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Old 12-02-05, 22:42
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Mikey Mikey is offline
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A Short Beginners Guide To Anemone Keeping

A SHORT ANEMONE GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS

This is short beginners guide on how chose and keep anemones - It is only the author's experience/opinion and it cannot be guaranteed that this will be relevant for everyone or anyone at all.

This is because anemones are as individual as you or I, and one can tolerate high water flow, another of same will not - it's just the way they are.

Remember that you are taking a creature, which in general opinion is hard to keep, out of the wild, out of the ocean. If you desire to keep one of these creatures you find out as much as you can about them. If you find you just can't keep these creatures - STOP. They are not an inexhaustible commodity; they are ancient animals which may live for hundreds of years in the wild, sustaining many generations of clownfish families. That is until a keen reef keeper comes along, and kills it within a matter of weeks!!

There is no shame in not being able to keep anemones - some, even keepers who can maintain the most exotic of SPS corals, cannot keep anemones.

Before you buy an anemone, do as much research as you can on the animal in general, and the species you want to keep. Most aquarist use the "12 month rule" when considering if their tank is matured enough to keep anemones.

This 12 month rule allows:

a ) the tank to mature and become less susceptible to condition swings, &

b ) the aquarist to gather enough knowledge on water conditions, parameters and correction techniques, so that they will be able to give anemone keeping their best shot.


BUYING

Firstly, when purchasing an anemone remember that they have been pulled form the reef and bagged, flown half way across the earth to get to your tanks - they are tired and shocked.

Reputable importers will house the anemone for at least 1 week before passing them to retailers. This 1 week period is important as it gives the anemone time to adjust and relax. Similarly when the creature arrives at the retailer, it should be given a period to rest. This rest time is very important to the anemone and should be observed, so when purchasing ask your LFS to hold it for you (offer a deposit) - this gives you the opportunity to rest the anemone and should there be a problem, it will happen in your LFS tank and not yours (not very nice, but once you're out that door the anemone becomes your responsibility, so those extra few days will help you distinguish between a healthy animal or the opposite).

Your anemone should be healthy by this time but look out for the following before making a final purchase; a couple of signs of a sick anemone are:-
  • Open, gapping mouth - An open mouth can be classic sign of a dying anemone, a final gasp of life!
  • Foot or body tears - invite bacterial infection and almost never heal
  • Pale colour - lost or expelled zooxanthellae?
  • Rolling around unattached - pedal disc (foot) damage?
  • An anemone that doesn't react to stimulus - generally not a good sign.
A deflated anemone may not indicate a problem, however it is recommended that you ask for a further day in the LFS tank to make sure that it has just routinely deflated and is not sick.

When you are happy that the specimen in question is healthy, and you want to purchase it, do so. Conscientious LFS will house their anemones in a tank with either a Velcro like substrate, or a very course gravel, thus making it a lot easier and safer to collect the animal from the tank. If they are housed in a tank with rocks, and the anemone has a hold on one, offer to buy the rock.

If it is not practicable to purchase the rock, the LFS must remove it manually. This should be done by gently shocking the animal to deflate (watch for the shock - a good sign) and easing it from the rock gently. This should be done with the thumb in a massaging motion, no objects other than that should be used. If done properly, and with an anemone with a good hold is being purchased, the process could take an hour or upwards to complete. Tearing the pedal disc (foot) at this point would be disastrous - a certain invite to bacteria followed by death (not good).

Once in the bag, get home as soon as possible. When in a bag, an anemone continues to expel used water, which may be loaded with waste matter, also discharged nematocysts (stinging cells). Oxygen also continues to be used. Combined, this makes the water foul - not a nice place to be!

AT HOME

When at home open the bag immediately to allow oxygen exchange. Acclimate to the temperature in your tank for about half to one hour by floating the bag. Now start to add a little water bit by bit (say 10% every 15 minutes) to allow for adjustment to your tank parameters.

After around 2 - 3 hours you should be able to release the anemone to the tank.

