Giant Carpet Anemone

Gigantic Sea Anemone, Giant Anemone

Giant Carpet Anemone, Stichodactyla gigantea, Gigantic Sea Anemone, Giant AnemoneStichodactyla giganteaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

Despite its name, the Giant Carpet Anemone is actually smaller, and more delicate than other large carpets!

The Giant Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla gigantea is every bit as gorgeous as the popular Saddle Carpet Anemone S. haddoni. Its oral disc is deeply folded and colored in browns and greens, or in spectacular purples, pinks, deep blues, and bright greens. Its short, stubby tentacles are about 8 mm long and tapered. There are so many tentacles they give the anemone a shaggy "carpet" appearance, thus the name Carpet Anemone. Other names it is known by are the Gigantic Sea Anemone and the Giant Anemone.

This colorful clown-hosting anemone is known to host up to 7 different Amphiprion sp. clown fish. It has also been known to associate with the Domino Damselfish Dascyllus trimaculatus and several crabs and shrimps. They use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish, triggers and large wrasses.

The Giant Carpet Anemone should only be kept by very experienced aquarists. Although being smaller than other carpets makes it a more manageable anemone in the aquarium, it is also much more delicate than other carpets. These anemones are known to have a difficult time in transit, suffering from shipping stress. Once they arrive, they are prone to deadly bacterial infections.

This anemone can easily cost between $30 for a tan one up to $400 for a red one, so be sure to offer the best conditions for your new charge. They require a large aquarium as they can get big. Being quite delicate, care needs to be taken to offer them good water quality and a deep sandy substrate. If they will host a clown fish they need to be 3x's larger in diameter than the length of the clownfish.

For more information about Clown Fish anemones, see:
Facts About the 10 Clownfish Hosting Sea Anemones


Geographic Distribution
Stichodactyla gigantea
Data provided by GBIF.org
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Giant Carpet Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of organizm - inches: 19.5 inches (49.53 cm)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Giant Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla gigantea was described by Forsskål in 1775. The Stichodactyla genus is a member of the Stichodactylidae family, and this genus contains 6 species. Some other names they are known for are Gigantic Sea Anemone, Carpet Anemone, and Giant Anemone. This anemone is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The S. gigantea is found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, specifically the Red Sea to the Solomon Islands.

Sea Anemone Habitat: These Anemones dwell at depths of 6 to 66 feet (2 to 20 m). They live singly on coral rubble reefs and in soft sandy areas. The anemone will hide most of its body and hosts a plethora of different clownfish and several other marine animals. They use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish, triggers and large wrasses.

  • Scientific Name: Stichodactyla gigantea
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Description

Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Giant Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla gigantea has a pedal column that is often relatively narrow with a sticky foot that they use to adhere to rocks below the sand, or in crevices. The also use this "foot" to move around if conditions are not ideal. Column colors are tan, gray, green, yellowish, blue, or maroon.

The color of the oral disc can be brown or greenish as well as spectacular purples and pinks, deep blues, and bright greens. The disc is deeply folded on this anemone, differentiating it from the Saddle Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla Haddoni whose folds are less deep, giving them a wavy appearance. The Giant Carpet Anemone is also rarely held flat against its surrounding surfaces, unlike the Merten's Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla mertensii which often spreads out to blanket the surrounding substrate.

The tentacles of the Giant Anemone are short, stubby, and tapered. They are about 8 mm long and move constantly, making this anemone look like it's vibrating. There are so many tentacles they give the anemone a shaggy "carpet" appearance, thus the name Carpet Anemone. The mouth is often tan or pink, and as with all anemones, is in the center of the disc. 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 S. gigantea takes food in, and expels waste through this same opening.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Gigantic Sea Anemones usually grow no larger than 19.5" (50 cm), but it is unknown how long they live. Some anemones can be hundreds of years old in the wild, and in captivity some have been known to last 80 years or more. The S. gigantea have not been bred in captivity and rarely do they split on their own.

  • Size of organizm - inches: 19.5 inches (49.53 cm)
  • Lifespan: 0 years

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: The Giant Carpet Anemone can be moderately difficult to care for because they do have high 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 12 months old and stable before adding your new S. gigantea.

When choosing your 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 remove an S. gigantea from another aquarium when it is stuck on the glass, use a hair dryer. Blow at the foot of the anemone from the outside of the tank and the heat will make it pull away. If it's attached to a rock, ideally you can simply purchase the rock as well. If you cannot purchase the rock then use ice cubes in a zip lock bag, and gently rub the foot all around until it releases. This may take a few minutes, but it is the most reliable way of getting your anemone to release. Don't allow the fresh water of the ice cubes to touch the foot directly as this can cause tissue damage.

