Image Credit: Bernard Dupont (Creative Commons license)
Raising stony corals is the pinnacle of the saltwater experience. Welcome to the club!
Torch corals look nothing short of stunning. But beauty comes at a price.
There’s so much that goes into their care in terms of water chemistry, lighting, aquascaping, and general knowledge that they can scare off even seasoned hobbyists.
Torch corals can be a handful in the wrong hands – they can be challenging, treacherous, and wild.
However, if you’re equipped with the right knowledge and resources to look after torch corals, it will lead you to one of the most gratifying experiences in the hobby.
As the title says, this will be your one-stop guide to care for torch corals. I assure you that this article will contain all the information you need to look after them and breed them successfully.
So, let’s get into it without further ado.
Torch Coral At Glance
|Pom Pom Coral, Branch Coral, and Trumpet Coral
|Green, Brown, Purple/Pink, Orange/Yellow
|Up to 10 inches
|76-82 degrees F
|Most marine livestock
|Moderate (50-150 PAR)
Torch coral is hands down one of the most aggressive LPS coral species available out there. But its unusual looks more than makes up for its fiery temperament.
It’s a beautiful coral with thick and extended polyps emerging from the base of a calcified stone. As the water flows over it, it quite literally looks like a dreamy torch – hence, the moniker.
Torch coral was first described in 1821 by Chamisso and Eisenhardt.
Like the rest of the corals available in the aquarium trade, torch corals come from warm and pristine waters of the Indo-Pacific region – particularly Indonesia and Australia.
In the wild, they live in colonies at depths of 131 feet (40m) in turbid yet gentle water and receive indirect sunlight.
Torch Coral Conservation Status
Torch coral (Euphyllia glabrescens) is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as of yet. But their population in the wild is swiftly dwindling owing to soaring demands across the world every year.
Torch Coral Lifespan
Torch corals can live for more than 75 years on average. So there’s every chance that they will outlive you. I don’t mean to be sarcastic here, but torch corals make great family heirlooms.
However, it’s not uncommon for torch corals, or any other coral for that matter, to die prematurely due to improper care and handling.
So, make sure you read this blog from cover to cover to ensure you make no mistakes and possibly pass down the coral to your loved ones.
Torch Coral Appearance
Torch coral is a spectacular specimen that looks like a flickering flame when submerged under a decent flow. Its long fingers readily stretch out and move about when submerged in the tank – creating an eye-catching show.
It has thick, extended polyps with long tentacles that emerge from a base of calcified stone. The polyps extend during the day and just partially at night.
The tentacles can come in shades of greens, purples, pinks, oranges, yellows, and browns.
Since torch corals are LPS corals part of the Euphyllidae family, they closely resemble frogspawn corals (Euphyllia divisa) and hammer corals (Euphyllia ancora) in terms of appearance and care required except for a few distinctions.
A frogspawn’s tentacles are thick and branched, whereas a hammer coral’s are short and broad with flattened tips.
But a torch coral’s tentacles are long, skinny, and straight with no branching – thus, eliminating the use of sweeper tentacles.
The base of the tentacles sport a darker shade than the circular tips and are, in fact, a different color altogether. The base is green-gray, blue-gray, or brown, while the tips are colored creamy, green, or white.
The coral’s base is known to secrete minerals like calcium carbonates slowly but continuously, enlarging its platform as it grows.
Unlike other euphillyas like hammer coral, torch corals are branching. While branching corals have defined coral polyps, each within their own skeleton base, wall corals are a straight line of coral polyps with a single connected skeleton.
In the wild, torch corals form large colonies with corallite walls forming on the outer edges, with polyps having the flexibility to completely retract into their skeleton.
Torch Coral Size
A torch coral polyp can measure around 10 inches across and another 10 inches in the tentacle. The transparent sweeper tentacles can be even longer than the normal tentacles as they have to extend their reach for optimal feeding and territory defense.
And when feeding, each tentacle can elongate 2 to 3 times its normal length.
Torch coral is available in various sizes for purchase. The smallest specimens are tiny – only reaching around ½ to 1 inch long. However, the bigger varieties can be found between 4 to 5 inches.
