Magnificent Sea Anemone

Ritteri Anemone, Bulb-Tip Anemone, Purple Base Anemone

Magnificent Sea Anemone, Ritteri Anemone, Heteractis magnifica, Bulb-Tip Anemone, Purple Base AnemoneHeteractis magnificaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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Hello, I have purchased my violet Magnificent Anemone on October 4th of this year. It has been a little over a week and my one clown fish is maddly in love with it... (more)  Samantha Feliciano

First called the Ritteri Anemone, it is now known as the Magnificent Sea Anemone... And it sure is!

The Magnificent Anemone Heteractis magnifica is an absolute favorite. It used to be known primarily as the Ritteri Anemone because for years it was classified as Radianthus ritteri. Long time aquarists still commonly refer to it as the Ritteri Anemone. Some other common names it is known by are the Bulb-Tip Anemome, Purple Base Anemone, Maroon Anemone, and Yellow Tipped Long Tentacle Anemone.

In nature this anemone is a clown host anemone. It has an intense body coloration ranging from avocado green, greenish-browns and white, to sky blue and violet. Its 3" long tentacles have iridescent bulb shaped tips that are a yellowish green. It has been found to host numerous different clown fish species, the Domino or Three-spot Damsel Dascyllus trimaculatus, several shrimp species and the Porcelain Anemone Crab Neopetrolisthes ohshimai. In the aquarium it is fun to add a couple different sets of juvenile clownfish to a 12" anemone and watch them cohabitate.

This is curiously different from how the Magnificent Anemone hosts clownfish in nature. In the wild, only one type of clownfish is hosted by these anemones in each location where they live. There may even be other types of clownfish in that same area, but just not hosted by them. In another location a different clownfish will be hosted. An example is in the central Indian Ocean, where the Maldives or Black-footed Clownfish Amphiprion nigripes is hosted while the Clark's Clown fish A. clarkii is not, even though it is present in the same area.

The Bulb-Tip Anemone can be very challenging to keep. They require excellent water quality with no nitrates. Good water flow, strong lighting and plenty of food are the key ingredients in keeping the Magnificent Anemone alive and thriving. If they are kept healthy and are well fed, they can grow quickly.

In the wild, unlike other anemones, the H. magnifica tends to live high up on reefs with much of its body exposed. In the aquarium this anemone tends to move around quite a bit, even 'walking' up the glass and then adhering to the panes. It likes to position itself for optimum light and water flow, presumably this is how it would collect plankton in nature.

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

Magnificent Sea Anemone, Ritteri Anemone, Heteractis magnifica

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Small Magnificent Sea Anemone and clown

The Magnificent Sea Anemone is a beautiful anemone that is coveted by experienced reefers. One can be super easy the next one dying quickly! This was the first anemone I ever tried and had success, actually similar to the size in this video. It was a very young/small specimen (4") and it had exposure to some sunlight every day. Recently, a larger one was attempted and it died even though all the necessary parameters were provided, with the exception of this time around having LED lighting. The Bubble Tip was fine with the LEDs so it may just be size. Please relate your experiences! They will host most clownfish, with Perculas LOVING them! If you have True Perculas hosting one, Pink Clowns can be added and they will share! Your tank should be over 100 gallons and matured by at least 1 year or more.

Magnificent Sea Anemone - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Size of organism - inches: 39.0 inches (99.06 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

Sea Anemone Facts: The Magnificent Sea Anemone or Ritteri Anemone Heteractis magnifica was described by Quoy and Gaimard in 1833. The Heteractis genus is a member of the Stichodactylidae family, and this genus contains 4 species. Some names they are known for are Bulb-Tip Anemone, Purple Base Anemone, Maroon Anemone, and Yellow Tipped Long Tentacle Anemone. The Heteractis magnifica is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Where are Sea Anemones Found: The Heteractis magnifica is found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean from the Red Sea to Somoa.

