Bali Fire Anemone

Branching Tree Anemone, Stinging Anemone, Hell's Fire Anemone

Bali Fire Anemone, Megalactis hemprichi, Branching Tree Anemone, Stinging AnemoneMegalactis hemprichiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

Diver's and aquarists alike - beware of the dangers of the Bali Fire Anemone... it has an extremely powerful sting that is very painful!

The Bali Fire Anemone Megalactis hemprichi looks more like a coral than an anemone, but beware!... their sting is much more powerful! This anemone belongs to the Megalactis genus, and is one of the 'stinging sea anemones' in the Actinodendronidae family. This family consists of three genera; Actinodendron, Actinostephanus, and Megalactis, all of which are found only in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific.

These anemones are so named 'stinging sea anemones' because of their capacity to sting humans badly. Although all anemones have stinging cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles, these anemones have a dangerous sting to humans which is extremely powerful and is very painful. The Bali Fire Anemone is similar in this regard to the Hell's Fire Anemone Actinodendron plumosum, and is also known by that same common name. Another common name is the Branching Tree Anemone.

The Megalactis genus is a unique group of anemones that look more like colonies of soft corals than actinides. Typically they have an oral disc that is drawn out into branched tentacles tipped with white swellings resembling globular spheres. They are found on coral rich slopes and drop offs with coral gravel, or in shallow sandy and muddy areas. They bury their foot and body into the substrate and adhere their foot to hard surfaces underneath, having only their oral disc and tentacles emerging. When disturbed they can retract their entire body into the sand and be virtually invisible.

Purchasing a Bali Fire Anemone, or any of the 'stinging sea anemones', needs to be made with enough knowledge to protect yourself and your other charges.They have a very different look from anything that is typically sold. They are very poisonous and the sting is very painful. The sting from these anemones can damage and even kill other corals and fish. Keeping them in a species specific tank allows you and them to be happy.

Aquarists and diver's alike, be warned and wear gloves when handling this genus. When diving do not have them come in contact with any bare skin. They have been known to sting divers quite badly.

For more about the types of Sea Anemone Species, see:
Sea Anemone - Tube Anemone


Pet Supply Comparison Shopping
Bali Fire Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of organizm - inches: 10.0 inches (25.40 cm)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
  • Temperament: Aggressive

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Megalactis genus was described by Hemprich and Ehrenberg in 1834, and Bali Fire Anemone M. hemprichi was described by Ehrenberg in 1834. The Megalactic genus is a member of the Actinodendronidae,  of which there are 4 species. These species are Megalactis cornatus, Megalactis annulata,  Megalactis griffithsi, and Megalactis hemprichi (Megalactis  hemperichii).  Some other names they are known for are Hell's Fire Anemone, Stinging Anemone, Tree Anemone, Branching Tree Anemone, Branching Anemone, and Branched Anemone. The Megalactis hemprichi is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Megalactis genus is found in the Red Sea and the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean; the Philippines, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, and the Great Barrier Reef. The Bali Fire Anemone M. hemprichi is found in the Red Sea and in Indonesia, the Philippines

Sea Anemone Habitat: They have been found at depths ranging from 30 to 100 feet (9 - 31 m). They can be found in various habitats. One habitat is on slopes or vertical drop offs that are rich with corals and rock, having a gravel substrate. These areas are susceptible to occasional surges of water. The other habitat is in shallow waters with muddy or sandy substrate, that is protected from intense water movement. So they are pretty adaptable.

Bali Fire Anemone M. hemprichi is found dwelling similar water conditions and habitats as other species. They bury their foot and body into the substrate and adhere their foot to hard surfaces underneath, having only their oral disc and tentacles emerging. When disturbed they can retract their entire body into the sand and be virtually invisible. They use their very powerful and venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks, as well as for capturing prey. They have been known to sting divers quite badly.

  • Scientific Name: Megalactis hemprichi
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Description

Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Bali Fire Anemone M. hemprichi has a pedal column, has a sticky foot at the bottom that they bury into the substrate, or, depending on the species, connect to a hard surface in between rocks like other anemones. They also use this "foot" to move around if conditions are not ideal. The color can be cream to brown, green or tan.

