Fish Eating Anemone

Fish Eating Urticina, Tealia Anemone, Velvety Red Anemone, Rose Anemone

Fish Eating Anemone, Urticina piscivora, Fish Eating Urticina, Velvety Red Anemone, Rose Anemone and Tealia AnemoneUrticina piscivoraPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

The Fish Eating Anemone is the largest of the Urticina genus, but despite being big it is actually the most delicate!

This anemone is usually called the Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora or Fish Eating Urticina because of its diet. Its genus name, Urticina, is Latin for nettle which is a stinging plant, and its species name Piscivora, means "fish-eating".

Besides these names, it also has a couple other descriptive common names. The name Tealia Anemone is associated with all the Urticina Anemones. Tealia, which means 'blooming', is descriptive of these soft-bodied, primarily sedentary, marine animals resemblance to flowers. And finally, being richly colored in red shades with a velvet looking texture, this anemone is called the Velvety Red Anemone or Rose Anemone.

The Fish Eating Anemone, despite its delicate nature, is true to its name 'fish eating' and it does just that. It uses its strong tentacles to catch small fish and shrimp. Even though the size of this anemone can be up to about 8" to 10" in diameter (20 - 25 cm), fish and shrimps can still be quite a large catch for an anemone.

Yet imagine this, here's a fish eating sea anemone that actually plays host to another fish, and that fish is not the typical clownfish or damselffish usually hosted by anemones. Despite the fact that the Fish Eating Anemone enjoys feasting on small fish, it is not a predator to all fishes.

Fish Eating Anemone, Urticina piscivora, also called Fish Eating Urticina, Velvety Red Anemone, Rose Anemone and Tealia Anemone
Painted Greenling Oxylebius pictus

In fact, the Fish Eating Anemone has a great relationship with one small fish called the Painted Greenling Oxylebius pictus. The Painted Greenlings will sometimes lie in Fish Eating Anemones, much like clown fish do in typical host anemones, and use this anemone for protection. For its part, the Fish Eating Anemone does provide protection.

Although not much information has been written about the Velvety Red Anemone, using similar husbandry for other cold water anemones is suggested. Like all anemones, the Fish Eating Urticina 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

Fish Eating Anemone, Urticina Piscivora

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Two different colored anemones

The Fish Eating Anemone, Urticina Piscivora, does just that.... it will eat fish. If you decide you would like one, your first purchase would be a chiller, since this is a cold water anemone needing temperatures from 55 to 60˚F. If you can find a Painted Greenling, Oxylebius pictus to purchase, this fish from a family from the scorpionfish Order, it will HOST the anemone. This fish will grow to almost 10," so the tank should be a good size. Avoid purchasing clownfish, since the Fish Eating Anemone will eat them. This is a very cool combo for a species specific cold water tank!

Fish Eating Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 59.0 to 72.0° F (15.0 to 22.2° C)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora was described by Sebens and Laakso in 1978. The Urticina genus belongs to the Actiniidae family, and this genus contains 6 species. Some other common names they are known by are Fish Eating Urticina, Tealia Anemone, Velvety Red Anemone, and Rose Anemone. This anemone is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Urticina piscivora is found in waters in the Northern Pacific from La Jolla, Mexico all the way up to Alaska.

Sea Anemone Habitat: These anemones are found in colder waters on rocky reefs in subtidal areas, in the middle and deep reefs. Usually seen on rocky outcroppings or walls from the low intertidal down to about 160 feet (49 m). They use their potent sting to immobilize small fish and invertebrates, primarily shrimp. Some predators, can be certain nudibranchs, sea stars and snails.

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


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Velvety Red Anemone has a cylindrical pedal column with a sticky foot at the bottom that they use it to adhere to various surfaces. They also use this "foot" to move around if conditions are not ideal. The color of the column or foot can be various shades of orange to red. They can also move 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 it is primarily if they are unhappy with the water conditions or food.

They have sturdy tentacles that are in 5 or more rows, with the mouth being in the center. The tentacles are thin at the tip and are solid white, yellow, and orange to red. The oral disc surrounds the base of each tentacle in red to pale orange, yet the area around the mouth is similar to the tentacles in color. 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. piscivora takes food in and expels waste through this same opening.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Fish Eating Anemones can grow up to 10" in diameter (25 cm) and up to 8" (20 cm) in height. 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: - They can grow to 10" in diameter and 8" in height.
  • Lifespan: - Their lifespan is unknown, however some varieties can live hundreds of years in the wild and have been known to live up to 80 years in captivity.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: The Rose Anemone is very rarely available to aquarists from a retailer. The U. piscivora can be difficult to care for since they do have lighting needs, must be in cold water, and are the most delicate of the Urticina anemones. As with most anemones, the tank should be at least 1 year old and stable before adding your new Velvety Red Anemone.

These cold water anemones need more specific care than tropical anemones and need perfect treatment from the start. When selecting a U. piscivora, 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 Fish Eating 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. 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: Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: The Fish Eating Anemone is a carnivore. Feed your U. piscivora 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 Fish Eating 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 your Fish Eating Anemone, but it must be a cold water reef. 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: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - Lighting should be moderate to high.
  • Temperature: 59.0 to 72.0° F (15.0 to 22.2° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • 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 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. Just keep in mind these anemones will sting everything they can reach, like corals and other invertebrates. Anemones will move if your lighting is not good, or the water quality is not to their liking.

After splitting, these 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
    • Stony Corals: May be aggressive
    • Soft Corals: May be aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Fish Eating Anemone should divide in captivity, but there is no information on propagation of cold water anemones. It may be just like other anemones. These cold water anemones reproduce by external fertilization of egg and sperm. When they spawn, they produce larvae that will float away, and eventually finding 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 the Fish Eating Anemone 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.


Buy A Sea Anemone: The Fish Eating Anemone or Velvety Red Anemone is generally unavailable to aquarists through retailers.


Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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