Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): Sebae Anemones are Easy!


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: Sebae Anemones (Heteractis crispa) are a great starter anemone for your saltwater tank.

The rest of the story: Sebae anemones are a very tempting anemone to keep as they come in a variety of colors and they mostly attach to where your sand meets your rock work – far from most sensitive SPS corals.

However, sebae anemones are difficult anemones to keep and should only be attempted by the advanced hobbyist who has a lot of free time to carefully watch and care for the anemone. Getting the animal to attach and settle in to your tank is the first big hurdle where most people fail. This step alone requires watching the anemone to make sure it doesn’t get blown away by the current, yet knowing when to move the anemone when it doesn’t appear comfortable. In other words, patience and a innate sense of when the animal needs your intervention and when it needs to handle the situation on it’s own.  Neither of these traits are ones I associate with newbie hobbyists.

I’ve also talked to several advanced saltwater aquarists and unfortunately there was no common advice on how to succeed with sebaes. For an animal to be easy to keep I can usually find at least some common ground for success amongst advanced saltwater aquarists. If you’re thinking about a sebae, I’d pass and go for a bubble tip (Entacmaea quadricolor) instead.

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Comments for this article (28)

  • BUrelle says:

    Ditch the Entacmea, that’ll move. If you really want an anemone, read up firtst on it’s needs and where it lives in the tank. There are great little anemone like the condylactys or the carpet anemones. Then there’s the size of the beast. I persoannaly house a macrodactyla doreensis en my 50g reef, a condylactys gigantea and a stichodactyla haddoni in my 20g reef. Now the haddoni was originally thought to be a tapetum by me and the seller but as it got bigger it turned ou to be a haddoni so I have to moniter it’s growth rate to keep up with it…Any whoo read up first before you buy!

  • Kathy says:

    Mark, if only you could review EVERY animal for the new hobbyist! Even with research, sometimes you get conflicting info and need someone like you who has first hand experience. Thanks!

  • kevin says:

    IMHO, you don’t keep an anemone in a reef tank. I know many people do it. But sooner or later it will damage or kill of your priceless SPS coral.

    Therefor i would never take one. If you want the movement the Euphyllia LPS corals are a great choice. Pretty easy, and they don’t move.

  • Tron says:

    It is my understanding that the anemone will move…yes, but once it “decides” where it wants to be in your tank, it usually won’t move around much after that….so what about the idea that if you want an anemone in your new reef tank, you put the anemone in first and see where it ends up settling itself, before adding any coral?

  • mark says:

    no question this is good advice. Also, I have had one in my tank for around 5 months now – when i bought it it was bleach white, it floated around my tank for 2 weeks and spilled its brown anemone poo like a sewage leak. It hasnt moved since the first 2 weeks and its my clarkii’s favorite spot. Purchase size was about a baseball. Today it is like a grapefruit. It is no longer the pretty bleach white with purple tips its barely got any white on it which from reading blogs/forums etc this is a good thing. It does have an awesome green tint to it under my UV/purple and blue dawn/dusk lights. As pretty as they are in the fish store I would steer clear of these critters until you know what you are doing and understand what you see in that LFS tank is NOT what you get after a few weeks (if it doesnt die first and if you have a healthy tank of course). If you dont know what you are buying and go in blind you will freak out trying to figure out what is wrong with it, even if it is healthy.
    To Kevins point, he gives even more good advice. A) if they are close thats a big no no from what I understand and B) if that SPS falls on that anemone and you dont catch it right away – bye bye sps that probably cost 3-4 or more times what you paid for that anemone…

  • Tron…adding the anemone first to see where it sets up shop isn’t a bad idea and just because it is in one place, that doesn’t mean it won’t move again. I’ve add anemones stay put for months on end, then one day decide to move for no reason. I’ve always said an anemone is like a red headed step child…it will do what it wants and you can deal with it!

    Some anemones like bubble tips are more prone to moving than others like long tentacles, but any anemone can and will move if it wants to.

  • Rick says:

    I have also found that the elegance coral has movement and the clown fish LOVE it! Plus the elegance coral doesn’t move around and relocate like most anemones.

