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8 Easy Types of Anemones for Your Saltwater Aquarium

When admiring marine aquariums it’s hard not to be captivated by Sea Anemones.

Their fluorescent colors and delicate tentacles are fascinating as are their relationships with many fish and invertebrates.

Sometimes aquarists are put off by the difficulty of their care, however – but are all Sea Anemones impossible to keep?

What Makes an Anemone Easy or Difficult?

As relatives to Corals and Jellyfish, many Anemones require pristine water conditions with attention paid to micronutrient levels, exacting light spectrum control, and chemistry stability that beginners find difficult to maintain.

Lighting is particularly challenging due to the symbiotic algae that lives within their flesh. Without ample light Anemones can wither away even if you do everything else right for them.

However, there are several that are a little less demanding and can be kept by aquarists looking for all of the beauty and little of the fuss.

Sea Anemones as a group require the following:

  • Medium to High Lighting
  • Stable, clean water conditions
  • Regular feedings
  • Space away from other stinging Anemones and Corals

Stability is especially important because Anemones as a group should never be the first animals introduced into a new aquarium. Mature, cycled aquariums have beneficial bacteria that break down ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate.

Anemones are extremely sensitive to each of these agents, even nitrate. We want to be as close to 0ppm as possible. Worse, when Anemones die they decay rapidly, spiking these agents and potentially causing other sensitive organisms to die as well.

A common myth, often repeated, is that you should feed an Anemone once per month. While it depends on the species in question most Anemones do much better when fed once or twice per week.

As they grow larger they can’t rely so much on their algae symbiotes because their body mass increases substantially more than their surface area. Feedings should be increased to as much as 3 times per week for larger Anemones.

This does offer a challenge for Carpet Anemones and larger species because the more they eat the faster they grow! Usually Anemones signal their intent to feed with a slightly open mouth.

So long as these parameters are met you should have little trouble with any of the 8 common beginner Anemones listed below. Some prefer a little more light than others and others need more food or space. However, I’m confident that these are the best Anemones in the trade to start with!

Easiest Common Aquarium Anemones for Beginners

Here are a few of our favorite types of anemones:

Bubble Tip Anemone

bubble tip anemone

Bubble Tip Anemones are not only very attractive but are a very easy anemone for beginners. They do appreciate high light levels however they are not nearly as aggressively predatory as other species, such as Carpet Anemones.

Bubble Tip Anemones are medium sized, reaching up to 12 inches in diameter. They are also accepted by a wide range of Clownfish as host anemones, including Percula and Tomato Clownfish.

Bubble Tips also have a habit of wandering about even when not stressed. You may find they prefer the light levels and currents in a section of the tank you didn’t intend! They prefer wedging their body column into rocky and coral crevices.

The exact reason Bubble Tip Anemones inflate their tentacles is a mystery. Many aquarists note that they tend to deflate in lower lighting conditions, suggesting it may have something to do with their symbiotic algae.

  • Scientific Name: Entacmaea quadricolor
  • Origin: IndoPacific
  • Size: 12 inches
  • Price: $30-40

Mini Carpet Anemone

mini carpet anemone

Mini Carpet Anemones are the most common aquarium anemone species for nano reef tanks. They reach a maximum of 3 inches across and once they’ve chosen a location rarely move from that spot. Until they choose a location they are mobile and pack a potent sting and sticky tentacles.

Carpet Anemones in general have powerful stings compared to other species. Small fish and invertebrates that blunder into the Mini Carpet Anemone are likely to end up paralyzed or dead.

Their flat bodies and highly variable color is why they have the alternative name “Pizza Anemone” They are also slightly aggressive and will sting other Anemones and Corals within range.

Mini Carpet Anemones are mostly self-sufficient when it comes to feeding. They will pick out small food particles and planktonic organisms from the water column to supplement their photosynthesis.

If kept in low light conditions feeding should be more regular. Additional feeding also encourages them to gain enough mass to reproduce via splitting!

  • Scientific Name:Stichodactyla tapetum
  • Origin: IndoPacific
  • Size: 2 to 3 inches
  • Price: $20-30

Pink Tipped Anemone

condy anemone

While Anemones should never be introduced into a new aquarium, Condy or Pink Tipped Anemones are one of the hardiest and common species in the trade! As a subtropical species they prefer cooler temperatures ranging from 68-75F.

When stressed by poor water conditions they are known to “deflate” on occasion like limp balloons; a sure sign that your water chemistry needs adjustment!

As a fish-eating Atlantic Anemone, Pink Tips don’t naturally host Clownfish, which are from the IndoPacific. They have a potent sting designed to disable fish prey and are a dangerous host but determined Clownfish will make it work!

Caribbean Cleaner Shrimp, Cardinalfish, and even Arrow Crabs are known to form natural bonds with Pink Tips, however!

