Dahlia Anemone

Northern Red Anemone, Red and White Urticina felina

Dahlia Anemone, Urticina felina, Northern Red Anemone, Red and White Urticina felinaUrticina felinaPhoto Wiki Commons, courtesy Ryan Murphy
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This content is very good.  SREENATH

The cold water Dahlia Anemone sets itself apart from its cousins by a preference for cracks and crevices!

The Dahlia Anemone Urticina felina is one of the better known of the Urticina anemones. Though that's not unexpected because of its attractive appearance, it is surprising considering its natural habitat. It has a small natural range, found only along the coasts of the British Isles in northern Europe. This cold water anemone also lives in some very deep water, found as deep as 656 feet (200 m). They are found burrowed into crevices and cracks in subtidal areas where there is strong wave action.

Some species of Urticina anemones have very festive colors, and at first glance they look very similar to one another. The Dahlia Anemone Urticina felina is one of these. A couple of its similar looking relatives are the Painted Anemone Urticina grebelnyi and the Christmas Anemone Urticina crassicornis.

Although these pretty Urticina anemones can look quite similar to each other, each one has its own unique characteristic to identify it by. The Dahlia Anemone, compared to these other Urticina anemones, has a very sticky column. It usually has particles of shells and rocks stuck to it. This debris, along with the column's natural grays and blotches, helps it to camouflage into the rock.

When caring for this anemone, using similar husbandry for other cold water anemones is suggested. It is a good idea to invest in a chiller before you obtain one of these guys. Like all anemones, these Northern Red Anemones use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks. But they mostly utilize them for stunning and capturing prey. Some predators of this anemone can be certain nudibranchs, sea stars, and snails.

For more facts about Urticina Sea Anemones, see:
Nettle Anemones

Dahlia Anemone, Urticina felina

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Dahlia Anemone in the dark wild

This is a cool video of a Dahlia Anemone in the deep waters of the subtropic. They need lower temperatures in the mid fifties to lower sixties to survive. Pick up a chiller before you make your purchase! They are quite beautiful with their contrasting pinks, tans and reds! Only growing to 6," they can be kept in a smaller tank which may be cheaper to keep cool! Water quality must be high and they only need to be fed a few times a month so that shouldn't be too hard!

Dahlia Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 59.0 to 72.0° F (15.0 to 22.2° C)
  • Size of organism - inches: 6.0 inches (15.24 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Dahlia Anemone Urticina felina was described by Linnaeus in 1767. The Urticina genus is a member of the Actiniidae family, and this genus contains 6 species. Some other common names they are known by are Northern Red Anemone and Red and White Urticina felina. This anemone is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The U. felina are only found on the coasts of the British Isles in northern European waters.

Sea Anemone Habitat: These anemones are found in colder waters down to 656 feet (200 m) deep. They are usually burrowed into the crevices of rocks in subtidal areas near shores that have strong wave action. The smaller ones are usually at high, mid-tide levels. They are found singly but are also found in mass, forming what almost looks like a dense carpet. They can also be found in estuaries if the bottom has enough hard surfaces to attach to.

This cold water anemone feasts on shrimp, crabs, mussels and small fishes with tentacles that can number up to 160. They use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks, but mostly utilize them for stunning and capturing prey. They have been known to bury themselves in the sand with only the tentacles showing to trap crabs. Some predators can be certain nudibranchs, sea stars and snails.

  • Scientific Name: Urticina felina
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Dahlia Anemone has a very sticky pedal column, usually with particles of shells and rocks stuck to it. This very sticky column, along with its colorations, are the main characteristics which set them apart from other Urticina species. The pedal column is usually red colored with greenish gray blotches and gray warts.

They also have a sticky 'foot' which they use to adhere to rock crevices and cracks. They can also use this foot to move around if conditions are not ideal. Another way they can move is by inflating themselves, detaching from the surface, and then rolling along with any current. They will move to avoid predators like starfish, but in the aquarium they will primarily move if they are unhappy with the water conditions or the food.

The tentacles are short, stout, and well spaced in multiples of 10, with the top row surrounding the mouth. It is not so much the color of the anemone that identifies it, but the pattern on the animal. The tentacles have a variety of color combinations that are dark and pale versions of one or two colors of purple, blue, yellow, red, pink, or orange, with little bands of gray, brown, pale pink, and white in-between those colors.

