Elegance Corals: How to Care for, Place, and Light, These Stunning Corals

| Updated: July 13, 2023
Large elegance coral in a reef aquarium on the sand bed. Long tentacle moving in the flow. Catalaphyllia jardinei

Do you want to add some elegance and grace to your reef tank? Then you might want to consider getting some elegance corals (Catalaphyllia jardinei). These corals are showstoppers with their long, flowing tentacles that come in different colors and patterns. They’re also called elegant corals, wonder corals, or ridge corals.

But don’t let their beauty fool you. Elegance corals are not exactly beginner-friendly corals. They have some special needs and challenges that you’ll have to meet to keep them happy and healthy in captivity. One of the biggest issues is the elegance coral syndrome (ECS), a deadly disease that affects many specimens in the trade and causes them to decay quickly and die within days or weeks.

In this article, we’ll give you the ultimate elegance coral care sheet that covers everything you need to know about these amazing corals. We’ll tell you about their natural habitat, ideal water conditions, placement, lighting, flow, feeding, behavior, compatibility, reproduction, and common problems. We’ll also share some tips and advice on how to keep your elegance corals healthy and happy.

Where Do Elegance Corals Live in the Wild?

Elegance corals are Pacific Ocean natives living in reefs from Australia to Japan and Indonesia to Mozambique. They like shallow and midwater parts of the reef, up to 130 feet (40 meters) deep, in cloudy waters with moderate lighting and flow. They often live on sandy bottoms, lagoons, seagrass beds, and nearshore mudflats.

Elegance corals have hard skeletal bases that anchor them to the ground. They have big oral disks that can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) across, with lots of tentacles that can stretch up to 8 inches (20 cm) long. The tentacles have stinging cells called nematocysts that help the corals catch food and protect themselves from predators and rivals.

Like almost all coral, elegances have symbiotic relationships with zooxanthellae, tiny algae that live inside their tissues and give them nutrients through photosynthesis. But they also eat zooplankton and other meaty foods that they can grab with their tentacles.

Water Condition Needs

Elegance corals need stable and optimal water conditions to survive and grow in captivity. They’re sensitive to changes in water quality and parameters, so regular testing and maintenance are essential. Here are the ideal water conditions for an elegance:

  • Temperature: 74°F – 83°F (23°C – 28°C)
  • Salinity: 1.023 – 1.025 specific gravity
  • pH: 8.1 – 8.4
  • Alkalinity: 8 – 12 dKH
  • Calcium: >400 ppm
  • Magnesium: >1200 ppm
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm
  • Phosphate: <0.03 ppm

Use a good quality salt mix that matches the natural seawater composition and provides all the trace elements that elegance corals need. You should also do regular water changes of 10% – 20% every week or two to keep the water clean and replenish the minerals.

Elegance Coral Placement

Elegance corals need plenty of space in your reef tank to spread their tentacles and avoid touching other corals. They’re often best placed at the bottom or middle of the tank, but this depends on your tank’s lighting intensity and depth. Avoid putting them close to rocks or other hard surfaces that prevent them from extending out, as this can irritate their soft undersides.

Elegance corals should be placed on a sandy or soft substrate that lets them anchor their bases securely. You can also use a frag plug or a small piece of live rock to attach them to the substrate.

Avoid moving or handling your elegance too often, as this can stress them out and make them pull in their tentacles.

How Much Light Do Elegance Corals Need?

Elegance corals can adapt to different lighting levels in your reef tank, from low to high. But moderate lighting is generally recommended for these corals, as too much light can bleach them or cause algae growth on their surfaces. Too little light can stunt their growth or make them lose color.

The ideal lighting depends on several factors, such as the size of your tank, the type of lights you use, the depth of your tank, and the placement of your corals. You should always acclimate your elegance coral gradually when introducing them to new lights or changing their position in the tank.

