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Anemone Success
Doing what it takes to keep Anemones healthy long-term

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

E. quadricolor colony health 10/13/11
First off, thanks for all the work you do!
Background: I have a 40g Breeder with roughly 30-40 Rose Bubble Anemones.
<A bunch!>
Tank is well established and been running for quite some time. There are no other Cnidarian inhabitants, only RBTA'S.
Lighting consists of two 70watt 14k HQI's and three 6500k 24'' HO T-5's.
Filtration consists of 30ish lbs live rock, HOB skimmer and two maxi-jet driven sponge filters. Tank is heated to 80-82F with a heater that is covered with plastic mesh in order to prevent any anemone burns.
Additionally all pumps are securely covered, essentially tank is anemone proof.
Water parameters:
SG = 1.026
pH = 8.3 (drops to 8.2 at night)
Ammonia and Nitrite zero. Nitrate less than 5ppm.
I do a 15% water change weekly, make myself using Distilled water and Tropic Marin salt mix. Water is mixed, heated and aerated for 48 hours prior to water change. Anemones are fed 2-3x weekly, usually with frozen Mysid shrimp (thawed and rinsed), although recently I have been feeding Tubifex worms, silversides and prawn eggs. Only tank inhabitants are a pair of Black Ocellaris and a male mandarin (added 5 days ago, CB and readily eating frozen and pellet food).
Now the problem:
Several days ago I noticed 2 or 3 anemones deflating, and at least one of those anemones has continued to stay fairly contracted with its mouth wide open. Initially it seemed to coincide with feeding. My concern is that one or two of the anemones may have an infection and could spread it to the rest of the colony.
<Mmm, not an infection>

Now, I had fed all the anemones frozen prawn eggs that had been in my freezer for quite some time. And I did view almost all the anemones contracting and defecating, however they seemed to return to normal size rapidly. It "seems" to me that as a whole the colony is contracting and expanding more than usual,, though it is really most apparent in one or two individuals. Is it possible I could have fed the anemones bad food = bacterial infection?

Additionally I did for the first time in a while run carbon in the tank for a few days abut a week ago, is it possible that the anemones may be light shocked somewhat due to increased clarity of the water?
<Guess again>
Could the slime from the mandarin in anyway be annoying the anemones?
I am fairly experienced, but a bit stumped here. I am inclined to believe I may have a few sick anemones as the whole population seems to be doing fine, which in my mind rules out environmental conditions.
<Ah no>
Is it likely/possible one or two of the anemones may be just having a difficult time expelling the waste, and thus could be expanding/contracting more than usual for a few days? And should I remove the individuals in question to remove any chance of pathogen spread? Or should I just leave things be?
<More water changes, selling/moving/trading out some of this stock>
I apologize for the length of the email, and thanks in advance for the question.
<Fine except for the premature assertions>
I look forward to hearing from you.
<Bob Fenner>
Re: E. quadricolor colony health 10/14/11

Mr. Fenner! Thank you so much for replying to me, I greatly appreciate it.
<Welcome Colby>
As per your suggestion I will be setting up more tanks to move some out of the 40 breeder. Aside from that can you think of any reasons I may be seeing/perceiving a decline in a few of the specimens while all others are thriving?
<I do think this is some sort of "negative feedback loop" result... part of "a natural plan" (to put it teleologically) for "moving out" life once it becomes too concentrated>
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: E. quadricolor colony health 10/26/11

Hi again, follow up on my anemones. They undoubtedly have a bacterial infection,
I have lost several of them and several more have fallen ill. Do you have any additional suggestions? Any medications to try in a QT tank etc?
<Medications on/for Actinarians? No. Have seen iodide/ate used, restoration of adequate water chemistry make-up... BobF>
Thanks again for all your help!