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

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: The Giant Carpet Anemone is a carnivore. Stichodactyla anemones are well equipped with nutritional alternatives for their well-being. In the wild they derive daily nutrition from their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that dwells within their tissues. They also use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and capture prey. This is usually blind prey like urchins, snails, crabs, shrimps, as well as small fish that come into range. They absorb nutrients from the water around them and they consume wastes from resident animals like clownfish. For their well-being it is not necessary for them to be fed by Clownfish they host, though clowns will often carry chunks of food to the anemone.

In captivity you can feed your S. gigantea chopped silversides, cod, and other types of fresh chopped fish (from your grocery store), as well as frozen carnivore preparations. Some say they are not always keen on crustacean flesh, but it is a natural food for them in the wild. You can offer table shrimp, clams, and mussels if yours will accept it. It is sufficient to feed them 2 to 4 times a week, and this avoids overfeeding.

Clownfish hosted with your anemone usually will not be able to sufficiently feed themselves and their anemone with the small quantity of food that is put in a captive environment. You will need to target feed this anemone. You can just offer your clowns a piece of fish flesh and they will usually snatch it out of your hand and give it to their host. However, not all clowns are this smart, so don't depend on the clown fish to feed the anemone.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet - They can be fed chopped silversides, cod, and other types of fresh chopped fish (from your grocery store), as well as frozen carnivore preparations.
  • Feeding Frequency: Weekly - Feed them 2-4 times a week.

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. A Carpet Anemone (6" to 8") is equal to 3 or 4 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 are suggested. Keeping salinity stable with a top off mechanism is highly suggested. Control phosphates with products such as Phosban and the Phosban reactor.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly
  • Iodine Levels: - Additions of Iodine are suggested.

Aquarium Setup

The typical live rock/reef environment with a sand substrate is what is needed for a Giant Carpet Anemone. Have a 4" sand bed for them to bury their foot into. The Gigantic Sea Anemone will attach to a hard surface through the sand. Once it is secured, if it is happy it will stay put. If it isn't happy and is moving around, be sure to check your lighting and water quality, and also make sure you are feeding it adequately. A good protein skimmer is a must. With all anemones it's a good rule of thumb to have all of your pumps covered, most good quality pumps have guards on them.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Substrate Type: Sand
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - Moderate to High.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate - Moderate to Strong Water Flow.
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

All anemones are semi-aggressive because they can be mobile, although a contented Giant Carpet Anemone will stay put once it has found a place to settle. 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. Keep this in mind when stocking sessile inverts. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish, triggers and large wrasses.

With the Gigantic Sea Anemone, it is generally recommended that you don't put any other anemones in the same tank. Anemones 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. However, after splitting anemones will tolerate their own "clones", and sometimes their own species. Having excellent filtration and a large tank, (over 200 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".

The Giant Anemone has been said to consume fish tank mates. In the wild it has been found as a host for up to 7 different clownfish species. They have also been found associated with the Domino Damsel or Three-spot Damsel Dascyllus trimaculatus and several crustacea. These include the Five-spot Anemone Shrimp Periclimenes brevicarpalis, the Porcelain Crab Neopetrolisthes oshimai, and the Sexy Anemone Shrimp Thor amboinensis.

If you want to have your Carpet Anemone host a clownfish, be sure your anemone is 3x's larger in diameter than the length of the clown fish you introduce.

It has been known to host the following 7 Clownfish species in nature::

  • Venomous: Yes
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes
    • Anemones: Monitor
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Starfish: Monitor
    • Nudibranch, Sea Slugs: Monitor

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

The S. gigantea have not been bred in captivity and rarely do they split on their own. Propagating is not recommended. 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, and then begin to grow into a new anemone.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

Fish Diseases

Problems for the Giant Carpet 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. With any change in shape, color, or other indications that there is a problem, then you need to check your lighting and water quality. If there are any non-reef type fish in the aquarium, such as large wrasses, look for possible attack marks. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish, triggers and large wrasses.

Availability

Buy Sea Anemone: The Giant Carpet Anemone S. gigantea is easy to find in stores and online. Price is dependent on size and color. Costs online starts at about $30.00 USD for a tan specimen, and can go up to $400.00 USD for a red one.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney

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