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FAQs about Soft Coral Selection

Related Articles: Soft CoralCnidarians for Small Systems by Bob Fenner,

Related FAQs: Cnidarian Selection, Cnidarians for Small Volumes, Stony Coral Selection, Soft Corals 1, Soft Corals 2, Soft Coral ID, Soft Coral Behavior, Soft Coral Compatibility, Soft Coral Systems, Soft Coral Feeding, Soft Coral Health, Soft Coral Propagation, Alcyoniids, Nephtheids, Dendronephthya, Paralcyoniids, Nidaliids, Xeniids

Will they all get along?

Landlocked Corals?  Softy sel.  7/18/08 Dear WWM... <James> I have been in the freshwater hobby (planted, unplanted, fish, inverts, etc) for many years and have always gazed from afar at those crazy saltines and their crazy setups. Well the time has come. I am starting small (by comparison) at 55 gallons, and I'm far more interested in a nearly exclusive soft coral setup (with a sizeable cleanup crew and maybe a purpose-based fish or two) than in fish only, or the dreaded stony corals. (my main reason for shying away from stonies lies in all my research showing that they'll take the ongoing cost of my setup and nearly double it, if not more) At any rate, I've looked around and I've seen a lot of examples of "starter" corals on different sites, and also heard many different horror stories (albeit nifty from a scientific perspective) about chemical warfare, etc.. <Mmm, Alcyonaceans "do these" as well...> The water chemistry doesn't phase me, but the difference in territorial behaviors coupled with the general mystery behind what a lot of these animals do in the wild has prompted this e-mail. I'd love to know if you have maybe three or four a-list starter softies in mind that will be kind to each other (and hence to me) before I get into toying around with more dangerous gambles. <Depends... are you referring strictly to "true" soft corals?> Also, possibly your suggestion as to where I should get them. (I live in Kansas, hence the landlocked thing) and the three LFS's near enough for me to travel to... well... they mean well, but I wouldn't trust their liverock as far as I could throw it, much less their corals, and I'm willing to pay a bit more (I.E. shipping) for a vendor that has their head in the right place where these animals are concerned. <Do try the hobbyist suppliers... i.e. the hobbyists that are suppliers, doing "home fragging"... a great way to start... can be found through the Net (e.g. FRAGExchange.com)> I wish I knew more people in the hobby nearer to me that I might be able to gleam some cuttings from so that I could start with known healthy colonies, but alas... I don't. <I'd bet there are actually such folks about...> Thanks in advance for your help, and for maintaining this website. It has poured forth a veritable ocean of information (pun fully intended) that has completely changed my perspective on the viability of this intriguing side of the hobby. <Thank you for writing so well... sharing> Maybe where they're going would help in determining the varieties that would work.... 55 gallons ~6 watts of PC lighting/gallon 20 gallon sump w/ protein skimmer, homemade filter media chamber, refugium, and carbon housing if I need it. (I have the option of a plastic tub that would add more volume that this glass tank, and as its under the cabinet I'm not worried about the looks. (plastic is inert, right? :-P) I have a canister filter to use should I need it, but I'd like for the liverock to do most of the work. (I want to get lunar lighting although I don't think that will have any bearing on the health of the tank, it'd be for my enjoyment) 75lbs of liverock (ten lbs is going in the sump and I have a small fluorescent to mount under the cabinet for the sump itself (good idea or bad?) ~2.5 inches of live sand Thanks again. -James <Mmm, perhaps a Sinularia, Lobophytum, Cladiella... a smaller Sarcophyton... that you'll have to cut over time. Bob Fenner>

