Adhesive Sea Anemone

Pizza Anemone, Sticky Carpet Anemone

Adhesive Sea Anemone, Cryptodendrum adhaesivum, Pizza Anemone, Sticky Carpet AnemoneCryptodendrum adhaesivumPhoto Wiki Commons, courtesy Andrea England.
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Hi there  Charlie Roche

The colorful Adhesive Sea Anemone has a distinctive look... often described as a Pizza Anemone!

The Adhesive Sea Anemone Cryptodendrum adhaesivum is easy to identify because of its unique 'pizza-like' or carpet appearance. Its wide oral disc has two types of tentacles, and the two forms differ in coloration. In the center it has short skinny sticky tentacles that are often multi-branched, and fat bulbous tentacles on the outer rim. With these contrasting shapes and colors, the Adhesive Sea Anemone resembles a pizza with a thick crust, or a carpet with a binding around the edge. Thus it is commonly called the Pizza Anemone or Pizza Sea Anemone, as well as the Sticky Carpet Anemone or Nap-Edged Anemone.

This anemone became very popular, very fast, a few years ago. Prior to that they weren't often seen in the industry because of a propensity to tear when being moved. They are beautiful animals with colors as numerous as the rainbow, so the reason for their popularity is obvious. These colorful combinations along with the tentacle shapes give it a decorative appearance. Colors can range from blue and gray, pink and yellow, gray and purple, and brown and green. Sometimes there are also patches of a 3rd color within the oral disc.

The tentacles of the Sticky Carpet Anemone anemone are very sticky and have potent stinging cells. Be careful in handling it as it will cling to, and sting, any unprotected skin it comes in contact with, leaving welts. With its potent sting, it can also be a hazard to careless fish or corals in the aquarium.

The Pizza Sea Anemone is not only attractive, but it is relatively hardy when provided the right environment. They live in shallow waters only 3 to 20 feet deep. They are found in rock crevices or underneath stones where sand or coral gravel is piled up. Keeping your anemone in a properly sized aquarium with moderate lighting and plenty of food will help it live a long life.

For more information about Clown Fish anemones, see:
Facts About the 10 Clownfish Hosting Sea Anemones

Adhesive Sea Anemone, Cryptodendrum adhaesivum & Porcelain Crabs
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Great video showing two beautiful animals.

The Adhesive Sea Anemone, also called the Sticky Anemone is a host to a wide variety of marine life. They host clownfish, some crabs and damsels. They resemble a pizza, having what looks like an outer crust and a contrasting center. Provide 100 gallons, bright lighting and clean water. The tank should be mature, around a year old and plenty of space for their eventual 12" size. Target feed your anemone a variety of minced foods on a regular basis.

Adhesive Sea Anemone, Cryptodendrum adhaesivum in the wild
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Massive mature anemone hosted by ornary striped damselfish!

This video give some perspective as to the size that the Adhesive Sea Anemone can grow to. They are being hosted by 2 clownfish and are being rivaled by a larger black Domino Damsel and some juveniles for the spot! Do not rely on your clownfish or damsel to feed your anemone enough food. In captivity, there is not the same amount of zooplankton as there is in the wild, which they feed on, so you will have to feed them regularly.

Adhesive Sea Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
  • Size of organism - inches: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Adhesive Sea Anemone Cryptodendrum adhaesivum was described by Klunzinger in 1877. The Cryptodendrum genus is a member of the Thalassianthidae family and it contains only one species. The name previously used was Stoichactis digitata. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. Some common names they are known for are Sticky Carpet Anemone, Pizza Anemone, Nap-Edged Anemone, and Pizza Sea Anemone.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Cryptodendrum adhaesivum is found in the Red Sea, Maldives and Thailand, then east toward Micronesia, Polynesia, southern Japan, and Australia.

Sea Anemone Habitat: The Adhesive Sea Anemone is a solitary anemone found in rock crevices and among stones or coral rubble where it spreads itself out over rocks or in-between. They live in shallow waters only 3 to 20 feet (1-5 m) deep. They are occasionally found with one species of clownfish, the Clark's Clownfish A. clarkii. They are also found associated with a couple species of shrimp from the Thor and Periclimenes genera. They use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks, and also use them to catch prey. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish.