Some colonies can reach over 3 feet (1m).
Torch Coral Sexual Dimorphism
Torch corals are sexual hermaphrodites. Thus, there’s no clear distinction between males and females. Everyone looks pretty much the same.
Torch Coral Types
There are at least a dozen different torch corals available for purchase in the hobby. Despite coming from the same family, they display a good degree of variation in colors, length of tentacles, and overall hardiness.
Naturally, the more vibrant the colors, the higher the price it fetches.
I’ll briefly touch on a few rarer and hence expensive torch coral varieties that you can come across.
Types Of Torch Coral
- Indo gold torch coral
- Aussie gold torch coral
- Black torch coral
- Green center gold torch coral
Indo Gold Torch Coral
This coral is named after its beautiful orange-green tentacles and light green tips. This particular variety has long, skinny tentacles.
What I like the best about this coral is that it is a lot more forgiving of unfavorable water conditions than its contemporaries like the Aussie gold torch.
Aussie Gold Torch Coral
Structure-wise, Aussie gold torch coral is pretty much similar to Indo gold torch corals but sports unique orange-gold tentacles with bluish-purple tips.
This coral has comparatively shorter and stubbier tentacles than Indo gold torch coral.
Black Torch Coral
Black torch coral is monikered after its deep purple coloration. The tips are yellow-green in color – providing a beautiful contrast.
This is a beginner-friendly coral that sways back and forth to the currents in the tank.
Green Center Gold Torch Coral
As the name suggests, this coral has a neon green center. The tentacles sport a violet color with a yellow-brown gradient.
The tips are a beautiful shade of lilac – providing a striking contrast against the tentacles’ purple colors.
Torch Coral Behavior And Temperament
Torch coral is one of the most aggressive coral species we know and raise. Therefore, you need to put a lot of thought into the habitat you create and the tankmates you choose for them.
For new hobbyists, using the word ‘aggressive’ to describe a visibly docile animal can be confusing. But remember, these corals are known to actively engage in warfare to secure scarce and valuable real estate on the reef.
They are extremely active and highly mobile. They often move around in the tank, depending on prevalent conditions. If anything significant changes in its atmosphere, expect your torch coral to quickly react accordingly.
Torch corals have sweeper tentacles with stinging cells that they frequently use to capture small prey and defend themselves against predators.
To be more specific, touch corals possess cnidocyte, an explosive cell containing a giant secretary organ called a nematocyst. They use it to immobilize and capture prey or predators by delivering powerful stings.
The coral liberally uses its powerful sting if it believes its territory is being infringed.
If another coral gets stung by torch coral’s sweeper tentacles, it leads to swelling and cell death locally. And guess what – since torch corals prefer current, the sweeper tentacles get brushed all along the nearby corals all the time – stinging them to death.
Torch corals extend their sweeper tentacles at night to feed and keep other corals from coming too close. However, they don’t have any problem with other touch corals.
Note: Although a torch coral’s stings cannot penetrate human skin, the slime coating can still cause mild irritation. Therefore, you need to wear rubber gloves every time you handle them.
Torch Coral Tankmates
Given a torch coral’s aggressive temperament, you should be really finicky while choosing their tankmates. For starters, it’s not even recommended to keep them alongside their closest relatives like hammer corals and frogspawn corals.
Torch corals will reduce these poor beings to bare skeletons in no time.
That being said, you can keep multiple torch corals in the same tank. Even then, the basic rule is to maintain as much space as possible between them.
Besides fellow torch corals, they can cohabitate with any reef-safe fish or invertebrate. Some of them are:
- Yellowtail Blue Damselfish
- Blue and Green Chromis
- Yellow Coris Wrasse
- Flame Angelfish
- Pygmy Angelfish
From what I read on a few forums, clownfish may attempt to host a torch coral. But the most likely outcome is the coral getting stressed out and keeping its tentacles retracted. There’s also a chance that your clownfish gets stung.
However, there also have been cases where medium to large corals hosted a pair of clownfish with no qualms.