Sea Anemone Habitat: Purple Base Anemones are found in waters at depths of 3 to 33 feet (1 to 10 m) in shallow reefs. Unlike other anemones that hide in the substrate or deep crevices, they prefer to live higher up on the reef, often with much of their body visible.

They can be found singly or grouped in dense colonies. They are accompanied by clownfish, which forms a symbiotic relationship for the protection and nourishment of both animals. They use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks, and also use them to catch prey. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish.

  • Scientific Name: Heteractis magnifica
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


Appearance of a Sea Anemone: The Ritteri Anemone Heteractis magnifica has a sticky foot at the base of the pedal column that is used to adhere to various surfaces. They also use the "foot" to move around if conditions are not ideal. The foot tends to be much larger than the column in comparison to other anemones. The column is intensely colored, ranging from avocado green, greenish-browns and white, to sky blue and magenta.

Tentacles are all over the surface of the oral disc. The disc and the tentacles tend to be brown, but can be green, yellow, or white. The approximately 3" long tentacles are finger-shaped and some may be branched. They are topped with spherical or bulb shaped tips which are lighter and usually colored an iridescent yellowish green. When this anemone feels threatened, it will retract all its tentacles and form a large ball.

The mouth is in the center of the oral disc. It should be closed and tight, and will open when hungry, having an oval look. A gaping mouth is a warning signal. The H. magnifica takes food in and expels waste through this same opening.

Sea Anemones Life Cycles: Magnificent Sea Anemones can grow up to 39" (100 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.

  • Size of organism - inches: 39.0 inches (99.06 cm)
  • Lifespan: - Their lifespan is unknown. Some anemones can be hundreds of years old in the wild, and in captivity some have been known to last 80 years or more.

Difficulty of Care

Sea Anemone Care: The Bulb-Tip Anemone can be difficult to care for. They have high lighting needs and must be in a large enough aquarium to satisfy their ultimate size. They need appropriate water movement and regular feeding. In fact, a lack of feeding is thought to be the second biggest reason for their demise in captivity. Putting an anemone in a new tank will result in failure. The tank should be at least 1 year old and stable before adding your new H. magnifica.

When choosing your Magnificent Sea 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 take an H. magnifica anemone from another aquarium, 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. The H. magnifica can perish from any type of tissue damage.

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

Foods and Feeding

What Do Sea Anemones Eat: This anemone is a carnivore. In the wild, they are well equipped with nutritional alternatives for their well-being. They derive daily nutrition from their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, which dwells within their tissues. They also use their venomous cells or nematocysts found in their tentacles to sting and capture prey. They absorb nutrients from the water around them and they consume wastes from resident animals like clownfish. It is not necessary for them to be fed by Clownfish they host, though clowns will often carry chunks of food to the anemone.

The Magnificent Sea Anemone needs regular feeding, but they don't often have such a hardy appetite in captivity, or are particular about what they accept. They often seem to favor shrimp and other crustaceans over fish and mollusks. You can feed your H. magnifica a mix of chopped fresh shrimp, fish and mussel from your grocery store. This variety is very good for these anemones, as they seem to derive their different dietary needs from these meats. Large anemones need food daily, medium sized anemones need to be fed 5 times a week, and the young or smaller ones need to be fed 2 to 4 times a week. The old adage that anemones should be fed once a month is false and has lead to many deaths.

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 a mix of chopped fresh shrimp, fish and mussels from your grocery store.
  • 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. This anemone will not do well with fluctuating salinity. Keeping salinity stable with a top off mechanism is highly suggested. Also, keeping alkalinity at the typically acceptable range of 3.5 meq/l for reef tanks is advisable. A good protein skimmer is a must.

A Magnificent Sea Anemone that is 8" to 10" 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 and and trace elements are suggested. Control phosphates with products such as Phosban and the Phosban reactor.