ANEMONE PLACEMENT

Reading up on your preferred anemone will give you an idea of where they would ideally like to live in your tank, but here is a very short, general guide.
  • Bubble Tips have particularly soft columns so liked to feel surrounded. A favourite thing for them to do is to squeeze into a crack of the living rock and only show they're oral disc to the world. You can encourage a bubble tip to stay in once place by allowing it to feel safe. It may find its own cavity, all well and good. If not try placing it to a structure which has an underhang, then it can peep out from underneath, or create a suitable hole in the rockwork for it to squeeze into.
  • Stichodactyla Sp (carpet anemones) seems to like to having their foot wedged between the substrate and a rock on the tank floor. This again facilitates retraction to a safe place if needed. The speed at which this anemone can retract and deflate is astonishing!! An exception to the foot in the substrate is the Gigantic carpet anemone (S Gigantea), which can also favour rockwork. This is a rarely imported anemone however.
  • Macrodactyla Doreensis likes it foot an column buried deep in the aquarium substrate.
  • Heteractis Magnifica's like being high in the tank, often on top of the highest rock, or on the tank wall with its oral disc directly beneath the tank lighting.
  • Heteractis Malu/Crispa seems to like being on the tank floor, with its foot buried in the sand, or under a base rock (or both).
Once in the tank and in the desired place (however it may move to somewhere it wants) leave the creature alone for the 1 week "resting period". This is very important in anemone health. Don't feed it, touch it - anything - just leave it!

Exceptions to this is if the anemone is in danger; then you should intervene to make is safe. Another is if it has lost its zooxanthellae (see below); you should start to feed as soon as it will take the food.

An important general rule here - disturb the anemone as little as possible from day one. Don't shock, don't move it, don't force into anything it doesn't want - LEAVE IT ALONE. An anemone that is constantly bothered will turn face up and die - simple as!

A common trait for newly introduced anemones (especially BTAs) is to wander about trying to find the perfect spot. It must be able to satisfy the following conditions for it to settle down - light, food, and flow. make sure you have all three right within the tank, or the anemone may wander forever and stress out, leading to death.

After the first week or so, if you believe it is settled, feed a little. Almost any meaty fare can be used, and you will know if your anemone doesn't like anything - it will spit it out!! You can use mussel, squid, gamma fish, brine shrimp and whole cockle. Feel free to try any sea faring meaty food.

When feeding, allow the food to drop or drift into the tentacles, at most little press into the tentacles using a planting stick - wobble it a little to elicit a feeding reaction (looks like a little like a "shock" but less dramatic). Food should never be forced into the mouth of the anemone - you will do untold amounts of damage to the mouth and actinopharynx (posh word for the multi-purpose sac inside which can be a stomach, digestive cavity, bowel and even a reproductive sac) [see further info on feeding below]
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Old 19-03-05, 15:40
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Mikey Mikey is offline
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Continued


PROVIDING THE RIGHT CONDITIONS


LIGHTING

A survey has shown that many successful anemone keepers light their tank at a level of 4 watts per gallon. This is not really a reliable way to tell if you have enough light for your anemone. Metal Halide lighting is preferred and in my opinion essential for anemone health. It has been heard of an anemone kept in a tank with a number balanced tubes and over-indulgent feeding. However, there is no reason to subject an animal that is used to bright illumination in the tropics, to anything else.

For example, Heteractis Magnifica loves light, and serious anemone keepers will not even consider keeping this animal in less than 400 watt metal halide lighting!

Bubble Tip Anemones (E Quad or commonly know as BTA) on the other hand, can do very well under strong T5 lighting. Read up on your preferred anemone and find out what lighting it needs.

You may notice a colour change (usually a darkening or increase in intensity of existing colour) under bright lighting and this is a sign of zooxanthellae production. (zooxanthellae is a primitive algae that live within the tissue of a number or corals, clams anemones etc. It utilises waste products from inside the animal (ammonia wastes) and converts them into food, releasing an amount of glycerol and organic acids which the anemone shares.)

On the flip side, if lighting is not adequate, a loss of zooxanthellae will occur and the anemone will "bleach" or lose it's colour. This is a bad thing, and if this happens you should look to rectify this immediately.

If an anemone wanders looking up-stretched or seeks the highest point in the tank - it may need extra lighting. (In the case of Heteractis Magnifica it will normally seek the highest point in the tank an may not need more lighting)

On the other hand, the anemone may go into hiding, away from the light - this may be it's way to deal with the shock of bright light again, but they should come back out in a position they like. If, however your anemone has not re-appeared after a week or so, (which happens) suspect the worse and set about finding it. This behaviour is often displayed in sick anemones. You may wish to turn it's rock, or delicately move the rock to another area of the tank.

