Introduction to the bubble tip anemone
The Bubble Tip anemone is the most popular anemone among the aquarium enthusiasts because of its:
- spectacular coloration
- general hardiness
- likelihood of hosting the clownfish species commonly kept in the home aquarium.
In the wild, the BTA is found throughout the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, Fiji, Tonga, and the Red Sea, generally attached to coral rubble or in the crevices of solid reefs within 40 meters depth ranges. Adults are solitary and occur in deeper waters with clownfish under more dimly lit conditions, while the juveniles occur in groups or colonies nearer to the surface under bright sunlight with gentle water movement.
The Bubble-Tip anemone can be found with a range of color morphs including brown, tan, rose, orange, bluish greens, cream pink, red, brick, and standard green. It can grow fairly large, up to 30-50 cm in diameter, so you need to allow some space for them if you plan to keep them in your own aquarium.
Anemones like the Bubble Tip are famous and perhaps most desirable because of the symbiotic (possibly just commensal) relationship with clownfishes. But in addition to the very well known relationship with clownfishes, it is also important to note they also have a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic brown algae, zooxanthellae, which live inside the anemones.
It is thought that the Bubble Tip anemone gets energy from solar radiation via its symbiotic zooxanthellae while brown algae receive carbon and nitrogen as a food source from the body of the bubble tip anemone, although they are also capable of stinging, capturing and eating relatively large meaty foods, as well.
The body of a Bubble Tip anemone has three parts such as pedal disc, column, and oral disc. A pedal disc bears a sticky foot that is used for attachment to various surfaces. This foot is also used to move to a suitable place when the surroundings are unfavorable.
The Bubble Tip anemone takes food in and expels waste out through this mouth. It extends its tentacles to capture food from the water column. After capturing food the tentacles again shorten and form bulbous appearance.
- Scientific name: Entacmaea quadricolor
- Minimum Tank Size: 40-60 gallons or so unless you routinely frag to keep it small
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Reef Compatible: With Caution
- Diet: Carnivore
- Maximum size: 30-50 cm in diameter (remember a foot is about ~30 cm)
- Recommended Lighting: Strong lighting
- Water Movement: Moderate
- Placement: Middle position of the tank (although the anemone has a ‘mind of its own’ and will go wherever it wants, regardless of your plans)
- Care Level: Perhaps one of the easiest of the anemones but considered a Moderate care level, overall
- Life span: 8o years or more–so please note you’re making a lifetime commitment if you choose to bring this anemone into your aquarium
Bubble tip anemone feeding
The Bubble Tip Anemone is a carnivore and in the wild, it captures food using its sweeping tentacles. During feeding, they use nematocysts of tentacles to sting and capture prey. Daily nutrition also comes from the symbiotic algae that dwell within their tissues. They also absorb nutrients from the water and consume wastes from symbiotic clownfish species. In captive condition, it should be fed with chopped silversides, shrimp, worms, krill, mussels, fresh chopped fish as well as frozen carnivore preparations. Meaty foods can be offered 2 to 4 times a week to supplement photosynthesis.
It can propagate in aquarium conditions with proper care. Splitting should be done using a sharp razor or scissor longitudinally into halves. Each piece should have a mouth, oral disc portion, and pedal disc portion for better asexual reproduction. Check out this video from the guys at BulkReefSupply.
Propagation and aquaculture of this beautiful invertebrate are essential for the sustainability of the species and use in this hobby. Anemones are slow-growing, old creatures that typically don’t adjust very well to the process of wild harvest, capture, transportation, and acclimation to life in an aquarium. Propagating specimens that grow well in captivity is an interesting way to earn a few dollars to offset hobby costs and help ensure the availability of specimens that will thrive in a tank.
Bubble tip anemone and clownfish species pairing:
In nature, there are many clownfish species that form symbiotic relationships with the bubble tip anemone. Here are some of the clownfish species that host in BTAs in the wild:
Barrier Reef Clownfish
Red Saddleback Clownfish
Red and Black Clownfish
For best results keeping the Bubble Tip Anemone, consider these tips:
- Avoid major changes in water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, specific gravity, water hardness, etc.
- Avoid fluctuations of daily lighting intensity
- Protect powerheads and pump inlets with foam sponges or similar materials to avoid getting a wandering anemone sucked into the pump impeller
If the lighting is too low, the bubble tip anemone expands its body to trap available light. During the starvation period, tentacles show stringy for food. Adequate water movement is essential to carry oxygen and food to the anemone and clear it of wastes.
Bubble Tip anemones are also notorious for moving around the tank, stinging corals in their wakes and clogging up overflow intakes or getting sucked up into pumps and powerheads which is why it is important to protect them by covering up the intakes.
You may also see this anemone listed as Four Colored Anemone, Maroon Bulb anemone, Bulb Tentacle anemone, Bulb anemone, Rose anemone, Maroon Sea anemone, or even just by the abbreviation BTA.
For more information
Another helpful resource to learn more about the bubble tip anemone is this video from Melevs’ Reef
If you liked this article, I encourage you to check out The Reef Aquarium Series of books: The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide, How to Frag Corals, 107 Tips for the Marine Reef Aquarium and the Reef Journal.