Re: Landlocked Corals? Soft coral sel.  -07/18/08 First of all, thank you for such swift response. I've jotted down your suggestions and will definitely take them into account once all this live rock settles down. <Okay> As for whether or not I'm referring to "true" soft corals, I would have to plead ignorance here. I'm not sure what would even classify as "true" in the this case. >Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/cnidaria.htm> I suppose my parameters would lean more towards something that would thrive without the use of metal halide lighting, etc. It's just not something I'm looking into yet and don't want to simply shove several colonies of beautiful, expensive animals into a miserable situation for them that would most likely lead to their eventual demise, so in the end it's less about making sure I'm within a specific range of species as it is about what will work with this range of lighting. I've done some research on the suggestions you made, and it looks like these will work perfectly although it looks like I might have to save a spot at the top of the rock for the Lobophytum Most sources cite this animal as needing higher lighting. At any rate, thanks for the suggestions on stock, as well as your sections on acrylics DIY projects. I just got hold of a few 1/4" sheets from a shop near me who was tossing them and I LOVE DIY projects. (my budget loves them too). THANKS! :-) <Thank you! BobF>

Is This Coral OK? ...Nephthea… Not likely   10/21/07 I currently have a 75-gallon tank with a mixture of corals. I believe I have two tree corals in my tank also, but I was interested in what is called a pala nephthea <Palau Nephthea?> which is a bright green color. I was wondering if this coral was ok for my aquarium and would not harm other corals? I do not know if this coral is toxic or not. I wanted to get your input before I bought the coral. <Nephthea, if what you are looking at is truly Nephthea, can be quite toxic. According to Sammarco and Coll (1987) there are 12 toxic species and 7 nontoxic species of Nephthea. Nephthea brassica is capable of moving at a rate of approximately 5 cm (2 inches) per week (LaBarre and Coll 1982), and has been observed traveling across Acropora hyacinthus, killing this coral along the way. Borneman (2001) states that this genera produces some of the most diverse and unusual compounds of all the soft corals. So to answer your question... Maybe... depends what specific species you have. And to add to it, Borneman (2001) suggests there are photo and non-photosynthetic species, but reports that this genus of corals generally have a poor record of survival in captivity.> Thanks LeAnne <Welcome! Mich>

Re: Is this coral ok ...Nephthea… Not likely... Sarcophyton... better 10/22/07 <Hi LeAnne, Mich with you again.> Thank you for the information you sent me about the Palau Nephthea. <Welcome... hope it wasn't too much.> I have one more question which I have done research on but have gotten some confusing information. <OK, hopefully I can help.> I want to know if the yellow Fiji leather coral , also known as Sarcophyton elegans would be a good choice in an aquarium. <I guess the answer here is it all depends. This is generally a hardy aquarium coral and is a much better choice than the Nephthea as far as survival in captivity. But here again, you run into the problem of allelopathy. This is another one of those corals that can be highly toxic, in fact, it is one of the most prolific producers of toxic chemicals, and this genus has some of the most highly toxic of all species of corals (Borneman 2001). I want to make sure it's ok to put in my 75 gal aquarium before I buy it. <Depends on what other corals you have or want to keep. This genus of coral can easily kill off other corals and may even have toxic effects on fish as well (Borneman 2001).> Also I have read that clownfish like other corals besides anemones and I was wondering if this leather coral would be ok. <Clownfish have been know to host in Sarcophyton, but unlike the symbiotic relationship that the clown has with an anemone which I would also encourage you to avoid) this hosting behavior is typically not beneficial for corals.> Thank you <Welcome, Mich>

Re: Is this coral ok... Nephthea… Not likely... Sarcophyton... better… How to learn more….   10/24/07 <Hi LeAnne, Mich with you again.> I'm sorry to bother everyone again, <No bother.> but I have one more question. <OK.>  Where can I look to find information that will tell me what is toxic and what is not, as well as, what corals I can put near each other. <The most useful book I have found on corals is Aquarium Corals by Eric Borneman. There is a chapter titles Secret Lives that is particularly useful. These charts are included in the Borneman book http://saltaquarium.about.com/library/blank/bl_CoralCompetition_1.htm http://saltaquarium.about.com/library/blank/bl_CoralCompetition_2.htmAn Article written by Borneman here:http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/nov2002/cw.htm You might try Googling "coral toxicity" as well.> I have coral books and look on the Internet, but mostly they tell you just how great they are for beginners, etc. thanks again! <You just need to use the right terms. If you scientific name of the coral you want to learn more about and toxicity you will likely learn what you need to know. Hope that helps. Mich>

