Mini Carpet Anemone - Stichodactyla tapetum
Whenever someone visits, I’m always sure to point out the Mini Carpet Anemones in my smaller aquarium. Rarely have people responded with a blasé comment that they’ve seen them before; rather they are quickly excited to see something new and usual. From what I’ve seen on the web, they really aren’t prevalent in most reef aquaria, although they really could be. They’ve actually be around for a very long time, as they were given their Latin name in 1834. (Hemprich and Ehrenberg in Ehrenberg, 1834)
Common Name: Mini Carpet Anemone
Latin: Stichodactyla tapetum
Origin: Indo-Pacific, Red Sea
Size: 1.6” / 4 cm
Diet: Carnivorous, meaty foods (plankton-size as well)
Coloration: Varied in coloration from specimen to specimen. Quite colorful.
Temperament: Very sticky; some livestock may perish when passing too closely
Lifespan: Years with good husbandry
Salinity: 1.023 - 1.026sg
Temperature range: 74° F - 82° F
Lighting: Strong (MH, T5, LEDs)
I was given two of these during a trip to Rochester, New York back in 2008. They were placed in my angled tank and in no time I was looking at four of them. They propagated on their own via fission, a process of tearing themselves in half. Since they’d been moved from a tank they were happy in, odds are this was a survival reaction to assure they didn’t perish in the new water. I quickly gave one to a friend to increase the odds of keeping them alive, a process referred to as “banking.”
They can be directly fed if desired, but frankly it seems to be completely unnecessary. They contain symbiotic zooxanthellae within their bodies that uses light to produce sugars for energy to live and grow. Additionally, they can capture any plankton-sized foods that drift by, feeding opportunistically. And finally, if prey gets too close, they too will quickly be stung by tiny nematocysts that penetrate the surface of the unlucky passerby. I’ve observed a tiny goby swim face-first into a mini carpet anemone, and that was it. The fish was too big to be consumed, so it was found dead a few inches away on the sandy substrate when I checked back 20 minutes later. My guess is that the fish was chasing some food and didn’t turn in time. The clownfish pair and the mystery wrasse in that tank have avoided the minefield for a long time.
They aren’t self-propagating to the point of being a nuisance coral, unlike Aiptasia or Majano anemones. They do move about the tank, seeking an area of comfortable flow and good lighting. I’ve found them at the top of the tank, on the return plumbing, inside the trough that acts as the drain, and elsewhere. They have been shared with about 12 people in the past two years, and I currently have about 20-30 of them in my system.
Their coloration with bright pink center and the bubble-like polyps resembles their bigger Carpet Anemone family. The pictures in this article depict them accurately, although at first glance some might think they are Ricordea. They don’t seem to bother other nearby corals, and in the wild are often found in seagrasses. The best part is that they stay small, with the largest being about the size of a quarter so they are perfectly suitable for even the tiniest aquariums. In the first picture below, notice their small size. The second image is a close up. All images below were taken under a 12,000K Phoenix 150w DE MH bulb.
As hobbyists, keeping such animals does put the responsibility upon us to care for them properly. Fortunately, if you have a stable reef tank set up, this is an easy addition that needs almost no attention at all. As they spread, they can be shared with others to assure their survival for years to come. I doubt any species of clownfish would host in these tiny carpets, but if you know of some that have, please let us know so we can update the article with pictured proof.
With the Valonia sp. algae in the frame, it is easy to see how small these are. These are medium sized.
Species: Stichodactyla tapetum