Burrowing Tube Anemone

Tube Anemone, Burrowing Sea Anemone

Burrowing Tube Anemone, Pachycerianthus fimbriatus, Tube Anemone, Tube Dwelling Anemone and Burrowing Sea AnemonePachycerianthus fimbriatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

The Burrowing Tube Anemone, topped with a crown of tentacles, can extend about 14" above the substrate!

The Burrowing Tube Anemone Pachycerianthus fimbriatus differs a bit from other tube dwelling anemones. Like other burrowing anemones, it has a long, soft, cylindrical body with a pointed foot on one end and a crown of tentacles on the other. It also uses its pointed foot to burrow deep into a sandy or muddy substrate where it constructs a hard tube to live in. But it differs from other tube dwellers in that several inches of its tube will sometimes extend above the surface, rather than having its entire tube buried in the sand with just the oral disc and tentacles exposed.

The name ' tube dwelling 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 structure 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.

These Anemones can make a spectacular display in the aquarium. But because of their requirements, they are difficult to maintain and are only recommended for the advanced aquarist. These anemones are a cold water species, their normal temperature range is a low 59° - 68° F (15° - 20° C), and so the aquarium will need to have a chiller. They also require a good sized aquarium due to their burrowing behavior and ability to expand quite wide. If its needs are met, it will reward the aquarist with an interesting glimpse into its 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 they are not compatible with other anemone species. Its only known predator is the Rainbow Nudibranch Dendronotus iris, which never actually kills the tube anemone, it just eats and runs, leaving just enough behind for the anemone to regenerate.

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

Burrowing Tube Anemone, (Pachycerianthus sp)

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Burrowing Tube Anemone manipulating food into it's mouth

This tube anemone like others in this family are best kept by advanced aquarists. The depths of fine sand, enough oxygen, yet low water flow and constant feeding makes it very hard for the large majority of marine aquarists. They may look great one day but are dead the next. They need a chiller, pristine water quality and lots of room so other corals and fish are not stung.

Burrowing Tube Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 59.0 to 68.0° F (15.0 to 20.0° C)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Burrowing Tube Anemone or Tube Anemone Pachycerianthus fimbriatus was described by McMurrich in 1910. The Pachycerianthus genus belongs to the Cerianthidae family, and this genus contains 5 species. Some other common names it is known for are the Burrowing Sea Anemone, Burrowing Anemoneme, and Tube Dwelling Anemone. This anemone is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Pachycerianthus fimbriatusis found is in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Baja California all the way up to Alaska.

Sea Anemone Habitat: They are found on sandy and muddy bottoms to depths of 100 feet (30 m), mostly in inter tidal areas. They are found in higher numbers in waters where the plankton is very dense. Its only known predator is the Rainbow Nudibranch Dendronotus iris, which never actually kills the tube anemone, just eats and runs, leaving enough behind for it to regenerate.

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


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Burrowing Tube Anemone or 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. fimbriatus 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 Burrowing Sea 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. The other type are shorter labial tentacles over the mouth that are used to manipulate foods. These 2 sets of tentacles can be contrasting or similar in color. The P. fimbriatus takes food in, and expesl waste through its central cavity, or mouth. Tube Anemones use their bioluminescent tentacles to startle fish, thus keeping fish from nibbling on them.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Pachycerianthus fimbriatus can reach 6" (15 cm) in diameter and the tentacles can reach up to 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: - They can reach 6" in diameter and their tentacles can reach up to 12" in length.
  • Lifespan: - It is unknown how long they live, however they may live several decades in the wild.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: This genus is recommended for advance aquarists as it can be difficult to care for. They require a lot of space and must be in a large enough aquarium to satisfy their burrowing behavior and ultimate size. They will also require a chiller due to their cool temperature needs.

When choosing a Burrowing Tube Anemone, make sure the color is good, the mouth is not gaping open, and there are no tears. 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. 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
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: Thsee anemones are carnivores. Feed your Burrowing Tube 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, then feed twice a week. Be careful not to feed with large pieces of food because it can damage the delicate tentacles.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet - They can be fed finely minced krill, fish, shrimp and/or frozen or live brine or mysis shrimp.
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily

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. 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
  • 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 Burrowing Sea Anemone, but it must be a cold water reef. It is a good idea to invest in a chiller before you obtain one of these guys. 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. fimbriatus 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
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting
  • Temperature: 59.0 to 68.0° F (15.0 to 20.0° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Weak
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

The Burrowing 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 that when this Anemone comes out at night, that their tentacles do not come in contact with delicate corals.

Several Tube Anemone specimens can be kept in an aquarium, but they are not compatible with other anemone species. 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.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes
    • Anemones: Threat
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor
    • Starfish: Monitor
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor
    • Crabs: Monitor
    • Snails: Monitor
    • 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. fimbriatus 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. fimbriatus 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. Burrowing 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 Burrowing 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.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Ailments / Diseases

Problems for the Burrowing Tube Anemone or 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.


These anemones are 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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