Mix and Match? Coral Selection - 7/18/07 Hi Crew! <Hi there, Peter!> I have a 90 gal reef tank running for about 9 months now. <Nice!> My lighting system is a SunPod 48" 2x250w MH 14k. I'm planning on getting some beautiful purple Acroporas. <Love those!> What other corals such as some LPS and Soft corals can I get? My tank is 48"x18"x24". <Oh wow, I could have some fun here, coming up with all sorts of neat corals for you! Unfortunately, there are so many factors, and variables, involved (beyond lighting) that I simply couldn't begin to list all the possibilities. I'd recommend you start with personal preference. Take a look at what's available out there and make a list of which corals you like best. From there, check their individual requirements as far as suitability in your tank. Remember, that as far as lighting, it may be very strong up top, but moderate to low at the substrate level if there's an overhang, cave, etc. You'll have to be sure to keep in mind current/water flow needs, aggression potential (chemical/contact warfare) nutritional needs, growth rates, placement, etc, as well as lighting. It's a lot of work, but it's so worth it to plan it out right from the beginning! One thing you need to be sure to do though, is remember to add things slowly! Also, do not discount the aggression factor. In a closed system, allelopathy (chemical warfare) especially, can be a big problem. If you're planning on a predominantly SPS tank, be very careful if/when adding soft corals like Sinularia. There are ways around it, but if it were me, I'd just avoid those altogether.> How many inches below the surface should my SPS and other corals be? <Again, it depends - what type of coral, will there be a glass, or eggcrate, etc, cover over the tank, how far from the surface are the lights, etc.> Any advice will be wonderful. Thanks Peter <Ah, you're very welcome! You have much fun, but a lot of reading ahead of you! There are many good books out there, such as Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals", and copious amounts of information available here at WWM and elsewhere online. I'd start here at WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corlcompfaqs.htm . Good luck and have fun! -Lynn)>

Which Soft Coral Next? - 10/30/06 To the awesome WWM crew, <<Hey Nathan!>> I have an established 40 gal reef tank with good lighting and filtration. I have 19 1-inch (or smaller) mushrooms in my tank, and was wondering which soft coral I should introduce next.  I heard that most Zoanthids are hardy and get along well with mushrooms. <<Mmm, nothing will really "get along" with corallimorphs...or zoanthids for that matter.  But the two will likely "coexist" in your system as long as you are able to maintain physical separation and have adequate skimming and chemical filtration to temper allelopathy>> I was also wondering if I could have any leather corals in this tank. <<As long as you don't overdue, and follow the previous guidelines>> Thanks for the great advice! Nathan <<Happy to assist.  Eric Russell>> Dyed finger leather? <Mmm, your pic didn't come through... but yes, there are such things...> Well unfortunately I saw your articles to late, and my vote went to one of the bad guys.. But even with my slow learning curve I will make sure this will never happen again. <Good> My tank is a more or less a lagoonal set up with moderate light and flow. After reading it sounds as if this optimum conditions for my "starving" softy. But am I reading correctly that I'm more or less doomed? <Need definitions... oh, your Alcyoniid might yet recover, lose the artificial color...> Because of the efficiency of food we can possibly provide? Could I impose on you to first confirm what I have is dyed? Secondly, any suggestion to keep this guy from becoming a sad statistic?  Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. <Please do try sending along the pic as an attached jpeg or bmp... Bob Fenner> Justin Bales

Where can I buy awesome coral frags - 1/18/05 Hello <Hello Alex> Do you guys know were I can buy some awesome looking frags on the net? <Oh, well.....lots of places really. I like these place and can vouch for their quality: http://www.coralsdirect.com/ http://www.drmaccorals.com/sys-tmpl/door/ http://www.farms-of-thesea.com/catalog/index.html I can also swear by your local reef club/marine/saltwater club. Depending on where you live, I have received some of the best coral frags ever from these so call frag swaps or people just wanting to prune the growth in their corals. Check it out. Take your time. Make a wish list and start checking out the frag swaps in and around your area. ~Paul> Thanks