SG

SG need not be adjusted from the normal level maintained for tank mates, however it has been noted that higher success has been achieved using full strength sea water at around 1.024 - 1.026


TRACE ELEMENTS/SUPPLEMENTS, ETC

Should be ample if performing water changes at the correct level per week/month. People have theorised that the following are essential for anemone health - zinc, selenium, iodide iron, even copper. Interestingly enough, a survey from Joyce Wilkerson states that people who used normal tap water to make up they're tank water had higher success in keeping anemones alive for more that 24 months. This is not advised by myself, as tap water can contain harmful substances that may cause death or pollution in a reef tank.


TEMPERATURE

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Anything within a rang of say 24oC to 26oC - a steady temperature is more important than an exact level.


CURRENT

Very important in anemone health - without one they will wander round the tank forever. Current is used in the wild to enable the anemone to catch prey swept through it's tentacles. It also helps to rid the anemone of waste products and mucus, helping to repel bacteria. A moderate to brisk flow is generally appreciated, but it does vary between anemones. You will find that the anemone will choose where suits it best. Heteractis Magnifica appreciate very strong flow indeed. Don't blast them round the tank, but be sure to provide a flow suitable to their needs.

VERY IMPORTANT - Powerheads suck, literally and figuratively sometimes, and it is not advised to keep anemones with them. With their tendency to roam the tank looking for the best sunbathing spot there is the danger of it being sucked into the impeller and damaged. Find an alternative way of water movement such as a closed loop system.


TANK PARAMETERS

Should be at a level suitable for most reef tanks, with efforts to keep them optimal. By aiming for the best water conditions possible, you will give your anemone the best chance of long term survival in your tank.

Optimum water parameters are generally accepted as:

Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - <10mg/l, preferably 0
PH - 8.1 to 8.3
Calcium - 400 to 475 mg/l
Alkalinity - 7 to 10dKH


FEEDING

This is a very individual choice which should be made together with your anemone. Offer food once a week to start with - this will condition the anemone. After that, well, you could continue to feed, or reduce to occasionally.

With adequate lighting, anemones do not need such gross feeding as once a day or once a week even. You have to find a balance between feeding, pollution and anemone health.

If an anemone is healthy it will grow. This can be a good indicator if it is receiving enough food. Some grow by utilising tank lighting only. If you have an anemone that grows without food then reduce you feeding to only monthly, or bi-monthly - to ensure that it receives all elements that cannot be obtained from the light (like fats and proteins)

If an anemone shrinks, then it is not receiving enough food (and or light).

PLEASE make an informed decision about your feeding regime though. Just because near starvation works for some, does not mean it will for you. You must watch your anemone carefully. If you feel you have a nice healthy specimen, decrease direct feeding, if however this causes your anemone to shrink, step up feeding again.

It is very tricky to get this right so if you're not sure, feed little an often. Your anemone will tell you when it's full by not accepting the food.

Feed a varied diet, as you would your fish. Variety can be the spice of life!!


CLOWN FRIENDS

If you want to keep clowns make sure that your anemone is around three time bigger than your fish €“ clownfish can be very boisterous, and mean to anemones, and as said earlier a bothered anemone will just turn face up and die.

Some clowns will only take up residence in a specific anemone. Here is a short list of which clowns take up residence, in which anemone, in nature:

Entacmaea Quaricolor
  • A Bicinctus
  • A Clarkii
  • A Ephippium
  • A Frenatus
  • A Melanopus
  • A Tricintus
  • P Biaculeatus
Stichodactyla Sp
  • A Bicinctus
  • A Clarkii
  • A Occelaris
  • A Percular
  • A Perideraion
  • A Sandaracinos
  • A Sebae
  • A Tricinctus
Macrodactyla Doreensis
  • A Clarkii
  • A Perideraion
  • A Polymnus
Heteractis Magnifica
  • A Akallopisos
  • A Bicinctus
  • A Clarkii
  • A Melanopus
  • A Nigripes
  • A Occelaris
  • A Percular
  • A Perideraion
Heteractis Malu
  • A Clarkii
Heteractis Crispa/Malu
  • A Bicinctus
  • A Clarkii
  • A Ephippium
  • A Melanopus
  • A Percular
  • A Perideraion
  • A Polymnus
  • A Sandaracinos
  • A Tricinctus

