Reef Central Online Community

Home Forum Here you can view your subscribed threads, work with private messages and edit your profile and preferences View New Posts View Today's Posts

Find other members Frequently Asked Questions Search Reefkeeping online magazine for marine aquarists Support our sponsors and mention Reef Central

Go Back   Reef Central Online Community > Marine Fish Forums > Anemones & Clownfish
Register Blogs FAQ Calendar Mark Forums Read


User Tag List

Thread Tools
Old 03/31/2016, 07:22 AM   #1
Registered Member
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 385
Bubble Tip Anemone Care

There seems to be an uptick in people struggling with BTA (Bubble Tip Anemone) health and care recently so I figured I would give a crack at some basics I have learned caring for my own, others and for those when I was in the retail end.

Part 1: Deciding if your ready for a BTA

Common practice is to say a tank should be set up for 6 months before adding an anemone. This is an arbitrary number and is of little importance. This suggestion is based on the principle that most aquarists will have a good grasp on what is going on in their aquarium, and that their tank will have stabilized, at this point. However, this is not always true. I will attempt to post here the most important aspects, with a brief explanation of importance, next in a checklist form.

1) Stable water chemistry - Salinity, calcium, alkalinity, magnesium and nitrate will be the most important tests that need consistent reading for over a month to feel confident your tank is ready for a BTA. While BTA do not readily take up alk, calc and mag, they do pull in and flush water several times a day to maintain shape and movement using hydrostatic pressure and therefore have a special relationship with water. Alkalinity is a measure of buffering capacity which refers to your waters ability to resist changes in pH at a certain pH. A particular pH is not important so much as swings in pH are. pH fluctuations cause a change in the gradient across the nems membrane and can stress the anemone, and make it tough for it to adapt to it's new conditions. Calc and Mag are important for maintaining alk and are important by association. Salinity is important again because of the anemones special relationship with its environment. 1.023-1.026 SG seems to be suitable but make sure you are not getting a fluctuation, test your water change water to avoid swings and make sure you are on top of your top off to avoid a spike.
Quick reference for ranges/swings (keep in mind you don't want your swings outside of the range)
Alk: 7-12 with swings no larger than + or - .5 (I like the 8-9 range best)
Calc: 380-460 swings + or - 20 (Keep in line with alk, if on the low end of alk go low end of calc)
Mag: 1250-1400 swings + or - 50 (I like to go high with mag because I don't test it as often just needs to stay above 1250)
Specific Gravity: 1.023-1.026 avoid using a hydrometer as they are inaccurate and a gradual rise by 0.001 is acceptable but not advised
Nitrate: 0-5ppm I have seen them survive much higher but when you get above 10ppm you see coral start to struggle and algae show up which tends to make people go about making drastic changes in the tank which can be rough on a nem.
Nitrite/Ammonia: If you have these in a tank there should be no livestock in your tank period.
Temp: 76-78 F is best, will go into later

Good link for explanation/guide:

2) Lighting - I tend to find that BTA prefer moderate lighting which is to say that 80-120 par range similar to what LPS like. Going higher than this is easier than lower as if higher the nem will move lower in the tank or slightly into the shade. In my opinion BTA do better under T5 with 4 bulbs across being the minimum on tanks 12" wide or less and 6 on tanks 12"-24" wide. BTA do fine under LED and I would definitely recommend a quality fixture that does a good job of spreading par and does not shift over time. Kessils seem to be best at this, but are not the only acceptable LED. I would avoid "offbrand" fixtures as they tend to use low quality LEDs that do not keep consistent par over time and they attempt force spread by adding extra bulbs and increasing the distance between them. 30W of quality LEDs per 20 gallons is pretty arbitrary but is about as good a measuring stick as I can provide. Blasting a tank with LEDs is a good way to bleach BTA which will cause all sorts of issues.

3) Flow - BTA tend to not like flow pointed directly at them, but do like to be able to reach their tentacles into it during the day time. I recommend trying to create a current of some sort in the tank whether by doing this with a circular water motion or by the use of wavemakers. Moderate to High flow is best but make sure the nem can dig it's foot into a crevice that is in low flow.