Soft coral stocking densities 11/8/04 Hi, I just have a question about soft corals.  How many can I put in my tank? <its best to limit yourself as much as you can to one group or family of corals... and even limit total number of species for better long term success and reduced aggression in aquaria) My setup is: 48 gallon tank,  (2) Aquaclear 200 Filters,  (2) Powerhead 402, (1) Red Sea Prizm Protein Skimmer,   <please consider getting a second or better skimmer if you prefer to keep soft corals in particular. This brand typically is not a top performer, and you will need optimal skimming with noxious soft corals> 45 lbs. Live rock,  30 lbs. Aragonite sand, 40 lbs. Crushed Coral substrate.  My water condition is excellent. Live stock: (2) Cleaner shrimp, (4) blue hermit crabs, (2) red hermit crabs,  (1) Banggai Cardinal,  (2) Pajama Cardinals,  (1) Coris Wrasse,  (2) clown fish, (1) Dwarf Lion fish,  (1) Scopas Tang, (1) Anemone,  (1) Pineapple coral,  (1) Hawaiian Feather Duster,  (1) Dwarf colored featherduster. Temp: 77 Degrees pH:  8.5 Ammonia: 0.0 mg Nitrite:  0.0 mg Nitrate: 0.4 mg Gravity: 1.025 thx <best of luck/life. Anthony>

Azooxanthellate corals 10/5/05 Friends! I was just wondering if anybody had experience with nocturnal corals. I have a Christmas tree coral that only comes out late in the evenings and all through the night.  It's about the size of a racquetball all day, and at night extends to well over a foot in height.  Any links or reading material on that sort of thing? Thanks! Scott <yikes... please do not make a habit of buying corals that you do not know how to keep or feed. In this case, Studeriotes has a rather dismal rate of survival in captivity. Please get a good book on coral husbandry like Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals" and research these animals before (!) you buy them. Best regards, Anthony> Substrate and Soft Coral Questions Hello, <How goes it, Michael here> I have a 36 gallon bow front tank, currently fish only (yellow tang, maroon clown, damsel and neon Pseudochromis) with about 10 lbs of live rock. The tank has be up for about a year and half. Substrate is about 1 inch of crushed coral. Filtration is handle by a ViaAqua 750 canister filter along with a Prizm skimmer. They are not the greatest equipment, but they do the job. <Quite so>  Lighting is provided by a Coralife compact fluorescent system (twin 65 W 50/50 bulbs).  I am considering replacing the substrate, with a finer aragonite based sand. My question is how much should I replace at a time? <No more than 50%>  Considering my setup, I'm not sure how much of the biological filtration is occurring in the substrate and live rock, and how much is in the canister filter. <There won't be a whole lot of biological filtration occurring in your substrate bed. Why, exactly, are you intent upon replacing it?> My second question concerns soft coral. Currently my clown spends most of the time swimming behind the heater and filter intake pipe. I would like to introduce a soft coral that would be attractive to him as a home. <A Maroon clown isn't likely to accept a coral as a symbiotic host>  I am afraid of getting an anemone, and have heard that some soft coral or more robust and are good surrogates for a clown. <They can be, but I'm not sure a maroon would accept a coral. If you are prepared for an anemone, they are not as difficult as you might think; at least not the hardier specimens>  Do you have any recommendations for specific coral? <A toadstool leather (Sarcophyton sp. or perhaps a Xenia>  Is there anything I should do to my tank to prepare it for coral? <Make sure your water quality is excellent, that your pH is high and your nitrates 5ppm or below> In relation to my coral question, I submitted an email previously concerning the large number of bristleworms I have in my tank. I originally thought they killed most of my snails (nine total) but now I'm not sure. The one remaining snail is doing just fine even though I see bristleworms crawling around and on it each night. I have a large bristleworm population (my guess is over 100). Mostly in the eighth to half inch size range. <Bristleworms that small are excellent detritivores, I wouldn't worry about it>  I hoped the neon Pseudochromis would help control the population, but I have not actually seen her eat any. Though I do occasionally catch her examining the substrate closely. I previously asked about any danger bristleworms might pose to coral. The response I got was that a controlled population should not cause harm. What is considered a controlled population? <Small bristleworms :)>  Should I consider adding an arrow crab? <If you like, but they've been known to munch corals also> I appreciate any help you can provide. <Anytime. Let me know if you have any more questions> Thanks, Robert Heuser <M. Maddox> 

