torch coral

Torch coral: A large polyp stony (LPS) beginner coral

The Torch coral, Euphylia glabrescens, is a large polyp stony coral that originates from the Indo-pacific reef regions. This LPS coral species (the torch coral), has long, flowing fleshy polyps that extend from a calcified (stony) base.

In a moderate water flow, these corals look a bit like a torch, which is where they get their common name.

E. glabrescens are reported to live in a range of water conditions, from turbid (murky) waters to clear waters with blazingly crips light, suggesting a certain level of adaptability and beginner-friendliness which is likely one reason these corals are great beginner corals.

torch coral

In the home aquarium, the Torch coral does not have particularly challenging husbandry requirements to be successfully cared for in a reef aquarium.

They require typical reef aquarium water parameters, including a temperature around 78 degrees, a specific gravity of about 1.025, a pH of about 8.2 and a calcium level of about 400 ppm.

Like most large polyp stony corals, a torch coral benefits from moderate water flow. The polyps will remain retracted and under-inflated if the water current is too fast, because the large flowing polyps are prone to rip and tear in high or ultra-high current environments.

Feeding the torch coral

It is not necessary to feed a torch coral, although they are capable of eating fairly large (by coral standards) meaty foods.

The fact that they are biologically able to consume rather large, meaty meals, suggests to me that feeding should be strongly encouraged.

However, Euphylia glabrescens could be kept successfully in a reef tank without any feeding at all, as long as adequate lighting is provided, because their symbiotic zooxanthellae will sustain them.

Placement in the reef tank

Unless you have fairly weak lights (which begs the question…do you have the right lights for a reef aquarium?) you can place the torch coral towards the bottom of the reef tank in an area of moderate flow. Many aquarists rely on strategically placed powerheads to create a suitable flow in the aquarium.

This may be anecdotal, but I have observed these corals to be ‘happier’ when placed in the sand, versus being glued at a mid-level on the live rock aquascape. Take that observation with a grain of reef salt.

Sweeper tentacles

The torch coral has potent sweeper tentacles that it will send out to other corals from growing too close and will sting anything within reach with its nematocysts. Because of this, you should take care to ensure that your torch coral has enough room both now and in the future, once the corals in your tank have begun to fill in the available space.

Reproduction by fragmenting and budding

Since the torch coral is a branching stony coral species, it is fairly easy to propagate via fragging. You can cut, saw or snap off a branch and it will grow into an entirely new colony all on its own. A torch coral frag should command a premium, compared with some of the most commonly available leather coral species, so it is a great coral to grow and trade with other hobbyists.

A great reference to have, if you want to learn about fragging corals, is the book, How to Frag Corals, available on and iTunes.


torch coral LPS on live rock in a reef tank with dead polyps

Note a few sections have died back on this torch coral specimen

As a general rule, caution should be used when mixing leathers LPS species, like torches. Large polyp stony corals protect themselves by wielding their sweeper tentacles maliciously. Many of the leather coral species, by comparison produce and release toxic chemicals, called terpenes, into the water to stunt the growth of other species.

There are a lot of reports of compatibility issues between leather and LPS corals.

Problems with keeping the torch coral

One of the biggest problems I have seen beginner hobbyists have is failing to account for the calcium demand for these corals. If there is insufficient calcium in your aquarium water, these corals will not be able to make their coral skeleton.

You should also never lift a torch coral out of the water, if you can avoid it. You could tear the polyps, and torn polyps are prone to infection followed by necrosis (a complete deterioration of the tissue).

Signs of the problem

An unhealthy torch coral will have contracted polyps that will eventually recede and turn into a brown goo, leaving behind an uncolonized coral skeleton.

Want to learn about other LPS corals?

If you liked learning about the torch coral, you might also want to learn more about these amazing LPS:

Torch coral care tips

Watch this video to learn more about caring for the torch coral in your saltwater aquarium

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.

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  1. Love the article. My husband and I have a 220 and a 24 gallon reef aquarium. We have torch corals in each tank and hand feed all of our corals with a turkey baster twice a week. You are right they do love to be fed that way. We pour some food in our tanks about an hour before we feed and they are ready by the time we do feed. I found the information here to be helpful and just wanted to say thank you. Oh by the way, my torch is on the bottom in the sand and my husbands is about 3/4 down. They both do very well and seem to love where they are. We do keep an eye on the flow because you are right they do not like a lot of it. We have only been in the hobby for a year in January and are finally seeing the results of our love for these corals and fish.

    1. Author

      Hi Dawn, thanks for the comment. That’s great that you hand-feed them. I’m sure they love that! Have the torches grown new heads yet? That’s awesome too!

  2. I have a question about “waving hammer coral” which is somewhat similar to this looks… At first glance it looks very dead, just a piece of coral skeleton.. but if you look inside the skeleton there is still coral living inside, which I’ve observed comes out at night. I know this is not supposed to happen, I would think it was dying, only it’s been like this for months and hasn’t died… any ideas on why the coral is doing this and how perhaps I could make it come out again? Could it be the very large piece of cabbage leather nearby that’s keeping it from thriving? I have a 29 gallon biocube with three damsels, a clownfish, a yellow tang, and a huge watchman goby.

    1. Author

      Hi Katie, thanks for the comment. It sounds like a stressed, unhappy coral. Especially if it has been like that for a month. You will want to try and figure out what is wrong. Here are a few things to look at: what are your pH and hardness? salinity? what is the flow like where the hammer is located? Have you had the coral in one place or moved it around? how intense is the light? How high or low is it in the tank? Fast flow, too bright light, low pH or hardness, low or high salinity, moving around, too high too low are all things that could be contributing. cabbage issues could also be in play, yes, but I would look at those other issues first.

  3. Hi
    I’m new, I’ve had my touch a month and it has increased in size by approx 200% and I’m being conservative !

    How big will it get? I’ve already lost a frag that was dislodged and fell into its path.

    Love it, finding it difficult to get practical info, get the chemistry stuff, probably why it’s growing so fast… DKH dropping, started supplements today.

    Will it consume my tank, how do I control it so it doesn’t take over?

    It’s a 54 gal tank

    Many thanks for any advice in advance

    1. Author

      Hi Justin, thanks for the question. That’s fantastic news that your coral is growing so quickly!! Kudos to you for doing a great job there and kudos for testing your water, identifying that your hardness is falling and dosing supplements. Great work.The coralwill keep growing in your tank, assuming you keep good lighting, calcium and hardness levels and feed it. I don’t think it will outgrow your tank, but it will get quite large if this growth keeps up. the way you keep the growth under control (and from taking over) is to frag it. I recommend you check out the book How to Frag Corals to learn how to do that.

      Great job. what other stuff do you have in your 54 gallon?

  4. What does it mean if my Torch’s tentacles kind of curl up at the end? Im dosing my Calcium since i just noticed it dipped right under 400. Im also working on balancing my tank with trace nitrates. Do you think the lack of Nitrates and Phosphates are the reason for my Torch’s tentacles to look weak, wilted and slightly curled?

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