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

Aquarium Setup

The typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your H. magnifica. They need live rock or some other solid material they can attach to. They move about and love to climb to the top of anything and everything. Because of this 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: Any
  • Lighting Needs: High - Strong lighting - To help provide adequate light, it helps to build a tower of live rock up to just under the surface. Providing lighting with Metal Halides is suggested by some aquarists, while others say the excessive UV that Metal Halides produce tends to damage the tissue of the H. magnifica.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate - It does not like a direct hard flow, but does appreciate moderate swaying motions.
  • Water Region: Top

Social Behaviors

All anemones are semi-aggressive because they can be mobile. The Purple Base Anemone will move, often re-positioning itself to get adequate lighting and plenty of food. 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. Bristle worms also have been known to irritate and chew at H. magnifica.

Magnificent Sea Anemones in the tank need to be at least 2-3 feet away from each other. If you have 2 anemones that are 6" across, then your tank should be at least 4-5 feet long. 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 100 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".

If you want your anemone to host clownfish, be sure it is 3 to 4 times larger in diameter than the length of the clown fish you introduce, or it will be 'loved' to death. For example, a 4 - 6" anemone with clowns that are introduced at a young age of 1" to 1.5" will work out well. Keep in mind, the more clowns you have translates into more "inches" of fish" for your anemone. It is best to buy the anemone first and give it a few months to acclimate and grow before adding clowns. Almost all the clowns take to H. magnifica.

It has been found in nature hosting the following 12 Clownfish species:

  • Clark's Clown fish Amphiprion clarkii
  • Ocellaris Clownfish A. ocellaris
  • Pink Skunk Clownfish A. perideraion
  • True Percula Clownfish A. percula
  • Orange-fin Clownfish A. chrysopterus
  • Barrier Reef Clownfish A. akindynos
  • Two-Band Clownfish A. bicinctus
  • Maldives or Black-footed Clownfish Amphiprion nigripes
  • White-Bonnet Clownfish A. leucokranos
  • Red and Black Clownfish A. melanopus
  • Oman Clownfish A. omanensis
  • Skunk Clownfish A. akallopisos
  • Venomous: Yes
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes
    • Anemones: Monitor
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Starfish: Monitor
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor
    • Nudibranch, Sea Slugs: Monitor
    • Stony Corals: May be aggressive
    • Soft Corals: May be aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

The H. magnifica typically do not breed in captivity. It has been reported that one species has cloned in captivity, but not just any specimen will clone. As has been found with the Bubble Tip Anemone Entacmaea quadricolor, it is only known that cloned specimens can clone again.

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, then begin to grow into a new anemone.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

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. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish. Bristle worms also have been known to irritate and chew at H. magnifica.


Buy A Sea Anemone: The Magnificent Sea Anemone or Ritteri Anemone H. magnifica is easy to find in stores and online. The cost online starts at about $49.00 USD and goes up depending on size, color and species.

When selecting one of thes anemones, be careful not to buy a bleached anemone or an artificially colored anemone. Captive specimens are sometimes bleached out so they are also white in color. If they are white, their chances of survival are slim. The Sebae Anemone as well as the Magnificent Anemone or Ritteri Anemone Heteractis magnifica are often colored with vegetable or other dyes as well.These treatments, especially bleaching, can be fatal as the anemone works to purge all the color and return to the color it was originally, usually a tan or reddish brown.


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

Samantha Feliciano - 2014-10-15
Hello, I have purchased my violet Magnificent Anemone on October 4th of this year. It has been a little over a week and my one clown fish is maddly in love with it along with two anemone crabs leaving my second clown fish depressed looking. My problem is not the Anemone it is when purchasing the anemone I was forced to buy the peice of rock it was attached to ( I am guessing this is where the Dino came from, considering I did not have this problem ever before). Within 3 days the tank went from crystal clear to being covered in a brown snotty substance (which today I finally figured that it is Dinoflagellates, I was mistaking it for bubbly algae). I did some research and they say that using the 'Blackout Method' (letting the lights out for 72 hours) is best. My concern is, will this kill my anemone from depriving it from light for that long? Are there other ways that I can get rid of this Dinoflagellates? 