4) Filtration - The better skimmer/refugium/sump you have going the easier the tank will be to maintain. The less that you have to fool with the tank the more stable it is. The more stable your tank is the better your nem will do.

Part 2: Adding a BTA

Buy a healthy specimen from a local vendor/hobbyist that has healthy tanks. Avoid nems that look translucent or that have bubbles without protruding points/tips.

Drip acclimation is best.

Placement is important. The nem will prefer to have its foot in a crevice that has low flow, but it will also want the ability to stretch the oral disc into the light and the tentacles into the current. Turn off the flow in your tank and hold the nem in place gently until you feel as though it has taken a slight grasp to the crevice. Leave the pumps off for as long as it takes for it to completely set its foot. I like to add nems while the lights first come on that way it can attempt to orient itself in the tank before the lights go off. I tend to find that if they move it is usually within the first 8 hours and if they are going to do this I would like to make sure it is somewhere that gets light. I would also recommend only running actinics for the whole day so that it can acclimate to the lighting it is under.

Part 3: Monitoring the nems health

With proper lighting there is no reason to feed a BTA. If you want to feed to get extra growth wait until it has been healthy and established for at least one month. Nems have a one way digestive tract and feeding can be stressful for the nem if it is not 100% healthy. Always feed clean, quality food and sparingly when feeding.

If your BTA starts to lose its tips, turn brown, turn white, or has faded color this is a sign of it losing its symbiotic zooaxnthelle. Anemones will start to consume their tentacles when they lose the zooaxnthelle as a way to make up for the energy production lost, and the color loss is simply the loss of the zooaxnthelle. Some people have had success with supplementing this loss with food to help the nem recover BUT this is NOT recommended for someone new to caring for BTA. Knowing when it is the right time to do it and when it is not is tricky, and you are more likely to hurt than help. The best thing to do is correct whatever caused the issue and let the nem recover on its own as BTA are extremely resilient.

Troubleshooting BTA issues:

1) If browning, bleaching or losing tips on the bulbs/length of tentacles:
-Most commonly observed culprit is heat. Glass heaters breakdown and get to a point where they wont shut off. The built in probes on titanium heaters are unreliable and external probes can fall out of calibration. For $4 at PetCo you can get a glass thermometer you can stick in your pump to keep your heater honest. Temp swings of greater than + or - 2 can also be an issue especially during summer and winter on tank against external walls.
I tend to find the zooaxnthelle in BTA seems to struggle most when temps begin to rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I will try to post the study later that I found suggesting that different colored BTA have different temperature limits, but I have found that tolerances do tend vary from one specimen to the next. Long story short, temp effects zooaxnthelle which causes the BTA to lose energy causing self consumption.
-Salinity and pH swings seem to be the other main causes of this. Zooaxnthelle are simple, single-celled organisms and their membranes are prone to lyse (burst causing cell death) and typically when I have seen this issue the nem tends to spew brown first (the dead cells)
-Too much or too little light can also be the issue, as with the above water parameter issues you would hope to have this in line before adding the nem.

2) If inflating and deflating or consistently deflated with slime in mouth:
-Often times this is normal nem behavior and everything goes out the way it comes in. If the nem does this for a short period of time, or consistently at a similar time like before lights out, and then goes back to a normal state of health then leave it be as it is fine.
-If the waste seems stuck to the nem and it stays deflated for hours at a time, then it is likely may not be receiving enough flow. Adequate flow allows for the waste to be swept away and allows for fresh water for the nem to take in. Solution is to simply increase the amount of flow that blows over the nems oral disc. If it seems like a one time deal, a light blow off from a turkey baster should do the trick..

3) If constantly deflated, mouth is gaping and white spindles (guts) are visible for extended amount of time:
-The nem is in a bad way and could have infection. Some have successfully treated with cipro, but likely the best thing you can do by that point is maintain the tank as best you can, look for the source of what stressed the nem (Parameters, light, heat, flow) and address them. Keep an eye on the nem to pull if it dies so as not to sour your tank and perhaps wet skim and add carbon as a precaution.