SPLITTING AND SPAWNING


Anemones can reproduce sexually or asexually, depending on species and it's environment. For example, the bubble tipped anemone, Entacmaea Quaricolor, can split in the aquarium, and also produce gametes for sexual reproduction. This species has also "mouth brooded" progeny released from the oral cavity (but it is unclear if that was a result of sexual or asexual reproduction).

Splitting in the aquarium may not always be related to reproduction, per se, and may be a survival tool that anemones use to ensure a continuation of genes. To give an example of how this may be, a lot of anemone keepers, especially those of bubble tipped anemones, report a split occurring at the same time there was a flux in water parameters. Another would be the physical damage of an anemone too, the stress related to such damage can result in splitting.

I would hypothesise that these artificial situation replicate certain natural actions that would be experienced in the sea, and again, giving an example, the splitting as a reaction due to shifting water quality could replicate stormy conditions and splitting in this situation may help anemones disperse themselves on storm currents.

As well as Entacmaea Quaricolor, other anemones like Heteractis Magnifica, and in certain circumstances, the Stichodactyla species can also use this asexual method to reproduce or maintain genes.

Spawning activities are not rare in the aquarium and have been linked to a number of things including moon cycle, and conditional shifts. I have experienced the later after performing a large, much needed water change in my aquarium. My Entacmaea Quaricolor, spawned for 3 consecutive nights afterwards. I can only again make a crude link to the two, but again, one could hypothesise that it would link into spring tides well nutrients for example.

Although it is quite a joy to watch, the mass release of gametes (sperms and eggs), in a closed environment such as the aquarium, this task of nature can cause problems. Skimmers tend to go into overtime trying to remove the sudden increase of organics resulting in overflows in collection cups. Paradoxically, this release of new life can also have the opposite on existing life by way of suffocation. The resulting reduction of oxygen in the aquarium can cause major problems. In some cases, it is worth running carbon, increasing skimming, and performing a water change.


MIXING ANEMONES

The fascination for keeping anemones can become so much that you may want to add another to your aquarium. As you have read above, anemones contain stinging cells, and in addition to facilitating feeding they are also used for protection - against predators and also other organisms that may want to pinch their prime location! This can sometime be born out in the aquarium when the keeper introduces another anemone.

One anemone may discharge nematocysts in order to "fight off" another anemone at distance. This can be loosely termed as allelopathy. This allelopathy can result in the burning of corals, and stinging of other anemones in the aquarium. Hence, it is not uncommon for an anemone a keeper has previously keep alive and healthy for months/years, to suddenly decline when a new anemone is introduced.

Broadly speaking, one should be OK keeping multiple numbers of the same species, and difficulty only arrives when differing species share the aquarium. One must bear in mind the potency of one species nematocysts against the other. Unless you have experience of this, then before you attempt to keep two species together, you should obtain advice from others who have experience (why not post here!).

Generally, one can reduce the impact of allelopathy by running activated carbon and promoting heavy skimming.

BLEACHING

Bleaching is a general term given to the loss of an anemone’s zooxanthellae; so named due to the washing out of colour with the most severe cases the anemone appearing white. The term bleaching is accepted as the mass expulsion of zooxanthellae. This can happen for a number of reasons - mainly due to some sort of environmental stress. This covers excessive temperature changes, insufficient lighting, excessive lighting, excessive salinity change, etc. Physical stress can also cause bleaching.

The most commonly observed bleached anemone is Heteractis crispa. These animals arrive in your LFS an aesthetic white, but this is never their true colour; they should be a fawn/tan colour, or less commonly pink, green or silver/grey.

A supply of energy/nutrition for an anemone comes from the sugars made in the process of photosynthesis by the zooxanthellae. It doesn't take much to work out that if there are no zooxanthellae, there is a reduction in food. Where there are no other nutrition/energy routes, the anemone slowly starves to death, but in an attempt to survive they absorb their own mass, and hence the animal shrinks. One of the most striking example of this is the consumption of an anemones own tentacles. In bleached animals, you often find unusually short tentacles when compared to healthy specimens.

