Banded Tube Anemone

Tube Anemone, Tube Dwelling Anemone

Banded Tube Anemone, Pachycerianthus maua, Tube Dwelling AnemonePachycerianthus mauaPhoto Wiki Commons, courtesy Nick Hobgood.
Licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 Unported

One of the most intriguing features of the Banded Tube Anemone is its fascinating 'night life'!

The Banded Tube Anemone Pachycerianthus maua is a nocturnal animal, so is usually withdrawn during the daylight hours. After dark is when they will push their oral disc out of their tube and extend their tentacles to feed. Illuminating the nighttime aquarium with a red light, and slow movements by the aquarist, will allow a peak into the "night life" of these curious anemones.

Also referred to as just the Tube Anemone, or the Tube Dwelling Anemone, this anemone has a long, soft, cylindrical body. There is a pointed foot on one end and a crown of tentacles on the other. It uses its pointed foot to burrow deep into a sandy or muddy substrate where it constructs a hard tube to live in.

The name ' tube anemone' is derived from their ability to build a tube to live in. It was previously believed that they created their tube by releasing a mucus, which then become covered with sand. Today however, it is known that they create the tube by releasing threads of a special type of nematocyst called 'ptychocyst'. The result is a woven fibrous structured of stinging cells that help protect it from attack. Though its tentacles are non-retractable, if it is frightened or disturbed it can instantly withdraw its whole body into the tube for safety.

True to its name, the Banded Tube Anemone has interesting and attractive "banding" on it's tentacles. Because of this, it often becomes a new purchase for the novice aquarist. However, even though they are one of the warm water tube anemones, they are very difficult to care for and have a poor survival rate. Consequently they are recommended only for advanced aquarists.

Like other tube anemones, this Anemone needs a good sized aquarium with a sandy substrate to accommodate their burrowing behavior and ability to expand quite wide. They also require good quality water and have a high oxygen need, which can be provided with an ozonizer. If their needs are met, they will reward the aquarist with an interesting glimpse into their secretive world.

Be sure to provide plenty of room for tank mates to keep them out of reach of the anemones stinging tentacles. Several Burrowing Tube Anemone specimens can be kept in a large aquarium, but space them out so that just their tips will touch when fully extended. They are not compatible with other anemone species. They are not compatible with most fish, as small fish will be stung and large fish tend to disturb them. They do not host clownfish.

For more facts about Tube-Dwelling Anemones, see:
Tube Anemone - Burrowing Sea Anemone

Banded Tube Dwelling Anemone, Pachycerianthus maua

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A Banded Tube Anemone in the wild

Making their debut after lights are out, the Banded Tube Anemone emerges to feed on small prey. Do not feed large chunks of food as it can damage the tentacles. They need very clean water that is highly oxygenated. This oxygen is best provided by ozonizers since a strong water current is not tolerated. These anemones make very long and wide tubes and a very deep sand bed. They are best left to experts or just left in the wild.

Banded Tube Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Expert
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 83.0° F (22.2 to 28.3° C)
  • Size of organism - inches: 12.0 inches (30.48 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Banded Tube Anemone Pachycerianthus maua was described by Carlgren in 1900. This species is commonly misspelled as P. mana, but as of the 2008 taxonomy, the correct name has been designated as P. maua. Other names they are known for are Tube Anemone and Tube Dwelling Anemone. The Pachycerianthus genus belongs to the Cerianthidae family. This species is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Pachycerianthus maua is found in the Red Sea.

Sea Anemone Habitat: They are a warmer water anemone found at depths of 16 - 98 feet (5 - 30 m). They are found most populated in waters where the plankton is very dense. Zooplankton is their main fare. They are nocturnal, so they make their appearance and feed at night.

  • Scientific Name: Pachycerianthus maua
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Banded Tube Anemone differs from sea anemones both internally and externally. External differences are apparent. Unlike true anemones, they have 2 different sets of tentacles on their oral disc and they lack a pedal disc foot used to attach to surfaces. They also differ from many true anemones in that they lack zooxanthellae.

The P. maua has a long and cylindrical, somewhat cone-like body that does not have a foot, but a blunt point. They deflate and condense their body to drive into sand or mud. Once in the substrate they construct a very long tube. This structure is fibrous, with woven threads of stinging cells to help protect it from attack.They do not form a "ball" like other anemones do to hide, rather they retract into their "tube." Disturbances that can cause it to retract are sudden illumination, a strong touch, and excessive feeding.

The Tube Dwelling Anemone has an oral disc with a crown of non retractable tentacles and a mouth in the center. The tentacles are of two different types. One type is the long feeding tentacles arranged in several rows around the margin of the oral disc. They are banded, alternating between brown or tan and white. The other type are shorter labial tentacles over the mouth that are used to manipulate foods. Testing the potency of the toxins in these tube anemones have shown that they have little effect on test subjects, than true anemones, which had lethal effects. Tube Anemones use their bioluminescent tentacles to startle fish, thus keeping fish from nibbling on them. The P. maua take food in, and expel waste through its central cavity, or mouth.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Pachycerianthus maua can reach 7.75" (20 cm) in diameter and the tentacles can reach up to about 12" (30.5 cm). It is unknown how long they live, but in the wild they may live many decades. Some tube anemone species introduced into the aquarium at Naples at its inception are now over 100 years old.

