Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): Why Your Anemone Doesn’t Have Bubbles

Terrible Advice Tuesdays: Your bubble tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) doesn’t have bubbles on its tips because:

– your lighting isn’t strong enough
– your lighting is too strong
– you don’t have enough flow
– you have too much flow
– your tank is too new
– there is no clownfish hosting it in
– there is a clownfish hosting in it
– etc

The rest of the story: No one knows what makes bubble tip anemones bubble up or not. If you have a bubble tip anemone that loses its bubbles in your tank, there is nothing you can do to bring its bubbles back.

While I agree that a fully bubbled bubble tip anemone is quite the eye candy, you also have no reason to get concerned if your bubble tip won’t bubble up. The lack or presence of bubbles in the tentacles of the anemone do not mean anything about the health of the animal.

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Comments for this article (35)

  • redsolocup says:

    So what do you do once you loose the bubble effect and there is nothing you can do to bring its bubbles back?

  • redsolocup…there is nothing to do. If it loses it’s bubbles, then so be it. Just care for it like you would any other anemone. Provide good lighting and good water conditions

  • Darold Spillman says:

    I enjoyed your “terrible advise”. Our bubble tip has happy days and “chill” days. Funny thing is it can go from happy to chill all in the same day. My clownfish don’t seem to mind, they keep swimming in and out of the anemone despite the happy or chill status.

  • redsolocup says:

    Thanks Mark…. You Rock!!!! Keep up the quality hard work and info you provide. It is rare to find good honest down to earth experienced, factual, and basic knowledge on this hobby. You are open to share your opinion which is food for thought. You have inspired me to look at this hobby with true common sense and not all the shiny objects thrown at everyone in the industry. I thank you for all your effort to make this hobby so enjoyable.


  • KevinR says:

    Mine has went under a ledge and closed up 🙁
    Not sure why cause it stayed in the same place for months then went and hid.

  • dave decarli says:

    I believe that they do their “water changes” like many other corals do. if they feel hungry or need something they inflate or deflate. who know’s and like mark said it does not mean it is sick. just my opinion

  • Melanie says:

    My RTBA has been in my tank for less than two months. Sometimes it’s partially bubbled, sometimes not. It recently split so that was exciting…I think. A little worried about where it will settle… Lol. My ocellaris have never hosted it, but my porcelain anenome crab loves it and now has two to pick from. 🙂

    Thanks Mark, for all the advice and info and I’m loving your Virtual Tank Build webinar!!!

  • CraigC says:

    I started out with a tiny, but beautiful bubble tip, with bubbles. All was fine until I added the clowns!(pair of shunks), then it lost its bubbles.
    That was about 18 month ago and every thing is still great. my 1 anemone is now multiplied/split several times and I now have 5 of them and I am having to sell the bothers/sisters off 🙂

  • Melanie says:

    That’s awesome CraigC. I may have to sell my extra also. I only have a 29 biocube. How do you detach them when you are ready to sell? I’m worried about damaging their foot.

  • JasPR says:

    funny, the more ‘alien’ the creatures get, the more hypothesis there seems to be as to WHY things happen/change etc. I was very proud to tell a local store keep that my rose bubble tip had split repeatedly over the past year to the point that I have 7 robust individuals now. And one ‘premie”.He smugly told me ” that is because they are unhappy and don’t like your water quality. That’s when they split “! His comment likely came from my comment that his $120 rose tips looked expensive for such a active prolific creature! 🙂 At any rate, I simply responded, ” how do you know that, you’ve never met them or saw my aquarium?? “. ( thus urban myths are born) 🙂

  • Bryan Scardina says:

    Removing an anemone from live rock is not always easy. If the anemone is on the move it is typically easier. To remove the anemone, message the anemones foot around the edges with your fingers while trying to pry it from the rock. Be careful not to damage the foot. This may be easier if you can remove the rock from the tank. Good luck.

  • Ondrej says:

    By bubble tip anemone changes all the time, bubbles on, bubbles off… I do find that if I feed it it gets more bubbly than if I don’t. My clowns are fine with it either way. BTW did not know it can grow so fast !!!

  • Melanie says:

    Thanks for the info Bryan Scardina!

  • Andrew says:

    For awhile my bubble tip shrunk and barely could see it. Now after weekly/biweekly feedings with silversides, it is really getting a good size. Although my maroon clown is too big for my bubble tip the clownfish still tries to get inside the tentacles. Mark your information is beyond helpful as are the comments from your followers.

  • Bryan Scardina says:

    My rainbow deflated a few days ago and stayed that way nearly all day which is unusual. While feeding last night I notoced that it had split. This is the forth time in three years that this nem has split. Both nems are very bubbly now. I don’t buy the argument that anemones splits are caused by poor water conditions. I certainly wouldn’t compremise my water quality to coax an anemone to split.

