Though the clown fishes are generally a hardy lot, the anemones with which they associate in the wild are not. Some experienced aquarists have come to believe that most Pacific anemones are more difficult to maintain than even the sensitive small-polyped stony corals. Most aquarists should choose between Entacmaea quadricolor and Macrodactyla doreensis and leave the others to the experts. (Many species of clownfish will bond with anemones other than their native favorites if they have no other choice in the aquarium.) This list encompasses the more common species seen in the aquarium trade.
Entacmaea quadricolor (Bulb, Bubble Tip, Maroon, or Rose Anemone): Tentacles inflated at tips, with white band and pink tip (usually). Attaches to hard surface. In nature, this anemone hosts Maroon and Bluestripe Clownfishes. In the aquarium, it will also host Tomato and Clark's Clownfishes.
Macrodactyla doreensis (Long Tentacle Anemone, LTA): Column always red or salmon pink, with verrucae underneath oral disk. Buries column in substrate. Natural sym-bionts are Clark's and Pink Skunk Clownfishes. In the aquarium, it is often accepted by Maroon, Bluestripe, and Tomato Clownfishes as well. EXPERT CARE REQUIRED:
Heteractis crispa (Leathery Anemone): Column tough, leathery and buried in substrate. Tentacles long and pointed, often purple. Hosts the Clark's, Bluestripe, True Percula, Pink Skunk, and Saddleback Clownfishes.
Heteractis aurora (Beaded Anemone, Aurora Anemone): Buries column in substrate. Tentacles with raised, white ridges. Only common aquarium clown hosted is Clark's.
Heteractis malu (Sebae Anemone, Singapore Se-bae): Column and oral a disk uniform pale color, with stubby tentacles usually tipped in magenta. Hosts only Clark's Clownfish in nature; may host Tomato and Bluestripe Clowns in the aquarium.
Heteractis magnifica (Magnificent Anemone, Rit-teri Anemone, Red Radianthus Anemone): Attaches to hard surfaces in good current and bright light; may wander if not happy. Column smooth, often colorful; tentacles always slightly inflated, with yellow or white pigment at tips. Hosts Clark's, Bluestripe, Ocellaris ("Percula"), True Percula, and Pink Skunk Clownfishes.
Stichodactyla gigantea (Giant Carpet Anemone): Tentacles longer than other carpet anemones and slightly pointed at tips. May be green, yellow-brown, blue, turquoise, or purple in color. Hosts Clark's, Ocellaris, and True Percula Clownfishes.
Stichodactyla haddoni (Haddon's Carpet, Saddle Carpet Anemone): Tentacles almost always two colors, imparting a mottled appearance. Hosts Saddleback and Clark's Clownfishes.
Stichodactyla mertensii (Merten's Carpet, Sri
Lanka Carpet) Tentacles stubby, knoblike, uniform brown or occasionally bright green in color. Hosts Clark's and Ocellaris Clownfishes.
Chapter Eight 209
sisted of dead coral skeletons. It was typical for a fish-only tank of its day. Water changes were performed monthly, but nothing special was done in the way of husbandry for the anemone. The owner of the tank preferred to clean the coral skeletons each time he did a water change. As a result, algae was held to a minimum and nutrients were thus exported from the system. Perhaps that was important to the longevity of this specimen. Other aquarists of my acquaintance have not had such good luck with H. malu,
H. magnified is in particular known for its habit of wandering all over the aquarium, often being killed or damaged when sucked into a powerhead or filter intake. It appears that the availability of light, planktonic food, and water movement are important to this species. The fact that it is often beautifully colored, that the most popular clownfish species, A. ocellaris, prefers this host, and that it is more commonly available than the other hosts for this clown, may explain why many aquarists are tempted to buy this species despite its reputation.
The carpet anemones pose other husbandry problems for the aquarist. Only S. mertensii is found on tlie reef proper, while S. haddoni and S1 gigantea occur in sandy, shallow-water habitats. All three species require intense lighting, as can be noted torn the presence of brightly colored pigments in many specimens. Insufficient light may be one reason for aquarium difficulties. Attention should also be paid to the nature of the substrate preferred by the anemone. S. haddoni and S. gigantea prefer clean sand, deep enough to allow the anemone to retract completely into the substrate when disturbed. The latter species is often found in water so shallow that the anemone is exposed at low tide, while the former prefers deeper water. S. mertensii lives on hard surfaces on the reef slope. Also living buried in soft sediment are Heteractis auroray H. malu and H. crispa, although the latter may also be found with the pedal disk attached to branching coral on the outer reef. The other two species are found in shallow, quiet waters. H. magnifica is always found attached to a solid ob ject in a fully exposed position, such as atop a coral head. Its requirements or light, oxygen, and turbulence are similar to those of SPS corals.
Another problem that may affect all stichodactylid anemones in the aquarium may be incompatibility with other species of cnidarians because of nettling. I have found, for example, that H. magnified will not survive long in a typical reef aquarium containing an assortment of other cnidarians, despite conditions otherwise appropriate for its survival. Other aquarists report similar experiences. It is my tentative conclusion that aquarium hobbyists should 1) attempt to keep the stichodactylid anemones in a tank
Skunk Clownfish with Magnificent Sea Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)
210 Natural Reef Aquariums devoted solely to them and their clownfish symbionts, and At metamorphosis, a juvenile anemonefish must locate and
2) avoid these anemones until experience in maintaining successfully join an established family of its own species al-
other species with exacting requirements, such as SPS ready in residence in a suitable host anemone. As if this were corals, is attained. not a sufficient challenge for a fish less than 1 inch in length,
THE CLOWNFISHES. No other family has held such fas- the chosen anemone is sure to be the territory of a breed-
cination for aquarists, divers and biologists alike as has the ing pair of anemonefishes. The resident adult male fish will anemonefish, or clownfish, family. Anemonefishes are from drive off new arrivals that do not meet his criteria for adop-
the Pomacentridae (damselfish) family, but they are dam- tion. Assuming the newcomer is accepted, he may yet never selfishes that have evolved the unique habit of living in as- have the opportunity to fulfill his biological destiny. The res-
sociation with large sea anemones. An inkling as to how this ident pair will consist of a large female and a much smaller relationship may have developed can be seen in the behav- male. He will nevertheless be larger than the juvenile males ior of juvenile Dascyllus damselfishes, which also associate that constitute the remainder of the clan. The pair may live with anemones, but later, as adults, defend a territory con- to be over ten years old, and will, during that time, produce sisting of a coral head. Adult anemonefishes are rarely found thousands of offspring, only a tiny fraction of which will survive to maturity. Recruitment of unrelated juveniles in-
more than 3 feet from their host anemone.
This unique dependence upon a scarce resource, giant sures that gene flow occurs among various pairs of fishes sea anemones, has resulted in an equally unique way of cop- within a given area.
ing with the problems of reproducing the species while
When the breeding female anemonefish dies, her for-
avoiding inbreeding. All anemonefishes start life as males. mer mate rapidly develops into a functional female, and
Sex in these fishes is not genetically predetermined. Soon one of the juvenile males now takes the role of adult breed-
after hatching, the larval fishes spend a period of time drift- ing male. This arrangement guarantees that an anemone, ing with plankton, feeding upon other, smaller organisms. once occupied, will never lack a source of eggs for contin-
Clark's Clowns with Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla sp.)
Was this article helpful?
Who Else Wants To Learn The Secret Tactics For Setting Up And Maintaining A Solid Aquarium Set At Home And Get The Most Exciting Information About Aquarium Fish Care In A Decade. You're about to discover the most comprehensive report on aquarium and fish care you will ever read on the internet in the next five minutes.