Bleaching can be reversed, but it takes a long time and commitment by the aquarist. In the first instance, excellent water quality should be provided. Lighting should be of the optimal strength, although initially, it would be best to acclimate the animal to stronger light over a period of time. Feeding should be regular, say every other day, and should only be in small quantities (10mm cube for an animal of less than 300mm say). Flow should be restricted slightly in case the animal has trouble attaching/feeding.

Over time, if one is lucky, a gradual change in colour should occur. This is the recovery of the zooxanthellae and is a very good sign. The colour change may be uniform, or it may be sporadic across the animal, but eventually, if all conditions are right, the entire animal will become "as new".

SICKNESS AND DEATH

For a variety of reasons, anemones sometimes just don't cut it in the aquarium. So how do you know if you anemone is poorly or dying?

A bleaching anemone is fairly straightforward in identifying, however, in some species instead of zooxanthellae being reduced and expelled first, the will instead consume their tentacles first. This is a particular problem in Entacmaea Quaricolor and Heteractis Crispa.

A sick anemone will more often then not hold a gapping mouth, and also their gut will spill out. These look like tiny curly strings of cotton. Anemones can still recover at this point, with the proepr care and conditions.

Finally, in death, anemones will start to sloth and melt. Tissue will decompose and sloth from the animal and it will look like slime. You MUST remove the anemone at this point as it will decompose to nothing leaving a huge mess and a resulting ammonia spike for you to deal with. Make no mistake, this final stage can take place over a few hours, so it is important for the sake of the rest of your aquarium inhabitants that you act quickly.


You can find some pictures of sea anemones in the following link: Anemones

This information has been written in conjunction with:

ULTIMATEREEF.COM - ANEMONE SURVEY & INFO THREAD JULY 2004.
CLOWNFISHES - by JOYCE WILKERSON
& MIKEY - ULTIMATEREEF.COM
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Last edited by Mikey; 05-10-08 at 15:03.
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Old 19-03-05, 16:56
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Philfish Philfish is offline
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Very interesting and informative Mikey. Thank you.
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Old 19-03-05, 18:13
Gubs Gubs is offline
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A good read. Thanks.
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Old 19-03-05, 22:11
chris allsop chris allsop is offline
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Contains good information, thanks. chris
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boxer shrimp, sea star, mainly softies. Candy cane, hammer coral.
30ish KG of live rock

40 gallon tank with 150 MH and 3 high output tubes.
Deltec mce 600 skimmer
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Old 19-03-05, 22:49
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Darryl Darryl is offline
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Quality info Credit to you m8. ps. Appreciate the statement SHORT guide, when it appears fairly comprehensive. Research is everything !
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Old 20-03-05, 01:14
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Mikey Mikey is offline
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Thanks everyone, and cheers Darryl mate, long time no speak!

You got it there as well, it is only a starting point for people, and like you say, research (and knowledge are) the keys to sucess here.
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Old 20-03-05, 10:29
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RHIANNON RHIANNON is offline
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nice and succinct - well at least i can understand it so its gotta be good!!!!!!


However I am not sure of what all the anenomes look like -

so some links in the page would be appreciated for idiots like me

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IN MY NANO WAVE (STM)- 2 sexy shrimp and tons of crawlies




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Old 20-03-05, 11:31
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Mikey Mikey is offline
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Link added!
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Old 20-03-05, 11:45
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RHIANNON RHIANNON is offline
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no i meant individual links where it is underlined


eg 'Macrodactyla Doreensis'

• A Clarkii
• A Perideraion
• A Polymnus

the other link is a bit too hectic and so i forgot what i was trying to find a pic of eg Macrodactyla Doreensis

its only because i am not that clever
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IN MY RIO 180 -2 black/white clowns, 2 jade tilefish, 1 sailfin tang, 1 symbiotic shrimp, , snails, 1 short black urchin, 1 small purple tuxedo urchin, 1 cleaner shrimp and a few corals

IN MY NANO WAVE (STM)- 2 sexy shrimp and tons of crawlies




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