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Mini-Carpets: The Perfect Small Sea Anemones?

By jml - Posted on 29 September 2010

Miniature or "Maxi-mini" Carpet Anemone, Stichodactyla tapetum. Image by Morgan Mok, below,

Easy to keep, easy to propagate, and appearing in a rainbow of colors, these little anemones should appeal to many reef aquarists

By Morgan Mok

Maybe you haven't heard, but they are coming, and I think Maxi-Mini Carpet Anemones will be the next big thing. Right now only a few distributers seem have these in stock and very few stores carry them. Most people have no idea what they are or they think they are hard to keep. Here's some basic information about these sweet, little anemones.

Known in most references as Miniature Carpet Anemones, they are—we think—properly identified as Stichodactlya tapetum. The scientific literature has literally dozens of out-of-date or non-valid synonyms, including Stoicahactis tapetum, Discosoma tapetum, Actinia tapetum, and many others (see references below). They are distributed in the wild from the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa across the Indo-Pacific to the Great Barrier Reef and southern Japan. Our distributor says they are coming in from Vietnam right now.

Although first described in 1834 and available as rare speciments for years in the aquarium trade, they started showing up more commonly in the U.S. market about 3-5 years ago, but only recently have the really eyecatching bright colors been coming in.

There is some confusion about how large they get, and some seem to grow only to a maximum of two inches (5 cm), while the ones being sold as "Maxi-minis" reach 5-6 inches (13-15 cm).

Whether there might be more than one species being collected is a good question that I am pursuing. Our neighbor Julian Sprung has written that there is a larger form of S. tapetum that grows to 30 cm (12 in.). He also says that they can be easily distinguished from similar looking mushroom anemones by the fact that their tentacles are very "sticky."

In a comment today on this article, Dr. Ron Shimek offered this observation: "Undoubtedly, the larger and smaller forms are two different species."

The Hardy Carpet

Unlike the larger carpet anemones in the genus Stichodactyla, the Maxi-mini Carpet is very easy to keep by the average reef aquarist and usually acclimates with ease, expanding within a few minutes when you introduce it into your tank. (Dr. Shimek says that, with proper space and feeding, even the larger carpets are not difficult to care for, but they historically do not have a great survival record in the aquarium.)

This small carpet prefers to live on or tucked into rock and will move very quickly to your rockwork if you place it on the sand bed. I like to have a few pieces of rubble rock around to place the anemones in so they won't move around too much. Once they are settled in to their spots with good light and decent flow, they will usually stay in one place. Most people keep their anemones under T5's, lower down in a tank with MH's, or under LED lighting. Like many corals, they will fluoresce under actinic/blue lighting.

These tiny carpets are not known to host clown fish, but they are attractive to anemone shrimp and anemone crabs. In the wild, they are favored by Sexy Shrimp (Thor amboinensis) and Periclimenes spp. commensal shrimps. (Anemone expert Dr. Dauphne Fautin and her colleagues once reported finding 11 Sexy Shrimp on a single wild specimen.)

Sticky But Not Aggressive

They are not aggressive but pack a powerful sting if they come into contact with other livestock. If you have small, unwary (careless) fish like certain gobies and blennies, it is possible for them to be killed and eaten, but I think it's more of a case by case basis as my own Bicolor Blenny seems to know to steer clear of them.

The Maxi-mini Carpet can sting corals, but I have not found the sting to be as bad as some other anemones like a Bubbletip Anemone or Long-tentacle Anemone. My Maxi-mini Anemones stay away from my Torch and Frogspawn corals, so we have had no battles so far. They are not aggressive and you don't have to worry about them roving around and digesting your corals during the night. I would not advise putting them next to other types of anemones as the Maxi-minis will probably be damaged.

You can keep several of these small carpet anemones together, and many people are creating Maxi-mini gardens in their tanks. Since they come in a variety of striking colors, a Maxi-mini tank is quite beautiful, and they certainly don't require a large reef to thrive. In fact, a nano tank offers a great way to keep a close eye on their growth and reproduction.

Maxi-minis grow pretty quickly just with good lighting, but you should also feed them some frozen enriched brine shrimp, Mysis, or other meaty foods (even small whole silversides or krill) to make them grow faster. In a thriving, well-established reef aquarium, they may subsist on light and passing small amphipods and other tiny crustaceans, but Dr. Shimek strong advises regular feedings of all carpet anemones, large and small. Like other anemones, they may sometimes egest packets of digested material to get rid of excess waste; this is normal.


One of the coolest things about Maxi-mini anemones is that they can be propagated easily. You can cut a Maxi-mini anemone in half with a sharp razor, soak the two pieces briefly in an iodine/saltwater solution, and place them in your tank. Within 3-5 weeks you will have two perfect little anemones, and the mortality rate is very low. On their own, they also will reproduce asexually, dividing by fission (splitting).

It's almost too good to be true: A Carpet Anemone that comes in fabulous colors, is easy to keep, and easy to propagate. Somebody pinch me! I think Maxi-mini Carpets are an all-around awesome "new" anemone choice for aquarists and one that deserves a big spot in my tank.

Morgan Mok and her husband Johnny together run The Reef Gardener, a registered Florida aquaculture facility, propagating and selling corals and other marine aquarium animals. They live in Miami, Florida.


Zipcode Zoo Stichodactyla taptum (Hemprich and Ehrenberg in Ehrenberg, 1834)

Unambiguous Synonyms

  1. Actinia tapetum Ehrenb.
  2. Actinia tapetum H. Et Ehrenb.
  3. Actinia tapetum Hemprich and Ehrenberg in Ehrenberg, 1834
  4. Discosoma ambonensis Kwietniewski, 1898
  5. Discosoma Tapetum
  6. Discosoma tapetum Ehr.
  7. Discosoma tapetum Ehrbg.
  8. Discosomoides Tapetum
  9. Discosomoides tapetum Ehr.
  10. Homactis rupicola Verrill, 1870
  11. Isacmaea tapetum H. U. E.
  12. Stoichactis ambonensis (Kwietniewski, 1897)
  13. Stoichactis australis Lager
  14. Stoichactis australis Lager, 1911
  15. Stoichactis laevis Lager
  16. Stoichactis laevis Lager, 1911
  17. Stoichactis rupicola (Verrill, 1869)
  18. Stoichactis Tapetum
  19. Stoichactis tapetum (Ehr.)
  20. Stoichactis tapetum (Ehr.) Carlgr.
  21. Stoichactis tapetum (Ehrenberg, 1834)

Host selection by shrimps symbiotic with sea anemones: A field survey and experimental laboratory analysis. Guo, Hwang, Fautin. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Volume 202, Issue 2, 25 September 1996, Pages 165-176

Download Article

Aquarium Invertebrates Column, Julian Sprung.  Advanced Aquarist Online.

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