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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.

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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 corals are a popular reef aquarium species

One of the reasons these are popular corals is that low-to-moderate lighting is 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 grows 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 staple 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.

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