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-10-17
    Well, you could certainly try reducing the amount of light for a period of time.  Apparently it does work to eliminate dino with 3 days of no light, but it puts a lot of toxins in the tank and the oxygen levels get very low, so a protein skimmer and possibly air pumps will be needed, as well as large water changes. Really can't say what will happen in advance. Watch the anemone closely to see if it starts to decline. If it does seem to be struggling you would then need to correct again, and make its needs the priority. You may want to move it to another aquarium during the lights out process.
  • Clarice Brough - 2014-10-21
    Personally I'd be very careful with H2O2. I don't know much about it, but from what I've read there are reports of it killing snails and shrimp; also fish, especially any that known to be particularly sensitive. Also if it flows through your filters biomedia, it can kill nitrifying bacteria, which can cause major problems. I would definitely research it heavily before attempting it, and even then I would be very cautious.
  • Samantha - 2014-10-21
    Thank you for your reply. I attempted to reduce the lighting in the tank and it seemed to upset the Anemone. I think that I will be proceeding with the black out method, but I will be moving my Magnificent to another tank first along with the hosting crabs and Clown fish. I already have a protein skimmer but I will attempt to find an air pump. What do you think about also using the H2O2 method along with the blackout method? Then do a very big water change at the end of the blackout to reduce the H2O2, Ammonia, nitrate and phosphate levels?
Claire Louise Wright - 2014-09-11
Hi I bought a H.magnifica yesterday and last night and this morning it was fine clowns went straight to it, but this afternoon it went all flat and limp , my nitrates were a lil up but lfs said it wouldn't affect my tank contents, just don't know what to do, he looks very sad worried of losing it as paid a lot, is there any ideas of what could be wrong?

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-09-14
    This anemone can be rather touchy. Some aquarists suggest you only get one if you are going to provide a tank dedicated to it, especially because it will eat fish. They need plenty of room, good lighting, and good water movement, and the water needs to be lateral but alternernating in flow. If the water movement is not to their liking, it can be a reason they flatten and become flacid. It is also said that one of the biggest reason they die is from not being fed.
Angelique - 2013-04-08
Hi, we bought a beautifull purple based Magnifica yesterday. The problem is that after the addition I tested the water and the Nitrate was 100ppm! The issue was that the test I had expired and it didn't give high readings at all, but now with the new test I got this high reading. All else is in order, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, ph 8.2, temp 27ÂșC, Salinity 1.026... We replaced 75 litres of our 250 litre capacity tank after getting the reading but it didn't bring down the reading. Will my Magnifica survive? What else can I do to quickly bring the Nitrate level down?

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-04-08
    Yeah, replacing water is one of the easiest ways to get rid of nitrate. Nitrates should be kept low in all reef settings, and water changes are one of the best ways to do it. You didn't say if the anemone was showing any signs of stress, but when you replace 50% of the water, then the amount of nitrate is reduced by half.
  • Angelique - 2013-04-11
    Hi, we've done 3 replacements of 75 liters this week and the Nitrate has dropped to 40, will be doing another change tonight. A real surprise but the Anemone is doing great! Hasn't moved and tentacles are inflated and long. Have 2 clowns hosting it and they are totally inlove! :) Going to try feeding the Anemone some Lance fish tonight...
  • Angelique - 2013-04-11
    Hi, we've done 3 replacements of 75 liters this week and the Nitrate has dropped to 40, will be doing another change tonight. A real surprise but the Anemone is doing great! Hasn't moved and tentacles are inflated and long. Have 2 clowns hosting it and they are totally inlove! :) Going to try feeding the Anemone some Lance fish tonight...
kyle christensen - 2010-04-23
Just bought a mag. anemone and its started to dissolve, the pet store said it could be water temp but hes the most helpful. What might it be?