duncan coral public domain

Duncan coral: Duncanopsammia axifuga

The Duncan coral, duncanopsammia axifuga, has large, fleshy polyps and looks a little bit like a zoanthid or other button polyp species, but it is really a large polyp stony (LPS) coral. Duncan corals are sometimes also called whisker coral or daisy coral. Like all LPS corals, duncans have a calcified stony skeleton and therefore require relatively high concentrations of calcium, magnesium and hardness, measured as dKH, to stay healthy.

duncan coral public domain

A quality reef aquarium salt will naturally have a good concentration of these important elements, but you should test your water to monitor these water parameters to ensure your tank stays within a healthy range. If your tank falls out of the healthy range, you can generally restore the quality of the water by performing water changes or adding reef supplements, like 2-part, if necessary. You can see parts of the exposed skeleton in the image above, where the Duncan coral polyp has died away

Individual polyp heads will grow out from a central stalk in a bouquet-like arrangement, as can be seen in the image below of a duncan coral taken at the New England Aquarium, in Boston.

duncan coral

Duncan coral at the New England Aquarium, in Boston, surrounded by aiptasia

Duncan coral are a popular reef aquarium species

One of the reasons these are popular corals is that low-to-moderate lighting are all that is required to keep these amazing animals. The duncan coral is a deepwater species that comes from low-current reefs around Australia and the South China Sea. Duncan corals have symbiotic zooxanthellae and are photosynthetic, but they are also hunters, capable of capturing and eating prey and will benefit from regular feedings of brine shrimp, mysid shrimp, cyclops or small pieces of shellfish. In the center of the large, fleshy polyps is a mouth, where the food items would be ingested and consumed. Target the mouth when directly feeding this coral. A great aquarium tool to target feed the duncan coral is Julian’s Thing, which is a long pipette, that will allow you to gently drop a meaty morsel right on the mouth.

Duncan coral grow rapidly, especially when fed well, so when you are picking a location in your tank for that new frag you bought, be sure to give them plenty of room to grow into your reef.

Several years ago, duncans were not that popular here in the U.S., but these corals are now aquacultured and have become a stable in the aquarium trade.

duncan corals

Fragging the duncan coral

The Duncan coral is a relatively easy to frag. The short, stony branches can be easily cut with bone shears or a dremel tool and then attach the bottom of the stony stalk to a small piece of live rock with cyanoacrylate glue. For more step-by-step instructions about how to frag Large Polyp Stony corals like the Duncan coral and other corals, get the book: How to Frag Corals on Amazon or iTunes today.

how to frag corals

how to frag corals buy now

For more information

For more information like this post about the duncan coral, check out:

Written by Albert B. Ulrich III–author of The Reef Aquarium Series of books:  The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide, How to Frag Corals, 107 Tips for the Marine Reef Aquarium and the Reef Journal.

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  1. Al very interesting viral related article about the Duncan, or daisy coral. I thought that this coral was a soft coral upon looking at the picture and not a large polyp stony. So I did learn something new by reading your latest blog post. Also you mentioned that the Duncan is closely related to the Zoanthid coral group. My question is they do not emit, or give off palytoxins like the Zoa’s are known to do – do they? Thanks for the feedback, because I don’t want to attemp to frag a Zoa coral in the future because of this very reason. But may try my hand at fragging a Duncan in the future. Thank you for your feedback!

    Jim B.

    1. Author

      Hi Jim, thanks for the great question. palytoxin is limited to a small group of ‘zoanthids’. I have not read about Duncans being associated with palytoxin at all. Keep in mind, when you frag them, it’s more like fragging a branching LPS, like a candy cane than it is like fragging a zoanthid.

      1. Hi Al & thanks for the answer to my previous question. So I now know that I could safely frag a Duncan and hold a cup of coffee in the other hand! Excuse my dry sense of humor. But I definitely wouldn’t try to do this with a Zoa. Also I’m thinking about picking up a sinularia frag this coming week, I believe they are an LPS coral as well? And also heard they’re similar, but hardier than even the Kenya Tree. Have one of those in my display tank and it’s doing great! Again thank you for all the feedback.


  2. Hey Ulrich! Thank you for sharing this amazing insight about Duncan Corals (LPS Corals). Their popularity is on account of its stony and skeleton look and also they are relatively easy to frag.

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