Tentacles of the Megalactis genus start from the surface of the oral disc, with the mouth being in the center. They branch radially from this center and have small branchlets, with groups of smaller "branched" tentacles. These smaller branched tentacles have sort of a ball shape at the end of the branchlet. Other species have these small branchlettes arranged in a straight line on the main tentacle. This tree like shape that they have, is very unique and makes them stand apart from other anemones.

The Bali Fire Anemone M. hemprichi has cylindrical and smooth tentacles that radiate from the oral disk. Along each side of these tentacles are little "branchlets" that are quite small, and have a ball like grouping of more tentacles on the tips. The mouth should be closed and tight, and will open when hungry, having an oval look; yet a gaping mouth is a warning signal. They take food in, and expel waste through this same opening. They use their very powerful and venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks, as well as for capturing prey.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Megalactis anemones can grow up to approximately 9" or 10" (25 - 30 cm). It is unknown how long they live, in fact some anemones can be hundreds of years old in the wild. In captivity their livespan is sharply curbed, yet some anemones have been known to last 100 years or more.

  • Size of organizm - inches: 10.0 inches (25.40 cm)
  • Lifespan: - Some anemones have been known to last 100 years or more.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: The Megalactis genus can be moderate to care for yet, they do have lighting needs and must be in a large enough aquarium to satisfy their ultimate size. Putting an anemone in a new tank will result in failure. The tank should be at least 4 months old and stable before adding your new M. hemprichi anemone.

When choosing a Bali Fire 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 M. hemprichi anemone from another aquarium, use a very thin blunt item like a credit card to get under the foot. Slowly nudging it away will get the anemone off the glass. If its attached to a rock, ideally you can simply purchase the rock as well. They are very poisonous and the sting is very painful, so aquarists be warned and wear gloves when handling this genus.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: The Bali Fire Anemone is a carnivore. Feed your Anemone chopped silversides, shrimp, krill, and mussels, fresh chopped fish (from your grocery store), as well as frozen carnivore preparations. Feed 2 times a week to keep them healthy. The old adage that anemones should be fed once a month is false and has lead to many deaths.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet - They can be fed chopped silversides, shrimp, krill, and mussels, fresh chopped fish (from your grocery store), as well as frozen carnivore preparations.
  • Feeding Frequency: - Feed 2 times a week to keep them healthy.

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. One average sized Hell's Fire 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.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Water changes of 10% bi-monthly or 20% a month are typical.
  • Iodine Levels: - Additions of Iodine and and trace elements are suggested.

Aquarium Setup

The typical reef environment is what is needed for this Anemone. They need live rock and a deep sandy or crushed coral substrate to bury themselves into. Be sure to have all of your pumps covered, most good quality pumps have guards on them and are worth the investment.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Substrate Type: Mix - Sand + Coral - They like a deep sandy or crushed coral substrate to bury themselves into.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - Lighting should be moderate to high (normal to strong).
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

These Anemones are aggressive and have a dangerous and powerful sting. They will sting all nearby corals, fish, and the hand that feeds it! All anemones are semi-aggressive because they can be mobile, although a contented anemone will often stay put once it has found a place to settle. If it starts moving around you need to check your aquarium parameters and feeding schedule to find out why it is unhappy.

They are rarely available to the aquarist, and should not be obtained for anything other than a species display tank. 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. This would be a "proceed at your own risk". They do not host clownfish.

After splitting, anemones will tolerate their own "clones" and sometimes their own species. All anemones in the tank 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. Having excellent filtration and a large tank, (over 100 gallons) will usually allow 2 anemones at opposite ends to thrive. You can also build a natural blockade to help prevent them from wandering into each others "space".

  • Venomous: Yes
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Anemones: Threat
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Threat
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat
    • Starfish: Threat
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
    • Crabs: Threat
    • Snails: Threat
    • Sea Apples, Cucumbers: Threat
    • Urchins, Sand Dollars: Threat
    • Nudibranch, Sea Slugs: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Threat

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Megalactis species have not been bred in captivity. 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.

  • Ease of Breeding: - The Megalactis species have not been bred in captivity.

Fish Diseases

Problems for the Bali Fire Anemone or are pretty minimal unless your lighting, water movement, feeding and water quality are low. Then your anemone will detach to look for "better conditions." This usually results in an unpleasant experience with a water pump.

Availability

The Bali Fire Anemone M. hemprichi is rarely available to aquarists, and only suggested for a species specific tank.

References



Author: Clarice Brough CFS

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