The Bubble-Tip Anemone is a favorite of aquarists and highly favored by clownfish, hosting 13 different species in the wild!

The Bubble-Tip Anemone Entacmaea quadricolor is one of the most popular of the clown-hosting anemones. It’s very attractive and one of the easier anemones to maintain. It is best suited to a large aquarium, however, as it tends to wander more than other anemones. But with proper aquarium conditions and lighting, you can showcase an attractive, long lived anemone.

The Bubble-Tip Anemone will host, and be accepted by, most of the clownfish that are readily available to the saltwater aquarist. In the wild, the Bubble-Tip Anemone is known to host 13 different species of clownfish, and an additional species in captivity. Only the Sebae AnemoneHeteractis crispa hosts as many clownfish.

The shape of this anemone’s tentacles are one of its most spectacular and peculiar features. The tentacles can inflate to form an attractive bulbous, or pear-shaped enlargement just below the tip. Hence the common names Bubble-Tip Anemone, Bulb Tentacle Anemone, Bulb Tip Anemone, and Bulb Anemone. The tentacles can also be without this swelling, more closely resembling the tentacles of the Long Tentacle AnemoneMacrodactyla doreensis.

Exactly why a particular Bubble-Tip Anemone may or may not inflate its tentacles is unknown. It has been suggested that the presence of a clownfish triggers them to inflate. The level of lighting is also suggested to possibly have an affect, as low illumination seems to encourage tentacles that are long and stringy. It is also suggested that they inflate after being fed. All of these conditions have been observed with particular anemones, however, none of them have proven to be conclusive.

The column of the Bubble-Tip is usually brown, but its tentacles can be a wide variety of hues, ranging from orange and reds to brown, green and bluish-greens, and even creams. The tentacle color is dependant on the concentration of zooxanthellae, its symbiotic marine algae. There is also a delicate rosy hue that has led to the common names Rose Bubble-Tip Anemone and Rose Anemone. Some other common names it known by are Four-Colored Anemone, Maroon Sea Anemone, Maroon Anemone.

In the wild, these anemones can commonly be found in shallower waters of the intertidal zone down to depths of about 130 feet (40 m). Depending upon the location where they are found, they exhibit two different variations. Large colonies of the smaller Bubble-Tip Anemone are found in shallow waters while the larger specimens are solitary and found in deeper waters. Each type also hosts the specific species of clownfish living within the same area, and that inhabits the same depth.

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

Bubble Tip Anemone, Entacmaea quadricolor brown color
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Cool time lapse movement of a Bubble Tip!

The Bubble Tip Anemone is a mobile reef animal that uses a muscular foot to move. If fed well, with small pieces of fresh marine flesh and they have good light and water flow, they will stay in the same spot. If water quality is low or the tank is less than a year old, it will walk around, “looking” for better conditions and can sting other corals or get chopped up in an uncovered intake of a pump. Clownfish should be 1/2 the size of the anemone or this will stress the anemone out. A great “beginner” anemone, this is still best kept by intermediate aquarists.

Bubble Tip (ROSE) Anemone, Entacmaea quadricolor
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Captive Bubble Tips on display

The Rose Bubble Tip Anemone is arguably one of the most sought after of this species. They can range from a deep burgundy red to a mix of green and red. They split quite often and tend to roam more so than the other colors for some reason. Personally, feeding them every other day shrimp or other meat foods chopped up into small pieces and good light will keep them still. For some reason, some will die if given a silverside to eat. Not all, but a green one that I had did die! Take should be mature, over a year old before adding any anemone. These will usually split before they get too large, making them great for selling to defer the expense that this hobby brings.

Bubble Tip (Green) Anemone, Entacmaea quadricolor
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Slightly pale green Bubble Tip with Maroon 5 host!

The Green Bubble Tip is a little pale in this video, however the fact that it is eating means it should intensify in color. They love all marine flesh. In my experience, the green bubble tip do not need as much light as the Rose or Red Bubble Tip, but still need good lighting! A mature tank with good water quality is best for long term survival!

