Image Credit: Kazvorpal (CC License)
When I first started in the saltwater hobby in 2014, one of my many aspirations was to bring home an elegance coral. Finally, my wish came to fruition in 2017, and what a joy it has been to raise this beauty!
To put it in a few words, I love absolutely everything about this coral – the way the striping on its body looks iridescent when it catches lights, its graceful motion, and its long and flowy tentacles. It looks like an anemone, but it’s a large stony coral – so, I didn’t have to worry about it moving around and stinging everyone in the tank.
In this one-stop care guide to elegance coral, you’ll learn pretty much everything you need to know to look after these inverts successfully. Through my own experience and those of others I stumbled upon on forums, I am going to several nuggets of information. So, make sure you read this blog cover to cover – don’t skip or just skim.
Happy fishkeeping. Let’s begin!
Elegance Coral At A Glance
If you’re a first-time reefkeeper digging the aesthetics anemones provide but don’t want to deal with something that wanders around stinging its neighbors, you have come to the right place.
Beautiful, hardy, inexpensive, and large coral that’s stood the test of time, elegance coral is the right choice for you.
- Name: Elegance Coral
- Other Name: Wonder Coral
- Scientific Name: Catalaphyllia jardinei
- Family: Euphylldae
- Origin: Pacific ocean
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Size: 12 inches in length
- Care Level: Easy
- Fragging: Difficult
- Lighting: Moderate
- Water Flow: Difficult
- Toxicity: Yes
- Invasive: No
- Photosynthetic: Yes
- Need To Be Fed: No
- Temperature: 72-78℉
- pH: 8.0-8.24
- Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025
- Alkalinity: 9-12 dKH
- Calcium: 350-450 PPM
True to the large polyp stony (LPS) coral style, elegance coral has a hard skeleton that keeps it stuck to a particular spot. Over the years, the coral absorbs calcium, magnesium, and other essential minerals from the water to add to its growing base, increasing in area and growing wider and more elegantly.
Elegance Coral Natural Distribution
Elegance coral is found across reefs in the Pacific ocean. Its range encompasses Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Mozambique, Vanuatu, and Micronesia.
In the wild, they’re found at the depths of 131 feet (40m) of shallow lagoons and inter-reef areas of gentle turbid water. They share the place with fungicides and several other lagoonal inhabitants.
Indonesian VS Australian Elegance Coral
Elegance corals can be found throughout the Pacific ocean. In the previous decades, these corals were mainly harvested from Indonesia. However, currently, the ones available in the hobby mostly originate from Australia.
Although the specimens look identical, there is a major concern about their origin since there’s a stark difference in the survivability rate of elegance corals collected from Indonesia versus Australia.
Indonesian corals are blessed with better colors and variations than their Australian counterparts. But unfortunately, they’re also plagued with ‘elegance coral syndrome,’ characterized by cotton-like buildup and retraction before perishing.
However, note that this wasn’t always the case. Back in the old days, Indonesian elegance corals were hailed as ideal beginner’s corals. It demanded moderate lighting, was easy to feed, and so hardy beyond comparison.
But in the last few years, things have changed. The Indonesian elegance coral suddenly became susceptible to infections. At the time of this writing, there’s an export ban in effect due to the over-exploitation of the coral in Indonesia.
Therefore, there’s a good chance your coral comes from the land down under. But even then, hobbyists report a tiny fraction of Indonesian elegance corals still circulating in the trade.
Elegance Coral Appearance
Elegance corals come in different colors. Usually, specimens originating from Indonesia have more lively and rich colors than those from Australia.
They can be fluorescent green with cream tentacles, lime green and brown with blue, purple, or orange-tipped tentacles.
Interestingly, famous marine author Scott Michael had once photographed black and blue color morphs, indicating that many more color combinations are yet to be discovered.
Elegance coral is a colonial coral that can exist in several forms. It can either be free-living or attached. It has a cone-shaped, wedge-like skeletal structure, making it easy to bury into soft substrate.
The bottom is pointed, whereas the top where the fleshy polyp is located is wide with sharp, thin, bone-like divisions known as septa. The septa form V-shaped valleys.
The polyps are equipped with long, thin tentacles with contrasting tips that are bulbous in some specimens. Their large, fleshy oral disc has multiple mouths over the ‘valley’ of the septa.
Elegance Coral Size
On average, elegance coral can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. During feeding and attacking mode, the individual tentacles are known to extend 6 inches (15 cm).
Elegance Coral Behavior And Temperament
Corals are a lot more sophisticated than we deem them to be. Over millions of years, they have honed all kinds of adaptations to gain a competitive advantage in the battle for real estate.
And guess what? Elegance corals have not-so-elegant manners. They’re among the most aggressive coral species out there who attack any trespasser or encroacher with their long tentacles equipped with powerful nematocysts.
