The North American Tube Anemone is a deep water species, found at depths down to 227 feet (70 m)!

The North American Tube Anemone Ceriantheopsis americana (syn: Ceriantheopsis americanus) is found along the eastern coast of North America. Its range extends from Cape Cod south into the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean and in the West Indies. So although it can be found as deep as 227 feet (70 m), depending on its origin, an individual can be either a cold or warm water specimen.

This anemone has a long, soft, cylindrical body. The body is topped with a crown of non-retractable tentacles on one end, and a pointed foot on the other. It uses its pointed foot to burrow deep into muddy substrates, thus the common name of Burrowing Mud Anemone. Once in the substrate it builds a tube in a vertical burrow as much as 18 in (45 cm) deep. The term ‘ tube dwelling anemone’ is derived from their ability to build a tube to live in, thus another common name for this species is the American Tube Dwelling Anemone.

It was previously believed that these anemones created their tube by releasing a mucus, which then become covered with sand. Today however, it is known that they create the tube by releasing threads of a special type of nematocysts called ‘ptychocyst’. The result is a woven fibrous structured of stinging cells that help protect it from attack. Though its tentacles are non-retractable, if it is frightened or touched it can instantly withdraw its whole body into the tube for safety.

The North American Tube Anemone is very pretty, with distinctive tentacles. Only the oral disc and tentacles extend from the tube. Around the central mouth of its disc are short tentacles, and there are two rings of really long delicate, wispy tentacles on the outer margin. It spreads its longer tentacles over the surface of the mud or sand to capture prey, and then uses the smaller tentacles to manipulate the food into its mouth.

Depending on where the anemone originates it can be either a cold or warm water specimen. As They can be difficult to care for, they are recommended for advanced aquarists. They need a good sized aquarium with a very deep sandy substrate to accommodate their burrowing behavior and ability to expand quite wide. They also require good quality water and may need a chiller. If their needs are met, they will reward the aquarist with an interesting glimpse into their secretive world. Be sure to provide plenty of room for tank mates to keep them out of reach of the anemones stinging tentacles. They are not compatible with other anemone species.

For more facts about Tube-Dwelling Anemones, see:
Tube Anemone – Burrowing Sea Anemone

North American Tube Anemone, Ceriantheopsis americanus

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Anemone in the wild in Shinnecock bay.

The North American Tube Anemone has a wide range, extending from the entire east coast of the USA and south. This particular anemone was shot in a bay of New York, called Shinnecock Bay. They are not easy to keep in captivity and are best left to advanced aquarist. If you do decide to keep one, the most important factor is where they were captured. They ranged from cold to warm water environments so a chiller may be needed. They need a deep sand bed to burrow into and they do not host clownfish. When feeding, make sure they have very small minced marine flesh, mysis, cyclopeeze or other tiny particles that will not damage their tentacles.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Cnidaria
  • Class: Anthozoa
  • Order: Spirularia
  • Family: Cerianthidae
  • Genus: Ceriantheopsis
  • Species: americana
North American Tube Anemone – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 60.0 to 82.0° F (15.6 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Size of organism – inches: 14.0 inches (35.56 cm)
  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The North American Tube Anemone Ceriantheopsis americana (syn: Ceriantheopsis americanus) was described by Agassiz in Verrill, in 1864. The Ceriantheopsis genus is a member of the Cerianthidae family and contains 4 species; C. americana, C. austroafricanus, C. lineata, and C. nikitai.

The C. americana are found in the North Atlantic off the northern east coast of the United States from Cape Cod south into the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and West Indies. This anemone is not on the IUCN Red List for endangered species. Some other common names it is known for are the American Tube Anemone, Burrowing Mud Anemone, American Tube Dwelling Anemone, Sloppy Gut Anemone, Burrowing Anemone, and Tube Sea Anemone.

North American Tube Anemones are found in inter tidal zones at depths down to 227 feet (70 m). They are typically a cold water species but can also be found in warmer waters. They burrow deep into muddy or sandy bottoms, dwelling in vertical tubes as much as 18 in (45 cm) deep with only the oral disc and tentacles extending from the tube. Their delicate tentacles capture zooplankton and other small prey from the water column. Predators are Flounders from the Pleuronectidae family, and both juveniles and adult Flounders pose a risk for this anemone.

  • Scientific Name: Ceriantheopsis americana
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The North American Tube Anemone can reach up to 14″ (36 cm) in length and its vertical burrow can be as much as 18″ (45 cm) deep. It is unknown how long they live, but specimens have survived for more than 30 years in public aquariums.

