Bubble Tip Anemone

Updated August 6, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
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The Bubble Tip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor), aka BTA, has the reputation of being one of the easier sea anemones to keep and comes in a few different colors or varieties.

There is a brown, green and even a pink colored variety which is commonly known as the Rose Bubble Tip Anemone.

Green Bubble Tip Green E. Quadricolor

The signature of this anemone is the bulb tips that form towards the ends of the anemone's tentacles. There is much debate and speculation as to why these tips form.

Some think that very high lighting levels are required or even that more actinics are required in the lighting scheme and other hobbyists feel that frequent and varied feedings are required. Whatever the reasoning for these bulbs forming, for long term success with this anemone you'll need to provide high output aquarium lighting such as LED's, T5's, VHO, HO or Metal Halides. Power Compact lighting might work in shallow tanks. Supplemental feeding is a good idea too.

They will move to a spot in the tank or on the live rock that they find suitable. This might mean areas near power heads where they will eventually get shredded. I've had it happen myself. So, you may want to move they power heads up higher in the tank or put a foam filter over the power head to prevent this from happening.

You can manually split this anemone with a scalpel or extremely sharp scissors for a clean cut, sort of like coral fragging. In order to do this successfully you need to leave part of the mouth (the center of the anemone where the food goes) for each section. I've split them in quarters and in halves. Splitting them in half has a better success rate than splitting them into quarters. They will regenerate themselves over a period of several days. Pretty cool stuff and you can sell or trade them to friends in the hobby.

There are many clownfish species that will host with the Bubble Tip Anemone (see below), with the most common being the Maroon Clownfish. You don't need to have a clownfish to keep an anemone, though watching the symbiotic relationship between the clownfish and the anemone is one of the most fascinating aspects of aquarium keeping. The opposite holds true as well. You don't have to keep an anemone if you want to keep clownfish.

As mentioned previously you will want to feed your Bubble Tip once or even twice a week with either fresh, raw shrimp, clams, mussels, etc. Chop or slice this fresh seafood into very small pieces and use a feeding stick or tank tongs to give the anemone the fish food. We like to use a home made feeding stick that is 3 chop sticks taped together. Place the food on the end of the feeding stick and then gently place it on the tentacles of the anemone. They should grasp at it or show some other feeding response.

Rose Anemone Red Bubble Tip Anemone

As far as water parameters go, aim for a higher specific gravity (1.023 - 1.025) and keep the water parameters in good condition via partial water changes. The water changes should help replenish needed elements but you may also want to use an iodine supplement in between water changes.

Anemones can live for a very long time and like your fish, they are a major commitment!

Bubble Tip Anemone Care

Scientific Name : Entacmaea quadricolor

Common Names : BTA, Green Bubble Tip, Bulb Tentacle Anemone, Rose Bubble Tip, Maroon Sea Anemone

Care Level : Moderate to Difficult

Size : up to 12 inches (30 cm)

Life span : Extremely long life spans in the wild.

pH : 8.1 - 8.4

Temperature : 75°F - 82°F (25°C - 28°C)

Specific Gravity : 1.023 - 1.025

Carbonate Hardness (dKH) : 8 - 12°

Lighting : Minimum recommended lighting levels would be 50/50 (actinic/10,000k daylight bulbs) power compacts in tanks with standard depth (24 inches). For tanks deeper than 24 inches you'll need T5's, LED's, HO, VHO or Metal Halides. They may move to find a spot they like and it may be related to the amount of light on the tank. They can adapt to a range of lighting levels.

Origin / Habitat : Fiji, Singapore

Anemone Temperament / Behavior : They can move around the tank to find a suitable location. Ledges in live rock up off the sand substrate are often preferred locations. They can sting tank inhabitants with their tentacles, although it seems that it may be less potent than other anemone species.

Breeding : Both asexual and sexual breeders. Anemone reproduction has been studied using scanning electron microscopy. They most often will clone themselves by splitting. You can also cut them yourself into halves as long as a piece of the mouth and foot are attached to each half they will heal up quickly.

In the ocean they spawn between August and October when the surface water temperatures warm to reach 28 ° celsius.

Aquarium Size : 30 gallon (114 liters) minimum

Tank Mates : Can be considered for reef tanks. There was an interesting study done on the relationship between the anemone shrimp and E. quadricolor. It suggests that the shrimp gets the better end of the deal, though both species do benefit from the relationship.