Just like anemones, elegance corals have sticky tips. And although this ability is not too strong, it’s still good enough to catch and hold prey.
Therefore, it’s recommended to maintain a social distance of at least 6 inches (15 cm) around this aggressive coral species. Or else the neighbors are gonna suffer. Apparently, elegance corals can gain up to 6 inches of reach using their long tentacles.
They’re also suspected of eating fish when the opportunity strikes. A simple brush against their tentacles won’t pose any harm, but if a sick or dying fish accidentally comes in contact with the coral, it may be paralyzed and slowly gobbled up.
Note that their stings are powerful enough to take out small and weak fish, and they have an appetite to match.
Since these corals are creatures of the night, the signs of warfare may only be visible the following day. The wound on the neighboring coral appears mysteriously each morning until it moves or dies.
That being said, you also need to ensure the neighbors aren’t too hostile either. Unfortunately, these corals don’t have a strong defense against encroaching corals.
Their soft tissues can be damaged by stinging tentacles of corals from their very own family, Euphylliidae, like frogspawn, hammer, and anchor corals. These corals can inflict harm on elegance coral’s soft tissue if placed in close proximity.
Hobbyists also report that they are incredibly sensitive to being touched by algae – especially Caulerpa.
Tankmates For Elegance Coral
Given an elegant coral’s angry disposition, it just doesn’t make a bad neighbor for fellow corals but also to fish and other inverts. From directly gulping down tankmates to releasing deadly toxins, there’s slow-motion but constant warfare going on.
For instance, elegance corals are snail-murdering machines. While it’s debated whether or not they release specific pheromones to attract snails, it’s definitely true that they’re pretty adept at annihilating the snail population.
They are equipped with long-range sweeper tentacles, usually released at night, to serve 2 purposes: ensnare any floating animal as extra food and attack anything or anyone growing too close for comfort.
Here’s a list of recommended tankmates:
- Most LPS
- Sea urchins
- Dwarf angels
- Blue-green chromis
- Royal gramma
- Six line wrasse
- Banggai cardinalfish
- Pajama cardinalfish
- Azure damselfish
- Dragonface pipefish
Here’s a list of tankmates to avoid:
- Cerith snails
- Mexican turbo snails
- Astrea snails
- Nassarius snails
- Blood shrimp
- Blue leg hermit crab
- Halloween hermit crab
- Peppermint shrimp
- Skunk cleaner shrimp
- Fish that eat coral polyps
- Sensitive stony corals
- Mandarin gobies
Clownfish are reef-safe fish for the most part, but if they choose your elegant coral as a host, their constant wiggling can cause the coral to not expand and eventually die from stress.
Do not house Mandarin gobies with these corals. The gobies will eventually bump into the tentacles of the coral as they search for benthic food and will end up getting stung.
If you add any other coral to the tank, you need to ensure at least a distance of 6 inches (15 cm) between them. These corals are sensitive to being touched by any other soft coral, such as anchor coral and elephant skin coral.
Water Parameters For Elegance Corals
- Temperature: 72-78℉
- pH: 8.0-8.24
- Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025
- Alkalinity: 9-12 dKH
- Calcium: 350-450 PPM
- Magnesium: 1200-1350 PPM
- Nitrate: 1-10 PPM
- Nitrite: 0 PPM
- Phosphate: 0 PPM
- Ammonia: 0 PPM
Getting the parameters right and keeping them stable are two things every reef keeper should learn early on. Frequent fluctuation in the parameters can lead to stress and the potential death of the coral. As you can see from the list above, the water parameter requirements are pretty basic.
Like pulsing xenia and Kenya tree coral, elegance corals require a bit of grime in the water from where they absorb dissolved nutrients and organic molecules.
The temperature should remain somewhere between 72-78 degrees F, and there should be ample live rocks and crushed aragonite substrate to maintain the pH between 8.0 and 8.24.
Ensuring the correct calcium levels is quite critical to their well-being. These animals extract calcium from the water column to build their stony bases slowly but continually. Therefore, the calcium level should be maintained between 350 and 450 PPM to ensure optimal growth.
Maintaining the right concentration of magnesium in the tank is also equally important. As the third most abundant reef element, it’s not only directly taken by corals but also regulates the amount of calcium and carbonate the water can hold.
If the tank’s magnesium levels drop below 1200-1350 PPM, the calcium and carbonate levels also drop – inhibiting corals from intaking these elements in necessary amounts.
Strontium is yet another vital element corals should intake, but the exact reason why is unknown. However, since they incorporate small amounts of this element into their skeletal structure, most reef supplements contain it in trace amounts.
Commercially available salt mixes have accurate and required concentrations of all three elements.
The phosphorus, ammonia, and nitrite levels should be maintained at 0 PPM.
Getting the nitrate level right can be pretty tricky. In large doses, it’s downright fatal for corals. But at the same time, it’s also an important source of nutrients for zooxanthellae, who share a symbiotic relationship with corals.