Flow and Lighting Tips

As we said before, elegance corals can adapt to different levels of lighting and flow in your reef tank. But finding the right balance is crucial for their health and well-being. Here are some guidelines on how to provide the best flow and lighting for your elegance corals:

  • Flow: Elegance corals like moderate water flow that gently sways their tentacles back and forth. Too much flow can damage their delicate tissues or stop them from catching food. Too little flow can cause debris to pile up around their bases or reduce the oxygen and nutrient exchange. Ideally, find an area of the tank with moderate water flow that isn’t too direct or turbulent. You can use a powerhead, a wavemaker, or a return pump to create the desired flow in your tank.
  • Lighting: Elegance corals need moderate lighting that isn’t too bright or too dim. Too much light can bleach their color or cause algae growth on their surfaces. Too little light can stunt their growth or make them lose their color. Place your elegance corals in a well-lit area of the tank, but not right under high-intensity lighting, such as metal halides, T5s, or LEDs. You should also slowly acclimate your them to the lighting in your tank by starting with low intensity and increasing it over time. You can use a dimmer, a timer, or a controller to adjust your tank’s lighting intensity and duration.

What Should You Feed Your Elegance Corals?

Like almost every coral, elegance corals are photosynthetic, meaning they get most of their nutrition from the symbiotic algae that live inside their tissues and give them energy through photosynthesis. But elegance corals also benefit from extra feeding of meaty foods that they’ll catch with their tentacles.

Feeding regularly can help them grow faster, recover from stress or damage, and improve their color and health. Feed your elegance corals once or twice a week with meaty foods that are small enough for them to swallow and digest easily. If possible, try to target feed by using a pipette, a syringe, or a turkey baster to deliver the food right to their mouths. Avoid overfeeding your corals, as this can cause waste buildup or nutrient imbalance in your tank. You should also remove any leftover food from the tank after feeding.

But what kind of foods should you feed your elegance corals? And how much should you feed them? Here are some tips on how to feed your elegance corals:

What to feed

Elegance corals will eat a variety of meaty foods, such as krill, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, fish flesh, clam meat, squid, or other seafood. Choose foods that are small enough for the corals to swallow and digest easily. Avoid foods that are too fatty or oily, as this can pollute the water or cause digestive problems for the corals.

How to feed

Target-feeding your corals is often the preferred method. Using a pipette, a syringe, or a turkey baster to deliver the food right to their mouths. Broadcast feeding (putting food in the water column) is another option and definitely less time-consuming, but your corals won’t get as much food as target feeding.

How much to feed

The amount of food you feed an elegance coral depends on several factors, such as the size of the coral, the type of food you use, the frequency of feeding, and the availability of other food sources in your tank. A general rule of thumb is to feed your corals enough food that they can eat within 10 minutes. You can adjust the amount of food based on the response of your corals. If your corals pull in their tentacles or spit out the food after feeding, you may be feeding too much or too often. If your corals look pale or shriveled after feeding, you may be feeding too little or too infrequently.

Beautiful pink tip elegance coral on the sand bed of a reef tank with a yellow tang in the background. Catalaphyllia jardinei

How Do Elegance Corals Behave and Get Along with Other Tank Mates?

Elegance corals are aggressive corals that sting any other corals touching their tentacles. They have long, sweeper tentacles stretching up to 8 inches (20 cm) beyond their oral disks and delivering powerful nematocysts that can hurt other corals.

So give plenty of space for your elegance corals in your reef tank and avoid putting them near any other corals that may compete with them for space or resources. You should also keep an eye on the growth and movement of your elegance corals and change their position if needed.

Good Tank Mates

Elegance corals are compatible with most fish and invertebrates that don’t bother them or nibble on their tentacles. Some fish may even try to form a symbiotic relationship with elegance corals and use them as a host or a shelter, such as:

  • Clownfish
  • Damsels
  • Gobies
  • Blennies
  • Cardinalfish

As fun as this can be sometimes, watch out for stress with the coral. Many a clownfish has accidentally killed a torch, hammer, elegance, or other anemone-like tentacled coral by hosting it too hard.

Bad Tank Mates

But you should avoid keeping any fish or invertebrates that may harm or stress out your elegance corals, such as:

  • Angelfish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Triggerfish
  • Puffers

As well as certain types of:

  • Crabs
  • Shrimp
  • Snails
  • Starfish
  • Urchins

You should also watch out for any potential predators or parasites that may attack your elegance corals, such as nudibranchs, flatworms, or bristleworms.

How Do Elegance Corals Reproduce?

