Hey saltwater aquarium fans,
Anemones in saltwater tanks really do look amazing with their often dazzling colours; especially if they are hosted by a Clownfish. There is not much in the animal kingdom that I consider cooler or more beautiful than a Clownfish/anemone symbiotic relationship.
Many saltwater aquarium newcomers buy a Clownfish then rush off and get an anemone for it, this often does not end well…
The truth is that anemones are not for beginners. Why, you say? Keep reading:
1. They require pristine water conditions, stable temperature, pH and low nutrient levels (nitrates etc).
2. They need good quality lighting (usually intense lighting), because most species’ tentacles contain symbiotic algae which need to photosynthesize, this in turn feeds the anemone much of its energy requirements.
3. Anemones need moderate multi-directional water movement to truly thrive, this brings them their non-photosynthetic food (mostly in nature, anemones are easy to target feed) and stimulates them, so they fully extend their tentacles and look pretty.
4. Anemones can also cause problems by going “walk-about” when they do not like their local conditions (which is why you should place them carefully in a suitable spot by lodging their foot into a hole), they can trample all over corals and sting them while moving around and also generally piss annoy you by not staying put.
5. If anemones are placed with and get too close to some soft corals the corals may release chemical toxins into the water which can damage all saltwater aquarium inhabitants not only the anemone!
6. Anemones can easily out-compete corals and multiply by binary fission (splitting in 2 or more) which in some species can lead to a plague of anemones smashing your corals, which is not cool. Excellent water quality and abundant food will induce your anemone to fragment.
7. Anemones get very stressed and are often easily damaged by collection and being placed into different tanks. The best thing you can do is too select a completely undamaged specimen (a careful physical examination is in order here) with good colouration for that species. Avoid buying a bleached (white) anemone as all the zooanthellae have been expelled, the anemone will probably die.
8. They should also not be placed with very small fish, as your pretty little fish may end up as an expensive snack!
So these are all the risks/down sides that you need to be aware of before you decide whether an anemone is right for your saltwater aquarium.
The best thing you can do is thoroughly research what species of anemone you want for your tank and make sure you can meet all its requirements and ensure it will be compatible with the rest of your saltwater tank pets. It pays to mention here to only purchase the anemone species that are commonly kept in saltwater aquariums as many other species simply do not survive for long in captivity. A sad fact is that only 5% of all saltwater aquarium anemones live past 2 years.
If you target feed (using turkey baster or similar) your anemone a supplement of chopped up shellfish/prawn/fish weekly this will help ensure it remains in optimal health. Anemones hosted by Clownfish actually get fed fragments of food by their host (and by host droppings), so you do not need to feed these anemones.
If you want your Clownfish to host your anemone, make sure you get the right genus! That is; Entacmaea, Heteractis, Stiochodactyla, Macrodactyla & Cryptodendrum. Be aware however that Clownfish do not need an anemone to do well in a saltwater aquarium.
Probably the most ideal set-up for anemone keeping would be a tank optimised to the anemones requirements where there are no or few corals.