You should always aim to maintain nitrate levels between 1 to 10 ppm. If you have a well-established tank with mature biological filtration and a few fish to create nitrogenous waste, there will always be some traces of nitrate for the zooxanthellae.
Elegance Coral Water Flow
Maintaining the right water flow can be quite tricky. But don’t try to get too specific. The preferred water flow is “moderate.” The gentle flow of the coral’s long, flowy tentacles in coherence with the current is a beautiful sight. They’re not named elegance coral for nothing!
I scoured through forums and found that these corals have been kept under various flow conditions – ranging from weak currents to almost crashing waves.
One benefit of strong flow is that it brings more food to the coral’s tentacles – helping with coral’s growth and longevity in the long run.
However, there’s one caveat too. As with most corals, elegance corals are top-heavy – even more so when they get large and swell up. So, the risk here is that they can easily parachute off of their perch on the rock-scape and fall right on a coral below.
Elegance Coral Substrate
It’s recommended to add a sandy substrate because it’s safe and replicates their natural environments. Rocks can scratch their delicate tissue. And when injured, they can contract a bacterial infection.
These stony corals love being mounted on the soft substrate at the base of the sandy tank, where they can easily be buried.
Elegance Coral Lighting
Elegance corals are not at all fussy about special lighting since they’re adaptable to different lighting conditions and tend to maintain the same appearance irrespective of the lighting provided.
From what other hobbyists shared, they have kept elegance corals in low lights around 50 PAR and even bright lights around 150 PAR without any hiccups.
That being said, I’d recommend moderate to strong lighting that’s around 100 PAR. But note that there are plenty of leeways here.
Metal halides can be too intense for elegance coral and result in burnt tissue. So instead, you can use full-spectrum LEDs or T5 fluorescents that give off just the right amount of heat and light to make the colors pop.
The main thing to remember is slowly acclimatizing the coral to any light condition, as sudden exposure can cause irreparable damage. Remember, far more damage is inflicted by initial overexposure to light instead of too little light.
Now, if you have an exceptionally bright tank – let’s say around 200+ PAR – you can still easily keep an elegance coral there. But the coral needs to be exposed to the bright lighting condition gradually.
If you see the coral has started to look drab or is bleached, find a shady spot under an overhand low at the bottom or a spot off-axis from the light source where the intensity is relatively low.
Elegance corals fluoresce quite a bit. For example, their bodies glow in beautiful shades of blue and green under full actinic lights, whereas the tips of the tentacles glow a color based on what color morph you have.
The tips come in shades of pink, purple, green, and sometimes, even yellow.
Lastly, note that actinic lighting isn’t entirely photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). Thus, it won’t really facilitate the coral’s photosynthesis process.
You will need to ensure supplementary PAR in full form of 6500-6700K wavelength to ensure they can create much-needed sugar from their zooxanthellae.
Here’s a quick guideline on lighting intensity:
- Low light: about 30-50 PAR
- Medium light: 50-150 PAR
- High light: Over 150 PAR
Minimum Recommended Size For Elegance Coral
The minimum recommended tank size for elegance coral is 30 gallons. I see that some sites and forums have recommended 15 gallons to be the minimum tank size, but given these corals’ nasty temperament, I wouldn’t suggest anything smaller than 30 gallons.
If you plan to include several other corals, the required tank size increases to 90 gallons. But if you wish to raise it in a small tank, make sure you make it the focal point and ensure plenty of room to grow.
Elegance Coral Placement
The best spots for elegance coral are the bottom to the middle sections of the tank, which receive moderate levels of water flow and lighting. One thing to keep in mind is maintaining adequate distance between your elegance coral and other corals, for they may engage in a grotesque war for real estate.
Feeding Elegance Coral
Like the rest of the corals from the LPS family, elegance corals have developed several feeding strategies. First, they receive nutrients from marine algae called zooxanthellae, which reside in the coral’s tissue.
Second, they capture planktonic organisms and food particles from the water column. And lastly, they can also absorb dissolved organic matter.
Thus, you need to factor in all of their feeding tactics when planning a diet regime for them.
Since elegance corals are photosynthetic, as long as the tank is well lit, they will extract most of the nutrients they require from zooxanthellae living in their tissue.
And as closed systems like tanks naturally have more organic matter and detritus, the tank itself provides a lot of indirect food sources.
However, in my experience, I have found they primarily benefit from direct feeding. They’re widely reported as one of the hungrier LPS corals out there.
Here’s a list of food you can give them:
- Mysis shrimp
- Brine shrimp
- Minced fish
- Minced shrimp
- Reef roids
Even though some reef keepers have never directly fed their corals and have experienced no issue at all, I recommend supplementing their diet at least twice a week.