Also, note that ‘reef-safe’ inverts like hermit crabs and emerald crabs may not be so ‘reef-friendly’ towards large polyp stony corals. I have read one too many horror stories of hungry crabs destroying prized corals overnight.
To err on the side of caution, you might want to stick with herbivore inverts like sally lightfoot crab.
You can keep anemones alongside your corals too. But keep in mind that anemones have a tendency to move around in search of better currents and lighting.
Thus, they may end up stinging the coral or getting stung.
Some tankmates to avoid are:
Lastly, avoid any tankmate with noticeable pincers or teeth. They don’t belong in reef aquariums!
Don’t Keep Torch Coral And Leather Coral Together
Just letting you know that you should not house leather coral and LPS species like torch coral in the same habitat. And that’s because most leather coral species secrete toxic chemicals called terpenes to protect themselves and stunt the growth of other corals present.
What To Feed Torch Coral?
It’s crucial to note that torch corals don’t eat the same way other animals (like anemones) with mouths in the middle of the polyp do. Experienced hobbyists report that torch corals often refuse large food pieces.
They should be given smaller pieces.
Torch corals are photosynthetic beings. They have a beautiful symbiotic relationship with single-cell photosynthetic organisms called zooxanthellae that live inside the coral’s tissues.
Zooxanthellae convert energy into sugar. And in exchange for shelter inside the coral, it splits its ‘harvest’ and feeds the coral. Nature is fascinating, isn’t it?
And while torch corals may live solely on their interspecies relationship with zooxanthellae, they have those long, feeding tentacles for a reason.
In the wild, torch corals make active hunters. As a matter of fact, they are one of the hungrier corals out there.
Let’s talk about how they hunt now.
Each tentacle in the coral has a light-colored bulb packed with nematocysts, which effectively disables any small animal that brushes against it.
That’s not all. The nematocysts even act as microscopic harpoons, sticking firmly to the prey’s skin until the coral can latch on with more tentacles and finally drag the food towards its mouth.
Coming back to the point, it’s pretty easy to feed torch corals. They will appreciate any small, meaty food. In my opinion, thawed mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and krill are the most economical and inexpensive options available.
As I said above, it’s not mandatory to feed torch corals. But they’d sure enjoy it if you gave them snacks every once in a while. This practice also helps to maintain their health and longevity.
Feeding is pretty straightforward. Just mix frozen shrimp with warm saltwater and wait for it to soften up.
Next, turn off the current directed over the coral and spot feed the torch coral by releasing tiny bits of shrimp on its tentacles.
I’d suggest using a set of coral feeding syringes to ensure food doesn’t spread throughout the water column and make the water dirty.
For commercial food recommendation, I’d highly suggest getting your hands on Polyp Lab’s Reef-Roids.
I’m sure you’re already aware of how the Reef Roids is a favorite among reef tank hobbyists. I am one of them too. Reef Roids is truly the best in business when it comes to coral food.
Here’s a link to a great video that shows you step-by-step how to feed your coral Reef Roids.
How Often And How Much To Feed Torch Corals?
At max, you should feed your corals twice a week. And that is if you choose to feed your torch corals. However, as I said earlier, they deter big pieces – thus, you should give them a couple of small amounts of shrimp once or twice a week.
Some hobbyists never spot feed or provide additional supplements to their corals and still experience substantial growth and brilliant colors. On the other hand, some feed a high-quality diet routinely but witness no growth.
So, the point here is that the food you feed has little to do with their wellbeing. Instead, the water quality, flow, and lighting you offer play pivotal roles.
How Do Torch Corals Propagate?
As a large polyp stony coral, torch corals are hermaphrodites. They’re both male and female simultaneously and can produce both sexually and asexually.
In the wild, they often produce sexually by releasing sperms and eggs at the same time – resulting in dozens of fertilized eggs that develop into free-swimming planula larvae.
Over time, the planula larvae settle onto the substrate and become plankters. They then form tiny polyps that begin to excrete calcium carbonate and develop into coral.
As you can guess, planula larvae are highly prone to predation, and very few make it to adulthood.
