Re:anenomies and seahorses

Pete Giwojna

Dear ecosse:

Anemones can be challenging to keep in a small, closed-system aquarium. Providing optimum water quality and adequate lighting are vital factors for keeping anemones successfully. The bodies of the anemones and 99% water and they don’t tolerate even trace amounts of ammonia or nitrite. They are similar to live corals in their lack of tolerance for nitrates as well.

So if you are quite certain that your water quality is first rate, then I suspect that the anemones are not receiving proper lighting in your 55-gallon or. I would recommend using nothing less than power compact lights that include a combination of actinic and fluorescent bulbs, at least on the anemone/clownfish side of the aquarium. They anemones get most of their food from the symbiotic algae (zooanthellae) in their tissues, and without adequate lighting, they will dwindle and waste away in the aquarium.

Of course, not all anemones are created equal, and some of them are much more difficult to keep in an aquarium than others. In your case, I would avoid most of the large carpet anemones and the specimens that are known as "sebae anemones," in the pet trade. As their name suggests, these anemones make great host for clownfish of all kinds but they are extremely difficult to keep alive in the aquarium.

Stichodactyla haddoni, commonly known as the Saddle Carpet, saddleback anemone, or Haddoni anemone, is one of the few carpet anemones that is relatively tolerant of marginal water conditions and often does well in closed system aquariums. That’s the specimen I would suggest that you try for your clowns. There is a good article by Phil Henderson available online titled "Choosing Your Next Anemone" that explains why this is a particularly good anemone to try, and which also lists other anemones that are suitable for the aquarium are which should be avoided at all costs. You can look it up and read it online at the following URL: cobalt

Anemones also require supplemental feedings a few times a week. They should be offered meaty foods rather than vegetable-based products. Frozen Mysis or raw shrimp is a good choice for feeding the anemones, and simulates the sort of plankton they may catch in the wild, whereas silversides can supplement their diet from time to time and take the place of the small fish they would occasionally capture in the ocean.

You would also find the book "Host Sea Anemone Secrets" by Ron Shimek to be especially helpful in this sort of situation, so be sure to check out a copy as soon as possible.

If you find that you just don’t have good luck with anemones in this particular system, then I would suggest trying a different host for your clownfish instead. For example, clowns will often accept Sarcophyton leather corals as their hosts, and the toadstool leather corals are every bit as showy and attractive as any anemone, with the added benefit of being much easier to keep in the aquarium. Here’s an online article that discusses the relationship between leather corals and clownfish in more detail:

Incidentally, I would also suggest gradually lowering the water temperature in your aquarium for the sake of the seahorses. In my experience, most seahorses will begin to experience heat stress when the water temperature approaches 80°F, and for this reason they often do best with a stable water temperature of about 75°F.

Best wishes with all your fishes, ecosse! Here’s hoping you can find a colorful symbiont for your clownfish that thrives in your aquarium and keeps the clowns very happy.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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