Here are two quick tips regarding the dos and don’ts of feeding elegance coral:
Never offer a whole fish or a shrimp. Although the coral may grab and gobble it up, the food is often regurgitated late at night. If this happens more often, it will lead to starvation and potential illnesses. The size of the food should be ¼” or smaller.
Frozen food should always be thawed and rinsed first, making it easier for the corals to consume. And rinse the chopped food multiple times to remove as much phosphate from the food as possible.
Elegance Coral Fragging
Like the other large polyp stony (LPS) corals, elegant corals are male and female. They’re hermaphrodites. And they can reproduce both sexually and asexually.
In the wild, they take part in broadcast reproduction – releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously in accordance with the tidal and lunar cues. The fertilized eggs then travel and evolve into free-swimming planula larvae.
After some time, the planula larvae settle onto the substrate and become plankters. They then form a tiny polyp that excretes calcium carbonate and develops into coral.
When they’re planula larvae, these corals are incredibly prone to predation. As a result, only a handful of them makes it to adulthood.
Since our home aquariums have nothing to do with tidal waves or the moon cycle, it’s next to impossible for them to breed sexually in captivity.
And guess what? It’s highly unlikely they will asexually reproduce in captivity too. I scoured through dozens of forums and can confidently conclude that elegance coral hasn’t been propagated successfully in captivity.
While it is possible to cut them with a band saw, there’s a potential risk that you will end up losing one or both halves. Thus, it’s not really worth the risk.
From what I have read, these corals sometimes come in cut forms from overseas as there are large colonies found on the reefs, and collectors make more money by cutting them into hobby-sized pieces.
And even though the flesh heals almost completely, they tend to be way more sensitive than uncut skeletons.
There’s one more technique of fragging. But let me tell you, this is kind of unrealistic.
You have to grow the colony to a super large size and wait for the buds to appear at the base. Once the buds grow large, they can be removed and remounted.
This is definitely the better and safer technique, but don’t set your hopes too high. This is quite rare too.
Elegance corals are not like frogspawn corals, where the buds are produced relatively quickly on each stalk. Instead, it will take years and years before an elegance coral grows mature enough to bud.
Potential Problems With Elegance Corals
Elegance corals are hardy, but they’re not bulletproof. If persistently exposed to subpar environments or fragged incorrectly, they’ll contract illnesses and sustain injuries that are challenging to overcome. The most common problems associated with elegance coral are elegance coral syndrome, bleaching, and brown jelly infection.
Elegance Coral Syndrome
Elegance coral syndrome is a lethal and almost fatal infection that’s only known to affect the catalaphyllia species. Specimens originating from Indonesia are mainly known to be prone to this condition.
Unfortunately, there’s no known cause or cure for this contagious disease. It is characterized by signs like swelling of the coral’s oral disc and the presence of unexpanded polyps.
Some other notable symptoms include the production of white and opaque mucus-like coating, difficulty capturing prey, and reduced feeding impulses.
Always make sure to quarantine the corals for at least a month. The span of disease contagion can range from a couple of days to a few weeks.
Hobbyists often attempt fragging the coral to get rid of this baneful disease with little success.
Brown jelly infection is characterized by brown jelly or goo secretion and can infect the whole colony in a few days if not treated in time. It is mainly caused due to poor water quality and tissue damage.
To treat, relocate the coral to a new container containing the tank’s water, brush off and siphon visible brown jelly, and give it a freshwater dip for several minutes in water with the same pH and temperature as the water in the main tank.
The infection can also be treated using broad-spectrum antibiotics like neomycin sulfite and kanamycin. However, it’s necessary to consult with a certified expert first.
Quarantine the infected coral until it fully recovers before placing it in the main tank. In worst-case scenarios, you should cut off the ill polyp from the rest of the colony.
Gall crabs are hitchhiking parasites that make their way into the coral’s tissue, live there, and crawl all over the tissue at night.
These crabs are pretty hardy – they can fairly survive even long freshwater dips during the acclimation process. Therefore, the best way forward is to remove them manually. You can squeeze them out of the hole using a pin or something similar.
Elegance Coral Leaving Its Base
Sometimes, elegance corals leave their old skeleton and grow a new one, but it turns out to be fatal.
The concrete reason behind this is unknown, but it’s widely believed to happen due to strong water current and lack of nutrition.
Usually, the section that comes loose dies. And although it can look healthy and stay intact for weeks on end, it will break up and disintegrate over time.
Parting Words: Elegance Coral Care Guide
Elegance coral has received a lot of flak in the past couple of years due to its poor survival rate and vulnerability to the notorious ECS condition.
But it is a truly beautiful and hardy coral deserving of so much more love and care.
However, if you have an elegance coral that is suffering from elegant coral syndrome, it’s best to get rid of the coral as soon as possible. If not, the infection can quickly transmit to other healthy specimens.