  • Scientific Name: Cryptodendrum adhaesivum
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Adhesive Sea Anemone or Pizza Anemone Cryptodendrum adhaesivum has a pedal column with a sticky foot at the bottom that they use to adhere to various surfaces. They like to flare out over rocks or in between them. They also use the "foot" to move around if conditions are not ideal. The pedal column has rows of verrucae, small bulges that also have stinging cells. These bumps can be white, orange, or yellow. The column may also have flicks, lines and spots on it.

Characteristic identifiers of the Adhesive Sea Anemone are their 2 different forms of dense sticky tentacles, up to 5 mm in length. The tentacles in the center of the oral disc are narrow with several branchlets at the end, looking almost like a little hand. The tentacles at the edge are bulbous, and about 1 mm in diameter. The inner tentacles are a different color than those on the edge creating a colorfully contrasting oral disc. Color combinations can be blue and gray, pink and yellow, gray and purple, and brown and green. Sometimes there are also patches of a 3rd color within the oral disc.

The mouth is small, about 1 cm in diameter, and is in the center of the oral disc. It is usually a contrasting color to the disc as well, colors like yellow, white green, or violet. The mouth should be closed and tight, and will open when hungry, having an oval look. A gaping mouth is a warning signal. The C. adhaesivum take food in and expel waste through this same opening.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: The average size of a Sticky Sea Carpet Anemone is around 2" to 4", but they can grow up to 12" (30 cm), It is unknown how long they live. Some anemones can be hundreds of years old in the wild, and in captivity some have been known to last 80 years or more.

  • Size of organism - inches: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm) - Average sized Adhesive Sea Anemone are around 2" to 4", but can grow up to 12" (30 cm).
  • Lifespan: - The lifespan of the Pizza Anemone is unknown.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: The Adhesive Sea Anemone is relatively hardy when provided the right environment. They do have moderate lighting needs and must be in a large enough aquarium to satisfy their ultimate size. Putting an anemone in a new tank can result in failure. The tank should be at least 8 to 12 months old and stable before adding your new C. adhaesivum.

When choosing your Adhesive Sea Anemone, make sure the color is good, their mouth is not gaping open, and their foot and tentacles are sticky to the touch. Also, they should be attached to something and make sure there is no damage to the foot area, often a result of pulling the anemone off its surface.

To take a C. adhaesivum anemone from another aquarium, use a very thin blunt item like a credit card to get under the foot and slowly nudging it away will get the anemone off the glass. Use gloves when handling.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: The Adhesive Sea Anemone is a carnivore. These anemones are well equipped with nutritional alternatives for their well-being. Though they are carnivorous, they are thought to be primarily planktivores in the wild, as they seem well suited to collecting plankton. They also use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and capture prey. They absorb nutrients the water around them and they consume wastes from resident animals. It is not necessary for them to be fed by Clownfish they host, though clowns will often carry chunks of food to the anemone.

In captivity they can be a bit picky about foods, but will generally accept some small meaty foods. Feed your C. adhaesivum finely chopped silversides and smelts, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, or bloodworms several times a week. The old adage that anemones should be fed once a month is false and has lead to many deaths.

Clownfish hosted with your anemone usually will not be able to sufficiently feed themselves and their anemone with the small quantity of food that is put in a captive environment. You will need to target feed this anemone. You can just offer your clowns a piece of fish flesh and they will usually snatch it out of your hand and give it to their host. However, not all clowns are this smart, so don't depend on the clown fish to feed the anemone.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet - They can be fed small chopped up pieces of meaty foods such as silversides and smelts, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and bloodworms.
  • Feeding Frequency: - They should be fed several times a week.

