Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): That Non-Bubbly Bubble Tip Anemone Is Sick


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: A bubble tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) that doesn’t have bubbles in its tentacles is sick.

The rest of the story:  No one knows why bubble tip anemones bubble up or not.  I’ve heard lots of theories on the subject ranging from too much light, too little light, lack of a clownfish in the anemone, the presence of a clownfish in the anemone, poor water conditions, good water conditions, etc.  Despite all the theories, nothing has been proven as to what makes the bubble appear.

While no one knows for why a bubble tip anemone will “bubble up” or not, you certainly don’t need to immediately assume the anemone is sick if it won’t bubble up.  Some bubble tip anemones simply rarely or never have bubbles in their tentacles. Case in point is the 12+ bubble tip anemones I’ve owned.  Most of them never bubbled up.  At times some would have bubbles, then lose them for no reason. Regardless of the lack of bubbles, all of these anemones grew in size which is one indicator of good health. Add in all the countless healthy yet non-bubbled up bubble tip anemones I’ve seen in tanks and you’ve got yourself a nice sized data set.

If your bubble tip anemone won’t bubble up, don’t freak out. It’s nothing to be concerned about.

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Comments for this article (27)

  • Matt says:

    We have a green BTA … it bubbled for the first few weeks … stopped… went back … and is currently happy with no bubbles … nothing changed in the water to coincide with ‘the holy grail bubbles’ … We have a happy BTA that does its own thing when it wants to … it has never wondered from its spot and will even tolerate a mithrax underneath it scavenging where other CUC dare not go!

    So two thumbs up on this one … don’t waste your time digging around trying to find out why its not bubbled for you … If its happy and healthy then enjoy the wonderful behaviour they all have and consider yourself lucky that its staying where you want it to be … 😀

  • Bryan says:

    I have owned several RBTAs over the past few years. Sometimes the bubble tips would appear and sometimes not. I have had several that split and gave one of the clones to a friend. His bubbled up more than mine. Imagine that.

  • Jimmy says:

    I wanted to add my 2 cents. I have a large RBTA it has split many times, and never bubbled. The part that split off has almost always bubbled some better than others, even the color is different sometimes. Parent is black to dark red while division have been same to pink tips. Go figure right?

  • Jerry says:

    I’ve had my current RBTA (w/ Oc. Clown pair) for close to two years. There have only been two periods where it has “bubbled up”. Both coincided with relocating to new, larger tanks, with new lights. The bubbles would appear for about two to three weeks, then disipate. Meanwhile, once situated, the anemone never moved from its chosen location. So I would have to assume that it was content.

  • david says:

    love my RBTA and i guess im lucky because it was bubbled when i got it and it has stayed bubbled for the 9 months i have had it, and i have 2 Occy clowns calling it home. I dont know why but i do like the look of the bubble tips over the long skinny arms. But even more important is the amazing bright red colors they come in, some of the high end ones are AMAZING looking, like the Darth maul RBTA, i have seen some amazing green ones also, usually at lower prices. maybe i will get a green one soon also

  • Buddy says:

    I currently have 6 RBTA’s in my tank, started with just one a year ago. The newer split ones are bright bright pink and white and seem to bubble a little more then the older ones but every couple of months they all seem to bubble their tips for a few weeks then go back to slender tenicals. I have a Maroon clown that guards all 6 of them furiously letting no other fish get close, he even trys to make sure they all get some food when I feed them. I got my first one from a freind who had 8 of them then his tank started leaking so we put in a new tank and all his RBTA’s died his old tank he had for 20 years. So now I’m about to take 2 of them out of my tank to repopulate his. never could figure out why his died off we transfered the water from his old tank to the new tank and his water always tested perfect. My tank on the other hand always has a high ammonia content to it, even now when I test it the ammonia test turns almost blood red. Yet all the fish, corals and RBTA’s thrive.. Go figure..

  • JasPR says:

    right. One of the fundamental problems with our hobby is that we are not professional scientists! yet Science does not provide us detailed practical explanations when they give us a scientific ‘factoid’. The one most stressful scientific studies to come down the pike is the observation that BTA under stress split. This simple sentence has been SO twisted and perverted that we come out with a half dozen conclusions.
    IMHO, the shape of the finger projection is influenced by MANY conditions and circumstances. It is likely a NORMAL form to be bubbled. But straight is not a sign or distress, disease, unhappiness. It ‘could be’ in some cases, and just as easily it could mean nothing.
    “splitting’ is reproduction and animals in general do not breed under anything less than idea conditions- especially lower forms which require external cues and stimilus. It is true that cells will split as a survival technique due to hormonal cues. But this is a leap when it comes to a giant cellular animal like a BTA– even when it is reproducing and mimicing a single cell animal in its process.
    And you know what they say about ‘assuming’. 🙂 Have a good day. JasPR

  • Kevin says:

    I received a RBTA clone from a fellow reefer a little over a year ago. My Occelaris clown pair took about a month to find out they made excellent bean bags! Since adding the original, it has produced five clones of it’s own. The first time it split (last Mother’s Day :D), it produced two clones at once!

    When I first got it, the tentacles were bulbed for about a month then they stretched out. Each clone has done the same thing too. They all have very sticky tentacles and devour silversides, shrimp, etc. readily. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it right?

  • Chris says:

    Does anyone have a good reference book on raising BTA’s? I’d like to get one for my 26 gallon tank.

  • Charles says:

    I’d say its definitely just a personality quirk. I have two RBTA’s about 3″ apart. One is actually a clone from the other that split a few months back. One has bubbles, the other has long non bubbled tentacles. Same flow, same light, same everything.

  • JasPR says:

    No question charles. And out of left field — how about this– even lower forms like BTA have genetic codes, phenotype and individual characteristics. Even twins don’t always look alike. Right now I have 4 BTA in a 180 gallon. two are , at this moment, very ‘bubbled’ and the one with the maroon in it is , at this moment– straight tipped. Go figure. JasPR

  • JasPR says:

    Kevin, I’ve noticed two directions in the splitting process- in one system I have a definite ‘mother’ that splits off new individuals. But in the past, I’ve had individuals that split one from another like your experience. This fascinates me as it could be an amazing study for some ‘budding’ ( no pun intended :)) PhD student.

  • JasPR says:

    P.S. if your new individual is very small ( usually seen as a last split in a series of splits from one mother) you can consider it a ‘runt’ as it does seem weaker than its noticably larger siblings.

  • Tony says:

    Hey I hear you my rose bubble tip is finicky. Some times we have bubbles and some times not. one thing I do know is I had old T5 and once I went and got my lighting system really good T5 the bubbles where bubbling big time, I knw that may not be the case but that’s my expirence. But still at times they go away then come back to full bubbles and looks great. Note!!! I am not saying the the lights did the trick just what happened as I changed the lights.

  • Rob says:

    My RBT has never had bubbles it is hugh and split into 3 now i have 3 hugh bubble tips origional is about 12in than 1 8in and last just slightly smaller

  • Austin says:

    My girlfriend is taking zoology this semester simply from her fascination of my RBTA. They are a very simple organism and each clone is a replica of their parent. Mine has never split. I’ve had it for about six years and its the size of a dinner plate. Sometimes it has bubbles but mostly just long flowing tentacles. She is a twin and as she put it. My sister and I are mirror twins and just because we look alike and have near identical genetics we are totally different. Happy, sad, good conditions, ect… doesnt determine how one anemone split from another will act or look. Bc once split they are an individual. Bubbles or no bubbles as long as it eats well and it’s mouth doesn’t gape it’s a healthy anenome.

  • reefteach says:

    How do you know if you have a bubble tip anemone or not if it never bubbles? As a teacher I know no question is stupid, but i’m feeling pretty inadequate right now. I had someone donate a beautiful anemone to my classroom reef tank and I don’t know what kind it is. HELP!

  • reefteach…a bubble tip anemone is easily distinguished as they attach to rocks and have a small oral disk. Long tentacle anemones attached at the base of rock where they meet the sand, or they bury their foot into the sandbed itself. BTAs and LTAs are the two anemone types that are confused the most. The others are easy to pick out.

  • Fernando says:

    Which anemones are best or easiest to care for? I am concidering getting one for my 90 gal, 8 month old tank. Lighting is 6 bulb t5’s at 54w each.
    I had a baige or cream color anemone before but died, no idea why. I fed it once a week with silverside frozen fish. Im nervous about getting one and dieing on me. Im doing research rightnow and any advice is well appreciated. Thanks.
    Water parameters: amonia, nitrite, nitrate all at 0
    Ph 8.2
    Salinity slightly under 1.026

  • Fernando says:

    By the way, i will lower salinity a bit during my next water changes.

  • JasPR says:

    don’t use silversides. use a much smaller food type like mysis. It seems like they should be able to handle silversides, after all, they can get it into their oral opening. But its not good for them– smaller prey is best.
    Every system is different and some people have better luck than others. The tank needs to be mature but with excellent water parameters. I find that macro algae helps condition water for delicate inverts– so if algae can do well in your sump and you do regular small water changes, rose anemone /bubble tips are a good bet. Carpet anemone on the other hand should be left to experts. And sand anemonie varieties also range from easy to hard in terms of requirments.
    For what its worth, JasPR

  • Graham says:

    Can you refer me to an accurate/authoritative website with great pictures of the various types, colours etc? Thanks for the tip – it was something I was wondering about, so thanks for alleviating that worry, even though mine seem very happy and have bubbles at present.

  • I’ve seen many a poor anemone harassed because the owner didn’t research the animal. I’m glad you make note of the bad advise that goes around. Just had a friend ,after advising him against, it buy a giant Carpet Anemone which ate three of his clowns…. Do your Homework people.. Lol

    Thanks Mark

  • deeks says:

    in my experience from my RBTA, when it lose its bubble i feed it some shrimp or some diced squid.. in a few minutes it will bubble up again.. my RBTA has multiply a couple of time and has grown quite a bit.. so i know its healthy.. hope this helps..

  • deeks says:

    and btw i also have a yellow stripe maroon clown who like to jump between my RBTA’s..

  • Trisha says:

    Is this perhaps getting confused with actual tentacle shrinkage, which DOES indicate a problem (mainly starvation)? Tentacles can inflate and deflate, but if you see tentacles noticeably shrinking you might have a light issue or may not be feeding enough. Can also mean water perams are off.

  • Isabel says:

    hey hey … so I am pretty new at this… only one year in. I have stardet with 3 anemones and then one split into one more and after then one of the new once split into 2 I ended up having 6 in my tank and stardet to take one out. ( sold it to a local store) 170 gallon tank with a pair of picasso clowns what host all of them sometimes they bubble up sometimes they dont. I have one pink one what never bubbeld up that one also never split yet. The others are rainbow colored and split constantly it seems they also have bubbles sometimes more others less. they come and go. I agree with all of you.. as long as they split eat and look great… its all good. maybe someday we will figure out why they bubble or what makes them bubble. I only noticed that when 2 of them stay together ( I call it holding hands) they both will bubble.

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