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Aquarium of the Pacific - Online Learning Center - Species Print Sheet

Conservation Status:  Data deficient

Aquatic SpeciesFish-Eating Anemone

Urticina piscivora CnidariansSea anemones

Fish-Eating Anemone Fish-eating anemones typically grow to about 8 inches tall. | Andrew Reitsma/Aquarium of the Pacific
Fish-Eating Anemone - popup
Fish-eating anemones typically grow to about 8 inches tall. Andrew Reitsma/Aquarium of the Pacific

Species In-Depth | Print full entry

At the Aquarium

Fish-eating anemones reside in the Surge Channel exhibit just inside the entrance to the Northern Pacific Gallery. They are also in the Coastal Corner Touch Lab in the Northern Pacific Gallery.

Geographic Distribution

These anemones live in the cool waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to La Jolla, California.


Fish-eating anemones are commonly found on rocks from the low intertidal zone to approximately 160 feet (48.8 meters) deep.

Physical Characteristics

This soft-bodied animal has a smooth orange-red column with no spots or attached shells, sand, or other debris. The column is topped by an oral disc and has slender, short, white tentacles possibly tipped with pink or red armed with stinging cells called nematocysts. The disc is red to pale orange at the bottom of the tentacles to nearly white around their mouth. A sticky foot at the bottom of the column is used to adhere to a substrate.


The disc size typically ranges from 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters) and column height can be up to 8 inches (20 centimeters).


This species feeds on shrimp, other invertebrates, and small fishes it captures with its tentacles. Nematocysts, located within the tentacles, are coiled threads containing venom and having a barbed end. When prey brushes against tentacles, nematocysts shoot out, killing or immobilizing the prey. Tentacles then pass the food into its digestive cavity through the mouth. Undigested food and waste is released through their mouth.


This species can reproduce asexually by splitting either vertically or horizontally. They may also reproduce by spawning eggs or sperm into the water where, if fertilized, they will develop into planktonic planula larvae, eventually metamorphosing into an anemone.


Fish-eating anemones are semi-aggressive, so they tend to be solitary.


Their foot allows these anemones to move if current conditions are not satisfactory or if they are being harassed by predators such as sea stars. To move, they inflate themselves, detach from the substrate, and then move along with the current.


Fish-eating anemones can live sixty to eighty years in the wild.


This species has not been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but they can be affected by commercial fishing trawlers, which damage their habitat, and water pollution.