Injured Anemone, Will it survive? E. quadricolor -- 1/18/08 Hi WWM crew and thanks for several years of good advice for weird situations. <Hello Tracy, Brenda here, and you are welcome!> I have another question for you. <Okay!> Context - 7 yr old stable 150gal reef w/ 10,000K MH lighting and no real problems for a long time. Blennies, gobies, clown, mushrooms, a few SPS, yellow polyp forest, pulsing xenia that reproduce so madly they pay half my maintenance costs. <A lot of mushrooms?> Crisis - My rose BTA (favorite thing in the whole tank, had it 18 months, grew ~10x in size in that time, skunk clown lives in it) had some sort of horrible, unexplained accident yesterday. I found it in the overflow box with a piece (~15%) torn off. <The anemone was not happy. It was looking for a better place.> The mouth appears badly damaged, the pedicle is fine, and tentacles are fine. The small piece is really small, has only 5-10 tentacles on it & is mostly a blown up balloon. I put both pieces in my refugium, assuming it was going to die quickly but wanting to give it a chance. <Many anemones survive this type of injury, including going through powerheads. Protect all of your intakes. The recovery process will depend greatly on the health of the anemone before its injury. I do recommend a water change if you haven't already.> Well, this morning, all the tentacles are out and beautiful. The damage is still very severe, but neither piece is dying quickly. <I'm not surprised.> I am wondering where and how (if?) to try to rehabilitate it. <Provide it with pristine water parameters and time.> My refugium has only a PCF bulb (can't remember the wattage). I replace it every year, it is bright enough to sustain an insanely thick garden of Caulerpa, but I doubt it's bright enough for an anemone. <No it is not. However, the anemone will be ok for a few days without sufficient light. Moving it again will cause more stress. For now, let us try to figure out why it moved in the first place. Also, keep it away from all pumps in the refugium.> I am obviously very leery of putting a mangled anemone back in the main tank, where crabs & fish will pick on it; it will wander restlessly into some bad situation & die in a corner where I can't find it, etc. <What are you water parameters, including temperature, salinity, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, calcium and alkalinity? How many watts of metal halide do you have? I also need to know what skimmer and amount of flow you have in the tank. How often do you feed the anemone, what size portions, and what are you feeding?> What would you do with it right now? <Leave the anemone where it is for now and try to figure out the cause of it roaming. Running fresh carbon will also help in the recovery.> Under what circumstances would you feed it or put it back into the main tank? <The anemone is no where near ready to eat. This will take some time, perhaps weeks and will depend on the damage, previous health, and if you can correct the initial problem quickly. You need to wait until the anemone is completely healed before feeding. Trying to feed now will only cause more stress.> A few answers in your archive recommended Reef Dip for injured anemones. Do you think this is important? <No, and it may be more harmful. I don't recommend dips for anemones.> Thanks a lot. Tracy <You're welcome! Brenda>
Re: Injured Anemone, Will it survive? E. quadricolor -- 1/18/08
Hi Brenda & thanks for your reply. <You're welcome!> My anemone had been in the same place, happy, for many months, and growing very fast. I got him in mid-2006 and he was about the size of a quarter, now bigger than my hand. I feed mysis thawed in Selcon, 1 cube/week. <I would feed smaller portions 2 -- 3 times a week. Over feeding can cause stress. It can also cause the anemone to regurgitate several hours later.> Not much has changed in the tank lately. I did recently start adding strontium for some new small SPS corals, about 3 weeks ago. <Are you testing these levels before dosing?> Light: 2x 150w MH, 4x 54w actinics, total watts=529 <Did this anemone typically stay up high in the tank?> Temp usually 77 (chiller) <This is a bit low, try to aim for 80 degrees, without going over 82. Increase temperature slowly.> Sg=1.026 NH3, NO2, NO3=0 KH=8 (constant battle to get higher, but usually 8 no matter what I do) <A dKH of 8 is an acceptable range. I would not go much higher, if any. I would check your magnesium. If you are having trouble maintaining calcium and alkalinity levels, low magnesium may be the cause. An abrupt change in alkalinity will cause stress to anemones. So use caution here!> Ca=450 I actually don't have any intakes or powerheads in the tank, just a fast/powerful main pump with 2 returns in the tank. <No powerheads!!! Yeah!!! You have no idea how seldom I hear that! I am a strong believer in not keeping anemones with powerheads. Congrats to you for not using powerheads!> The anemone must have dived over the top of the overflow box, there's no other way in there! <Anemones can get through very small spaces when flow/suction is involved. I've seen them get sucked into a rather thick sponge filter on a powerhead.> I have ~20 mushrooms. I'm about to sell half of them and 1/3 of my basketball-sized xenia colony. Perhaps this will cut down on some of the chemical warfare that probably stresses the anemone. <Removing some of the mushrooms will help with chemical warfare.> I have carbon and a poly filter running all the time (time to change, about 2 months old). <Yes, carbon is only useful for a few weeks at best.> No skimmer, just a 20gal sump full of Caulerpa and detritivores (pump & turbulence segregated at one end by a screen). <I do recommend you purchase a reputable skimmer. This is one very important piece of equipment for any reef tank.> I'll do a 20% water change tonight and will take any other suggestions you have. How long do you think I can leave it in the refugium before the low light starts to impact its recovery ability? <This is hard to say. Some can go a few weeks or even a few months with inadequate lighting.> I don't want to go overboard with the quarantine and end up doing even more damage. <I understand. I would try giving the anemone 3 or 4 more days and then re-evaluate. Send me an update on it and I will help you decide. If things suddenly worsen during this time, let me know as soon as possible. Keep in mind that when this anemone does go back to the tank, it will need to be acclimated to the light. It may also immediately go into hiding (normal) or roam again so you will need to monitor it. Also, if you can, send me a picture of the anemone. If you are a member of a local reef club, you may be able to find someone willing to let you borrow some PC lighting to put over the sump during this time. You may also want to consider purchasing some back up lighting. Keeping the anemone in its current location as long as possible will help greatly. If you need help finding a local club, let me know. I will find out what is available in your area.> Tracy <Good luck! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you! Brenda>