The oral disc and mouth is usually the pale color, with each tentacle's base being outlined with red. The mouth should be closed and tight, and will open when hungry, having an oval look, yet a gaping mouth is a warning signal. The U. felina take food in and expel waste through this same opening.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Dahlia Anemones can grow up to 6" (15 cm) in diameter. It is unknown how long they live, in fact some anemones can be hundreds of years old in the wild, and in captivity have been known to last 80 years or more.

  • Size of organism - inches: 6.0 inches (15.24 cm)
  • Lifespan: - In captivity some anemones can live up to 80 years.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: These anemones can be moderate to care for because they do have cold water needs. As with most anemones, the tank should be at least 1 year old and stable before adding your new Northern Red Anemone.  When selecting a U. felina 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 Dahlia Anemone from another aquarium, use a thin blunt item like a credit card, gently wiggle it under the foot, slowly nudging it away from the glass. If it's attached to a rock, ideally you can simply purchase the rock as well. On a rock, it would be very wise to purchase the rock, because these guys can stick hard and would probably be damaged if removed. If you cannot purchase the rock then directing water at it or wiggling the rock gently upside down under water while tickling the foot can work.

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

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: This anemone is a carnivore. Feed your U. felina chopped silversides, shrimp, krill, and mussels, fresh chopped fish (from your grocery store), as well as frozen carnivore preparations. Feed once a week or twice a month, since cold water anemones have much slower metabolisms.

  • 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: Weekly - Feed once a week or twice a month.

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 Dahlia Anemone is equal to about one 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
  • Iodine Levels: - Additions of Iodine and and trace elements are suggested.

Aquarium Setup

The typical reef environment is what is needed for this 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 need live rock or some other solid material they can attach to. Provide some rock crevices as well as rocky overhangs. 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: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Substrate Type: Sand
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 59.0 to 72.0° F (15.0 to 22.2° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate - Moderate to high surge.
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

All anemones are semi-aggressive because they can be mobile, although most of the cold water anemones stay still if their needs are met. It has often been suggested to not put anemones in a reef environment because corals cannot move away from the stinging tentacles. Once you have your anemone situated and it has not moved for several months, it might be safe to add other corals. Just keep in mind these anemones will sting everything they can reach, including corals and other invertebrates. Anemones will move if your lighting is not good, or the water quality is not to their liking.

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 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: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes
    • Anemones: Monitor
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • 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: Monitor
    • 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 Dahlia Anemone will divide in captivity, but there is no information on propagation of cold water anemones. It may be just like other anemones. Similar to other cold water anemones, they reproduce by fission or external fertilization of egg and sperm. When they spawn, they produce larvae that will float away, and eventually find a spot to land. They then attach and develop a pedal disk that grows into a new anemone.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Ailments / Diseases

Problems for these anemones 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. Make sure your lighting and water quality is good, and that the food you are offering is to their liking. Some predators include certain nudibranchs, sea stars, and snails.


The Dahlia Anemone is generally unavailable to aquarists through retailers.


Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
Lastest Animal Stories on Dahlia Anemone

SREENATH - 2010-04-21
This content is very good.

sqwat - 2010-10-26
I was able to find one of these at a lfs and was so happy I did they are so beautiful. Best anemone for a micro tank since they stay small and don't need a heater. It is very fast eater I have never seen an anemone's head move so fast from one side to the other to eat. The tentacles are very sticky and I don't think a clown could ever use one. I have a lot of small shrimp in my tank and the tentacles are so sticky that if their antenna even touch them he will quickly turn his head and the shrimp is doomed. Also they are so fast when you add some pods in the tank his little ten tentacle tips just pick them of one by one the coolest thing ever to watch. The colors are so intense it is beautiful. If you get a chance to get one do so and set up a species only 5 gallon tank with maybe a kenya tree or some paly's do not pass up the chance to own one of these guys. You can add one in a nano or large tank to just make sure the placement is right because if he goes on the move he will not just sting but eat any corals that stick to his superglue tentacles. A must have for the serious anemone enthusiast but a very rare one to find in certain parts of the world if you live in england you can probably just find one at the lagoons.