Sexual reproduction is least likely to occur in a captive setting. You need to have a massive space with multiple torch corals for that to happen. Plus, sexual reproduction also requires tidal and lunar cues, which they won’t get in your aquarium.
Now let’s talk about asexual reproduction.
Since torch coral is a branching stony coral species, it’s easy to propagate it via fragging. You can either cut, snap off, or saw a branch, and it will develop into an entirely new colony of its own.
The very idea of breaking off the pieces of your prized coral sounds scary, but the fact that they can create entirely new, genetically identical colonies is a true wonder of nature.
Like frogspawn corals and hammer corals, torch corals display two types of growth – branching growth and wall growth.
The best way to frag branching torch coral is using a bone cutter or an electric saw. You should carefully cut the skeleton right between the start of the flesh and where the coral branches.
Don’t forget to use iodine to help disinfect, and superglue the frag to a plug. Branching corals are relatively easier to frag with proper bone cutter tools.
But some hobbyists like to steer clear of bone cutter tools since they can inflict tissue damage if mishandled. Thus, I’d recommend getting your hands on a coral propagation fragging kit set to stay on the safe side.
Leave the piece near the sand bed in medium flow until it is ready to acclimate to higher lighting and water currents.
Wall corals are far more challenging to frag and hence have a poor success rate. And that’s because you have to cut right through the flesh of the coral, which can inflict fatal injuries if you’re not careful enough.
Therefore, experienced hobbyists recommend using a sharp electric saw to cut through the piece of the skeleton.
Since a good chunk of the fleshy part will be damaged when splitting a wall growth coral, you need to have a saltwater iodine bath handy in advance to prevent any infections.
But don’t worry – torch corals heal and regenerate pretty quickly.
And do you know your torch corals may also try to breed without any help from you?
To clone itself, the torch coral will nip off a piece of its flesh on its own, which will then be swept away by the current. Soon enough, it will find a hard surface to attach to and build a skeletal structure.
Torch corals really are marvels of nature!
Water Parameters For Torch Corals
- Temperature: 76-82 degrees F
- pH: 8.0-8.4
- Salinity: 1.025 or 35 PPT
- Alkalinity: 8-12 dKH
- Magnesium Level: 1250-1350
- Calcium Level: 350-450 PPM
- Flow Rate: Moderate
- Nitrate: 1-10 PPM
Torch corals are pretty hardy to begin with. But their robust nature should not be an excuse to keep them in subpar environments. The water parameters should be maintained as stated above.
From what other hobbyists reported, torch corals tend to be a tad more sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters and poor water conditions than some other species of euphyllia.
If the water temperature changes too often or too fast, the coral will not survive. Therefore, strive to maintain a steady temperature around 76-82 degrees F at all times.
Salinity And pH Levels
The salinity levels should be maintained at around 1.025 to ensure a healthy growth rate. The pH should clock in between 8.0-8.4. If the water is too acidic, it will lead to a burning sensation with dire consequences.
Like all corals, torch corals require bicarbonate to grow. And bicarbonate production is based on the water’s alkalinity levels. Thus, it’s essential to ensure the right pH parameter is maintained at all times.
Maintaining the right concentration of minerals in the water is paramount. Calcium is vital for healthy bone growth in humans and animals. And as you already know, torch coral is made up of bony skeletons that rely on calcium for growth.
Here’s what the required mineral levels look like for torch corals:
- Calcium: 400 to 450 PPM
- Phosphate: 0 PPM
- Magnesium: 1200-1350
- Strontium: 8-10
The standard practice of performing water changes is 20% a month, 10% biweekly, or 5% weekly as required. It’s been reported that performing a 5% weekly water change helps replenish many of the required additives and is more economical in the long run than purchasing additives for the water.
Particular attention should be given to maintaining the right water flow. It should be kept at a moderate level with no sudden or dramatic changes.
If the current is too strong or the water flow is too rapid, the long polyps will inevitably get torn and damaged as the current forces its way through them.
Also, water flow that’s too strong will inhibit polyps from extending properly – thus, compromising their ability to capture food.
Moderate water flow will ensure gentle movement of the polyps as the coral makes its way around the tank.
