Mushroom Anemones (primer)

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    Mar 9, 2005
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    The Care and Feeding of Mushroom Anemones
    (Suborder: Corallimorpharia)

    by J. Charles Delbeek M.Sc.

    Mushroom anemones are closely related to the stony corals and belong
    to the same order: Scleractinia. There are approximately ten families of mushroom anemones found in most of the tropical oceans of the world, however, the majority of those imported for aquariums belong to the family
    Actinodiscus; sometimes we also come across large individuals
    (Elephant-ear anemones) which belong to the families Ricordia and
    Rhodactis (Achterkamp, 1985). Mushroom anemones can be found as
    individuals but are more common in colonies. Even though they exist
    as individual specimens, they are often joined to each other at their
    basal discs (Achterkamp, 1985).

    In nature, mushroom anemones are usually found in areas of poorer
    water quality and clarity than stony corals. Perhaps that is why
    mushroom anemones are relatively easy to keep and breed in the home
    aquarium compared to the more delicate hard corals (Achterkamp, 1985).

    As in the case of reef building corals, giant clams of the family
    Tridacnidae and most sea anemones, mushroom anemones depend to a
    great extent (some more than others, as we shall see) on symbiotic
    algae, zooxanthellae, for their existence (Gordon, 1977). These
    zooxanthellae live in the tissues of their host and convert the
    energy of the sun, via photosynthesis, into a form which the host can
    use. In return, the zooxanthellae feed on the ammonia produced by the
    host. Some hosts can do quite

    Table 1. Classification of mushroom anemones (Achterkamp, 1985; Barnes, 1974).

    Phylum: Cnidaria - free-swimming and sessile with stinging
    tentacles surrounding the mouth

    Class: Anthozoa - sea anemones and corals

    Subclass: Hexacorallia - polyps with more than eight tentacles

    Order: Scleractinia - stony corals

    Suborder: Corallimorpharia - tentacles radially arranged around the
    - resemble true corals but lack skeletons
    well without their zooxanthellae, however, mushroom anemones are not
    among these; if their algae die, they will soon follow! If their
    zooxanthellae die, some mushroom anemones will not be able take in
    food from outside (Achterkamp, 1985). As was mentioned earlier, some
    mushroom anemones are more dependent on zooxanthellae than others. A
    good indication of this is the texture of their upper surface. If the
    surface is relatively smooth, with few knob-like tentacles, then one
    can assume that this type depends mostly on zooxanthellae. Those
    mushroom anemones with a rougher surface are more likely to accept
    additional food (Achterkamp, 1985). One way to determine if your
    mushroom anemone requires food is described by Achterkamp (1985). If
    you stroke the sides of the anemone with a piece of rigid tubing, and
    it folds into a shape reminiscent of a tulip bulb (this may take a
    few minutes), then this is a good indication that your mushroom
    anemone will accept additional food. If you put some food into the
    cavity formed when the anemone takes on the "tulip" shape (mysis
    shrimps or other small food types). When it reopens, the cavity will
    be empty, indicating that the food has been eaten. The larger
    mushroom anemones, belonging to the family Rhodactis, have numerous
    bumps on their surface,are predatory in nature and will prey upon
    small fish (now you know where that goby went!).

    -Mushroom Anemones in the Aquarium
    The majority of mushroom anemones are brown in colour, due to the
    presence of zooxanthellae (which are brown algae, not green). In some
    cases you will come across individuals which are almost white in
    colour. This is almost always an indication that the zooxanthella
    have died off and the anemone is in poor condition (i.e. don't buy
    it!). This is often the result of lack of light over a long period
    (such as occurs during long shipping periods) or they were shipped
    with too much oxygen in the bag (Achterkamp, 1985).

    Although zooxanthellae need a lot of light, at times they can receive
    too much light. For example, even though mercury-iodide lamps are
    good for leather corals, they are too bright for mushroom anemones,
    therefore they should be placed deeper in the aquarium or in a shaded
    spot (Achterkamp, 1985). In nature, mushroom anemones which live in
    areas of strong light develop a pigment layer to absorb the extra
    light. This results in a variety of coloured individuals (e.g. blue
    and red). However, if these types do not receive enough light they
    will rapidly loose this protective colouring. Therefore, many of the
    coloured mushroom anemones that are imported have lost their pigment
    due to the long period they have spent without light. The trick is to
    get ones which have spent the least amount of time in transit. If you
    trust your dealer, you can buy those brown ones he says were once
    blue and, provided you give them enough light, they will regain their
    brilliant colouring (in a few months) (Achterkamp, 1985).

    When placing your mushroom anemone in the aquarium there are a few
    points you should consider:

    1. If you have normal fluorescent lighting, place them as close to
    the surface as possible to receive as much light as possible. You can
    tell how your specimens are reacting to the light by the shape they
    assume. Normally, mushroom anemones lie perfectly flat against the
    substrate. If they take on a trumpet shape in the mid- afternoon, or
    for the whole day, they are not receiving enough light or light which
    is too red (Achterkamp, 1985).

    2. Do not place your colony near the outlet of the water pump. In
    contrast to leather corals, mushroom anemones do not like a lot of
    current. If you have a well-lit aquarium, you can place them lower in
    the tank where they will not be subjected to strong currents
    (Achterkamp, 1985).

    3. Keep your mushroom anemones well away from strong stinging animals
    such as bubblecorals and Cerianthus anemones (Achterkamp, 1985).

    4. Mushroom anemones will start to suffer at nitrate concentrations
    greater than 30-40 ppm.

    5. Mushroom anemones may require several weeks before they become
    completely accustomed to your tank, especially if they have just been
    imported, so don't worry if your newly acquired colony looks like a
    pile of dead leaves at first. They will soon regain their former
    glory (Achterkamp, 1985).

    Like most anthozoans, mushroom anemones have strong powers of
    regeneration. The are reported cases of mushroom anemones being cut
    in halve, and each half then regenerating itself (Achterkamp, 1985).
    Mushroom anemones reproduce by splitting in two or by budding off
    small individuals from the pedal base; these small individuals then
    grow rapidly. In an aquarium with good water quality, mushroom
    anemones can reproduce themselves five-fold within a year
    (Achterkamp, 1985).

    When the colony becomes too crowded, individuals will let go of the
    substrate and float to a new area and reattach themselves. Unlike sea
    anemones, this process (reattachment) may take a few weeks. Whatever
    happens, don't try to remove an individual yourself; this always goes
    awry (Achterkamp, 1985).

    In conclusion, mushroom anemones are excellent choices for the
    aquarium with good water quality. They can be kept successfully by
    beginner and expert alike (Achterkamp, 1985)!

    Achterkamp, A. 1985. Schijfanemonen In. Gids en handboek voor de
    zeeaquariumliefhebber en amateur zee-bioloog. (A.P. Amir and H.
    Compaan ed.), Nederlandse Bond van Zee- aquariumverenigingen,
    Vroomshoop, Nederland.

    Barnes, R.D. 1974. Invertebrate Zoology. W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

    Gordon, M.S. 1977. Animal Physiology. Macmillian Publishing Co., N.Y.
    jhnrb, Feb 20, 2006
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