Commencing His Coral Collection! Scott: <Hello again!> Thanks so much! <You're quite welcome!> The ones I will be purchasing will be from Indo-Pacific SF! I trust his stock and shipping methods the most. <Absolutely my favorite e-tailer! Gerald Heslinga (ISPF's owner) and his crew do a fantastic job. I still have a "Gold Crown Leather" (Sarcophyton) from IPSF that started 2 years ago as the tiniest little specimen, and it's now absolutely gorgeous, and about 8 inches across...Great quality-you won't regret purchasing from them!> I think they are the Neon tree Coral! I just wanted to have as much info as possible before taking the step! Steve <I applaud you on your research! I'm sure that you'll enjoy your new corals! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Lime Green leather This will be my third order from Gerald...who is totally awesome...and committed too giving back and not just taking.  I originally found out about him and IPSF from WetWebMedia...so I guess I owe you the thanks! Steve <You are welcome my friend. Thank you for your testimonial and positive attitude. Bob Fenner>

Soft Coral Choices Dear Crew: <Scott F. here today!> I am trying to find some info on a coral I am thinking about purchasing...meaning I am researching BEFORE I purchase! <I love to hear that!> It is a Lime Green Leather...also known as Neon Tree Coral.  Lighting, supplements, water flow and any other info or links about this coral would be hugely appreciated! Thanks Steve <Well, the common names that you refer to describe two distinctly different species, Sarcophyton ("Lime Green Leather") and Sinularia or even Capnella ("Neon Tree Coral"). Ahh- the danger of common names! Essentially, Sinularia and Sarcophyton both have similar requirements: moderate to bright light with modest flow. You can bring out their colors best (IMO) if you use lighting PC or halide) leaning towards the bluish end of the spectrum. I have seen these look spectacular under 20000k halides, or a mix of 10000k/Actinic under PCs. These are both among the easiest corals to keep, and can do well in a variety of systems. Propagation is as simple as "cut and paste"! I think both of these are great corals for all coral enthusiasts. They do give off allelopathic compounds, so you need to place them in systems where they are not in close proximity to other corals. You can find tons about these corals on the web, or in books like Anthony's "Book Of Coral Propagation" or Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals". Have fun with these beautiful animals! Regards, Scott F>

Coral selection question I have a 45 gallon tank that has been set up for some time with live rock and inverts.  I would like to start adding corals and was wondering what you would advise. <start off with soft coral, Try mushrooms or polyps good starter coral if these corals are doing well in a month try a LPS thanks MikeH > My lighting consists of 55 watts PC actinic, 55 watts PC 6.5K and 110 watts PC at 5.5K.  Due to limited top clearance upgrading to metal hides is not an option.  The tank is 24" tall 36" wide and 13" deep with a 4" sand base. Thank You Dennis

Soft Coral Selection I have a 55 gallon. I want to know what kind of soft corals I can keep. I use 4 regular fluorescent bulbs three are tritons,1 is actinic.85lbs of live rock, 0 nitrite 2.5 ppm nitrate, 400 to 450 calcium it varies between there  sometimes I get lazy and it gets to 400 .My tank has been going for 9 months now there are more little critters than I can count I love it, by the way I got 45lbs live rock from FFExpress and most of the things came from that live rock, even got two brittle stars with it they were small but that's another story. I currently have 1 bubble anemone which has started to bud and 2 Condylactis and a group of green stripe mushroom coral that started as 6 and are now 11 also a rock anemone. What else can I or would you suggest. thank you  >> Sounds like a very nice system. I would encourage you to look into some of the pulsing soft corals (family Xeniidae), and hardy species of the family Alcyoniidae, like the leather corals Sarcophyton, Nephthea, Sinularia, Lobophyton... These would be easy, beautiful and interesting additions to your set-up. Bob Fenner