Torch corals don’t prefer intensely bright light. Thus, it’s once again best to position it to lower down in the tank – in a spot that receives moderate lighting.
It does particularly well in actinic light. If the light is too bright and strong, it will cause the polyps to retract to move away from the light. And as it goes without saying, it will affect their overall growth.
Where To Place Torch Corals In A Reef Tank?
The coral will thrive when positioned towards the tank’s base as it needs plenty of room directly above it to stop it from sweeping upwards and stinging other occupants of the tank.
The best spot for torch coral would be one that receives moderate lighting and water flow, which happens to be the tank’s bottom.
The fringes/corners of the tank (unless right next to a light source or powerhead) are the sites to receive the least water flow and light within the tank. On the contrary, the areas with the highest flow are right in front of your powerheads or gyre pumps.
You can be assured moderate flow is achieved when the polyps are fully extended but only mildly swaying as if there’s a gentle breeze passing through. They should not stand still or bend as if in a storm.
As for lighting, the upper regions of the live rock (high in the tank) and regions most centrally located under the LEDs have the brightest light intensity.
Assuming that you have high-quality reef LEDs, T5s, or metal halides, these areas are best suited for light-hungry corals like certain SPS.
So, the best placement for your coral torches would be the middle to lower ends of the tank. They’re still in pretty reasonably bright light but not straight under the most intense section.
Minimum Tank Space For Torch Coral
Owing to a torch coral’ short temper, it unquestionably needs plenty of space. The long polyps always sway back and forth, almost as if they’re being blown in a gentle breeze.
Therefore, the minimum recommended tank size for a single torch coral would be 50 gallons.
50 gallons would ensure there’s ample room for the polyps to spread and allow them to move freely without harming other tank residents.
Some Common Problems Associated With Torch Corals
Torch corals are hardy for the most part, but they’re not entirely immune to a few maladies. For example, they are susceptible to protozoan infections like brown jelly, collection problems, and intense lighting.
Let’s discuss a few of them below:
As the moniker gives away, this condition is characterized by the production of brown jelly-like goo. The reasons behind this could be overfeeding, poor water quality, and tissue damage.
And when this happens, you will notice a brown piece of jelly floating on the surface of the coral. And the worst part is that it can spread to the whole colony or other corals within the tank if not treated on time.
To get rid of brown jelly, you should relocate the coral to a different container, brush it, and siphon off any visible trace of brown jelly. You can also frag the infected areas (heads) to reduce spread.
To cure the infection, the infected coral should be dipped in freshwater or iodine.
If the condition is severe, you will have to use broad-spectrum antibiotics and quarantine the coral until it’s fully healed.
Corals often carry and bring along hitchhikers like coral-eating flatworms. The flatworms grow to an impressive size, but they’re pretty adept at hiding, making it difficult to locate them in the first place.
You can find them hiding right between the bone stalk and coral flesh in most cases.
Always quarantine and disinfect corals before keeping them in the display tank. Don’t put the corals in your display tank right after the treatment. They can still very well carry flatworm eggs.
Thus, you need to repeat the treatment once again a couple of weeks apart.
Corals should be handled with delicate care during fragging. It’s not uncommon to see torch coral skeletons getting shattered while fragging. This can inflict injuries on the fleshy polyp area – resulting in tissue damage.
Buying Torch Coral
Corals from the euphyllia genus are available easily. Thus, you should have no problem getting your hands on a torch coral. These beautiful corals are often sold at pet stores offline. You can also source them from reputable reefers.
A specimen of this species costs $50 or upwards, depending on the size, color, and rarity.
For instance, golden torch coal fetches at least $500 at a minimum.
Torch corals are definitely one of the most beautiful corals we can add to our home aquariums. Its dazzling colors and the swaying of the fleshy tentacles in cohesion with the water currents definitely make a sight to see.
All in all, torch coral is a moderately hardy, relatively easy, and pretty mobile and aggressive species.
It goes without saying, but make sure to keep the water clean and parameters stable at all times. Feed them regularly, provide ample space, and frag correctly and that’s about it.