Glass Anemone - Aiptasia

Aiptasia, Tropical Sea Anemone, Hawaiian Aiptasia pulchella

Glass Anemone or Aiptasia, Aiptasia pulchella, also known as Tropical Sea Anemone, Rock Anemone, and Tube AnemoneGlass Anemone, Aiptasia pulchella, Aiptasia, Tropical Sea Anemone Aiptasia pulchellaPhoto © Animal-World, Courtesy David Brough
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The glass anemone is so annoying!! I have been removing them myself, but like they say remove one and two grow back!! I moved some rocks from my 50 gal tank to my... (more)  Rachel Briles Smith

The Glass Anemone is just one of 17 Aiptasia species, but it is the one that is commonly referred to as 'Aiptasia'!

Small Aiptasia Glass Anemones don't have a very good reputation with saltwater hobbyists, and they can reach plague proportions in a saltwater aquarium or a reef tank. Scientific studies have determined that the Glass Anemones have strong stings, and don't "play nice" with other corals and fish. They use venomous cells, or nematocysts found in their tentacles, to sting corals and fish. They are very hard to get rid of and have been known to take over a reef aquarium by quickly reproducing while stinging and killing other tank invertebrates.

Corals and other anemones are the invertebrates most affected by this pest. Unless you are keeping them in a refugium to help control nutrients, Glass Anemones need to be removed as soon as possible. Once Aptasia gets a foothold, manual removal to keep populations in check may very well become an ongoing activity.

Though Glass Anemones are not relished in saltwater aquarium industry, they are favored in the world of research. Its fame, along with the Brown Glass Anemone, is in its contribution to the understanding of coral bleaching. It is a hermatypic anemone, meaning that it contains and depends upon zooxanthellae (algae) for nutrients. This is one of the anemones being used in experimental modeling studies to understand how the stress of increased water temperatures affects this symbiotic relationship. Hopes are to learn how environmental causes of bleaching are linked to climate change and disease. Other Aiptasia being used in various types of research include the Small Rock Anemone Aiptasia diaphana.


For more about the types of Sea Anemone Species, see:
Sea Anemone - Tube Anemone

Geographic Distribution
Aiptasia pulchella
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Glass Anemone, Aiptasia pulchella

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One way of killing these pests......

The Glass Anemone or Aiptasia as it is typically referred to by aquarists, can reach plague levels in a short time! While in the ocean they are kept in check by various predators, in a closed system they can leave death and destruction in their wake! This video shows on of several natural predators that can be used. A Copperbanded Butterflyfish, while the most effective, has a dismal survival rate. Personally, I have had one that wouldn't eat, then I was tipped off by a friend to feed it frozen/thawed bloodworms. That did it! After fattening him up, he then started to take mysis and I stopped feeding the bloodworms. The nudibranchs they sell for them only work in a small tank that you put your infected rock into. I let them loose in my tank and they disappeared and the aiptasia remained.

Glass Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 1 gal (4 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Temperature: 68.0 to 86.0° F (20.0 to 30.0° C)
  • Size of organism - inches: 2.5 inches (6.35 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Glass Anemone Aiptasia pulchella was described by Carlgren in 1943. It is the rock anemone species that is commonly just called 'Aiptasia'. The Aiptasia genus is a member of the Aiptasiidae family, and this genus contains 17 species.A few other common names it is known as are Tropical Sea Anemone, Hawaiian Aiptasia pulchella, Rock Anemone, and Tube Anemone. Aiptasia pulchella is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Glass Anemone is found in the North Western Pacific east to Hawaii.

Sea Anemone Habitat: Glass Anemones are found in shallow waters along protected coasts and along intertidal rocky shorelines. They are found alone attached to rubble, live rock, dead corals, and other hard substrates.They will also form dense colonies in areas of shallow water, sometimes so dense they look like solid sheets. They occur in deep water too, where there is good tidal action. They generally eat zooplankton, but will always accept other food particles.

Sea Anemone Species: There are 17 species in the Aiptasia Genus. General common names all the various Aiptasia anemones are known by are the Glassrose Anemone, Rock Anemone, Devil's Plague, Aiptasia Anemone, Pest Anemone, and sometimes by this misspelling, Aptasia.

  • Scientific Name: Aiptasia pulchella
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Aiptasia pulchella are somewhat translucent and generally occur in a pale to rich brownish color with lighter tentacle tips. Their coloring comes from an algae called zooxanthellae living in its tissues.

