View Full Version : Bubble Tip Anemone by ... Pearson Hurst

lReef lKeeper
05-04-2009, 08:58 PM

Bubble tip anemones are one of the most popular anemones in the hobby due to the fact that they are very attractive, plentiful and relatively cheap. They can be a stunning and rewarding addition to your tank as long as you are prepared to provide for their care and meet their requirements.

A lot of beginner hobbyists are tempted to purchase a BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#), or are offered one from a fellow hobbyist either because they can not provide for it's care, or as a clone because their anemone split. While BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) are probably the easiest of the anemones to keep, they are still very challenging, with the majority of them in the trade ending up dead within a year. Beginning reefers should be strongly discouraged from attempting to keep these animals.


While there are many variations in hue and color intensity, Entacmaea quadricolor comes in 2 main types, rose and green. The most noticeable feature of BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) is, of course the prominent "bubble tips" on the end of the tentacles. There is a lot of speculation about what causes the bubble tips to come and go, but there is no real evidence linking it to the anemone's overall health, hunger, reaction to light, or water quality. They will nearly inevitibly come and go at random. If your BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) is not displaying bubble tips, it's nothing to worry about and is perfectly normal.


When looking for a potential BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) for purchase, there are a few things to look for to ensure you are getting a healthy specimen.

Regardless of whether you are buying a rose or green anemone, the color should be dark and vibrant. Pale or fluorescent colored anemones are likely bleached (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) or dyed and do not have good long-term prospects for survival. Bleached (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) anemones can be nursed back to health by a skilled reefer, but doing so is beyond the scope of this article.

Another important thing to observe is the anemone’s “foot” This is the part of the anemone used to anchor itself. The foot can be easily damaged in shipment, or when removing the anemone. If the BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) is anchored to a rock when you go to purchase it, you should ask that the LFS (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) or other vendor sell you the rock with the anemone attached. Getting the anemone to release is stressful and can easily damage the anemone. This is why many LFSs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) sell their anemones out of bare glass tanks, so they are easier to remove. The anemone should be firmly attached to something. An anemone that is blowing around the tank is not happy nor healthy.

As with all marine animals, you should check to make sure the anemone generally appears healthy. In addition to coloration and an undamaged foot, the anemone should be inflated and have a general look of good health. As mentioned previously, a lack of bubble tips is not an indicator of good or poor health.


BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) have very specific care requirements that MUST be met for long term success.

Lighting: Anemones require strong lighting. Metal Halides (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) or T5 (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) fluorescents with individual reflectors are required for the best chance at success.

Water Quality: Excellent water quality must be maintained. Regular water changes must be performed. Standard marine water parameters with regard to temperature, salinity (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#), pH (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#), ammonia (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) and nitrate (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) must be maintained at all times. Anemones are very delicate creatures, and need to be kept in the best possible conditions.

Tank Stability: Equally important is tank stability. Fluctuations of the above parameters must be kept to a minimum. Additionally, keeping an anemone should only be attempted in a “mature” tank. That is, a tank that has been up and running a minimum of 6 to 8 months, with a year being preferred. Tank stability has less to do with the relative skill of the tank keeper, and more to do with all the systems in the tank reaching equilibrium. For the first 6 to 12 months a tank is running, there are regular fluctuations in bacterial colonies, microfauna, dissolved organics, algal colonies, and many other things that typically can not be observed or easily tested for. Therefore it is strongly recommended that a potential Entacmaea quadricolor owner wait until their tank has achieved this maturity before adding a specimen.

Flow: BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) require moderate but not direct flow. Chances are good your anemone will find a spot that suits its flow and lighting requirements on its own.

Location: Typically, BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) like having their foot buried in a crevice, on the underside of a rock, in a cave or in an otherwise shaded and protected location. From there, they will stretch out so their tentacles and oral disk are in the light and flow. Again, it is very common for most anemones to find their own location in your tank. It’s nearly impossible to make an anemone stay where you put it. It’s moving because something isn’t suiting it. Do not attempt to “force” a BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) to stay in one location, or continually relocate the anemone. It knows what it needs, and attempting to keep it somewhere it doesn’t want to be is forcing it to stay in an unsuitable location. This significantly reduces your chances of keeping a BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) long term.

Feeding: BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) are primarily photosynthetic animals. That is, they derive most of what they need from the light. They are also capable of, and enjoy regular feedings of meaty foods. They will accept small bits of shrimp, mysis, brine, silversides, small pieces of scallops, squid and other meaty marine food. To feed, simply place the food among the tentacles. The anemone will grab the food and bring it to it’s mouth. Since anemones only have one orifice, it functions to both bring in food and expel waste. Do not be alarmed if, after feeding you see the anemone contract and expel stringy brown goo. This is simply the anemone expelling waste. If the anemone is fed too much food, or a piece that is too large, it will regurgitate the food partially digested. This food needs to be removed ASAP as it will decompose, fouling the water. This is a sign that the anemone needs either less food, or smaller portions.

lReef lKeeper
05-04-2009, 08:58 PM

While bubble tip anemones are beautiful to look at, they can cause serious problems in a tank. As I mentioned above, anemones are mobile. They can and will move about a tank until a suitable spot is found. Sometimes they will try out several spots staying in each for days or weeks before moving on. Never count on an anemone staying put. This mobility causes several issues. As they move about the tank, they will sting any other corals they come into contact with. Additionally, they may park themselves in such a way that they cover or shade other corals. These are issues are a fact of life with a BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#). You’ll need to be prepared to move corals out of its way, or relocate them permanently. While moving about the tank, it’s not uncommon for a BTA (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) to wander a little too close to a powerhead or overflow. Should your anemone become tangled in a powerhead, the best course of action is to unplug the powerhead and let the anemone try to work itself out. If it is unable to you may need to gently assist it. Resist pulling on the anemone, as you risk tearing it further. If the damage isn’t too bad, the anemone may recover on it’s own. As with any animal in your tank, if the anemone is dead and starting to melt away, it should be promptly removed from the tank to avoid fouling the water further.

Entacmaea quadricolor reproduce through fission, or “splitting”. This is where the anemone literally tears itself apart. Most splits result in 2 anemones, but sometimes can result in 5 or more clones for a very large anemone. Just because your anemone is splitting doesn’t mean it’s happy. BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) can split because they are getting too large, or as a result of stress. Once an anemone splits, it’s not uncommon for the babies, or “clones” to wander around the tank looking for a suitable home.

While BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) are not usually known as fish eaters, they are predatory and will consume anything that gets too close, including fish, shrimp, crabs and other ornamental inverts.

Anemones tentacles are sticky. This is how they grab and consume food. If you get your fingers in the tentacles, slowly and gently untangle your finger and pull away from the anemone. Be careful not to rip it. Some people have reported being sensitive to anemone stings. Reports range from no reaction at all, to slight itching, to severe rashes. Consider wearing gloves if you must handle your anemone.


Many people purchase Entacmaea quadricolor to serve as a host to their clowfish. While this is a fascinating and rewarding relationship to watch, neither the anemone nor the clownfish require the presence of the other for success or happiness. While there is never any guarantee that a given clown will host in a given anemone, the following clownfish are known to host in BTAs (http://www.talkingreef.com/forums/anemones/8798-so-you-want-already-have-bubbletip-anemone.html#) in the wild:

Amphiprion akindynos - Barrier Reef Clownfish
A. clarkii - Clark's Clownfish
A. frenatus - Tomato Clownfish
A. melanopus - Red and Black Clownfish
A. ocellaris - Ocellaris Clownfish
Premnas Biaculeatus - Maroon Clownfish