Selecting new soft corals Bob, I currently have a 125 gallon reef tank with only two toadstool leather corals and I was wondering what other kinds of leather corals I could safely add that are fairly hardy, easy to keep, and not be worried about any chemical warfare going on. Can you give any recommendations?  <All alcyonaceans, soft corals have a degree of potential, practical chance of such warfare... But some are less likely by far to be/cause trouble... I do wish, my friend, I had time now to write up, issue overall opinions on the husbandry of this group... and post on the WWM site... or have run in an upcoming book on "The Best Livestock for Reef Aquariums"... Do you have v.1 of "The Modern Coral Reef Aquarium"? Take a look at the site (link on the WWM site), and do get, read this fantastic overview of the stinging-celled animals... I would try Nephthea, Xeniids/Pulsing Corals at this point in your unfolding...> I have around 80 pounds of live rock, a protein skimmer, two emperor filters, and VHO lighting. I was considering adding a colt coral and a finger leather coral. What do you think? Thanks for you advice, <Good choices> Gianluca <Bob Fenner>

Indo Blue Cespitularia Bob, Antoine here... Just wondering if you know of any aquarists culturing or possessing (as in bribable candidates) the lovely blue Cespitularia soft coral (Indonesia/E. Africa). I lost the tiny piece I had a while ago (pushed into a Plerogyra by a crab or snail... yikes!) and it's top on my list to replace and propagate. <Will post and look about> If you don't know of anybody... could you recommend any body for rare corals? <Ditto. Be chatting my friend. When will your coral propagation book be out? Bob Fenner> kindly, Anthony Calfo

Re: Indo Blue Cespitularia Thanks for looking out for the Cespitularia for me, I do appreciate it. <I would too> I was also wondering if you take most or all of the pics you e-mail out? <All of them my friend> They are just my kind of eye-candy... invertebrate close-ups! <Many more to come> My book could go to press at the end of this month if I can ever finish editing it... you'd think that if you read something four or five times over that you could weed out most of the typos and awkward language...  <We both know better> apparently I'm just not doing the right kind of drugs. I'll be sure to send you a copy to proof (which is a really nice way of saying it can join the pile of literature awaiting perusal in the lavatory... ha!) <Ah, yes> Just curiously... how are things coming with Hawaii? Do you have time scheduled there this fall or winter? I'm working on Steve and Debbie (Pro) to make the trek. <Yes... just back and ready to go again... let's go. Bob Fenner> Thanks kindly, Antoine

Re: Indo Blue Cespitularia Have seen them available. However they are pretty expensive, usually $180.00 to about $200.00 . Usually available in the beginning of spring. JN Jim Newman Flying Fish Express <Thanks Jim. Will send on and post on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Re: Indo Blue Cespitularia Dear Guys, I have been on the lookout for this coral for the last two years. Everyone that had it had it die out at about the same time regardless of conditions. So it must have a very limited lifespan. We thought that it reproduced in a fashion similar to Anthelia, but apparently you need at least two colonies for it to produce appropriate gametes. Tony are you back in the hobby? Let me know as I have some killer SPS colonies that you may be interested in propagating. Bob let me know too if you come across anyone and I am still looking for the wrasses and Anthias as you noted. Mike (Paletta) <Thanks for this Mike. Will send along and post to WWM. Bob Fenner>

Importing Corals (soft) into NZ Hi I am wondering if you can help me. I am looking at importing 3 new genus of coral to new Zealand Alcyoniidae and Xeniidae and Nephtheidae <Mmm, these are families of soft corals, Order Alcyonacea. Please review here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cnidaria.htm > to complete the application I have to obtain expert assessment of effects in the application and answer the following questions 1/ would the corals survive new Zealand water temperature which is 16c and below <Some species of these families I believe are able to... are actually found in cool/cold water> 2/ cause any significant displacement of any native species with in its natural habitat <Doubtful... If you were to import tropical species it is highly unlikely IMO/E that they would make the transition> there are more questions however before I go on , would you be able to help <Help in what way? Bob Fenner>

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