Aiptasia pulchella can get up to about 2.5" (6 cm) tall, but most specimens only reach about 1" (2.5 cm) tall. Their body form is the polyp. It is composed of a long, thin column with an oral disc on top that has a mouth in the center. There are elongated tapering tentacles positioned in narrow rings on the outer margin of the oral disc. The oral disc supporting these tentacles is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. If it feels threatened, quick as a whip, the Glass Anemone will rapidly retract its tentacles becoming a very small ball, and it will retract into its hole or crevice.

How do glass anemones move?: The Tropical Sea Anemone has a pedal disc or 'foot' with which it attaches to the substrate. If tank conditions are not ideal they will use their "foot" to move along the substrate. They do this by contracting the circular muscles of the foot and pushing forward, or they may crawl on their side, moving about 4 cm per hour. Aiptasia pulchella will often opt to simply disconnect and float around, or swim by moving in a spiral motion, until they find a new spot to adhere too.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: It is unknown how long Aiptasia can live, but they do reproduce quickly. Mature specimens can produce dozens of juveniles in a single day if they have plenty of nutrients.

  • Size of organism - inches: 2.5 inches (6.35 cm)
  • Lifespan: 0 years

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: Some aquarists use aiptasia in their refugiums to take out nutrients from the water. Hawaiian Aiptasia pulchella are easy to care for and they are quite hardy and durable. They have the ability to reproduce rapidly in saltwater aquariums where there are plenty of nutrients and good lighting.

Aiptasia or Glass Anemones can reach plague proportions in captivity. In some aquariums they will reproduce faster than in others, but the exact reason is unknown. They do seem to reproduce faster in environments high in nutrients and detritus. This anemone as well as any species of Aiptasia is generally regarded as a pest. They can be difficult to control and/or eliminate once they get a foothold.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: The Glass Anemone is a carnivore. In the wild they derive nutrition from their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, as well as from the water around them. They use their tentacles to capture organic matter that floats by, then insert the food into their mouths for ingestion. They generally eat zooplankton, but will always accept other food particles.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Seldom

Aquarium Care

Water changes of 10% bi-monthly or 20% a month are typical for most anemones, but with Aiptasia, the more nutrients you have the happier it will be. They will flourish in poor water-quality environments that are rich in organic nutrients.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

Using aiptasia in refugiums to take out nutrients can be effective, yet it can also be risky if any parts of an aiptasia migrates to the main tank through the filtration. The typical reef environment is best for these anemones. Like most anemone species, they need live rock or some other solid material they can attach to. In a refugium use screening to prevent free floating aiptasia from migrating to your main tank. Be sure to have all of your pumps covered. Most good quality pumps have guards on them.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 1 gal (4 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any
  • Temperature: 68.0 to 86.0° F (20.0 to 30.0° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Weak - Low to Moderate.
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

The Glass Anemones are aggressive anemones that have strong stings that can harm, and even kill other corals and fish. Saltwater hobbyists don't purchase these anemones, rather they are acquired accidentally and they are able to out compete other species in the reef tank. When disturbed they eject dangerous white stinging threads, or acontia. By using venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles, they sting and push other inhabitants away from their "turf". They have strong stings that can harm, and even kill other corals and fish.

  • Venomous: Yes
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes
    • Anemones: Threat
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Stony Corals: Threat - is aggressive
    • Soft Corals: Threat - is aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

Studies of A. pallida and A. pulchella have determined that individuals are dioecious, meaning that individuals are of separate sexes. However, no sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

Propagating aiptasia anemones is fairly easy, just cut a piece off and it will grow. Anemones in general can multiply by sexual and asexual means. Aiptasia will multiply asexually by fission, which is where a tiny bit of tissue detached from the foot quickly develops into a new and complete anemone.

These anemones will tolerate their own "clones", and these anemones are very prolific. This is why it is very difficult to physically remove these anemones from a rock. Any remaining tissues quickly multiply into new specimens. Sexual reproduction has not been described for the species.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Ailments / Diseases

Problems for the Glass 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." With better conditions, they can quickly multiply, and having a quickly expanding population of Aiptasia then becomes the problem.

Regular and time consuming manual removal is often required so that an aquarium is not overrun by dense populations of these anemones. There are various ways to reduce and control aiptasia populations. Sea anemone predators provide a natural, biological method of controlling and possibly eliminating Aiptasia anemones. Other methods include chemical removal and the more risky method of physical removal. There are important considerations when using either of these two methods.

For information on Aiptasia removal and control, see: Aiptasia Pests - Getting Rid of Glass Anemones.


Buy A Sea Anemone: Saltwater aquarists don't usually buy Glass Anemones, but Aiptasia are available alive from supply companies for research and scientific study. Aquarists generally acquire them as hitchhikers, arriving with live rock or attached to the base of corals..


Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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