4) BTA is constantly moving:
-The nem is simply not happy with it's environment. If recently added it may just not have found a place to settle yet. If it has been a week or so it is likely not happy with either flow or lighting. If it persists and all other factors can be eliminated:
A) You got unlucky and got a mover, some just do this more than others. These can be identified by how they move, they appear to "walk" and "climb" around the tank.
B) Some parameter is off and it is unhappy, these will "walk" and "climb" but will go into places they shouldn't such as the dark spots and back reaches of the tank. These will also typically detach and float around, and they will also seem to move at random or in burst where the first type almost appears to be moving with purpose

***Covers on your powerheads can save your nem, your tank and your mental health***

Part 4: Asking for help

When asking for help it is incredibly useful to:

+Post a pic of the nem and the whole tank
+List Nitrate, SG, Temp, Calc, Alk and Mag and to note any changes in these
+Only list pH tested in your house and with multiple tests preferably in 6 hour intervals, catching both light and dark periods. This is tough, it is often best to ignore pH and instead detail out your alk testing and dosing schedule
+Note any significant changes to your maintenance in the 2 weeks leading up to the decline in the nems health.
+Describe your setup/equipment

The more info we have the more we can help!

Anemones take water in to their tissue often and rapidly toxins in the water column will hit them quickly. Always use RO/DI water as impurities such as metals can be found in tap, well and spring water. Also be wary of chemicals such as cleaners being used around the tank especially ones with fumes near a protein skimmer.

Last edited by mcfa2403; 03/31/2016 at 07:28 AM.
mcfa2403 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03/31/2016, 07:12 PM   #2
Registered Member
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 110
Good post. I recently added an anemone that never stopped moving. I never identified the problem and it eventually got sucked into a powerhead which was covered. I'll give my tank a break from anemones for a bit and try again, maybe it was just a mover.

Ryan1190 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01/27/2017, 12:13 PM   #3
Registered Member
DrJamesDaddy's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Kingsley, Michigan
Posts: 52
Awesome post. Really cleared up some questions I had. Thank you!

DrJamesDaddy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01/30/2017, 10:57 AM   #4
Registered Member
crankbait09's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 875
I am one of the reef keepers that have VERY high nitrates. I have had the tank up and running for over a year now, and the nitrates have been the same level forever. I am around 50-75ppm. It's a constant struggle. but why is another story...........

the only parameter that worries me with a nem are the nitrates. everything else i have going is fine.

are all nems sensitive to high nitrates?

130g DT, 40g sump, 20g QT
(1) Percula Clown, (2) Firefish, (2) PJ Cardinals, (1) Banggai Cardinal, (1) Yellow Coris Wrasse, (1) Tomini Tang, (1) Orange Prawn Goby, (1) RBTA
(Mixed reef)
crankbait09 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11/12/2018, 03:47 PM   #5
Registered Member
bernster52's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 10
Great post and read, I just added a green bubble tip anemone that I purchased from my LFS that i've been going to for years. My tank is 130 gallons and has been set up for just over 1 year. All my fish and all my LPS corals are doing great and just blooming and growing like crazy so I thought it was time for an anemone. Tank is 48X24X24 the anemone I bought is a beautiful animal and I bought him with the rock he's been on at the store for over 3 weeks. I placed i'm 4 days ago in the bottom left corner just under my 2 clown fish that I hope they will host.
Anyways it appears to love so far the location because he hasn't moved and is opened up beautifully with awesome bubble tips. I hope to provide pictures, a side note for lighting i've got 2 Kessils and I highly believe the reason i'm doing so well with all my LPS corals is because of the Kessils. Thanks again for the post and I hope this will lead me to a Happy Green Bubble tip anemone for a long time.

bernster52 is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:48 PM.

TapaTalk Enabled

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Powered by Searchlight © 2019 Axivo Inc.
Use of this web site is subject to the terms and conditions described in the user agreement.
Reef CentralTM Reef Central, LLC. Copyright 1999-2014
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.3.0 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.