In the wild, the Elegance Coral can be approximately two feet long. There are two classic types of elegance coral: the larger, reef collected variety, and the smaller, free-living deep water, lagoon variety.
In essence, these are the same animal. It has been theorized however, that the larger Catalaphyllia Jardinei is in fact in a later stage of life, an adult stage, where it has been taken in by the current and lodged into the reef, growing its skeleton accordingly.
These coral, the hardier by far in reef keeping, have a meandroid appearance and lack the desirable purple tips so often seen in retail, but are easily recognized by a fluorescent green and white striated oral disk with a clearly chiseled or broken off base where it has been literally sawn from the reef, as opposed to the cone shape that is typical in retail, clearly marking the more desirable, yet near impossible to keep, free-living variety of Elegance Coral.
These cone-shaped, juveniles are intensely coloured, with the lovely purple tips, and come from the much deeper waters from which most of this coral is collected. The cone end of the base is stuck in a sand/silt floor where there is absolutely no hard substrate. There are few other corals, some algae, grasses, and bacteria, feeding and protecting these infant corals, which when they begin to grow too large, are caught by storm-induced current and brought in closer to land.
Survivability of Caryophyllidae
The Elegance Corals that are collected today should not be kept at this time by any but the most dedicated and experienced hobbyists willing to use constructive experimentation and study for their care. The demand for this coral has dropped due to its poor reputation since the late 1990’s, when prior to then, it was always considered a beginner’s coral. Even then, quarantine is best for a month at least, to ensure that disease is not present.
It seems that though Indonesia is where the vast majority of collection is taking place, these are not the healthiest specimens, and some have speculated that in this transitory, free-living state, the coral are laying near polluting run offs. Samples collected by scientists in this region showed all collected samples had organisms such as sponges, boring algae and fungal filaments invading the coral. The attached species, once again, were much cleaner and had a more solid skeleton.
Care of the Modern Elegance Coral
Some things to keep in mind if you are going to care for this animal, despite warnings against it, the purple tipped variety is the worst to attempt to keep. Since these are the corals being collected today, this article will focus on their care.
- Low flow is necessary, but 10 x tank turnover is the minimum
- Fine sand or mud substrate
- Calcium and strontium, as per all stony corals
- Pristine water condition is not good for this particular animal, high organic nutrient concentrations with 10’s of PPM of nitrates is desired. Be careful not to over skim!
- Mouths facing up, V shaped point stuck down in the mud is the way this animal should be oriented.
- NEVER place this coral in live rock or at an angle
- Calm water movement, away from a power head.
- A Thalassia (Turtle Grass) habitat is extra good, providing filtered light, but any vascular grass is good.
- Target fed with meaty food two to three times a week
- Keep the coral in a species tank, entirely alone, they have a DEADLY sting.
- Low-Medium lighting, using compact fluorescents or VHOs, do not use metal halides
Elegance Coral Syndrome (ECS)
Beginning sometime in the late 1990s, specimens entering the trade were doomed by a condition that had no known cause or cure, ECS, characterized by the following:
- Colony’s oral disk swells, sometimes with excessive mucus production from the mouths
- Tentacles do not expand
- White opaque mucus-like webbing may present itself across the oral disk, originating between the coral’s tissue and skeleton. This stage typically lasts from days to nearly a month.
- Coral bleaching or colour change
- Tentacles lose their stickiness and so the coral does not feed
- The coral’s tissue eventually shrinks
- Secondary infections may occur, but are not common
- Colony dies despite all manners of experimental intervention that have been attempted
Some in the trade feel that this syndrome is entirely bacterial and can be cured with either Nitrofurazone or Doxycycline, if caught early and treated for about four or five days. If not caught early, little can be done to save this coral with the knowledge the trade currently possesses.