How to Care for Bubble Tip Anemones

How to Care for Bubble Tip Anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor)

The Bubble tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) is very much popular and renowned in the saltwater aquarium hobby. This sea anemone is prized for its beautiful form, impressive colors, and distinct swellings or bubble/bulbous tips at the end points of the tentacles.

Although this species is fairly hardy and resilient, it is intolerant of large variations in water chemistry, hence Bubble tip anemone is ideal for stable, established reef tanks.

Keep reading for more information about this amazing sea anemone, including but not limited to appearance, feeding patterns, behavior, and care requirements.

Quick Notes about Bubble Tip Anemones

Name Bubble tip anemones
Common Names BTA
Scientific Name Entacmaea quadricolor
Tank size (minimum) 30 gallons (~120 liters)
Keeping Moderate
Propagation Moderate
Lighting
Medium to high
Water flow Moderate 
Optimal Temperature 22 – 28°C  (~72°F – 82°F)
Optimal Salinity SG = 1.023 – 1.025
Optimal PH 8.1 – 8.4
Optimal KH 8 – 12
Nitrate up to 10 ppm
Feeding Photosynthetic / require
Size up to 30 cm (12 inches) and more
Growth Rate Moderate to fast
Toxicity
Yes
Invasive No
Temper Aggressive
Color Form Red/rose, orange, green, brown, and pink

Origin of Bubble Tip Anemones

Bubble tip anemone is a species of sea anemone in the family Actiniidae, and it is known for having bulbous tips at the end of its tentacles.

This anemone is commonly found in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific area, including the Red sea.

The scientific classification of the Bubble tip anemone is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Actinaria
Family: Actiniidae
Genus: Entacmaea
Species: Entacmaea quadricolor

Habitat of Bubble Tip Anemones

Entacmaea quadricolor is found throughout the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Fiji, Indonesia, Tonga, and the Philippines.

Bubble tip anemones can be found even in deeper waters (up to 60 m or 200 ft.) with dim lighting conditions, where they are generally attached to coral rubble or in the crevices of solid reefs.

This trait is usually exhibited by large adult specimens with tentacles that are longer and thinner, whereas smaller, younger specimens live in groups or colonies (sometimes solitary) closer to the water surface and enjoy bright lighting.

Appearance of Bubble Tip Anemones

Bubble tip anemones can grow up to 30 cm (12 inches) or more in diameter. They come available in a variety of color morphs including red/rose, orange, green, brown, and pink.

There are several variants of Bubble-tip anemones. The Red Bubble tip anemone or Rose Bubble tip anemone is the most common variant of Bubble tip anemones. They are quite attractive, prolific, and don’t cost much to obtain. Also available in the trade are the Blood Red-colored variant (Black widow anemone), Green, Brown, Pink, and Orange-colored variants.

The name “bubble-tip” stems from the presence of bubble tips at the end of the tentacles.

However, in some specimens — the bubble tips are absent, thus resulting in longer, thinner tentacles.

What causes the absence of bubble tips in some specimens is still unclear.

I have heard a lot of theories on why BTA may lose their bubbles and quit often they contradict each other. Let me tell you just some of them:

  • Not enough protein in their diet,
  • Too much food. BTA mostly depends on the lights to feed. So, when we feed the anemone it no longer needs to keep the bubbles.
  • Not enough algae in the water.
  • Not enough nitrates.
  • Too much flow may cause bubble tips to lose their bubbles.
  • Anemones keep their bubble tips when they are disturbed/stressed or (vice versa) relaxed.
  • Bubble-tip anemones use them to add more surface area, to compensate for lower light and lower photosynthesis.

Furthermore, the anemone may lose the bubble tips after a lengthy spell, and it is assumed to be as a result of poor lighting and poor water quality.

Behavior of Bubble Tip Anemones

The anemones are semi-aggressive. They possess sweeper tentacles equipped with stinging cells (cnidocyte) that can immobilize or kill prey on impact.

Bubble tip anemones tend to stay attached to solid substrates, with their base situated in crevices. They may also roam the open areas or affix themselves to the walls of the aquarium.

In addition, this is one of the few anemones that are capable of hosting clownfish without any issues at all.