Bubble Tip Anemone – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 83.0° F (22.2 to 28.3&deg C)
  • Size of organism – inches: 12.0 inches (30.48 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Bubble Tip Anemone Entacmaea quadricolor was described by Rüppell and Leuckart in 1828. The Entacmaea genus is a member of the Actiniidae family. The Entacmaea quadricolor is found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean from the Red Sea to Samoa. This anemone is widespread and common, and is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species. Some common names they are known by are Bulb Tentacle Anemone, Bulb Tip Anemone, Bulb Anemone, Four-Colored Anemone, Rose Bubble Tip Anemone, Rose Anemone, Maroon Sea Anemone, and Maroon Anemone.

These anemones are commonly found at intertidal zones to depths of about 130 feet (40 m). There are two variations this anemone. Smaller Bubble Tip Anemones are found in shallow clear water reefs. These form dense colonies in waters that have gentle movement. The deeper water variations are found singly, yet are much larger.

Bubble Tip Anemones bury their column into rocky crevices, quickly retracting if they feel threatened. They use venomous cells. nematocysts found in their tentacles, to sting and deflect any possible threats or attacks, and also use them to catch prey.

They are usually found with clownfish, and form a symbiotic relationship for the protection and nourishment of both animals. The Clownfish protect the Bubble Tip Anemone from Angelfish and other predators that will feed on their tentacles. Other predators are more venomous anemones, some nudibranchs and some species of sea stars.

  • Scientific Name: Entacmaea quadricolor
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


Bubble Tip Anemones can grow up to 12” (30 cm). The color is generally brown, tan, green, or bluish greens, but can also be cream pink, red, and brick red. There is also a delicate rosy hue that has led to the common name Rose Bubble-Tip Anemone. They have been bred in captivity, 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 live 80 years or more.

These anemones have a pedal column with a sticky foot at the bottom that they use to adhere to various surfaces. They like to flare out over rocks or in between them. They also use the “foot” to move around if conditions are not ideal. The pedal column is generally brown and has rows of verrucae, small bulges that have stinging cells. These bumps can be white, orange, or yellow. The column may also have flicks, lines and spots on it.

The Bubble Tip has tentacles are all over the surface of the oral disc, with a mouth being in the center. The tentacles can be bulbous, usually with a pear-shape, or smooth and tapered. Even with a lot of research, it has not been determined what causes the “bulbous” ends to form. The mouth should be closed and tight, and will open when hungry, having an oval look. A gaping mouth is a warning signal. The E. quadricolor take food in and expel waste through this same opening.

  • Size of organism – inches: 12.0 inches (30.48 cm)
  • Lifespan: 100 years – Some anemones have been known to live 80 years or more in captivity, and hundreds of years in the wild.

Difficulty of Care

The Bubble Tip Anemone can be moderate 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 1 year old and stable before adding your new E. quadricolor.

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. Make sure there is no damage to the foot area, that is often a result of pulling the anemone off its surface.

To transfer an E. quadricolor 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 its attached to a rock, ideally you can simply purchase the rock as well. If you cannot purchase the rock, while under water, directing water at it or wiggling the rock gently upside down while tickling the foot can work.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Bubble Tip Anemone is a carnivore, but these anemones are well equipped with nutritional alternatives for their well-being. They derive daily nutrition from their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that dwells within their tissues. They also use their venomous cells, nematocysts found in their tentacles, to sting and capture prey. They absorb nutrients from the water around them and consume wastes from resident animals like clownfish. It is not necessary for them to be fed by Clown fish they host, though clowns will often carry chunks of food to the anemone.

In the aquarium, you can feed your E. quadricolor chopped shrimp, krill, and mussels, fresh chopped fish (from your grocery store), as well as frozen carnivore preparations. Do not feed them silversides. as there have been numerous stories of these killing them. There are enough varieties off foods that they will accept that it is easy to avoid feeding them these.

