Bubble Tip Anemone 101: Complete Care Guide (2024)

bubble tip anemone
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 12, 2024
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If you’re looking for a visually stunning invertebrate with unique color patterns and an exclusive shape for your saltwater aquarium, the bubble tip anemone might be the ideal selection. Perfect for beginners, this species is sure to add elegance and distinctiveness to your aquarium. Discover maintenance tips and techniques for the bubble tip anemone from our experienced specialists.

Article Summary

  • Bubble Tip Anemones can withstand rough tidal currents by wedging their pedal disc into crevices; they have symbiotic relationships with clownfish.
  • Before introducing Bubble Tip Anemones, ensure that your tank is stable for at least 6 months and has a capacity of at least 100 gallons.
  • Creating a thriving community of Bubble Tip Anemones in captivity is all about natural binary fission, which can be enhanced with extra nourishment, or the asexual method of splitting to create clones, all while providing them with the best care possible.

Species Overview

Common names:Bubble tip anemone, four colored anemone
Scientific name:Entacmaea quadricolor
Species:E. quadricolor
Size:12-20 inches diameter
Lifespan:80 years
Family:Actiniidae
Genus:Entacmaea
Distribution:Indo-Pacific
Color:Brown, tan, rose, orange, green, cream, pink, red
Diet:Omnivores
Temperament:Semi-aggressive
Minimum tank size:100 gallon
Place in the tank:Bottom
Care Level:Moderate
Breeding/Propagation:Moderate

Chapter 1: History and Background

One of the most popular beginner anemones, the bubble tip (Entacmaea quadricolor) is a hardy variety that thrives in tropical waters.Continue reading to learn more about their natural habitat, genealogy, and more!

Origin

This species was first described in 1828 by the German naturalists Rüppell and Leuckart. It is normally found in the Indo-Pacific sea, but more specifically, they are found in the tropical waters between the Red Sea and Samoa in intertidal zones. They are part of the actiniidae family which includes all sea anemones.

Natural Habitat

In their natural habitats, the bubble tip anemone are found in rough intertidal zones up to depths of 130 feet. In order to manage the rough tidal currents they usually wedge their pedal disc into crevices. This allows them to retract inside the pedal column when threatened or seas are too rough.

Can I touch Bubble Tip Anemone?

Yes you can touch them, however, we recommend wearing gloves as all can sting.

Can fish live in bubble tip anemone?

They are known to have symbiotic relationships with many species of clownfish.

What fish can live in bubble anemone?

A wide variety of clownfish can live in a symbiotic relationship with the bubble tip anemone including but not limited to;

  • Allard’s clownfish
  • Tomato clownfish
  • Red and black clownfish
  • Maroon clownfish
  • Ocellaris clownfish

Chapter 2: Appearance

No one is quite sure what’s the purpose of bubble tip anemones bulbous appearance, but their uniqueness and vibrant colors make them a favorite of many reef tank keepers.

What do bubble tip anemone look like?

Rose Bubble Tip Anemone
Rose Bubble Tip Anemone

They come in many color variations and are named after their bulb-like tentacle tips. Like all anemones anatomy consists of a pedal disc (like the foot), the body (which contains the pharynx, and gastrovascular cavity), and the tentacles (in this case bubble tipped). No one knows why bubble tip anemones have their bulbous ends, but some think that it is an adaptation to acquire more light or food.

Tentacles can come in a range of colors including pink and red, but are usually tan, green, brown, or blue-green.

Bubble Tip Anemone Sexual Dimorphism

There is no way to differentiate between male and female, but bubble tip anemones do have separate sexes.

Types of Bubble Tip Anemone

In the wild there are two main varieties depending on where they live in the water column. However, they are considered different varieties mainly because of their size. Small bubble tip anemones generally live large colonies nearer to the surface, while larger ones live in deeper waters and solitarily.

Those living in deeper waters generally experience dimly lit conditions, whereas those in shallow water are exposed to high lighting. Depending on what variety you have, you should change the lighting conditions in your tank to match.

There are also different color variations produce by breeding in captivity, such as;

  • Rainbow Bubble Tip Anemone

This color variation features different natural colors of the original anemone. This one usually has tentacles that exhibit both orange and the standard green coloring.

  • Green Bubble Tip Anemone

This color variation has tentacles that are a bright, vibrant green.

  • Rose Bubble Tip Anemone

The most common variety due to their very rapid propagation. Their coloring is a dusty red.

  • Black Widow Bubble Tip Anemone

Blood red coloring this anemone’s coloring is extremely exotic and is one of the most expensive varieties you can purchase.

