Acanthastrea corals, commonly known as the Acan Coral or Acan Lords, are Large Polyp Stony corals, and one of the most beautifully colored soft coral species. They come in various shades of purple, red, green, blue, orange, brown, rust or pale tan to pale grey. The family includes many species, which have a lot of different names.
Acan corals in the ocean
Many acan coral species (Acanthastrea sp.) are found in the South Pacific Ocean (Philippines, Hong Kong, etc.) in waters between 0 – 30m deep, which ironically seems like the same depth many waterproof watches are good. So if you are underwater and still know what time it is…you might see an Acan coral. In the ocean, the Acan coral feeds mostly at night—however they will acclimate to your schedule in the aquarium and eat when you feed them.
Acan coral care in the aquarium
Luckily, almost every home aquarium in the world is between 0-30 meters deep which should make it easy for you to give your Acan coral the care it needs.
The Acan coral is generally hardy and easy to care for, making it a suitable species for intermediate aquarists. The amazing color varieties will make it a show stopper even for advanced hobbyists with mature tanks.
Like some other popular LPS coral species, the Acan coral needs moderate light and will do well with most appropriate reef lighting systems.
Also like other popular LPS, you want to have moderate water flow as well, since the large fleshy polyps will be damaged if kept in an area of high flow.
Be sure to give your Acans room to grow. If you don’t, they will make room for themselves by sending out sweeper tentacles to send a message (Sopranos-style) to any neighbors who will ‘listen’ to the message—and by listen, I mean sit there minding their own business. A sweeper tentacle is a stinging polyp that can extend well beyond the base of the coral, and stings things similar to the way a Jellyfish tentacle stings.
Signs of trouble
An Acan coral that is not happy in the tank because of too much water flow or too much light will not extend its polyps. If your water parameters are good (and have bene stable) and if your Acan coral won’t extend its polyps—even at night or even when feeding—then it could be that the lights or water flow are too strong for your specimen. Carefully move it to an area of lower flow or less intense light (or both…depending on the circumstances).
Acan corals are considered to be photosynthetic, meaning they derive at least part of their calories from the commensal zooxanthellae that live in their tissue.
Acanthastrea species will also pull some nutrients from the water column, which will help keep nutrient levels in check if you have fish in your tank as well.
But please keep in mind that while corals like Acans may seem a bit light plants (absorbing nutrients from water and converting light into energy), it is the zooxanthellae that are truly plant-like. Acans are corals and all corals are animals…and what do animals like to do? Animals eat. So you should feed your Acans.When it is feeding time, an Acan coral will extend its polyps to capture prey—copepods, artemia, chopped seafood or even commercial foods—frozen, flake or pellet. As long as it can catch it and pull it in, the food can be eaten.
Target feed these corals by using Julian’s thing to squirt a tiny, gentle blast of food over the polyps.
If there is any doubt about the importance of feeding these corals, give it a try and watch how quickly they grow.
Acan corals are generally compatible with most other species—the key ingredient to compatibility is space…if you pack it in too close to other corals, you’re in for coral warfare. Given enough space to thrive and grow, the Acan coral will make an attractive addition to your saltwater aquarium.
If you plan to keep Acanthastrea species with soft leather corals, you will want to take some measures to neutralize the chemical warfare leather corals wage in a tank by using activated carbon and keeping up with water changes.
You also wouldn’t want to keep Acans with fish that like to peck at the large fleshy polyps of LPS corals…unless you meant the Acan to be fish food…which is certainly an expensive and not recommended way to go.
Fragging this LPS species is possible and relatively straightforward as long as you have the right powertools to execute a fast, safe cut. It certainly isn’t a coral I’d recommend as your first fragging experiment, but if you have the right gear and an iron constitution it can be done.
Show us your Acans!
Do you have Acans? Have you posted any pictures online? Leave a comment below and let us see your Acans.