Tube Anemones differ from sea anemones both internally and externally. Unlike true anemones, they have 2 different sets of tentacles on their oral disc and they lack a pedal disc foot, used to attach to surfaces. They also differ from many true anemones in that they lack zooxanthellae.

The C. americana has a long, cylindrical, somewhat worm-like body that does not have a foot, but a blunt point. They deflate and condense their body to drive that point into mud or sand. Once in the substrate, they construct a very long tube. This structure is fibrous, with woven threads of stinging cells to help protect it from attack.They do not form a “ball†like other anemones do to hide, rather they retract into their “tube.†Disturbances that can cause them to retract are sudden illumination, a strong touch, and excessive feeding.They are usually cream colored, but can range from brown or tan to shades of purplish red.

The North American Tube Anemone has an oral disc with a crown of more than 100 tapering, non retractable tentacles, and a mouth in the center. The tentacles are of two different types. One type consists of really long delicate, wispy tentacles arranged in two rows around the margin of the oral disc. These delicate tentacles are typically bioluminescent to startle and scare away fish, thus keeping fish from nibbling on them. The shorter labial tentacles are located over the mouth. At the base of the tentacles is a purple or plum color, with the long outer tentacles being whitish to pink while the shorter inner tentacles becoming a deep peach.

This anemone takes food in and expels waste through its central cavity, or mouth. It spreads its longer tentacles over the surface of the mud or sand to capture prey, and the smaller tentacles are used to manipulate foods into its mouth. The potency of the toxins in these tube anemones has been shown to have little effect on test subjects, unlike true anemones, on which their toxins had lethal effects.

  • Size of organism – inches: 14.0 inches (35.56 cm) – This anemone’s tube length and burrow can be up 18″ (45 cm) deep.
  • Lifespan: 30 years – It is unknown how long they live, but have survived for more than 30 years in public aquaria.

Difficulty of Care

Tube anemones can be difficult to care for in general, so are recommended for advanced aquarists. Caring for the North American Tube Anemone is challenging, in part, because each specimen will have specific needs, depending on where they originate from. They can need a cold water tank if they are not from tropical waters, and that requires a chiller. They also require a lot of space. The aquarium must be large enough to satisfy their burrowing behavior and ultimate size.

Feeding is another big issue if there is any competition for the meaty foods they need to survive. Zooplankton and other marine tidbits are often consumed by fish and invertebrates before this anemone gets a chance to eat. A species specific tank or one that is very large and mature is best.

When choosing a C. americana, make sure the color is good and the mouth is not gaping open. Take special care to make sure there are no tears or injuries. When being removed from another aquarium, a healthy specimen should immediately retract, ejecting the water from its mouth.

Check that the tube is intact and in good condition. If the tube is missing, that can create challenges. Although they can re-grow the tube, it takes a lot of energy that sometimes will deplete the animal into a weakened condition. If they have difficulty creating a tube, you can provide a section of acrylic tubing for it to live in. Place the tubing at an angle in the sand, but be certain that both ends are unobstructed and there are no sharp edges.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Foods and Feeding

The North American Tube Anemone is a carnivore and will generally accept small meaty foods in captivity. It can be offered finely minced krill, fish, shrimp and/or frozen or live brine or mysis shrimp. Be careful not to feed with large pieces of food since they will damage the delicate tentacles. This anemone is nocturnal so feed nightly, or when they emerge. If you have a lot of copepods, amphipods, or other small prey in the tank, then feed twice a week.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Flake Food: No
  • Tablet / Pellet: No
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Live brine or mysis shrimp, zooplankton, copepods, and amphipods.
  • Liquid Foods: Some of Diet – Liquid with zooplankton.
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet – Meaty foods must be very small, or they can damage the anemone’s delicate tentacles.
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily – This anemone is nocturnal, so feed nightly after the main lights go out or when they emerge.

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. 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 14″ tube anemone produces a bio-load equivalent to that of three to four 3″ fish, and a bit more than 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. Additions of trace elements are suggested. Phosphates should be kept around 0.03 or less.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Pristine water conditions are needed. Do water changes weekly in tanks under 55 gallons.
  • 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 – Test magnesium levels and adjust before checking Calcium.
  • 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 with a sand substrate is what is needed for your North American Tube Anemone. A mature 50-gallon tank that is at least 9 to 12 months old is needed to provide a stable environment. They must have a very deep fine sand substrate, with enough depth to accommodate their total length. Hitting a bare bottom, as well as trying to burrow through course gravel (rice sized or larger), will prevent the C. americana from finding a spot to burrow and settle. This can cause them to stress and die.