Other less popular varieties include blue and yellow bubble tip anemones.

How big do bubble tip anemone get?

On average bubble tip anemones grow 12 to 20 inches in diameter, however the Rainbow bubble tips tend to be smaller at 2 inches in diameter.

How fast do bubble tip anemone grow?

Because so many factors affect their growth rate, there is no “typical” rate at which a bubble tip anemone may grow. This will vary between individuals, but actively feeding your anemone will help increase their rate of growth. To further optimize their growth rate, make sure to maintain proper water parameters.

Why is my bubble tip anemone closed up?

There are many reasons your anemones are closed such as they are resting, digesting food,, haven’t been fed enough, or have experienced major changes in water conditions. The closing of their tentacles isn’t an indication that your anemone is dying, but you should definitely keep a close eye on them.

Why did my Bubble Tip Anemone lose its bubbles?

It is unknown why bubble tip anemones lose their bubbles. You cannot restore bubbles once they are lost, but you might want to try to experiment with lighting, flow rate, and ensure your tank is cycled to possibly prevent them from losing any more bubbles.

Chapter 3: Temperament and Tankmates

Clownfish Hiding in Anemone
Clownfish Hiding in Anemone

While bubble tip anemones aren’t particularly aggressive, only certain fish have the proper mucus coating to be able to withstand being stung, making tank mate choice vital for a happy aquarium.

How many bubble tip anemone should I keep

You can keep one 12 inch bubble tip anemone per 100 gallons. If you want to keep two anemones we recommend housing them in at least a 300 gallon tank. We don’t suggest adding more than two per tank because they tend to grow large and prefer to have space to stretch out their tentacles.

What fish can live with bubble tip anemone

As mentioned earlier, several species of clownfish do well with this anemone as well as invertebrates such as hermit crabs, ghost shrimp, and other reef species.

Compatible tank mates

  1. Clarkii clownfish – a captive-bred species that do well with damselfish, tangs, and gobies.
  2. Blue Green Chromis – though not an anemonefish or immune to stinging they do enjoy playing amongst the tentacles, especially when young.
  3. Cinnamon clownfish – a red and black anemonefish that would best compliment a rose or black widow bubble tip.
  4. Domino Damselfish – is immune to the stinging tips and has been seen inhabiting anemones with clownfish.
  5. Fire clownfish – extremely territorial, not to be kept with others of its kind but it will ferociously protect its home.

We also mentioned a few other clownfish that are compatible with bubble tip anemones above.

Tank mates to avoid

  1. Butterflyfish-like clownfish, this species is unaffected by the sting of the bubble tip anemone and will happily munch on their bulbs.
  2. Triggerfish – this species is not reef safe as they will prey upon your invertebrates and small fish.
  3. Pufferfish-Puffers can easily destroy your anemones and immediately become interested in the anemone when they have food in their tentacles.
  4. Coral- solid reefs are not a good idea to have in a tank with anemones. As anemones move about the tank they can potentially sting your coral and cause it harm.
  5. Sea Groupers – groupers don’t pose a direct threat to your anemones, however, they don’t get along with clownfish. As any clownfish in your tank will be in a symbiotic relationship with your anemone we recommend not getting a grouper.

Chapter 4: Tank Requirements

Reef Aquarium
Reef Aquarium

While a beginner species, this anemone does require a pristine environment to remain happy and healthy.

Where to place bubble tip anemone

You can place this anemone anywhere in the tank but it will likely move depending on its preferences for water flow, light, and where tank mates are.

Tank Shape

Whatever shape of reef aquarium you prefer is sufficient.

Water Parameters

Tank Size:>100 gallons
Water Type:Saltwater
Water Temperature:72-82
Water pH:8.1-8.4
Water Hardness:8-12 dKH
Calcium:374-425 ppm
Magnesium:1200-1300 ppm
Strontium:8-10 ppm

How to set up your bubble tip anemones tank:

You should not introduce your bubble tip anemone to your tank before it has been stable for at least 6 months. The addition of live rock is a helpful way to ensure that there are beneficial bacteria already living in your tank.

What substrate should you use?

Any type of aquarium substrate is sufficient but do note that your anemone’s foot will be wedged into coral rubble or rock crevices. If you place only sand in your aquarium they will not be able to find a place to anchor their sticky foot, the addition of live rock or coral branches will help your anemone anchor itself.

Do bubble tip anemones need a filter?

We recommend using a filter in your aquarium as anemones are messy and their tank can be difficult to clean due to them having stinging tentacles. Due to this species being very sensitive to major changes in water parameters such as nitrate levels, pH level, and water hardness we recommend using a sump. Sumps are generally able to keep tank conditions more stable as they can hold more water.