Elegance corals can reproduce both sexually and asexually in the wild and in captivity. Sexual reproduction happens when the corals release gametes (eggs and sperm) into the water column, fertilizing them and forming larvae. The larvae then settle on a suitable substrate and grow into new corals.

Asexual reproduction happens when the corals break or bud off new polyps from their base or edges. These new polyps can detach and form new colonies or stay attached and form larger colonies. Asexual reproduction is the most common way for elegance corals to propagate in reef tanks, as it can happen naturally or artificially.

Fragging Elegance Corals

If you want to propagate your elegance corals artificially, you should use a wet saw like the Gryphon Aquasaw. Fragging an elegance is a risky enough task on its own, don’t make it more difficult by using a dremel or, god forbid, a knife.

Make sure that each piece has at least a portion of the mouth and some tentacles. Dipping the cut pieces in an iodine solution is extremely important to disinfect them and prevent infection.

You can then attach each piece to a frag plug or a small piece of live rock using super glue gel or aquarium epoxy. Then place the pieces in the tank’s low-flow and low-light area until they heal and attach themselves securely. After about a week, you can resume small feedings and monitor the pieces until they recover and grow.

What Are Some Common Problems with Elegance Corals?

Elegance corals are prone to several problems and diseases that can affect their health and survival in captivity. One of the most common and serious problems is the elegance coral syndrome (ECS), a deadly disease that affects many specimens in the trade and causes them to decay quickly and die within days or weeks.

The symptoms of ECS include tissue recession, necrosis, bleaching, swelling, mucus production, retraction, and loss of appetite. The exact cause of ECS is unknown, but some possible factors include stress, poor water quality, bacterial infection, chemical imbalance, genetic factors, or environmental changes.

Sadly, there’s no known cure for ECS, and the only way to prevent it is to provide optimal care and conditions for your elegance corals. You should also quarantine any new elegance corals before introducing them to your main tank, as some specimens may be carriers of ECS without showing any signs.

Another common problem with elegance corals is brown jelly disease, a bacterial infection that causes brown mucus-like patches to form on the coral’s surface. The patches can spread quickly and kill the coral if left untreated.

The causes of brown jelly disease are also unknown but believed to include poor water quality, low oxygen levels, physical damage, or stress.

Treatment for brown jelly disease involves removing the infected parts of the coral with a sharp and sterile tool and dipping the coral in an iodine solution. You should also improve the water quality and flow in your tank and isolate the infected coral from other corals until it recovers.

Other problems that can affect elegance corals include algae growth, cyanobacteria, parasites, predators, pests, or injuries. You should always check your elegance corals regularly for any signs of trouble and act quickly if you notice anything wrong.

Tips and Advice for Keeping Elegance Corals

Elegance corals are beautiful and rewarding corals to keep in your reef tank if you can provide them with proper care and conditions. Here are some tips and advice to help you keep your elegance corals happy and healthy:

  • Pick healthy specimens
  • Acclimate your elegance corals properly
  • Feed your elegance corals regularly
  • Check your elegance corals regularly
  • Enjoy your elegance corals

Final Words

Elegance corals are stunning LPS corals that look like anemones with their long, flowing tentacles. They’re popular for reef tanks because they’re beautiful, lively, and graceful. But elegance corals aren’t easy corals to keep, especially for most beginners.

In this article, we’ve given you the ultimate elegance coral care sheet that covers everything you need to know about these amazing corals. We’ve talked about their natural habitat, ideal water conditions, placement, lighting, flow, feeding, behavior, compatibility, reproduction, and common problems. We’ve also shared some tips and advice on how to keep your elegance corals healthy and happy.

We hope that this article has been helpful and informative for you. If you have any questions or comments about elegance corals or any other corals, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you and help you with your reef tank journey.

Thank you for reading and happy reefing! 🐠🐚🐙

Shane Elliot Author Image
Shane Elliot

Shane Elliot is a pet lover and a coral enthusiast. He has been keeping saltwater aquariums for over ten years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with other hobbyists. He writes about coral care, fish compatibility, aquarium equipment, and more. He also covers topics related to other animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. Shane works as a freelance writer and editor when his menagerie of pets allows it.

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