A consistently high quality water that is well oxygenated is necessary for their survival. They don’t tolerate turbulent waters, so an ozonizer is the best solution for increasing oxygen content. It depends on the origination of the particular specimen, but most likely it will need a cold water reef. You may need a chiller if it was obtained from a cold habitat. A good protein skimmer is a must.

Live rock is fine, however you don’t want so much that it takes up valuable bottom real estate. The sand needs to be quite deep, just a couple inches of sand is not enough. A trick when you don’t have a deep enough substrate is to use a PVC tube that is 1.5 times longer than the animal. Place the animal’s tube into the pipe about 4/5’s of the way, pour fine sand around the animal, and fill to the top. Gluing a solid base at the bottom end will prevent the sand from coming out if you have to move it. Some aquarist also suggest pots, or built up areas on one side of the aquarium. Be sure their delicate tentacles are not within reach of power heads.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L) – The tank needs to accommodate an anemone length of at least 18.”
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount – A little less is fine for cold marine tanks.
  • Substrate Type: Sand – Deep fine sand bed
  • Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting – Low actinic lighting brings out their colors.
  • Temperature: 60.0 to 82.0° F (15.6 to 27.8&deg C) – Most are found in waters only as warm as 68ËšF. Ask origin of the anemone.
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Water Movement: Weak – Too much turbulence can cause them to get washed out of their tube, but the water does needs to be highly oxygenized.
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

The North American Tube Anemone is semi-aggressive, yet as far as “anemone†type corals go, they do not have as powerful of a sting as true anemones. Several tube anemone specimens can be kept in an aquarium, but they are not compatible with other anemone species. Care should be taken to provide other corals with plenty of room. Make sure when the North American Tube Anemone comes out at night, their tentacles do not come in contact with delicate corals.

They are not compatible with most fish, as small fish will be stung and large fish tend to disturb the anemone. It will not host Clownfish and these fish can tear their delicate tentacles. Avoid Flounders, as they are natural predators. As for other invertebrates, avoid burrowing snails that can upset their sandy home. Keep an eye on shrimps and crabs, as they may steal the anemone’s food.

  • Venomous: Yes – Very weak sting.
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes
    • Anemones: Threat
    • 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.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor – Shrimp and crabs may steal their food.
    • Starfish: Monitor – Starfish may get tangled in the anemone’s delicate tentacles and tear them.
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor – Keep them out of reach of the anemone.
    • Snails: Safe – Avoid burrowing snails that can upset their home.
    • Sea Apples, Cucumbers: Threat
    • Urchins, Sand Dollars: Monitor
    • Nudibranch, Sea Slugs: Monitor
    • 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

The C. americana are hermaphrodites, meaning each specimen develops as both male and female. At a smaller size it is a male. After crossing over to a larger size/age, it will turn into a female.

Breeding / Reproduction

The North American Tube Anemone has not been bred in captivity and cannot be propagated. However, fertilized eggs have been spawned in the laboratory. The C. americana reproduce sexually with the female being larger than the male. Unlike the true anemones, they do not reproduce through asexual means such as fission, where the anemone is divided or split into parts to create a new anemone.

The C. americana are hermaphrodites, meaning they are both male and female. Although each animal can produce both eggs and sperm, they do not produce them at the same time, so it takes two specimens to produce a zygote. The Zygote is a fertilized egg, the beginnings of a new North American Tube Anemone.

In the wild, they first release sperm and then eggs into the water column, where cross fertilization takes place. It is believed the larvae live in plankton for a quite a long time, and then settle into the sand and construct a tube. How they provide brood care is not fully known, though some species have a tentacled larval stage that extends into the planktonic phase.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult – Fertilized eggs have been spawned in the laboratory.

Ailments / Diseases

North American Tube Anemones are usually hardy and problems are pretty minimal if they are provided with an adequate environment and fed regularly. There is not a lot is known about potential ailments, these anemones seem to be either alive and very well, or dead. They are very delicate and often die of starvation. Feeding them daily while maintaining good water quality is problematic.


The North American Tube Anemone, and others members of the Ceriantheopsis genus are only rarely available in stores or online. Usually they will be sold under “Tube Anemones†without the proper scientific name. You will need to inquire as to their origin in order to determine how to care for them properly, in terms of water temperature.