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Elegance Coral Care
The elegance coral holds a special place in my heart. Way back when I first started the hobby, the elegance immediately grabbed my attention and became an aspirational piece that I had to have in my reef. I loved everything about it. The striping on the body of the coral looked iridescent when it caught the light just right. Its motion was graceful and relaxing. It was like an anemone with its long flowing tentacles yet was a stony coral so I didn’t have to worry about it roaming around the tank stinging everything.
Elegance corals are found throughout the Pacific Ocean. In the past, these corals were harvested from Indonesia however most of the ones in the hobby these days originate from Australia. Where the specimen originated was a major concern because there was a stark difference in the survivability of elegances collected from Australia vs. Indonesia.
That wasn’t always the case. Several years ago, an Indonesian elegance coral was an ideal beginner's coral. It required moderate lighting, readily accepted feeding, and was hardy beyond compare. I remember a particular specimen I owned that accidentally got caught in the suction of a powerhead. The very next day it was fully extended and looked no worse for wear.
Then something changed. Indonesian elegances suddenly became extremely sensitive, and were susceptible to infection. They would get this cotton-like buildup and retract before perishing. Worse yet, the infection would spread to other elegances, even the non-Indonesian ones. For years we stopped purchasing elegance corals and it was only when elegance corals became available from Australia that we resumed carrying them at our store. The Australian elegances for the most part have done well for us.
If you are currently shopping for an elegance for your aquarium and are concerned about its place of origin, I would not worry about it too much. On one hand, it is very difficult to tell where one comes from just by looking at it. Elegance corals have subtle variations and there is a great deal of aesthetic overlap between individuals from Indonesia vs the individuals from Australia. Having said that, there is a very good chance that it is Australian. At the time of this recording there has been an export ban in effect from Indonesia for close to a year. That really only leaves Australia although I suppose it is possible there are a tiny fraction of Indonesian elegance corals still circulating in the trade. If that happens to change in the future, the only way to tell is to ask the seller about the origin and hopefully they will know where it was imported from.
Elegance corals are not so particular about the lighting as they are both adaptable to many types of lighting and tend to remain very consistent in appearance despite the lighting provided. We have kept them in low light, around 50 PAR, and in brighter aquariums around 150 PAR without any noticeable difference in growth or coloration. I recommend moderate lighting levels around 100 PAR just to be safe, but there is plenty of leeway here.
The main concern is to avoid shocking a new addition with too much light right away. This is true for pretty much all newly added corals. Far more damage is done by initial overexposure to light rather than too little light. If you have a particularly high intensity lighted tank, let’s say with an average of 200+ PAR, you can still keep an elegance, just take the requisite steps to allow the coral to slowly adapt to those lighting conditions. If you see it start to fade or worse yet bleach, find a spot under an overhand low in the tank or a spot off axis from the source of light where the intensity is lower.
In terms of fluorescence, elegance corals do fluoresce quite a bit. Under full actinic lights, their bodies glow a mix of blue and green while the tips of their tentacles glow a color depending on what color morph you have. Some have pink tips, purple tips, green tips, and in some rare instances yellow tips. Every now and again there are really rare color morphs that incorporate reds and blacks but I’ve only seen pictures, never one in person, and I have probably seen over 100,000 so if they are out there, they are VERY rare.Low Light
Lighting is a loaded topic, so for a more in-depth discussion of lighting, please see our detailed lighting video.
we have kept elegances under a variety of flow conditions ranging from very little movement to almost crashing waves. Elegance corals appear to be less affected by their flow conditions however stronger flow was beneficial in bringing more food to the coral's tentacles.
Like light, water flow is not something that I would go crazy with. Moderate water movement is recommended. The issue with too much flow is the coral tends to be top-heavy especially when they get larger and swell up. The risk there is that they can parachute off of their perch on the rock-scape and fall on a coral below.
Corals developed all kinds of adaptations to gain a competitive advantage in the battle for real estate on the reef. In our home aquariums we have to be conscious of these in order to create the best environment for them long term. Elegance corals naturally have long tentacles with powerful nematocysts that can damage more delicate tank mates. Most of the time, this is not a major problem but to be safe, we recommend placing it in a location far from other corals.
The video below provides an overview of the different manifestations of coral aggression and ideas on how to mitigate some of the risks inherent in keeping corals in close quarters.
Elegance corals are LPS meaning as stony corals, they require consistent levels of calcium, alkalinity, and to a lesser degree magnesium in order to grow their calcium carbonate skeleton. If your stony coral load is low or if an elegance coral is one of the only stony corals in your tank, I would not worry too much about these levels. The amount of supplementation needed to maintain calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium depends a lot on the size and growth rate of the stony corals in your tank. Although elegance corals can grow to massive sizes, the amount of skeleton they produce is surprisingly little compared to the amount of flesh they pack on. I have seen some elegance corals extend over a foot in length with only a small 4” skeleton below.
In the video below, I cover three different aquariums that utilize different techniques to manage their chemistry.
Agonizing over these levels might be mental overkill for this coral, but it is good to periodically test just to make sure everything is in the ballpark of natural sea water levels. A couple parameters worth paying closer attention to is nitrate and phosphate. LPS corals are sensitive to declining water quality and elevated levels of nitrate and phosphate are an indicator of declining water quality. Low nitrate levels around 5-10ppm are actually welcome for large polyp stony corals, but around 30-40ppm of nitrate you might start running into some issues such as tissue recession. In extreme cases, you might see an elegance go through full-fledged polyp bailout. I made a video all about polyp bailout which you can check out if you want to learn more about that.
If you find your tank has elevated nitrates or phosphates I look to up nutrient removal through more aggressive protein skimming, detritus removal, and more frequent water changes. Limiting nutrient input is another technique that may work, but I tend to focus on removal rather than lowering input, but that is a decision you will have to make in the context of your own system. Different systems will respond differently depending on a multitude of factors from system size to filtration capacity, to bio-processing capabilities. Again, your mileage may vary.
Elegance corals are photosynthetic much like most corals in the reef aquarium hobby. So long as this coral is provided adequate lighting it will get most of the nutrition it requires from the zooxanthellae dinoflagellates living in its tissue. In our experience however, they also benefit from direct feeding. There are a variety of frozen fish foods available that make outstanding meals for Catalaphyllia. We like to feed a mixture of meaty foods such as shrimp, fish, and squid. As a side note, this coral is an adept assassin of snails. Be forewarned, if you like snails in your tank, this LPS may completely remove them from the equation.
At this time, elegance corals are not a good candidate for aquaculture. It is possible to cut them with a band saw however this is risky as you may lose one or both halves. This is something we almost never do here at Tidal Gardens. It was never worth the risk in my experience. Sometimes these corals come in cut from overseas because there are very large colonies found on reefs and collectors can make more money cutting them into “hobby sized” pieces. Although the flesh is completely healed I find that elegance corals cut in this way are more sensitive than smaller specimens that have uncut skeletons.
Another technique is to grow the colony to a very large size and wait for buds to appear at the base. Once the buds get larger, they can be removed and remounted. This may be the better technique, but it does not happen quickly and I’ve only personally seen an elegance do this once. It is not like a branching frogspawn where buds are produced relatively quickly on each stalk, this elegance was gigantic. Probably the size of a small puppy so it probably takes years before an elegance grows mature enough to bud.
That pretty much does it for elegance corals. Hopefully you found this article helpful in keeping elegances in your own aquarium. Until next time, happy reefing!