Will Clownfish Host Tube Anemone? (Video Included)

When I went to the pet shop to prepare my saltwater tank, I immediately asked myself whether or not clownfish can host in tube anemones. Since I had bad luck in choosing the right host before, I wanted to pick the next one carefully. Besides asking the owner, I started researching the whole topic extensively.  

Clownfish will not host tube anemones since their tentacles are too adhesive for the fish to handle. Weak clownfish could be caught inside the tube anemone, not being able to escape. For an adequate symbiosis, choosing different kinds of anemones, such as Bubble-Tip and Sebae, would be the better choice. 

As we move forward, I will share with you a useful guide on how to make a clownfish host the right anemone. Also, I will elaborate on the tube anemone’s caring requirements in case you’ve already bought it. Even though it won’t host clownfish, the two could live together in the same tank. 

Do Clownfish Host Tube Anemone?

Clownfish and anemone have evolved to live symbiotically. The anemone provides a safe habitat for the clownfish. It uses its tentacles to sting any creatures that might want to harm the fish or its young. In return, the clownfish protects the anemone from those sea creatures that can hurt it.

However, anemones and clownfish come in a multitude of types and species. You shouldn’t expect every clownfish to get along with every anemone. If you consult a professional in the field, they will tell you that every clownfish has a particular type of anemone (or group of anemones) that it can host.

That also means that each clownfish has anemones it cannot host. With tube anemones, things are very straightforward. While it is a beautiful creature, famous in nano tanks because of its size, the tube anemone will not host clownfish.

The type of clownfish does not matter. Tube anemones have no interest in housing clownfish of any kind. For that matter, if you have a tube anemone in your clownfish tank, you will notice that your clownfish generally avoid it. They know that they are not wanted. Keep that in mind before attempting to force your clownfish to host your tube anemone.

It isn’t a question of the clownfish being shy or ignorant of the anemone or what it has to offer. The creatures are simply incompatible with one another. For that reason, you are advised against forcing your clownfish to host your tube anemone. You are better off accepting that the tube anemone is not meant to host clownfish.

The main issue with the tube anemone is its stickiness. Its tentacles are covered with an adhesive layer that doesn’t allow your clownfish to host in. Clownfish typically use a membranous layer on their skin to avoid that issue. However, it is quite challenging to implement with that particular anemone subtype.

Tube anemones rely on that particular stickiness to catch food. That is how the creatures get their nutrients in the wild. Since they are not photosynthetic, their tentacles have to be sticky. That is how they survive in the wild.

If you wish to grow clownfish, I suggest that you use a different kind of host. My first recommendation to you is the Bubble Tip anemone. This one has been known to host a wide range of clownfish without any issues. Another reasonable option would be the known Sebae (leathery) anemone.

However, before making a purchase, I highly suggest that you read an article I wrote on how to make clownfish host anemone. I mentioned there seven easy steps (including a useful video), to increase the chances for symbiosis. Keep in mind that choosing the right anemone doesn’t mean that your job, as a fish owner, is done. 

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Tube Anemones – What Should You Know?

Even though they have a relatively negative reputation in some circles, tube anemones are fascinating creatures. Officially known as ‘Cerianthus Membranaceus’, they are colorful, commonly sought after for their aesthetic value. You have probably seen a few of them in display aquariums. 

They are hardier than some anemones, capable of contending with variations in the temperature and lighting. Their size sets them apart. They can reach 8 inches in diameter. However, that does not include their tentacles, which can extend up to 12 inches. 

They use these tentacles to reach past the surface of the sand or mud, catching unsuspecting prey off guard. They are difficult to forget because they do not look like other anemones. Their bodies are not only cylindrical but long and soft. Some people have even compared them to worms.

The tentacles are found on a crown at the top of their bodies. They do not retract. The foot, which is pointed, is located on the opposite end. They use it to dig their way into the substrate. When you see them, you will notice that the oral disk and tentacles are the only parts of their body that are visible. 

They are called tube anemones because of the hard tube they construct within the substrate. This is where they live. The tube has a fibrous structure. It consists of special threads with stinging cells that play a defensive role. 

While the oral disc and tentacles are typically visible above the substrate, the creature can pull its entire body back into the tube if it senses danger. 

Origins

Tube anemones have an affinity for subtropical waters. You can find them in numerous places, including Papua New Guinea, Spain, and the Mediterranean Sea. Known as the ‘Colored Tube Anemone’, ‘Giant Cerianthus of the Sand’, and the ‘Burrowing Sea Anemone’, to mention but a few, it frequents waters with a dense concentration of plankton. 

Appearance and Biology

As was mentioned above, the tube anemone can reach 8 inches in diameter, with tentacles extending to 12 inches. Some tube anemones can live for more than a hundred years. Others have lives spanning several decades. But no one knows for sure how long they live, especially in the tank.