Re: Injured Anemone, Will it survive? E. Quadricolor -- 1/26/08 Update and need to move? The anemone(s) are looking good. Moving around a bit, staying small, and no necrosis. <Yeah!!!> I have attached pics. It's been a week. The question of course is what to do now. I would like to leave them in the refugium for their whole convalescence if possible, then sell the small one & reintroduce the big one once they can eat. <You would need to buy additional lighting to keep them in there much longer. They are already showing signs of hunger and loss of zooxanthellae. Unless you can provide better lighting in the next 2 -- 3 days, I would move them now.> In the refugium, they sit on the top of a Caulerpa forest just under the water surface. I gave them a glass bowl to sit in but they moved out. Ironically, there is a dreaded powerhead in there; otherwise it stagnates because the screen holes are small to keep in the Caulerpa. This weekend I will move the powerhead to the other side of the screen and just use a hose to get the same flow. The intake is buried deep in Caulerpa so low risk, but not zero risk. I took apart the refugium light to read the label - it's a Coralife 6700k 96 watt PCF bulb, last changed 5/07. They are about 7 inches from the bulbs. In the main tank they were always in the exact middle. How long do you think they can be healthy with that wattage? <I would go ahead and move them now. I would not take a chance on having them deteriorate.> Usually this light stays on 24/7, but I've been giving them a 12hr light/dark cycle like the main tank, do you agree with that? <Yes, no need for a refugium light to be on 24/7.> As for your other questions - I don't have Strontium or Magnesium test kits, and just add Strontium. This is one of those "don't fix what isn't broke" things. I've never tested for those in 7 yrs. <It is a bad practice to dose anything without testing. Since you just recently started dosing Strontium, it may be contributing to the anemone roaming.> If you think high or low levels could be affecting the anemones, I could test, which kits do you recommend for those? <You should be testing Calcium, Alkalinity and Magnesium. If your going to dose Strontium, you need to test it before dosing.> How do I decide when to feed? Give them x number of weeks looking good, then try a few mysis? Wait till I can clearly see nice round mouths in each one? (The little one was mostly mouth, the big one had most of its mouth ripped out). <They don't appear to be badly damage in the picture. I would go ahead and try feeding a very small piece of food (sliver size). If it takes it, I would try another tiny piece the next day. I would also get some window screen and put over your tank for a week or so, to acclimate the anemone to the lighting.> Thanks for ongoing advice. Tracy <You're welcome! Brenda>

Re: Injured Anemone, Will it survive? E. Quadricolor -- 1/28/08 <Hello Tracy, Brenda here!> A few developments: <Okay!> I talked with several guys from the Atlanta Reef Club. They all thought that 96 watts over 17 inches (quad bulb) should be fine for anemones for longer than a week, and wondered if I just needed a new bulb. <It is possible, but we are already dealing with an unhealthy, injured anemone. I don't want to see the health decline any more. We are at the 10 day mark already.> So I did a little more looking at my setup. The bulb I had was indeed 96 watt PCF and only 7 months old, but it had no actinic component! So I replaced it with a new 96 watt 6700k 50/50 bulb. Do you think the lack of an actinic component could have caused loss of zooxanthellae that quickly? <No, the loss of zooxanthellae is not caused by the lack of actinic. A bulb without the actinic would be a better choice, yet still not sufficient, in this case.> If not, I can still move to the main tank but at least now they will have a day or 2 at a higher light level to help them acclimate. <You have actually decreased the lighting by adding the actinic.> I fed them both - turned off the flow and dropped a mysis right in the middle of them. The big one eventually, after 5-10 minutes, ate 2 mysis and I see there is a well-healed mouth. <Two mysis shrimp may be a bit much for this anemone. I would try just one for now.> I also got him to stick on a small rock, which will make moving him easier. <Good sign!> The little one didn't react to the food at all, didn't close up around it, eventually it fell off and was eaten by an Aiptasia nearby. <Yikes! The nearby Aiptasia are not doing the little guy any favors. It needs to be kept away from the Aiptasia. An unhealthy anemone will not be able to compete with them.> I am especially reluctant to lose this tiny one in the tank if it is weak and not eating. What do you think? <I would move return them both to the main tank. I feel that the main tank is a better choice.> Tracy

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