Clownfish that may be hosted by this anemone :
Amphiprion akindynos - Barrier Reef Clownfish
A. clarkii - Clark's Clownfish
A. frenatus - Tomato Clownfish
A. melanopus - Red and Black Clownfish
A. ocellaris - Ocellaris Clownfish - our Ocellaris clowns do not host with our bubble tip...
A. percula - see Ryan's post: Percula Clownfish in Bubble Tip Anemone
Premnas Biaculeatus - Maroon Clownfish
Also see: Clownfish Anemone Chart

Anemone Disease : Can be difficult to diagnose symptoms and corresponding diseases in anemones. Tanks with insufficient light and insufficient anemone feeding will often see them wither away after a few months. They prefer saltwater higher in specific gravity. Aim for water in the 1.023 - 1.025 range. Beware that anemones that are dying are believed to release toxins into the water that can harm or even kill tank inhabitants.

Diet / Foods : Supplemental feedings (twice per week) have been anecdotedly reported to induce cloning. Feeding can play an even more important role in tanks will lower lighting levels.

Tank Region : Slow moving, but often stationary in the tank once they find a suitable location.

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Bubble Tip Anemone

Bubble Tip Anemone Comments

From: Bob
I was told by the fish store that my bulb tip will host my Ocellaris Clownfish. It's been several weeks now and the Ocellaris won't go near it. After further research, I've come to the conclusion that the bubble tip should not be a recommended host for Ocellaris Clowns, even though it seems that nearly all the other clownfish species will host with the bubble tip. Just my luck!

I'm going to keep this Bubble Tip anyway since it seems to be doing quite well under my VHO bulbs. I love the way the tentacle colors change depending on which lights are on. It looks pink under the 10,000k bulbs but looks more green under the actinics.

From: Kristoffer
A friend of mine bought a bubble tip last month, and he already had an oscellaris clown in his tank. It took no more than a day for the clown and the anemone to pair up, and the clown never strays from its host. I find it interesting that some people have difficultly pairing oscellaris with bubble tips because most of the reef-keepers I've talked to keep that pair and have no trouble whatsoever.

From: Anonymous
Bob, you could try printing out a picture of an ocellaris hosting in a BTA. and then putting the picture on the side of the tank for a couple of weeks. and the clowns should host in it.
I know it sounds crazy, but I've actually read about others trying this very thing, with mixed results.

From: Denise
HELP! I've had a beautiful bubble tip for about 2 weeks and I thought that it was dying because it shriveled up and looked like it was dead, the next morning, it was beautiful again, now it looks that way again. Will it look normal again tomorrow? Is this normal? Am I doing something wrong? My PH, salinity, nitrates, etc. are all perfectly normal ranges.
We need some more information on the lighting your using such as the lighting type (power compacts, vho, T5, metal halides?) the intensity and duration. What's the tank temperature at? Are you feeding your anemone every couple of days? It is very beneficial to give them small pieces of silversides, fresh seafood meaty pieces, etc. The contracting is often seen after a meal and maybe when they are unhappy with their surroundings or water quality. Do keep them well fed and hopefully you have adequate lighting for your anemone. If not, please consider returning it to the store.

From: TammiKatt
Denise - I have gone through the same thing. I thought Bubbles was a goner, and my husband found out that they shrink up like that when they are eliminating waste. I checked with my LFS, because they had one that was looking the same way. It can do it at intervals, typically, once a day. Mine did it twice in one day.

My oscellaris still hasn't formed a relationship with my BTA, either, and it's been two weeks. It could be that my Nemo was tank raised and doesn't know what an anemone is for. Or just a preference thing, or requires more time.

From: Shane
This sounds crazy but my roomate and I wanted to see what corals would look like under a blacklight so I turned of all the lights and my ocellaris clowns started hosting my green BTA. I have only had it for a week and the experience lasted ten minutes. After it hosted I turned the moon lights on and then when the clown lost interest I repeated the process and it went right back to hosting. This is just my crazy experience.

From: Edwin
I've had my bubble tip now for 12 months and it has cloned and both grown quite large. They shrink away at night after the lights are turned off and then bloom again after an hour or so in the morning. It took the oscellaris several weeks before pairing with the BTA and only the female. It now seems to "sleep" at night within the BTA wriggling away. I feed the BTA every second day with fresh cut up clam about the size of small grape and they all are doing well.
Thanks for the comment Edwin. You should get good growth rates out of your Bubble Tips since you're actively feeding them. Many do not feed them which is unfortunate. Tiny pieces of chopped up silversides is good to give them too. Mine love it.

From: Haus
Like a lot of soft corals, bubble tips will retract in the off light hours. I have lost a couple of them from my percula clown literally taking the fresh food off them then doing a half-assed job of re-feeding it to my bubble anenome. So watch your clown after feedings.

Clownfish Profiles
Pink Skunk Clownfish
Amphiprion perideraion
Pink Skunk Clownfish
They are about 4 inches (10 cm) in size as adults and do well in aquariums 30 gallons or larger.
Tomato Clownfish
Amphiprion frenatus
Tomato Clownfish
Getting to about 5 inches (13 cm) as adults these clowns are really hardy and are good choices for first time clownfish keepers.