Is an air pump necessary?

Because species in a reef tank are mostly stationary a pump is necessary to promote water circulation. All aquarium pumps should be covered as bubble tip anemones are known for climbing on them and injuring their oral disc.

What about a water heater?

This species lives in tropical waters so you will likely need a water heater to ensure ideal water temperature.

What is the best lighting for bubble tip anemones?

You should be providing a moderate to high amount of light to your aquarium so that the symbiotic zooplankton can photosynthesis. Lighting conditions should not be so bright that it bleaches the anemone. Bright sunlight alone is not enough to supplement photosynthesis needs, and LED, T5 bulbs, or VHO lighting is recommended.

TIP

More dimly lit conditions will not affect your anemone immediately, but extended periods of time with weak lighting or little available light will lead to your bulb anemone not getting enough food or nutrients from the zooplankton.

Chapter 5: Care

Ultra Red Bubble Tip Anemone
Ultra Red Bubble Tip Anemone

The diet and health are some of the easiest aspects of care as they are mostly self sufficient.

Diet

Feeding your anemone is an extremely simple task, and one of the coolest things to watch. Their long tentacles will actually extend to capture food in the tank creating a mesmerizing show of this beautiful invertebrate.

What to feed bubble tip anemone?

The photosynthetic nutrition that your bulb anemone is acquiring from its symbiotic algae will satisfy most of its nutritional needs. However, it is important to supplement your bubble tip anemones diet with other meaty foods. Food can include chopped fish, shrimp, mussels, or other meaty foods that can be found at your local fish store.

When to feed bubble tip anemone?

Feeding should take place two to three times a week unless there is a clownfish living in your anemone. In this case, the fish expels waste that the anemone will then eat.

How much to feed a bubble tip anemone?

My method for feeding anemones and corals in my home aquarium is to buy cubes of frozen mysis shrimp or krill and add it to ¼ cup of water, and let it fully dethaw. For other foods, feed a similar portion size (about a tablespoon).

How to feed bubble tip anemone

Using the method above with frozen food you can use a turkey baster or syringe to suck up the dethawed food and squirt it directly at the anemones tentacles.

If using more substantial food such as chopped fish just place the food near the anemone’s tentacles. Using their oral disc, they can move if needed, or they might just stretch their tentacles.

Health

Common diseases of bubble tip anemone?

While there are no specific diseases for this anemone you will have to carefully maintain lighting and water flow in order to keep your anemone happy. If you notice your anemones moving around the tank often or changes in color and shape then they are unhappy. This behavior could indicate a change in light, ph level, or flow rate.

Additionally, be sure to keep an eye out for any attack marks on your anemone. Other species such as sea stars, non-reef safe fish, and bristlestars are known to attack anemones.

Bubble tip anemone lifespan

In captivity, this anemone will live up to 80 years. In the wild, they can live for a few centuries.

Chapter 6: Breeding

Colony of Bubble Tip Anemone
Colony of Bubble Tip Anemone

Many people have great success in breeding the bubble tip anemone and will sell others their own cuttings rather than buying from pet stores.

Can you breed a bubble tip anemone?

Breeding one in captivity is possible, though it can be slightly difficult depending on what method of reproduction you use. Like corals, anemones can reproduce through binary fission or splitting.

How do bubble tip anemone reproduce?

Binary fission is a sexual reproduction method that will naturally occur, and can be accelerated by an increase in available food. During binary fission the anemone elongates and then separates into two separate anemones.

Splitting is an asexual reproduction method that creates exact clones of the original anemone. This is where due to stress or injury the anemone will elongate and separate into an exact replica of the original anemone.

How to breed a bubble tip anemone?

While the act of reproduction is similar to other anemones and corals, it is important to provide top notch bubble tip anemone care to have any success with producing more.

Binary Fission

There is no way to induce binary fission except by increasing the amount of high quality food and providing a pristine tank environment. Most aquarists believe letting anemones reproduce by binary fission is the more humane method of reproduction.

Splitting

To induce splitting some aquarists will take a sharp knife and actively slice a bubble tip anemone or propagate it into separate organisms. This can be dangerous as you are actively making a wound in your anemone and if your water quality is poor then it could cause death.

Is the bubble tip anemone for you?

If you’re looking for a crown jewel piece to add to your reef aquarium, one that is eye-catching and provides hours of entertainment, then this anemone is definitely for you.

Conclusion

The bubble tip anemone is an excellent starting anemone for aquarists who are just beginning to dive into the reef world and will complement any saltwater aquarium.

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