Beginner reef keepers may be uncertain where to begin when looking at the vast array of corals available in the hobby. Since many are far too sensitive for a first-time reef-keeper, it’s best to stick to some that have been around in the hobby for decades. If you’re looking for a one that’s hardy, attractive, inexpensive, and grows fairly large, the Elegance Coral is a great species to start out with!
Getting to Know Elegance Coral
Elegance Corals are great for reef keepers that enjoy the look of a sea anemone but don’t want it wandering around stinging its neighbors. Like any true large polyp stony (LPS) coral, the Elegance Coral has a hard skeleton that keeps it stuck to a particular location. Over time, the coral absorbs calcium and other minerals from the water and adds to the base, expanding in area and growing wider and more elegant.
This species is found throughout the Pacific Ocean in island archipelagos. Most these days come from Indonesia and Australia and the source of your Elegance is good to make note of because these corals are susceptible to a deadly disease called Elegance Coral Syndrome (ECS).
Specimens from Australia are much less likely to be carrying it and are much more in demand than Indonesian specimens. Since Elegance Corals don’t do well being fragged the vast majority of them are wild caught.
Despite the chances of this fatal disease appearing, Elegance Corals have a lot to offer the beginner reef aquarist. They are very hardy and much more tolerant of fluctuating water parameters than other LPS or SPS corals.
Elegance are also stunningly beautiful and eager eaters as well! Just keep them far from their neighbors because they are one of the more aggressive species in the hobby…
- Common Names: Elegance Coral, Wonder Coral, Ridge Coral
- Scientific Name: Catalaphyllia jardinei
- Origin: Pacific Ocean
- Temperament: Aggressive
- Ease of Care: Easy
Elegance Coral Care
While Elegance Corals have lost some of their hardiness due to the emergence of Elegance Coral Syndrome they are still one of the most beginner-friendly types available!
The first thing any reef keeper needs to familiarize themselves with is how to create and maintain ideal water conditions for corals. Coral reef organisms crave exact parameters then need to remain stable long-term. Fluctuations even within a beneficial range can be difficult for them to handle as it disrupts the growth of stony corals.
That said, Elegance Corals are a great place to begin as they aren’t as exacting as other LPS corals and can take a little change while you find your footing as a reef-keeper. They do prefer a specific range of parameters, though! Your temperature should remain between 72-78℉. And thanks to ample live rock plus a crushed aragonite substrate, your pH should always be between 8.0-8.24.
Calcium levels are very important for all corals, even soft corals. These animals extract calcium from the water continually to slowly build up their stony bases (or skeletal spicules, in the case of soft corals). Calcium levels should test between 350-450 ppm for optimal growth.
- Liquid ionic calcium source
- 160, 000 mg/L (most concentrated on the market)...
- 100% soluble. Be wary of products that are Milky...
Magnesium is also extremely important. As the third most abundant reef element, it’s not only taken up directly by animals but also regulates how much calcium and carbonate the water can hold. If Magnesium levels fall below 1200-1350 ppm, calcium and carbonate also drop, preventing corals from obtaining these elements in the necessary amounts.
Strontium is also necessary, though precisely why corals need it is unknown. They do add small amounts of it to their skeletal structure so most reef supplements include traces of it. Most marine aquarium salt mixes have a good balance of all three of these elements.
- Contains essential ocean reef elements in...
- Recommended specific gravity range – 1.020-1.026...
- Our marine salt will typically set the pH of a...
However, stony corals work constantly to pull them from the water column, making enriched reef salts better for Elegance and other stony coral species.
Elegance Coral also does need some water flow; not too much but not too little. Not enough flow allows mucus and debris to build up on the coral and among the tentacles, opening the way for opportunistic bacteria and algae to take hold. But too much flow is irritating and even damaging to them. Moderate water flow that doesn’t cause your Elegance Coral to retract too much is best here!
Elegance Coral Water Conditions:
- 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: 1-10ppm
- Phosphate: 0ppm
Lighting for Elegance Coral
Elegance Corals enjoy moderate to strong lighting. Direct metal halides are too much for them and will burn their tissues but indirect lighting from these or full-spectrum LEDs/T5 fluorescents will give them the lighting they crave and help their colors pop!
Like many LPS species the Elegance Coral will fluoresce beautifully under strong actinic (10K+ color temperature) lighting. You’ll see many colors that weren’t there before or were more subdued suddenly come to life.
Elegance Coral have partnerships with zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae that live within their cells. The corals provide shelter and nutrients and in exchange the algae share some of their sugars with the host coral. These microscopic photosynthetic cells are the reason why lighting is so important for corals.
So keep in mind that actinic lighting isn’t fully photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). You’ll need to provide supplementary PAR in the form of 6500-6700K wavelengths to ensure they can properly produce sugars from their zooxanthellae!
Elegance Coral Syndrome (ECS)
For a few decades, Elegance Coral was known as one of the hardiest and most beginner-friendly corals in the hobby. Many a long-time reef-keeper remembers fondly their first Elegance and how it enticed them into further exploring the hobby.
However, in the 1990’s there was a sudden rash of an unknown disease that was highly contagious and invariably fatal. Strangely, it seemed to be specific to just Elegance Coral!
It was eventually realized that the Indonesian Elegance Corals seemed far more likely to be carrying the fatal disease. It manifested mysteriously and grotesquely and had no cure. But once distributors started carrying Australian Elegance Corals, reef keepers realized that they were much less susceptible to developing Elegance Coral Syndrome (ECS).
They can still contract the disease but they are much less likely to harbor it, unlike Indonesians. Which was somewhat unfortunate because Indonesian Elegance Corals do have some subtle variations in color that aren’t found in other regions.
