By Cristina A. Montes


Having kept fresh water fish my whole life, I decided to try salt water fish. One Saturday, I bought – in addition to extra creatures to liven up my fresh water tank – a complete salt water aquarium set-up, three clownfish, one cardinal, one domino, five different kinds of damselfish, and three sea anemones with white-tipped tentacles and bright orange bases.


Sea anemones have fascinated me since my childhood. I’ve read a lot about them: they’re animals although they look like flowers; they’re coelenterates like jellyfish; they have, in addition to a mouth and tentacles, a primitive nervous system with no brain; they sting; they sometimes close themselves up.


An article in an old issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine described a fish-eating sea anemone. But I’ve never come up close to sea anemones. Now, I owned three.After we released the anemones in their tank, two of them immediately settled in corners of the arch of rocks we built inside the tank. But the remaining one floated in circles, and took up to the next morning to find itself a spot. Fascinated with the new aquarium, my younger sisters named all its inhabitants, including the three anemones. The restless anemone became Grimbold while the two others became Frieda and Arthur.


The anemones lived harmoniously with the fish. Some fish formed the habit of leaning against an anemone’s tentacles, as if asking for a massage. The week-end after I brought home the salt water aquarium, I attended an out-of-town spiritual retreat. Dropping by my room in between the devotions, I saw a text message in my mobile phone from my youngest sister: “Anemones look like they’re dying – tentacles thinner and darker.” I took a moment to reply, “They usually deflate themselves when the lights are off.” Still, I prayed frantically for my precious blobs of jelly. Upon arriving home, I checked them immediately. The tentacles of Grimbold and Frieda did look a bit darker and thinner. What’s more, Grimbold moved from its spot once more, and its bright orange base seemed narrower and longer.


Arthur, meanwhile, remained unchanged in his corner at the back of the tank. He always been stable, I’ve noticed. I thought, “Maybe they’re hungry.” So I put in more food than usual in the tank and even stirred the water with a plastic spoon, to make sure some particle bits fall on the anemone’s tentacles. I also added nutrient supplement to the water, and surfed the Net to find out what could be wrong.


I didn’t find out what was wrong. But stumbled upon new interesting information about sea anemones: that groups of anemones fight against each other for territories, and employ military tactics against each other. The next day, the sea anemones were back to normal. They didn’t move much since then except to occasionally relocate, wiggle their tentacles, or close and open or deflate and relfate themselves according to their moods. Another discovery: those brainless anemones seem to have moods.


All the three sea anemones have already died, as well as a few fish. I’m surprised, though, that they lasted as long as they did in my first attempt to care for sea anemones in captivity. The remaining fish in my tank are still interesting, but the tank looks incomplete without the sea anemones. I’ve sometimes wondered how I got obsessed with those mouth-and-tentacle, brainless, spineless, armless creatures, and up to now, I can’t figure out how and why. One thing I’m sure of, though: whenever I’m tempted to write off someone for being brainless, I remind myself of my fascinating anemones.

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