The Bubble Tip Anemone needs to be fed 3 to 4 times a week. Younger ones, and ones that are sick and have lost their zooxanthellae, need almost daily feedings with food that is finely clopped. The old adage that anemones should be fed once a month is false and has lead to many deaths.

It is not necessary for them to be fed by Clownfish they host. Clownfish usually will not be able to sufficiently feed both 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 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
  • Flake Food: Occasionally – Carnivore formula. Depends on individual tastes of the anemone.
  • Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally – Carnivore formula. Depends on individual tastes of the anemone.
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Marine sources.
  • Liquid Foods: Some of Diet – Liquid foods with larger zooplankton.
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet – Any chopped fresh raw marine flesh.
  • Feeding Frequency: Weekly – Feed adults 3 to 4 times a week, juveniles 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. Keeping salinity stable with a top off mechanism is highly recommended. Waste production created by your anemone can be calculated in inches. Basically, every inch of anemone is equal to an inch of fish, so a Bubble Tip Anemone of 2 to 4″ produces a bioload equivalent to that of 2 or 3 fish small fish. A 12″ anemone produces a bioload equivalent to that of four 3″ fish or two 6″ fish.

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. Poly-fiber can be cut and used in sumps, etc. A good protein skimmer is a must.

Although anemones are not as dependent on calcium as stony corals, magnesium and calcium is still needed to keep the pH and alkalinity stable and within the correct parameters. Keep alkalinity at the typically acceptable range of 3.5 meq/l for reef tank. Additions of trace elements are suggested. Phosphates should be kept around 0.03 or less. Control phosphates with products such as Phosban and the Phosban reactor.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Water changes of 10% twice a month, or 20% a month are typical.
  • Calcium Levels: 380.0 – 450.0 ppm – Helps to balance alkalinity. Aim for 420 ppm, or 385 ppm if you are using Seachem calcium.
  • Alkalinity Levels: 7.0 – 11.0 dKH – (2.5 to 3.9 meq/L) Aim for 10 dKH (3.5 meq/l) for reef tanks.
  • Magnesium Levels: 1,250.0 – 1,350.0 ppm – Check magnesium levels and adjust before using Calcium test.
  • Strontium Levels: 5.0 – 15.0 ppm – Aim for 8 ppm.
  • Iodine Levels: – .030 to .060 ppm. Control is not recommended.

Aquarium Setup

The typical reef environment is what is needed for your Bubble Tip Anemone. A mature 100-gallon tank with live rock that is at least 9 to 12 months old is advised for a large 12″ specimen. However, the minimum tank size for a small 2″ juvenile is 30 gallons, 50 gallons for a 4″ specimen, and 75 gallons for a specimen between 6 to 8.” They are not suited for small nano tanks, since it is hard to keep water quality high and their potential size.

The E. quadricolor will bury its column into crevices in rock. If you have it on sand, put branches of coral down into the sand for it to attach to. Provide moderate to high lighting, LED lighting is sufficient. They will move higher up on the rockwork if the light is moderate. They tolerate a low-moderate moderate water movement, but do not like moderate-high. The flow an be turbulent or linear, they really don’t seem to mind. A good protein skimmer is a must.

After you’ve placed it, this anemone will move to where it is most comfortable. Once settled, if it’s happy with adequate feedings and light, it will generally stay put, but now always. This anemone is known to wander about even when it isn’t stressed or unhappy. With all anemones its 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) – Tank size varies depending on the anemone size. A 2″ needs 30 gallons, 4″ needs 50 gallons, 6 to 8″ need 75 gallons, and 100 gallons or more is needed for a 12″ adult.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: High – Strong lighting
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 83.0° F (22.2 to 28.3&deg C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle – They will generally settle themselves from the middle to the top of the aquarium, depending on how strong the lighting is.

