees. If you can’t get close to that you can try a fan or two, or if necessary you might have to invest in a chiller.  There are also digital thermometers that can really help you when you are trying to gauge how much your tanks temperature is fluctuating.  Here is one that records the highest and lowest temp so you can check it daily or weekly to monitor. This is my favorite the Tom Digital LCD Thermometer.

Natural seawater has a salinity on average of 35ppt or 1.027.  There are a lot of hobbyists who keep it a little lower as fish can tolerate a lower level as well as less immediate danger if you have a lot of evaporation.  The solution to this problem, that I didn’t try for years is an automated top off.  If you haven’t considered it it is a great investment.  It will make sure your salinity is constant as any evaporation is quickly replaced by freshwater thus maintaining a consistent salinity.  Remember that salt doesn’t evaporate so as the freshwater does it leaves behind higher and higher levels of salt which is continually raising your salinity.  We actually build them and hope to have them available online for purchase in the near future.  They are also great if you are out of town for a few days as you can leave a 5 gallon jug next to the tank which on most tanks can easily last until you get back.

2. Do you have a protein skimmer? A good protein skimmer works hard for you to help keep your tank as clean as possible and removes organic waste before it has time to be converted into nitrates.  As a rule of thumb I always by a skimmer that is rated for a larger tank then the one I have it on.  You really can’t over do it and if you are like me you won’t be having the same size tank very long since there is always a bigger one around the corner.

3. What type of lighting do you have? People will tell you that normal florescent lights will work for your anemones but it isn’t worth the risk.  I have had great luck with bubble anemones under power compacts, VHOs, and Metal Halides, and am about to test them out under T5s.  I am a huge fan of VHOs for heat and energy consumption reasons and have had the most luck with asexual propagation under VHOs.  One of the really cool things about bubble anemones is they often divide and grow into new anemones.  I had one that quickly became 6.

When you go to the store to purchase your anemone take a good look at it.  What does the color look like, is it pale is the foot intact, is it attached to a rock or some substrate, will it eat?. If the anemone isn’t attached to a rock I would be very cautions, if it is attached to the rock ask to take the rock with you as removing them often damages their foot beyond repair.  Some of the colors you will see are shades of brown, cream, green, purple, and rose with my favorite being the rose anemones.  Under actinic lighting they are truly spectacular.

Most of my anemones have stayed where I placed them but they will wander a little bit.  Try to set them somewhere where they will not run into your other corals, and try to put them by cracks in the rock as they like to keep their foot unexposed.  But don’t worry it will find a comfortable place, I have even had them hang out for weeks in the dark.  They like moderate currents so try to place them in an area with healthy water flow but not directly in front of any jets.

I have heard mixed things about feeding anemones, but I have always done it.  You can use a turkey baster and shut off your pumps to gently drop some frozen food (fully thawed) onto the anemone.  It will quickly pull the food into its mouth and close up around it.  Don’t feed it to much and in most cases smaller food seems to be the best choice.  I have used silversides and whole krill, but it takes the anemone a long time to digest them. Light feedings more frequently are better for your water quality as well.

Note: Watch out for cleaner shrimp you may have to fight them off for a bit as the anemone eats.  They like to swim in and grab the food which annoys the anemone although it is funny to watch the shrimp dart in and out as the anemone tries to grab them.

Adding the clowns

There are a number of clowns that may go to your bubble anemone. Some of them are Ocellaris, Percula, Clarkii, Tomato, Maroon, and Skunk clowns. I have personally had success with Ocellaris and Skunk clowns. You can’t make the clowns go to the anemone, so be patient and hopefully within a few days or weeks they will adopt it.