Features:

  • Peaceful: No
  • Toxicity: Yes
  • InvasiveNo

Feeding Bubble Tip Anemones

The nutrition obtained from the photosynthetic mode of feeding is often sufficient to sustain the anemone for long periods. Additionally, Bubble tip anemones are capable of extending their tentacles to capture food in the water column.

Nonetheless, it’s good to engage in manual/supplemental feedings to keep the Bubble tip anemones happy and healthy.

Feed these anemones finely-chopped:

  • shrimp,
  • mussels,
  • clam,
  • krill and fish

Simply place the meal on their tentacles, this should be done twice or thrice every week.

Do not overfeed them, stick to a small serving each time to prevent having much leftovers and wastes in the reef tank. If it spits out the food – you are overfeeding.

Features:

  • Photosynthetic: Yes
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Feeding Frequency: 2 – 3 times a week

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Tank size:

Due to the growth potential of the Bubble tip anemone and its ability to reproduce easily, it should be housed in a 30-gallon tank (120 liters) at least.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: The ideal water temperature for keeping Bubble tip anemones is between the range 22 °C – 28 °C (72 °F – 82 °F).

pH: Keep the pH level between 8.1 to 8.4.

Hardness: Between 8 to 12 dKH.

Specific Gravity: 1.023 to 1.025

Lighting:

Bubble tip anemone benefits from the photosynthetic activity of the algae dwelling in its tissue. Hence, ensure to provide ample lighting to foster proper nourishment.

Ideally, moderate – high light levels work best, the lighting intensity should not be excessive to prevent bleaching. Bubble tip anemones will thrive under VHO, T5 bulbs, and LED lighting.

Flow:

Maintain moderate flow/water movement in the reef tank, just enough to carry suspended food to the anemone’s tentacles and also to remove debris/wastes from its body.

Avoid placing the anemone in areas where it can get hit by the direct flow.

Note: Some aquarists claim that under slight flow Bubble tip anemone will stay in bubble form.

Placement of Bubble Tip Anemones in the Tank

It really does not matter where you will put your Bubble tip anemone because like all anemones they can move around the tank.

Another problem though that there is no definitive pattern in their movements. For example, one day they can move around the tank or stay still for weeks. It does not seem like they are searching for a better place.

Care and Maintenance of Bubble Tip Anemones

There’s no denying that Bubble tip anemone is moderately difficult to care for. For starters, the animal tends to anchor itself firmly to crevices, and trying to move it from a particular position may tear the flesh; causing it to sustain severe injuries or even worse—die.

It can be a real challenge to keep Bubble tip anemones with other corals because they can sting them.

Even if you provide ample spacing between the anemone and your corals to prevent chemical warfare, they can move back. If the anemone anchors close to your corals, then you have no choice but to move them elsewhere.

Note: Some aquarists use even Torch corals to keep Bubble tip anemones at bay.

Keep in mind that Bubble tip anemones cannot handle major changes in water parameters well. That said, you need to make a conscious effort to keep things as stable as possible.

Note: Long tentacles are a sign that they need more food and/or light with less flow.

Avoid changing a very large percentage of the tank water at a time, instead replace about 5% weekly, 10% bi-weekly, and 20% monthly to maintain good water quality and replenish depleted nutrients.

Keep in mind their roaming behavior. Therefore, always monitor the Bubble tip anemones closely, and endeavor to cover the filter intakes enough to prevent them from getting sucked in pumps or get flushed down. 

Removing Bubble tip anemones can be also problematic because it is really easy to damage them.

Tip: Use something dull, like old credit cards. Put them under the foot and move them up gently.

Do not touch Bubble tip anemones with your bare hands. Their stings can cause skin rash for a few days.

Calcium: Between 374 to 425 ppm.
Magnesium: 1,200 – 1,300 ppm
Strontium: 8 – 10 ppm
Nitrates: < 10 ppm
Phosphate: < 0.03 ppm
Ammonia: 0 ppm 

Fragging and Reproduction of Bubble Tip Anemones

Bubble tip anemone has several ways of reproduction.

  1. In natural habitats, this anemone predominantly propagates via sexual reproduction. Here, male and female Bubble tip anemones release sperm and egg (gametes) into the water. You will notice it because water because of the cloudiness in the tank.