Social Behaviors

A contented Bubble Tip Anemone will usually stay put once it has found a place to settle, however, all anemones are semi-aggressive because they can be mobile. 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. Keep this in mind when stocking sessile invertebrates. Putting corals on moveable pieces of rock helps in case your anemone decides to roam.

Bubble Tip Anemones are often found in dense colonies in the wild, and has been known to colonize its substrate in the aquarium. Different species of anemones in the tank need to be at least 2 to 3 feet away from each other. They 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, (over 100 gallons) will usually allow 2 different anemone species at opposite ends to thrive. You can also build a natural blockade to help prevent them from wandering into each others “space”. Get both anemones when young and let them grow together.

In nature, the Bubble Tip Anemone has been found as host to the 13 Clownfish species below. In captivity, it will also host the Ocellaris Clownfish.

If you want your anemone to host clownfish, be sure the anemone is 3 to 4 times larger in diameter than the length of the clownfish you introduce, or it will be ‘loved’ to death. A 4 to 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 clownfish.

  • Venomous: Yes
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes
    • Anemones: Monitor – Space anemones at least 2 to 3 feet away from each other.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Leather Corals: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Starfish: Safe – Reef safe starfish only.
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Crabs: Threat
    • Snails: Safe
    • Sea Apples, Cucumbers: Safe – Reef safe species only.
    • Urchins, Sand Dollars: Safe
    • Nudibranch, Sea Slugs: Monitor – Reef safe species only.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe
    • Stony Corals: May be aggressive – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Soft Corals: May be aggressive – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding / Reproduction

Anemones 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. At least on pair of Bubble-Tip Anemones has been reported to mouth brood. This is where the Bubble-Tip Anemone will brood juvenile anemones for a few days within the oral cavity before releasing them into the water’. This supplies the embryos with their first zooxanthellae. When released, the embryos or planula float and then connect and start out as a fully formed anemone, or with the zooxanthellae, may be able to travel some distance without feeding.

The E. quadricolor have been breed in captivity. Propagating the Bubble-Tip anemones is fairly easy, yet needs to be done in a clean system. If your anemone gets torn, just leave it alone and do a big water change. They will heal on their own.

  • Your anemone must be in good health.
  • It is always best to have done a large water change to your main tank before propagation. Wait a day and then put this water into a “recovery” tank if desired.
  • Remove the animal to a clean, non-slippery and damp surface, mouth side up.
  • Using sharp scissors or a scalpel, cut the anemone in half right down the center, through the mouth. This results in 2 equal halves. If it is large enough, 4 individuals can be made.
  • it is attached to a rock, another method is to just cut though the center of the mouth on one side only (do this long-ways, running with the length of the mouth) encouraging the anemone to finish the “split”.
  • Place your new “pieces” into a moderately sized “recovery” tank. Use the same water as the main display (as you did a large water change, you would use this cleaner water).
  • Do 20% water changes a few days after after this little surgery.
  • If they were on a rock, put that same rock in the recovery tank for them to re-attach.

If your tank is very large, over 100 gallons, then a 30 to 40% water change before the cut will help in recovery. Place them back on their favorite rock if they detached, since this will encourage reattachment. It would be prudent to wash your hands if you didn’t use gloves. Within a few days your anemone should have started to wrap around and heal itself. Do not feed or bother it during this time and keep Clown fish away, if you have any in your tank.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Ailments / Diseases

Bubble Tip Anemones are pretty durable once they settle in, unless your lighting, water movement, feeding and/or water quality is low or inadequate. In that case, 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, you need to check your lighting and water quality.

If there are any non-reef type fish in the aquarium, like large wrasses, look for possible attack marks. Some predators can be other anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars and some angelfish, triggerfish and large wrasses.. Bristle worms also have been known to irritate and chew at E. quadricolor.


The Bubble Tip Anemone is easy to find in stores and online. They are reasonable to moderately expensive depending on size, color and species. Rose Bubble Tip Anemones are more expensive.