  • JasPR says:

    right Bryan, The theory as it was explained to me is that stress causes the cell to split. Honestly i don’t buy it in the least as reproduction is almost always a sign of an environment that favors and supports ‘more of the same’. population expansion is only then impeded by the exhaustion of some element in the environment that becomes ‘scarce’ and limits that expansion of a species. In my case, ALL but one of the daughter cells is robust, large and appears ‘happy’ by human standards. 🙂

  • Jerry says:

    I have a rose and a rainbow bta, both of which have taken up residence right next to each other in my six foot reef tank. The rose has that spectacular bubbling that most hobbyists are enamoured with and the rainbow…looks like a long tentacle 99% of the time. Inches apart, same water, same light; that confirmed, for me, that it’s completely up to the anemone

  • Scott says:

    My personal experience with BTA’s specifically is that they tend to stretch out and elongate when looking for food or hungry. All mine had bubbled back up when I fed them on a regular basis of more meaty foods. However, it’s still an animal and they really do whatever they please. Thanks Mark for growing the hobby, I look forward every week to here what you have to say!

  • Bryan Scardina says:

    I thought the same as Scott, however how do you explain the anemone stretching back out after feeding? My rainbow for a long time was always stretched out and not bubbled up. I feed it pieces of silversides on a bi-weekly basis and have not noticed a pattern of when it is bubbled or not. As it happens it was due a feeding yesterday and was bubbled before and after the feeding.

  • Sal says:

    My bubbles come and go, most days it has at least some bubbles, I spot feed it mysis and brine shrimp every other day and it seems to be very happy

  • Tony v says:

    I’ve have a bubble tip for over two years. And now I have two this bad boy split. Before it split it did not bubble up, I did some reaserch and like you said Mark NADA They just do as they please they are animals. Lucky me my boys at the pet shop said to me hey how would you like a bubble tip I asked HOW MUCH? 25.00 and now I have two that could hit the market at 60.00 bucks each. NOT FOR SALE! I just love theses guys. Thank you mark.

  • Tony v says:

    I’m always on top of my water. If they say yours split do to bad water quality that’s BS! How do you think they multiply, I’m a rookie when it comes to this but come on. When I told my pet shop guys that my bubble tip split they were so happy for my and told me tony you must be doing something right. I also have a hammer coral that only had two small clusters now it’s half the size of a football and over 28 head clusters. Don’t tell me my water is bad. May not be 110% perfect but I’m doing something right. Again Mark thanks for all you do to the saltwater tank hobby.

  • Matt says:

    Hey mark, my BTA was about 12cm about 18 months ago. I upgraded tanks and water parameters and lighting are great. But it decided to shrink to about 3cm inch and hasn’t come back to the size it once was. It rarely opens and even the clowns have given up on it. Any ideas why this would be?


  • Donna Browning says:

    Mark I am studying your web site for a few months until I setup my tank. So for the benefit of the newbies could you post a pic of an anemone bubbled up and not bubbled up?
    Thanks for all of your info on salt water aq. Just waiting for spring!

  • Bryan Scardina says:

    Matt, some experts claim that anemones prefer an environment that has been established for a while. I cannot testify to that but it does appear that your nem does not like it’s new home. You said that lighting and water quality are good. What about water flow? Too much or too little flow could cause the nem not fully open. Also, you said that the lighting is good. How do you know this? Lights too bright or dim or even the incorrect spectrum of lighting could also be the problem. It is difficult to say but I would try changing a few things (not too drastically) and see what happens. Just don’t make too many changes at one time because you won’t know what actually corrected the problem.

  • Melanie says:

    Thanks Mark! That helps a lot!

  • Mason Porta says:

    My GBTA was only about 2 inches in diameter when I got it 8 years ago. It lost the bubbles soon after intro to the tank. My lighting has always been LED’s. Early into it Ecoxotic stunners strips and Panorama pro. More recently Kessil 360w and now the Hydra. My GBTA has thrived in my tank. It has been hosted by the same pair of clowns since day one. It has split so many times I have lost count. I stay on top of water quality and have a very healthy tank. At one time it was about 16 to 18 inches in diameter. Once or twice a year 2 of the tentacles will extend and a bubble will develop then it spawns clouding up my water. after it is done spawning the bubbles disappear.

  • Wade says:

    @KevinR: Mine did the same thing for a few days and then it split! Now I have two:) Who knows, maybe you’ll be a proud papa soon!

  • rob says:

    How long when the BTA starts to split how long does that take? Over night? A few days? I’m A new BTA owner. Only have my RBTA 4 months.

  • Melanie says:

    Rob, it can split quickly. One evening mine was one and the next morning it was two. I had it for two months. I was feeding it also.

  • Bert Rutanheiser says:

    I’ve heard the acid rain or purple rain varieties stay bubbled up more.

  • rob says:

    Thanks Melanie I had no idea it could happen that fast. My RBT is great. Bubbles all the time. Hope it splits one of these days would like to have another one.

  • sorensonsnowman@gmail.com says:

    Who do I e mail for general questions? Thanks snowman

  • sorensonsnowman…use my contact form via this link

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