Animal-World > Aquarium Coral Reefs > Aiptasia - Reign of Terror

Reign of Terror!

"Say Hello to My Little Friend"
by Carrie McBirney
Picture of an Aiptasia, Glass AnemoneAiptasia - Glass Anemone

   A darling little sea anemone with a VERY Bad Rap... who would have thought that such an adorable little sea anemone could get such a horrible reputation!?!

   The worst, and eventual inhabitant of most reef systems is Aiptasia. The Glass Anemone is the worst nightmare we can have, next to hydroids! The day a Glass Anemone is detected as you gaze admiringly at your reef, is probably the day AFTER you told everyone you don't have that pest anemone problem with your tank!

   As tempting as it is for a newbie reef keeper to get a "male and female" Aiptasia anemone pair, don't do it! They reproduce quickly, creep over all surfaces and will detach and float over to a new spot to continue their reign of terror over your poor reef. These disrupters of normal coral life can cause havoc on a reef system! Aiptasia sting other corals until they either die or move away, if they can. Then if that is not enough, they mess with an unwary fish, stinging them as well!

   They use their venomous cells or nematocyst found in their tentacles to push other corals away from their "turf" and have been accepted as one of the worst anemones to have accidentally entered a captive system! So yes, they must DIE! If you see ONE on a rock, take the rock OUT and put it in the sun for a week... after you drown it in fresh water! (Well that worked for me anyway!)

   Glass Anemones can reach plague proportions in captivity, from a high nutrient tank. Kind of like an unwanted relative moving in and having tons of children! They have strong stings and don't "play nice" with other corals and fish. Corals and other anemones are the most affected by this pest, and they need to be removed as soon as possible!

 For more about Aiptasia and the pros and cons of
keeping them in captivity, see: Aiptasia Sea Anemone Facts

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Brown Glass Anemone, Aiptasia pallida
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Awesome video of Peppermint Shrimp eating this pest anemone

Brown Glass Anemones will quickly become the scourge of a captive environment! There are True Peppermint Shrimp that will eat this pest, however if they have plenty of other foods to choose from, they may not be as affective. These anemones will reproduce like rabbits, sting corals and fish and make a new aquarist just give up! Quarantining live rock and all new corals is the best prevention since these little buggers can slip and hide into the smallest opening under a coral edge or in any rock!

Glass Anemone, Aiptasia pulchella
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One way of killing these pests......

The Glass Anemone or Aiptasia as it is typically referred to by aquarists, can reach plague levels in a short time! While in the ocean they are kept in check by various predators, in a closed system they can leave death and destruction in their wake! This video shows on of several natural predators that can be used. A Copperbanded Butterflyfish, while the most effective, has a dismal survival rate. Personally, I have had one that wouldn't eat, then I was tipped off by a friend to feed it frozen/thawed bloodworms. That did it! After fattening him up, he then started to take mysis and I stopped feeding the bloodworms. The nudibranchs they sell for them only work in a small tank that you put your infected rock into. I let them loose in my tank and they disappeared and the aiptasia remained.

Small Rock Anemone, Aiptasia diaphana
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Another pest anemone that comes in brown or pinkish

This is yet another anemone that is considered an undesirable addition to a reef tank! The Small Rock Anemone, also called the Rose Glass Anemone is slightly different from the standard Aiptasia in that it has more color, being brown to a pinkish brown instead of clear or gray. Whatever color it is, it needs to go! When you see one, do your best to get rid of it before it reproduces!

Trumpet Anemone, Aiptasia mutabilis
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Another species of Aiptasia

Don't let the pretty white center fool you, this Trumpet Anemone is just another species of Aiptasia! One of the most dreaded "hitchhikers" next to the Mantis Shrimp, the Trumpet Anemone can reach plague proportions in a short time. Some natural ways to eliminate them are Peppermint Shrimp, Aiptasia eating nudibranchs and various butterflyfish, especially the Copperbanded Butterflyfish.

Distribution / Background

   Sea Anemone Facts: The Aiptasia Genus was described by J. L. Chr. Gravenhorst in 1831. They are found in the Western Atlantic Ocean in the Caribbean from Bermuda to South America. There are 17 species in this genus, but the ones that are well known are Brown Glass Anemone A. pallida, Glass Anemone A. pulchella, Small Rock Anemone A. diaphana, and Trumpet Anemone A. mutabilis. Other names they are known for are Aiptasia Anemone, Rock Anemone, Trumpet Anemone, Glassrose Anemone, Pale Anemone, Rock Anemone... Devil's Plague, and Pest Anemone!

   Sea Anemone Habitat: They are found attached to dead corals (that they probably killed!), rubble, or mangrove roots. They will also form dense colonies in areas of shallow water. They generally eat zooplankton, but will always accept other foot particles.


   The Aiptasia genus is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species, but I mean come on, we all WISH it was extinct!


   Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Aiptasia Genus has a pedal column with a sticky foot, which rivals super glue! The oral disc holds many stout, pointy, tentacles, which have a very potent sting. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! What makes them worse is their Acontia, which are hair like projections on their column that have high levels of toxin in them! Aiptasia can, faster than you can blink! retract into its hole or crevice if it feels threatened. And well it should! This makes it hard to sneak up on and inject a variety of different "cures" that people have come up with.

   They also use their "foot" to move, disconnect and float around until they find a new spot. Since they can detach to float elsewhere in your tank, there is that remote possibility they may head toward your pump! Yeah, THERE is a visual! Although at first you will be overjoyed watching the little monster being torn to bits, that emotion will be short lived since the next day when those "bits" can form NEW pest anemones! They will continue their reign of terror over your poor reef as they grow in number.

   Sea Anemones Life Cycles: It is unknown how long they live, although a mature Aiptasia Anemones will produce dozens of juveniles in one day if well fed. This underlines the need to rid your tank the second you see one!

Sea Anemone Care

  Aiptasia Genus is easy to care for, well isn't anything you don't want in your tank!? Some hobbyists actually use the warm water varieties in their refugiums to take out nutrients from the water. A risky, yet effective tool. Use of screening may help and there have been many articles on this method.

   What Do Sea Anemones Eat?: Feed it? Seriously? Are you nuts? Don't feed it!

Aquarium Parameters

   Doesn't matter, it will live in anything with salt water!... as if you would WANT to give these things a proper habitat!

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 1 gallon, or what ever size you have!
  • Water Region: Anywhere it wants!

Compatibility and Social Behaviors

   They are not compatible with anything! This is an aggressive anemone that will kill corals and anemones with it's powerful sting!

  They have inept social skills as well! After splitting, Aiptasia will tolerate their own "clones" and don't ever stop repopulating!

Breeding and Reproduction

   Propagating is very easy, and not to mention, stupid! Just cut a piece off and it will grow!

Getting Rid of Glass Anemones

   DO NOT cut them, since, like in some freakish horror movie, each piece will grow into another anemone!

   Short of walling up each one with epoxy, covering the hole they are living in, the most effective method to eliminate them is removal of any rock they are found in. Submerge it in freshwater or hose it down at a distance!, and then let it dry out in the hot sun! Not the preferred method, but it will solve the problem.

   Shooting various liquids into these anemones works sometimes. But since they pull back into their holes so quickly, not only do you miss, but you can mess up your water quality... IF it even works! The second most effective method of removal is usually a natural predator.

For methods of control see: Aiptasia Pests - Getting Rid of Glass Anemones


   FREE and widely available!

Author: Carrie McBirney, Saltwater Aquarium and Reef Hobbyist