Pink Tipped Anemones are a large, mobile species, so you’ll need to ensure the aquarium is spacious enough for them to move without coming into conflict with other Anemones and Corals.

  • Scientific Name: Condylactis gigantea
  • Origin: Caribbean
  • Size: Up to 20 inches
  • Price: $5-10 for a juvenile

Curlique Anemone

Curlique Anemones are a small and easy to keep aquarium anemone species with delicately patterned tentacles.

Calm, shallow waters without much current and overhead protection are what they seek out. When feeling threatened, Curlique Anemones will instantly retract into themselves.

As a member of the Aiptasiidae family they have both a long reach and a vicious sting. Curlique Anemones don’t endlessly divide and become pests like Glass Anemones (Aiptasia pallida) do, however.

Curlique Anemones usually settle and are immobile once they find a nice place to attach. They are also known to form mutualistic bonds with Pistol Shrimp! Their small size makes them good reef anemones in larger aquariums so long as you give other animals enough space to avoid their stings.

  • Scientific Name: Bartholomea annulata
  • Origin: Caribbean
  • Size: 4 inches tall
  • Price: $10-20

Beaded Sea Anemone

banded anemone

Beaded Sea Anemones are more subdued in color compared to most other Clownfish hosting Anemone species. However their delicately patterned tentacles look almost like a string of dark pearls and are fascinating to watch as they shift and curl.

Their tentacles are sparse and stubby compared to other species, allowing for most of the oral cavity to be constantly exposed.

Unlike most of the Anemone species here Beaded Anemones prefer a sand substrate at least 4 to 8 inches deep. When threatened they retract fully into the sand to escape predators. They also prefer high light environments for optimal symbiotic algae health.

Clarkii Clownfish and Domino Damselfish will often partner with Beaded Sea Anemones.

  • Scientific Name: Heteractis aurora
  • Origin: IndoPacific
  • Size: 12 inches
  • Price: $70-100

Saddle Carpet Anemone

Carpet Anemone

In terms of hardiness Saddle Carpet Anemones are not especially difficult besides needing high light levels. However they are one of the largest species, regularly reaching 2 feet across in aquaria! And when fed regularly on Brine Shrimp, cut shrimp, and fish, which they need, they grow even faster!

Saddle Carpet Anemones have an especially aggressive sting that can even cause pain to their owners if caught where skin is thinnest, such as on the wrist. The tentacles are stubby but sticky and can easily attach and break off if skin contact is made with one.

Saddle Anemones are a sand dwelling species and should be given a patch of deep substrate to bury their column within. They also appreciate slight current.

  • Scientific Name: Stichodactyla haddoni
  • Origin: IndoPacific
  • Size: 2 feet
  • Price: $50

Rock Flower Anemone

rock flower anemone

Rock Flower Anemones are a common and easier aquarium anemone species. While they don’t host Clownfish other Caribbean species, including Cardinalfish and Porcelain Crabs, will gladly take up residence within one.

Many wild type Rock Flower Anemones can be a drab grey or green. However several deep water color morphs Anemones come in intense greens, reds, and blues. Some even fluoresce under ultraviolet lighting and have tentacles with highly contrasting colors compared to the main disk.

Medium water flow is essential to good health and while they do enjoy high light levels it isn’t crucial for their health! Once they find a sandy spot to bury their column they also rarely wander, much to the relief of reef inhabitants.

  • Scientific Name: Phymanthus (Epicystis) crucifer
  • Origin: Caribbean
  • Size: 6 to 8 inches
  • Price: $30-40

Adhesive Sea Anemone

The Adhesive Sea Anemone is the species Clownfish prefer the least – only Clarkii Clownfish are found with them and even then only occasionally.

They have an attractive appearance, with two tentacle types that are distinctly colored. The inner beaded tentacles that cover most of the body are reminiscent of Carpet Anemone tentacles and pack just as potent a sting!

When attached to prey they are quite sticky and stay in place once contact is made, hence the name “Adhesive Anemone.”

The outer tentacles have bubble tips and are different in color from the rest. The edge of the disk contrasts strongly in color and texture to the rest of the Anemone – like Mini Carpets, Adhesives are also known as “Pizza Anemones” on occasion.

Adhesive Anemones are an easy aquarium Anemone species so long as they are given bright light in a stable, mature aquarium. They can also be picky eaters, usually preferring smaller prey items over large chunks.

Adhesive Anemones prefer rocky crevices over sand as attach places!

  • Scientific Name: Cryptodendrum adhaesivum
  • Origin: IndoPacific
  • Size: 8 to 12 inches
Jason Roberts
About Jason Roberts
Jason is an aquarium fanatic that has been a fish hobbyist for almost three decades.

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