When fertilization takes place, the fertilized eggs will develop into larvae.

However, the larvae end up not surviving in an aquarium setting. According to some studies, they can remain in the plankton for up to 2 months before they settle. Therefore, you should not depend on getting new anemones through this means.

  1. Additionally, an adult Bubble tip anemone can split into two, thus creating a new anemone.
  2. Apart from this, in saltwater tanks, you may frag (cut) a grown anemone to form a new individual.

Unfortunately, this technic can easily kill it if something went wrong, therefore, it is not recommended.

However, if you still want to do that, you need to do use a scalpel or sharp razor blade and cut the specimen longitudinally. Once done, place the halves into the tank, preferably in areas with moderate flow and lighting.

Common Problems Associated with Bubble Tip Anemones

Extensive growth: One of the known problems for small tanks is the anemone’s prolific nature under optimal conditions.

It’s not unusual to see several, new anemones produced within a short period. The anemones may overpopulate the tank and grow massively, hence causing huge discomfort to your fish and corals.

Splitting: It is true that the Bubble tip anemones can grow pretty fast. However, if they keep splitting, it may be a sign of stress (mostly because of the bad water quality, sudden change in temperature, or too large water changes).

Note: Sometimes aquarists use this feature intentionally to induce splitting.

Roaming: The second problem emanates from their movements. While roaming, they won’t hesitate to deliver stings to an assumed prey or even corals in close proximity, in such cases — the stings may or may not harm them.

Moreover, Bubble tip anemones may wander carelessly towards a filter or pump intake and get sucked in. So, to avert this from happening, make sure to cover the intakes partially.

Bleaching: High temperatures induce in the Bubble tip anemone.
Interesting fact: According to the study, Anemonefish facilitated bleaching recovery in a host sea anemone, thereby enhancing resilience.

After death effect: When the Bubble tip anemones die, it can kill the entire system. Keep that in mind, if you decide to propagate them by cutting in two.

Bubble Tip Anemones and Compatible Tank Mates

Many species of Clownfish coexist with Bubble tip anemones in the wild, and such a relationship can be replicated in an aquarium setting by pairing any of the identified Clownfish species with a Bubble tip anemone.

These include common species such as:

  • Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus),
  • Tomato Clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus),
  • Fire Clownfish or Red Saddleback Clownfish (Amphiprion ephippium),
  • Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus),
  • Clarkii or Clark’s Clownfish (Amphiprion clarkii),
  • Allard’s Clownfish (Amphiprion allardi),
  • Two-band Clownfish (Amphiprion bicintus),
  • McCullochi Clownfish (Amphiprion mccullochi),
  • Three-band Clownfish (Amphiprion tricintus).

Interesting fact: Anemonefish influence oxygen levels of the host anemones by altering flow rates around the anemone host’s tissues, leading to increased oxygen availability and absorption, subsequently increasing metabolic rates.

Buying Bubble Tip Anemones

Since Bubble tip anemone is a renowned species in the reef aquarium hobby, many local fish stores and online retailers often have it in stock.

The price of a Bubble tip anemone usually varies due to factors like size, rarity, and color.

For example, the Green Bubble tip anemone and the Rose Bubble tip anemone costs lesser than the Black widow Bubble tip anemone, and both are highly sought-after.

While shopping, be sure to obtain healthy specimens. Good indications are a robust body and attachment to solid substrates or tank glass. Avoid large specimens since they don’t ship well like small/medium-sized specimens).

Healthy specimens can be difficult to separate from live rock. So if that’s the case, take the rock alongside the Bubble tip anemone.

I’d recommend purchasing aquacultured/captive-bred specimens as opposed to those captured from the wild, the reason being that aquacultured specimens find it much hardier and easier to settle in and thrive in the conditions of an aquarium.

In Conclusion

Bubble tip anemones are unique and interesting additions to established reef aquaria.

This species is an excellent choice for experienced hobbyists that love the diversity in their reef tanks. There is a variety of color morphs to choose from, and each one is guaranteed to take the aesthetics of your aquarium to a whole new level.

 Bubble tip anemones add a lot of character to the reef tank and what’s more, their ability to host many species of Clownfish is really special.

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