Aquarium Care

Water changes of 10% bi-monthly or 20% a month are typical. Monitor your water quality for your particular situation and adjust your water changes accordingly. An average sized Adhesive Sea Anemone 2" to 4" is equal to 2 or 3 fish as far as waste production is concerned. Purigen and Poly-fiber are great products to help in maintaining water quality. Purigen is a synthetic polymer that removes soluble and insoluble impurities from water at an exceptionally high rate and capacity, helping to control ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Additions of Iodine and and trace elements are suggested. A good protein skimmer is a must.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly
  • Iodine Levels: - Additions of Iodine and and trace elements are suggested.

Aquarium Setup

The typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your C. adhaesivum. The Adhesive Sea Anemone will attach to a hard surface and spread out over and in between the rock. Once it is secured it, if it is happy it will stay put. If it isn't happy and is moving around, be sure to check your checking your lighting and water quality, also make sure you are feeding it adequately. With all anemones its a good rule of thumb to have all of your pumps covered, most good quality pumps have guards on them.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

All anemones are semi-aggressive because they can be mobile, although a contented Adhesive Sea Anemone will stay put once it has found a place to settle. It has often been suggested to not put anemones in a reef environment since corals cannot move away from the stinging tentacles. Once you get your anemone situated and it has not moved for several months, it might be safe to add other corals. Keep this in mind when stocking sessile inverts. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish.

All anemones in a tank need to be at least 2-3 feet away from each other. If you have 2 anemones that are 6" across, than your tank should be at least 4-5 feet long. Anemones need to have their own space, otherwise there can be a "chemical" warfare between species. This will usually cause one to not eat, shrink and eventually die. However, after splitting anemones will tolerate their own "clones", and sometimes their own species. Having excellent filtration and a large tank, (over 200 gallons) will usually allow 2 anemones at opposite ends to thrive. You can also build a natural blockade, 2 "pillars" with sand in between them, to help prevent them from wandering into each others "space". Get them both when young and let them grow together.

If you want your anemone to host clownfish, be sure it is 3 to 4 times larger in diameter than the length of the clown fish you introduce, or it will be 'loved' to death. A 4 - 6" anemone with clowns that are introduced at a young age of 1" to 1.5" will work out well. Keep in mind, the more clowns you have translates into more "inches" of fish" for your anemone. It is best to buy the anemone first and give it a few months to acclimate and grow before adding clowns.

In nature the Adhesive Sea Anemone has been found as host to only one species of clownfish, the Clark's Clownfish Amphiprion clarkii., and only occasionally. In the south central Pacific Islands of Marquesas it is known to associate with the damselfish Strasburg's Dascyllus Dascyllus strasburgi as well. It will also live in a commensal relationship with two species of shrimp, the Sexy Anemone Shrimp Thor amboinensis and the Pacific Clown Anemone Shrimp Periclimenes brevicarpalis.

The Adhesive Sea Anemone has only been found hosting this clownfish species in nature:

Additionally, in captivity it has been known to also host the following clownfish:

  • Venomous: Yes
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes
    • Anemones: Monitor - All anemones in a tank need to be at least 2-3 feet away from each other.
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor
    • Starfish: Threat
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor
    • Crabs: Monitor
    • Snails: Threat
    • Sea Apples, Cucumbers: Monitor
    • Urchins, Sand Dollars: Monitor
    • Nudibranch, Sea Slugs: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Monitor
    • Stony Corals: May be aggressive
    • Soft Corals: May be aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

The propagating techniques of the C. adhaesivum are unknown at this time. Anemones in general can multiply by sexual and asexual means. One way is using fission, which is when they actually split in half from the foot or mouth to form a clone, although the clone is its own animal, similar to twins. They will also reproduce using male and female sex glands or find another anemone of the opposite sex. This results in the production of ciliated planula larvae. This planula will eventually fall to the sea floor, develop a pedal disk, then begin to grow into a new anemone.

Ailments / Diseases

Problems for the Adhesive Sea Anemone are pretty minimal unless your lighting, water movement, feeding and water quality are low. Then your anemone will detach to look for "better conditions." In general, if your anemone moves, it is not happy. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish.


The Adhesive Sea Anemone or Pizza Anemone C. adhaesivum is easy to find in stores and online. The cost online starts at about $50.00 USD and goes up depending on size and color.


Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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