If you’re just getting started with your first reef or just don’t want any hassle, sticking with easy corals is your best bet. It’s so frustrating when an expensive coral kicks the bucket and you’re not sure why! One of our favorite easy choices is Caulastraea furcata, also known as the candy cane coral. Not too challenging to care for and still spectacular in appearance!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about keeping candy cane coral in your aquarium.
|Name (Common, Scientific)||Candy cane coral, trumpet coral*, bullseye coral, torch coral**, Caulastraea furcata, sometimes spelled “Caulastrea”|
**Torch coral is a common name for Euphyllia corals as well. To avoid confusion, we won’t use it here.
Candy Cane Coral Appearance & Natural Habitat
Caulastraea furcata is an LPS (large polyp stony) coral with many common names. It lends its most well-known one, ‘candy cane coral’, from its appearance. Light stripes around the center of the polyps somewhat resemble the pattern on a candy cane or peppermint.
Most candy cane corals sport brown polyps with a green center, but selective aquaculture has led to this species appearing in various other colors.
A few of the most common candy cane coral colors you may come across at your local aquarium store include:
- Kryptonite candy cane coral: A very popular variation that’s bright green. It almost seems to glow under actinic lighting.
- Teal or blue candy cane coral: Blue as the name suggests, although it can have a hint of pink.
- Alien eye candy cane coral: Purple on the edges of the polyp and bright green in the middle. Quite spectacular!
The coral consists of a stalk covered by a fleshy bulb, the polyp. This makes for a trumpet-like appearance (hence the other common name for this genus, trumpet coral), although you usually won’t be able to clearly see this as the polyps can grow very dense.
Candy cane coral was first scientifically described by renowned geologist and zoologist James Dwight Dana in 1846. It can be found in the Indo-Pacific, all the way from eastern Africa to French Polynesia. Its natural habitat includes the famous Australian Great Barrier Reef.
In the wild, this coral prefers shallow reef slopes down to around 100 ft in depth. It mostly grows on sandy substrates, forming large colonies that can grow to up to 16 ft across.
The IUCN considers this a species of Least Concern, but it does note a decline in population. That’s not surprising, as coral reefs around the world are unfortunately threatened by habitat loss, climate change, ocean acidification and other factors.
Candy Cane Coral Care
As mentioned before, candy cane coral is not the most challenging coral species to care for by any means. In fact, it’s among the most popular corals for reef tanks due to its relatively low lighting needs, plus the fact that it’s one of the more peaceful coral species.
The species can technically deliver a good sting, but its tentacles are very short. As such, it should be fine with other corals as long as you keep a bit of distance between them.
As for other tankmates, remember to go for reef safe species like gobies and dottybacks. Fish and invertebrates with a taste for corals can stress your candy cane out to the point of killing it.
Candy Cane Coral Placement
Aside from its peaceful nature, other advantages of the candy cane coral include that it doesn’t require very strong water flow, nor intensive feeding. It can handle some swings in water quality that might kill other corals, although of course you should still do regular aquarium maintenance.
Be sure not to place your candy cane coral in the top layer of the tank, as the lighting in this area might be too bright. You’ll note the polyps retracting if things are getting a bit too sunny for this species. A PAR up to 150 works best!
All this means you can reserve the brightest spots in your tank for the more demanding corals. Choose a sandy location for the candy cane to help imitate its natural habitat.
To keep your candy cane coral happy and healthy, make sure you perform weekly small water changes and keep the water values in check. Phosphates should be low at all times (.05-.07) and nitrates under 10.
Also keep an eye on the calcium and magnesium values, which should be around 400-440ppm and 1200-1350 respectively to keep this hard coral’s bony skeleton healthy. Again, if anything is wrong, the polyps will retract to show their discontent.
Feeding Candy Cane Coral
As mentioned before, candy cane corals don’t need heavy feedings: around twice a week should be fine. They’ll capture tiny bits floating around the aquarium by themselves. A healthy Caulastraea will extend its tentacles on a nightly basis in order to catch what it needs.
In addition to the zooplankton they feed on, these corals receive some of their nutrients from zooxanthellae. These are symbiotic algae, which are able to photosynthesize and which also lend them their bright colors, that they carry within their tissues.
You’ll see your candy cane corals extend their tentacles during the night, as well as whenever food is present in the aquarium. Some reefers do report much better growth in this species with the regular addition of mysis and other small coral foods. If you’re not seeing much happening, you could bump up the feedings.
Target feeding with a turkey baster works well for most corals, including this one. Try feeding when the tentacles are already extended for the best results.
How to Frag Candy Cane Coral
This coral is a quick grower, and you’ll notice new polyps popping up on a regular basis if yours is healthy. If it outgrows its spot, you can opt to frag it and sell or use the excess in a different aquarium. Dividing your candy cane coral should be a breeze due to the way it grows, with polyps on elongated stalks.
All you need is a very sharp utensil like a coral bone cutter, which helps avoid damaging the delicate polyp flesh. Cut through the stalk and voilà, you’ve fragmented the coral!
Take the frag and glue it to a rock or frag plug, after which you can gently place it wherever you want it.
A marine aquarium filled with amazing corals like this one is a beautiful addition to any living room or business, but it’s also a challenge to set up and maintain without the right knowledge.
If you’d like to own a reef but don’t want the hassle, contact us here with your ideas and we’ll see how we can help you out!
PS: Looking for more reef inspiration? Don’t forget to check out the other care guides in our coral care section.
Veron, J.E.N. 2000. Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville.