Sea Anemone Care: a Basic Introductory Guide
By Henry Garcia
Everyone remembers that adorable little fish in Pixar’s Finding Nemo who could not pronounce the word “anemone”. It is quite possible that you are now trying to pronounce “anemone” yourself! Sea anemones are very beautiful creatures that can provide some exceptional brilliance to any tank. However, sea anemones are very easily some of the most misunderstood sea creatures, a fact that leads to the death of a frightening majority of captive sea anemones. This article will attempt to shed some light on sea anemone care as well as things that should NEVER be done.
On Sea Anemones
First of all, sea anemones are classified as cnidarians, which are a collection of animals that have plant-like systems: other members of this classification include jellyfish and coral. Sea anemones are structured in a very interesting way. They are comprised of a cylindrical “body”. On the lower end of the “body”, there is a pedal disk. This pedal disk can be thought of as a foot, and some sea anemones use this disk to travel for short distances. This pedal disk is also used by the sea anemone to attach itself to a hard surface (like a rock). Some types of sea anemones do not have this disk, and instead bury themselves in the sand. On the other end of the “body” is an oral disk, or the mouth. The mouth is surrounded by tentacles. These tentacles are usually filled with a toxin that the sea anemone uses to catch prey, such as small fish. Because of the fact that sea anemones can have a hard time catching prey on their own, they
often form symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationships with other creatures, the most famous of which are clownfish. Other sea anemones have symbiotic relationships with zooxanthellae, much like coral.
Sea Anemone Care
Every specimen of sea anemone is different. They react differently to light exposure, to salt levels, to pH levels, and to any number of other factors. This makes sea anemone care very complicated. Something important to keep in mind is that sea anemones are NOT AT ALL like coral. A tank that is perfectly suited for a fantastic coral reef may kill a sea anemone within a few weeks. Researching the desired sea anemone is highly recommended. Having the environment of the tank be perfectly suited to that particular kind of sea anemone is also highly recommended. If the intent is to create the symbiotic
relationship between clownfish and sea anemones, be prepared for frustration and a lot of hard work. Clownfish and sea anemones do not always acclimate to each other, and the most difficult part of the process occurs when the fish are young. Juvenile clownfish can, and will be, eaten by the sea anemones.
Returning to sea anemone care, moderate to strong lighting is preferred. Because of the carnivorous nature of the creatures, feeding each anemone specifically may be required. If feeding is required, small cubes of shrimp or marine fish is the best food. There are some kinds of sea anemones that are toxic to humans, so gloves should be worn when handling them. When moving the sea anemones around, be sure to not damage the “body” of the anemone. This could lead to the death of the animal. Imagine somebody who, while being moved, has a chunk of their torso ripped off. That is the kind of situation that the sea anemone is put in. Because the sea anemones tend to move, be sure that any and all pumps, heaters, fans, and moving parts that could damage them are safely out of reach. Also, make sure that any and all tank mates are suitable for living with sea anemones.
Some sea anemones are capable of longitudinal fission, which is a type of asexual reproduction in which the animal splits along its length into two animals. This kind of fission can only happen when the sea anemone is healthy and well-fed. The process can be sped up by actively splitting a healthy sea anemone with a sharp razor, but that sounds relatively unsafe for the anemone in question. Other sea anemones can sexually reproduce. The sperm and eggs are usually expelled into the water, where fertilization
occurs. In other species of sea anemone, the female anemone draws sperm into itself, where it incubates the eggs until they hatch and develop into larvae. These two processes are important to keep in mind: any unexpected reproduction could spell disaster for tank mates, especially if the sea anemones are toxic.
Sea Anemone Don’ts
Some things that should absolutely NOT be done when caring for sea anemones are to, in any shape or form, damage the base. All of the internal organs are contained in the base, so any damage could be fatal. When purchasing sea anemones, ensure that they are not an unnatural white color. While beautiful, this could mean that the sea anemones do not contain any more zooxanthellae, which could be fatal. NEVER
buy sea anemones without proper research. Previous surveys have shown that, in spite of their natural life span of at least 100 years, sea anemones rarely last more than 5 years in captivity. If there is any insecurity at all about keeping such an animal, it is probably best not to purchase it. Make sure that tank mates are compatible with the sea anemones, and always know the toxicity of the sea anemones. Do not take unnecessary risks when handling sea anemones: wear gloves. Some species of sea anemones have toxins that are extremely harmful to humans, and can cause paralysis or (rarely) be fatal.
That being said, sea anemones can be extremely beautiful additions to any tank. With proper research and preparation, these creatures can give any tank a bit of color and life. The antics of the clownfish or any other species that can form a symbiotic relationship with sea anemones can be very fun to observe. They are not for the casual aquarium enthusiast, and require a lot of time, energy, and money. Hopefully, this article was able to provide a bit of information about these fantastic creatures, and to properly inform any budding sea anemone keeper of the daunting task that is ahead of them.
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National Geographic. “Sea Anemones, Sea Anemone Pictures, Sea Anemone Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. National Geographic, 2015. Web. 23 May 2015.
Toonen, Rob. “Keeping Anemones.” Reefs.org: Where Reefkeeping Begins on the Internet. Reefs.org, 2012. Web. 23 May 2015.
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