  • Brent says:

    I’ve had my Sebae anemone for over 3 years now. Love it! My tank was only about 5 months old when I introduced it (lfs talked me into it and of course, as a newbie I did not research). It hasn’t moved from it’s spot since then and does great. It’s big but my two clownfish love it! Not saying this isn’t good advice!

  • Miles says:

    Very good advice Mark! The Sebae is a beautiful anemone but without experience these little critters can get very frustrating. I love anemones, and keep a lot of them throughout my many tanks,so my experience level with them is very high. They make wonderful host anemones for your clowns too! I have a pair of maroons hosting a beautiful Sebae and it’s just a wonderful thing to watch.

  • Jared says:

    So whats a good anemone to get? Looking for long term success!

  • Jared…as stated in the post, get a bubble tip.

  • Jdodson says:

    I gave a friend a bubble tip that had split off of mine 7 years ago
    And he gave me another clone off of it and now I have 5 bubble tips on my tank!

  • Beetle Bailey says:

    I had a long tip in my reef tank for ever till it decided to go walk about,it kill a large hammer coral that was glued in and I spent a few weeks moving my other hammer from on side of the tank to the other trying to avoid the wandering anemone,my clowns host in the hammer coral just fine so no more anomones for me !

  • Buddy says:

    I agree that if you plan to have an anemone you shouldn’t add any corals till the anemone has settled on a place to live. My tank currently has 5 anemones in it. 4-Red-tip Bubble anemones ranging from about a quarter in size to about 18-inches in diameter, and one Purple tip Sebae around 7-inches. I’ve had them for two years now and just recently got rid of two Red-tip Bubbles from my tank (over crowded). One of the things I’ve found, is that if your doing a good job caring for them they will reward you by splitting. Creating even more anemones to care for. I started with just one Red-tip Bubble two years ago and until last month had 7 total. 4 of which were over 15-inches in diameter. Mine have never moved once settled, but be prepared for growth & expansion and plan accordingly. I’m just now getting to the point where I can add corals safely. I have one Maroon Clown and he guards them all with a vengeance.. I’ve heard that a Clown-fish is generally required as a lot of the nutrients anemones need are provided by the Clown-fish. Mine are definitely a testament to that fact.

    Cheers, everyone..

  • Jerry says:

    In my humble opinion, new hobbyists shouldn’t try keeping Any anemones. I’ve always advised new reefers to wait until their tank is at least a year old before considering a nem. It usually takes that long for the tank…and them, to fully stabilize. By that point, the system’s water parameters should be fairly stable and the hobbyist has moved out of the “gotta have it” mode, that so many of us go through when new!

    No doubt, a bit over-cautious but; with so many other aspects to learn and master, the addition of any sensitive livestock is something best pushed back on the stocking calendar. They’ll enjoy it more, having waited and prepared for its arrival and the likelihood of any problems are greatly reduced. One Reefer’s opinion!

  • jeff says:

    Love my rose Entacmaea quadricolor. It split today.

  • Mithun says:

    I would say let it move. Unless it jams your overflow/pumps/wavemakers its no big deal. In case it ends up at a coral dense spot which is unlikely, there isnt much problem. Corals generally fight back. If not moving a few corals isnt a problem

  • William says:

    Mark, I have recently purchased a 36″ deep tank. I have had lots of success with different bubble tips and carpets in 18″ to 24″ tanks are there any precautions I should take or is the tank to deep?

  • david says:

    im surprised to see some reefers say NO anemone at all ! I LOVE my RBTA, i guess i got lucky. I found a little spot for him, placed him there, my clown moved into its new home within 3 days, and my anemone hasnt moved at all ! i have had it for 9 months and he is doing very well, he was a teeny thing when i got him and he has probably at least tripled his growth by now. I have mostly softies and LPS with a smidgen of SPS though, my Anemone is just as important and cool as my corals, I love them all. But if you are afraid of Anemones my Hammer coral is pretty cool too and that is where my clown hosted before my RBTA came to the show. Thanks for all the great advice Mark and everyone ! Happy Reefing !

