The Candy Cane Coral: (Caulastrea furcata)
The candy cane coral is a LPS coral (stands for large polyp stony coral) species that is great for beginner and intermediate reef tanks. While some LPS corals, like the Torch Coral are aggressive and have large, stinging sweeper tentacles, this attractive coral species is mild mannered and has very short sweeper tentacles, by comparison, and can therefore be kept relatively closer to other peaceful coral species without causing any problems.
A healthy, growing candy cane coral colony (say that tongue-twister 5 times in a row) will create additional branches.
At your local fish store, you may find the candy cane coral sold under one of these other names: trumpet coral, bullseye or even, very confusingly torch coral. That’s the problem with common names. One man’s torch is another man’s candy cane. I’m not even sure why I wrote that.
Candy Cane Coral Care
The candy cane coral is a relatively easy coral to care for. They do prefer moderately strong water flow and moderate reef aquarium lighting. Candy canes do get some of the food and energy they need from light, because they have symbiotic zooxanthellate, but like most LPS corals, the candy cane coral also should be fed a few times a week with small particles of a meaty saltwater fish or coral food. Feeding this coral will help accelerate the growth. The challenge with feeding LPS corals like the candy cane is getting enough food to the coral, if you have boisterous fish like clownfish or tangs (at least that’s how it goes in my tank, where the fish routinely steal foods from the corals).
The standard water parameter needs apply. Check out this article for more information about the most important reef aquarium water parameters. Calcium is an important nutrient for this coral species, since it is a main component of the calcium carbonate skeleton. Insufficient pH, hardness and calcium may spell trouble for this coral long term.
If you don’t see the feeding tentacles extended, it is worth checking out the tank, after dark, to see if the coral opens up then, or if the tentacles can be coaxed out by feeding. If you literally never see the feeding tentacles, this may be a sign of stress.
How a candy cane coral gets its stripes
Coloration in corals can be a bit tricky to nail down. You see the coral at your local fish store under the actinic lights and think…this thing is going to look awesome in my tank…only to find out later that it looks nothing like that in your own tank. Well the reason for that is that coral coloration is very much dependent on the lighting above the tank. To maintain the namesake candy cane stripes on your candy cane coral, you will need to keep it happy and healthy. If you notice your candy cane coral is losing its stripes, that may be a sign that your water parameters are unhealthy or that the coral is getting insufficient light.
Source: Borneman 2001
How to frag
The candy cane coral is also an excellent coral for learning how to frag corals. Since the large fleshy polyps of the candy cane coral sit on top of a long, thin, branched coral skeleton, it is fairly straightforward to propagate this coral species by snapping one of the branches.
Feeding the candy cane coral
Where to go for more information about candy cane coral care
My favorite analog, dead tree book about corals is the book Aquarium Corals, by Eric Borneman. Although some of the book reads a bit like a textbook, I find it to be a valuable, comprehensive source of information about aquarium corals.