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Aiptasia Anemones

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A species considered a pest in aquariums

Aiptasia sp. Anemones

Photo by Kerry Chase
Taxonomy/Classification:
    Phylum: Cnidaria
    Class: Anthozoa
    Order: Actiniaria
    Family: Aiptasiidae
    Genus: Aiptasia (often spelled Aptasia).

Other Common Names: Glass, Rock, Tube, Glassrose Anemone.

Identification: Zooxanthellae (a minute dinoflagellate alga living in the tissues of many types of marine invertebrates) in aiptasia anemones is what gives them their color. For this reason specimens that live in well sunlit exposed waters are usually light greenish brown to dark brown, with those residing in less sunlit environments medium to light brown or tan in color, while dark location dwellers have a transparent appearance due to the lack of exposure to sunlight altogether.
Often an anemone's column or stalk is lightly marked with parellel longitudinal lines. Sometimes white flecks may also be present near the tentacles, and it is not unusual for juvenile specimens to be entirely covered with them.

Distribution: A wide variety of species are found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide.

Habitat: Lighting is immaterial, as these very hardy anemones can survive in dark conditions, and particularly flourish in poor water-quality environments rich in organic nutrients.
Size: Adult specimens can reach 3 to 4 inches in height, with a similar size in diameter of their tentacles, but most are much smaller.
Reproduction: These anemones multiply asexually, reproducing in two ways -- by means of detaching tiny bits of tissue from the foot, which soon grow and mature into fully functional miniature anemones; by giving live birth to fully formed young, which they do by ejecting them from the mouth. Also having regenerative capabilities, pieces that remain behind or break loose from these anemones when you try to scape or pull them off will grow back again, or even develop into a few new ones.
Characteristics: Aiptasia when disturbed eject dangerous white stinging threads, or acontia. These prolific anemones can overrun an aquarium in a very short period of time by multiplying and spreading quickly. Competing for food and space, they have the capability to move about by creeping along rapidly, or detaching and drifting to a new location, which makes it easy for them to attack and kill other types of anemones, sea mats, zoanthids, polyps, most corals, and other sessile invertebrates.
Diet: Aiptasia derive nutrition from the water around them by using their tentacles to capture organic matter that floats by, inserting the food into their mouths for injestion. They particularly thrive in aquariums where over-feeding occurs, and excess DOC (dissolved organic compounds) are allowed to accumlated.
Aquarium Suitability: Aiptasia anemones usually find their way into aquariums by hitchhiking in on live rock. Even though these are an attractive looking cnidarians, and the genus name does mean "beautiful", they are considered by most all aquarists to be destructive, nuisance pest animals that are extremely difficult to get rid of.

Although we have personally not had problems with these anemones harming any fish, hermit crabs, snails, urchins, or the black brittle starfish in our aquarium, possibly because instinctively they avoid them, that doesn't mean that they might not pose a threat to other motile tank inhabitants if one were to stray too close to their tentacles.

NOT recommended for any saltwater aquarium system, unless of course you intentionally want to cultivate them.

Ways to Eliminate Aiptasia Anemones:

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