  • Size of organism - inches: 12.0 inches (30.48 cm) - This anemone can reach 7.75" (20 cm) in diameter and the tentacles can reach up to about 12" (30.5 cm).
  • Lifespan: - It is unknown how long they live, but in the wild they may live many decades. Some tube anemone species introduced into the aquarium at Naples at its inception are now over 100 years old.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: This anemone is difficult to care for and should only attempted by advanced aquarists. Even then they have a poor survival rate. They require high quality water and plenty of space. They must be in a large enough aquarium to satisfy their burrowing behavior and ultimate size. They also have a high oxygen need but don't tolerate turbulent waters, so an ozonizer is the best solution.

When choosing a P. maua, make sure the color is good and the mouth is not gaping open. Take special care to make sure there are no tears or injuries. When being removed from another aquarium, a healthy specimen should immediately retract, ejecting the water from its mouth.

Check that the tube is intact and in good condition. Polluted tubes need to be removed before introducing them into the aquarium. If the tube is missing, that can create challenges. Although they can regrow the tube, it takes a lot of energy that sometimes will deplete the animal into a weakened condition. If they have difficulty creating a tube, you can provide a section of acrylic tubing for it to live in. Place the tubing at an angle in the sand, but be certain that both ends are unobstructed and there are no sharp edges.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult to Impossible
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Expert

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: The Banded Tube Anemone is a carnivore. Feed your Anemone finely minced krill, fish, shrimp and/or frozen or live brine or mysis shrimp. Feed nightly unless you have a lot of copepods, amphipods and other small prey, and feed twice a week. Be careful not to feed with large pieces of food since it will damage the delicate tentacles.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet - You can feed them finely minced krill, fish, shrimp and/or frozen or live brine or mysis shrimp.
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily - Feed them at night.

Aquarium Care

Water changes of 10% bi-monthly or 20% a month are typical for most anemones, but this species requires more pristine conditions. Monitor your water quality for your particular situation and adjust your water changes accordingly. 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: Weekly - This species requires very pristine conditions. Water quality should be monitored regularly and Purigen and Poly-fiber are great products to help in maintaining the quality.
  • Iodine Levels: - Additions of Iodine and and trace elements are suggested.

Aquarium Setup

The typical reef environment with a sand substrate is what is needed for your Banded Tube Anemone. A consistently high quality water that is well oxygenated is necessary for their survival. They don't tolerate turbulent waters, so an ozonizer is the best solution for increasing oxygen content. They must also have a very deep fine sand substrate, with enough depth to accommodate their total length. Hitting a bare bottom, as well as trying to burrow through course gravel (rice sized or larger), will prevent the P. maua from finding a spot to burrow and settle. This can cause them to stress and die.

The sand needs to be quite deep, just a couple inches of sand is not enough. A trick when you don't have a deep enough substrate is to use a PVC tube that is 1.5 times longer than the animal. Place the animal's tube into the pipe about 4/5's of the way, pour fine sand around the animal, and fill to the top. Gluing a solid base at the bottom end will prevent the sand from coming out if you have to move it. Some aquarist also suggest pots, or built up areas on one side of the aquarium. Be sure their delicate tentacles are not within reach of power heads.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Substrate Type: Sand - Sand should be very deep and fine.
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting - Low, actinic lighting brings out their colors.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 83.0° F (22.2 to 28.3° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Weak
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

The Banded Tube Anemone is semi-aggressive, yet as far as "anemone" type corals go, they do not have as powerful of a sting as true anemones. Care should be taken to provide other corals with plenty of room. Make sure when the Banded Tube Anemone comes out at night, their tentacles do not come in contact with delicate corals.

Several Tube Dwelling Anemone specimens can be kept in an aquarium, but they are not compatible with other anemone species. They are not compatible with most fish, as small fish will be stung and large fish tend to disturb them. Its only known predator is the Rainbow Nudibranch Dendronotus iris, which never actually kills the tube anemone, it just eats and runs, leaving enough behind for the anemone to regenerate.

  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes
    • Anemones: Threat
    • 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

The P. maua are hermaphrodites, meaning each specimen develops as both male and female. At a smaller size it is a male. After crossing over to a larger size/age, it will turn into a female.

Breeding / Reproduction

The P. maua reproduce sexually with the female being larger than the male. Unlike the true anemones, they do not reproduce through asexual means such as fission, where the anemone is divided or split into parts to create a new anemone. Banded Tube Anemones are hermaphrodites, meaning they are both male and female.  Although each animal can produce both eggs and sperm, they do not produce them at the same time, so it takes two specimens to produce a zygote. The Zygote is a fertilized egg, the beginnings of a new Banded Tube Anemone.

In the wild, they first release sperm and then eggs into the water column, where cross fertilization takes place. It is believed the larvae live in plankton for a quite a long time, and then settle into the sand and construct a tube. How they provide brood care is not fully known, though some species have a tentacled larval stage that extends into the planktonic phase. There is no information yet on breeding these anemones in captivity.

Ailments / Diseases

Problems for the Banded Tube Anemone are pretty minimal if they are provided with an adequate environment and fed regularly. There is not a lot is known about potential ailments, these anemones seem to be either alive and very well, or dead.


The Tube Anemone P. maua is easy to find in stores and online. The cost online is around $28.00 or more depending on color and size. Due to the ever changing taxonomy of these creatures, many will be listed under plain old "tube anemone." You will need to inquire as to their origin in order to determine how to care for them properly, in terms of water temperature.


Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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