  • Elton says:

    i bought my sebae and it was maybe the size of a grapefruit. i placed it in this area in a 75g tank and would feed it silverside but stopped. it (like most people in Houston – including myself) got fat. it no longer is the pretty white with purple tips. matter of fact, its more mass then tenticle. this thing is about 2ft in spread on a good day. i have set my pumps to blow current in order for it to stay in a certain area. during this time, i have changed tanks from a 75 to 90. it is clearly a center piece i never wanted but have accepted. my clown fish host it and has become an area where they have spawned their eggs at (or around). i make my own fish food so when feeding tie comes around, the nem will either catch the leftovers or fight with the clown to take its food.

  • richie.c says:

    My haddon’s carpet anemone likes to be surrounded by rocks and has
    not moved in 4 months,however its 2 resident clown fish can make it move
    a tad because of the “fluffing”that they do to it….

  • Marcos says:

    Hello Mark im your fan, i have a question, i have a 20 gall tank but i take vacations for one week and my tank right know is full of algea and the sand is full of algea to so what i can a do i have the media reactor and protein skimer and just 2 clown fish 2 damsells 6 nails but i thinking in change the sand for crush coral this is good or not sorry for my englis and thank you

  • Barbara says:

    I have an anemone with a cinnamon clown. I am not sure if it is a carpet or sebae. I was or am a newbie (when do you stop being a newbie? lol) I guess I am lucky with no issues and no moving around at all. My clown always feeds the anemone when I feed the fish which is really neat. I have upgraded to a 110 gal and would like to move the clown and anemone (sold the smaller tank) but I’m afraid to because I am getting a Picasso and Niger Trigger fish. Waiting now for my new tank to cycle.

  • Jake says:

    I have a sebae nem and the clownfish keep blowing sand on it and a small amount of sand accumulates on the mouth. Is that bad for it? Should I move it on top of a rock? Any suggestions?

  • Keith Jackson says:

    My Sebae is at least 1 and a half years old. It’s important to get one that is not bleached, doesn’t have a torn foot. Mines started about 3-4 inches. Is now almost the size of a regular sized dinner plate. I keep it under 150W 14K Phoenix MH. He has only moved a few inches the entire time he’s been in there. I’ve been keeping salts since the early 80’s. Please do your homework first and learn what they want and need to make them happy so you hopefully won’t have problems. Despite my success it is something that I wish they wouldn’t sell anymore. So many of them die ink or care and it’s not cool. Not always our fault but once they are in decline (and they often are like that before we buy them) it’s nearly impossible to bring them back especially for the novice aquarist. Good luck

  • Keith Jackson says:

    That should be in our care; sorry

  • Right here is the perfect blog for anyone who would like to find out about this topic.
    You know so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic which has been written about for decades.

    Excellent stuff, just great!

  • Michael R. says:

    I love anemones and have had them in my tank since I was a teenager. I’m almost old enough for AARP now. LOL I think this article is really great, especially the part about an “innate” connection with your critters. My most recent tank has a purple tip sebae an she’s pretty excited to be living with me right now. She wasn’t in great condition when I got her, barely sticky and sort of just a glob. I planned out a spot for her, next to a cave and worked the rocks so the current wouldn’t move her around that much and let my clown fish do his job. He pushed her into the dark cave at first and that made sense since she probably wasn’t used to the lighting. Then about a week later she popped out of the cave, attached herself to the spot I made and she’s been there since. She’s super sticky now, loves getting a piece of wild caught gulf shrimp every week (never use farm raised and always check the bag to see if they’re using water softeners on them).

    I think the problem with newbies to the hobby is that they want what looks cool in the tank. They often trust the person in the store to give them good advice and we all know how that goes. It’s only after losing several animals that people decide something must be wrong and they go research. Of course there’s the folks that just want a pretty tank and aren’t at all interested in science, biology, chemistry… and that usually ends badly as well.

    So yeah, I agree with what many have said here. Don’t get any anemones until you have researched what they like as far as lights, current, placement, etc. Otherwise they will want to pack their bags and move. Remember that when we purchase these animals, we’re taking on the responsibility to care for another living animal that we have on most occasions removed from it’s natural habitat. So we owe it to them to make certain their new home will be a good one. 🙂

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