If you are wondering why tube anemones cannot host clownfish, you should know that tube anemones are not real anemones. They look like anemones, but at their core, they are not the same species. And you can tell once you start investigating their biology.

First of all, they have two sets of tentacles that vary from one another. When you look at the creatures, you will notice long tentacles ringing the outer edge of the oral disk. If you investigate further, you will observe a set of short arms around the mouth.

You don’t see this in other anemones. The two sets of tentacles serve different functions, while the short limbs do most of the work. The anemone uses them to capture prey. However, they also play a defensive role. 

The short tentacles are concerned with ingestion. Depending on the type of tube anemone you have, these short tentacles might be bioluminescent. This feature in some tube anemones is supposed to protect the long tentacles by startling any fish that might want to attack them. 

The differences don’t stop here. You will also find that, unlike true anemones, tube anemones do not have a pedal disk or sphincter muscles. Real anemones use this musculature to attach themselves to a base of sorts in the aquarium.[1]

Tube anemones cannot do this, further emphasizing their distinct nature. As was mentioned above, they have a foot (a blunt point) rather than a pedal disk. Don’t expect them to contract their oral disk. They can’t even retract their tentacles, which is a common attribute of real anemones. Tube anemones don’t even possess zooxanthellae.

The more you investigate them, the easier it becomes to appreciate differences in their interior and exterior. Once you realize that tube anemones are not real anemones, you will find that it is much easier to accept their inability to host clownfish.

Care

Where their care is concerned, tube anemones tend to present moderate difficulty. They are not the best option for beginners. If you are tending to your very first aquarium, you should leave the creatures in the hands of a more experienced aquarist. 

They also need plenty of space. Each tube anemone requires a tank of at least 50 gallons. Their water should be kept at a temperature ranging between 59 degrees F and 72 degrees F.[2]

They also enjoy meat. As such, they might not thrive in tanks with fish that have similar tastes. Because of their mobility issues, they cannot compete with other fish for food. But if the aquarium is large enough and you give them the proper attention during meal times, they should be fine.

You can feed tube anemones meat that has been fined minced. That includes fish, krill, and Mysis shrimp. Because they are nocturnal, you need to feed them at night. Be sure to cut their food into the most delicate pieces possible. Large pieces can cause harm to their tentacles. 

Choosing Tube Anemones

While they are moderately difficult to care for, you can simplify your experience with tube anemones by ensuring that you only add the best creatures the species has to offer. That mainly means keeping a close eye on their color.

You can always determine the health of a tube anemone by looking at its appearance. If it features intense colors, the anemone is probably healthy. On the other hand, you should avoid pale anemones that could be sick or malnourished. 

The mouth is another significant indicator. If it is gaping open, the anemone is probably not in the best condition. You should also look for tears, particularly a missing tube. The absence of one will complicate your situation. It will grow again, but the process could severely weaken the anemone. 

Temperament

Because they are not true anemones, the sting of a tube anemone isn’t that powerful. That being said, they are somewhat aggressive. They are a danger to corals, which is why you should keep your corals away from them. This is why tube anemones need a large tank.

You shouldn’t permit their tentacles to touch the delicate corals in the aquarium. For that matter, tube anemones are unlikely to coexist with different species of anemones, though they can live with their own kind. 

Tube anemones do not host clownfish. However, even though some people have claimed otherwise, they are unlikely to eat them. A tube anemone is only a threat to a clownfish that is weak and sick. Otherwise, you can keep both creatures in the same tank if you have no choice.

In the wild, tube anemones associate with various crustaceans and worms. Some of these species live in their tubes. If you have a tube anemone in your tank, it will coexist with small shrimp and hermit crabs. 

If your tank is smaller than advised, then you are discouraged from keeping tube anemones with clownfish, triggerfish, angelfish, and the like. Again, the tube anemone is unlikely to harm and eat the clownfish. Its sting is too weak. But either creature could make life difficult for the other. 

You are better off adding an anemone that the clownfish can host. Though, the tube anemone has such gorgeous colors that you might be tempted to add it to the tank solely for its aesthetic advantage.

Conclusions

Tube anemones won’t host clownfish. That is because they are not true anemones, and their tentacles are too sticky for the clownfish to handle. Sick or weak clownfish could be caught inside, losing the fight quite quickly. If you wish to grow both species, you first got to ensure each one receives its ideal conditions. 

The two species should be healthy so that they won’t survive on the expanse of the other. In case you notice a sick clownfish in the tank, take it out immediately. It will probably not survive its next encounter with the tube anemone.

I hope my article had answered your questions. If you have any new insights or hesitations, feel free to contact me in person. I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. In the meanwhile, I wish you the very best in raising these beautiful creatures.

References

  1. https://reefs.com/magazine/aquarium-invertebrates-tube-anemones/
  2. https://animal-world.com/Aquarium-Coral-Reefs/Tube-Anemone

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