Stay Away From Ritteri Anemones

Ritteri Anemone

If you are reading this, perhaps you have clicked the link from my video on the sebae anemone.  While that story (so far) has a happy ending, the story of the attempt to place a Ritteri Anemone did not go quite so well….

As I mentioned in the video with the sebae … after interviewing Marc Levenson, known on line as Melev — about his clownfish harem, I thought I wanted to try it in my 120 reef.  As regular viewers of Fincasters know, we have a family owned and operated aquarium service company, so on a buying trip I asked my son, Ben to pick up a sebae anemone for me.  Well, he came back with something else.

“Dad — they didn’t have a sebae but the guy GAVE me this ritteri anemone.” (also known as the magnificent anemone Heteractis magnifica ) The dealer told Ben to tell me to “give it a try.”  Hmmmm.

I carefully acclimated the anemone.  It was in good shape.  It had a nice, healthy brown color and it opened up immediately.  Like the sebae in the video, it seemed reasonably happy in the spot I had created for it.  Over the next few days it moved around some, apparently seeking a bit more light as it climbed up on some of the rocks directly above where I had placed it.  No matter, because now it was even more perfectly situated for viewing.  I moved some of my coral frags to keep them from being stung.  I figured the ritteri would eventually settle in and I would then aquascape around it.  No big deal.

Ritteri Anemone

John’s ritteri anemone during better days

Things got even better, when over about a week’s time, my pair of frostbite clownfish, which I had won in the raffle at MACNA 2015, decided they liked the ritteri better than the frogspawn where they had been hosting, and moved right in.  I have ample flow in my aquarium and the AI Hydra LED lights have been more than adequate for my corals.

So far, so good.  Then I started reading up on ritteri anemones.  My stomach began to sink.

The web is full of caution about these creatures.  “Expert only.”  “High failure rate.”  “Won’t tolerate ANY nitrates.”  On and on it went.

If you’ve seen my aquarium you know that while it is a few corals short of a show tank.  (Ok a lot short) it is still a happy, thriving aquarium with fish I have maintained in some cases for nearly a decade.  There are growing corals and it is, for all intents and purposes a thriving ecosystem.

Let me correct that.  It is not thriving for the purpose of maintaining a ritteri anemone.

I don’t measure my nitrates and phosphates on a regular basis.  I seldom, if ever measure.  I know my tank, and I know when something is wrong.  If I sense a problem, then I go looking.  Otherwise a regular routine of best practices such as water changes, new filter socks, etc works just fine.  So I crossed my fingers that the system would work for the ritteri.  Nope.

One day, after about two weeks of anemone bliss, I left for work and it was looking fine.  When I returned home that evening, the edges of the anemone were looking kind of like canned crab meat.  By the next morning it had turned into a blob of mush.  Crap.  Now I know why the wholesaler said to “try” it.

Not only was it disintegrating, but it was behind a rock where I couldn’t reach it to remove what was left.  I made the bad decision of hoping the filtration would handle its demise.

Over the next few days the water began to get very cloudy.  The protein skimmer went nuts and worst of all, the aquarium began to stink.  My wife complained a lot.

I did a few water changes, and added two units of Chemi-pure elite to the aquarium.

Despite the smell and the obvious decline of the water quality, the fish and most of the other corals seemed ok.  Several zoanthid colonies refused to open for about a week, but they have recovered.  Otherwise the tank, now a month later, is back to normal.

So here’s the deal.  There is a very small percentage of reef keepers who could both maintain a ritteri and who would want one.  As I said in my video on the sebae, if you want to start a lively discussion with fellow aquarists — begin by stating you opinion on keeping anemones in your tank.  Then duck.  Because people have strong opinions.  Those with awesome sps aquariums that we see in the tank-of-the-month club posts no doubt have the water parameters to maintain a difficult species such as the ritteri — but they wouldn’t be caught dead putting one among their beautiful and expensive sps.  Makes Sense.  Conversely, people like me who are happy to have a thriving aquarium with LPS such as frogspawn, some zoanthids, favia and an acan or two don’t quite have the water to provide the ritteri what it needs.  That leaves a small fraction of hobbyists who are water quality fanatics, but who don’t have aquariums full of expensive coral.  I’m thinking that’s not many of us.

Beyond all that is the obvious argument that there are multiple other species of anemone that will do just fine with well maintained aquariums that aren’t quite perfect.  Probably best to leave the ritteri’s in the ocean.

Want more info?

Animal World Post:

A good thread from The Reef Tank:

Good advice from






John Carlin is a fish geek who is also a local newscaster. Fish+Newscaster=Fincaster.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)