Since the disease still lives on in the aquarium world, here are some symptoms to watch out for in case you come in contact with ECS.
Symptoms of ECS
- Swelling of the oral disk (the region surrounding the mouth of the coral)
- Tissue and tentacle shrinkage
- Loss of stickiness on the tentacles, preventing the coral from feeding normally
- Opaque, cotton-like build up of mucus across the oral disk
- Coral color changes or bleaching
Essentially the coral slowly deflates, loses the ability to eat, and dies over the course of a few weeks. People have been trying for decades to find some sort of cure for ECS once the symptoms manifest. But the disease is invariably fatal to them. Thankfully, it isn’t contagious to other corals but if you have multiple Elegance Corals it can spread to them.
The best way to prevent it is to quarantine any incoming Elegance Corals. The majority are wild caught so they may not display symptoms of ECS until they make it into your tank. Again, the disease doesn’t affect other corals. But the death of an Elegance could ramp up levels of pollutants that do cause your entire reef to have issues.
Tank Mates for Elegance Coral
Elegance Coral is one of the more aggressive species out there. Coral aggression needs to be accounted for because these animals viciously compete for space in the reef ecosystem. From chemical weapons to directly digesting their neighbors, the reef is a continuous slow-motion battlefield.
And Elegance Corals pack some strong long-range weaponry in the form of extensive sweeper tentacles. These long tentacles are typically released at night to serve two purposes. The first is to ensnare any floating animals that might wander by as extra food. But the second is to reach out and attack anything that’s growing too close for comfort.
Many LPS corals have sweeper tentacles and Elegance Corals gain up to 6 inches of reach using these. Since you may not see them during the day, the only leftover signs of an ongoing coral war may be sting wounds on a neighboring coral that mysteriously appear each day until it moves or dies.
So make sure that you provide at least 6 inches of space between your Elegance and your other corals. The water’s flow can also push the sweepers in directions that let you move other corals a bit closer. But make sure that their neighbors aren’t themselves aggressive as Elegance Corals have no other defenses against encroaching corals.
They are also suspected to be fish-eaters in the right conditions. A simple brush against their tentacles isn’t likely to do much harm. But sick or dying fish that accidentally come into contact may end up paralyzed and slowly swallowed up by them. Their stings are potent enough to take out small or weak fish and they have an appetite to match. But the majority of aquarists find that healthy fish have nothing to fear from an Elegance Coral.
Therefore, they are highly recommended alongside reef-safe fish like Clownfish, Gobies, Blennies, Pygmy Angelfish (with caution), Pygmy Wrasses, Basslets, Tangs, and the like. They can also live alongside shrimp, crabs, starfish, sea urchins, clams, and other reef invertebrates!
The single exception is snails; for some reason Elegance Corals absolutely love eating snails. They will typically grab them and swallow them whole so be very mindful about the size of both your Elegance Coral and your snails.
Clownfish will also host Elegance Corals if there aren’t any suitable sea anemones for them to partner up with. Since Elegance Corals aren’t a natural host for them, watch your coral carefully for signs of stress.
Clownfish can be rather hard “lovers” on occasion, burrowing into the tentacles with too much force, which can bruise the Elegance and cause it to retract. Usually the coral will adapt to the constant attention over the course of a few weeks. But if you see bruising, continual retraction, refusal to feed, or other signs of stress, it’s better to find a better host for your Clownfish.
Good Tank Mates for Elegance Corals:
- Clownfish, Gobies, Blennies, Pygmy Angelfish, Pygmy Wrasses, Basslets, Tangs, and other Reef-safe Fish
- Most LPS, LPS, and Soft Corals (with caution)
- Shrimp, Starfish, Clams, Feather Duster Worms, and other Invertebrates
Poor Tank Mates for Elegance Corals:
- Neighboring Corals within 6 inches
- Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Filefish, Peppermint Shrimp, and other Coral-eaters
- Weak or sickly fish
Feeding Elegance Coral
Elegance Corals are one of the hungrier LPS corals out there. While they can subsist entirely off of their zooxanthellae partners they get a lot of out being fed once or twice per week. Feedings provide a solid boost to their growth rate and if you want the largest, fullest possible Elegance, be sure to give them meals on occasion.
Pieces of fish, squid, shrimp and other seafood are the best treats to offer them. Elegance Corals can also absorb organic matter directly from the water column to feed both themselves and their algae symbiotes. So having fish and invertebrates in the tank can provide them with a lot of indirect food sources.
Thawed frozen foods like brine and mysis shrimp are also accepted and good to keep on hand. As are prepared coral food blends, which don’t require refrigeration and are much more convenient to store.
Propagating Elegance Coral
Many LPS coral species can be propagated (cloned) with relative ease. While all corals have sexal modes of reproduction, these are tied to the phases of the Moon. Since your home aquarium isn’t exposed to moonlight or tidal variations, corals can synchronize themselves to spawn en mass the way they do in the wild.
Asexual reproduction (cloning) is the way to go for this species. Typically, this involves fragging (splitting) your coral colony into pieces, which then regenerate and continue their lives as separate organisms. Unfortunately, Elegance Corals don’t do well with fragging; tissue damage tends to simply kill them.
Instead, you’re better off simply treating your Elegance Coral as well as possible in the hopes of it creating buds along its base. These buds will eventually fall off of their own accord and grow into new Elegance Corals. Ideal lighting, good water conditions, and ample food all encourage a mature Elegance to bud but it’s not a process that you can otherwise make happen…This is why nearly all of the Elegance Corals in the hobby are wild-caught.