Elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei) is an awesome large polyp stony (LPS) coral for the mixed reef tank. This elegant coral is an anemone look-alike and has long, flowing tentacles, although it is more closely related to frogspawn, torch, and hammer corals than it is to sea anemones. Several different color morphs/varieties are available, so if you shop around, you can find the perfect look you crave.
Let’s dive right into the guide on how to care for the elegance coral in a saltwater aquarium!
Table of Contents: Elegance Coral
- Quick Facts
- Elegance Coral Ideal Habitat
- Feeding the Elegance Coral
- Behavior and Compatibility
- Elegance Coral Tips and Advice
- For More Information
- Scientific Name: Catalaphyllia jardinei
- Common Names: Elegance coral, Elegant coral, Wonder coral, Ridge coral
- Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons (114L)
- Aggression Level: Aggressive; Elegance corals will sting any neighbors within reach with sweeper tentacles
- Compatibility: Extremely compatible with Euphyllia species (torch, frogspawn, etc.)
- Care Level: Moderate
- Lighting: Moderate
- Flow: Moderate
- Feeding Recommended? Yes, target feeding of small, meaty zooplankton-like foods is recommended.
- Calcium Supplementation? Yes, supplement to maintain calcium >400ppm
In the wild, these majestic invertebrates can be found in the Great Barrier Reef around Australia and some areas near Japan, Vanuatu, Micronesia, and Mozambique. They stay in the shallower and mid-range parts of the reed, not straying too much further than 130 feet (40m). And you almost always spot them in sandy parts of lagoons and seagrass beds.
Because this coral will grow to a relatively large size, if healthy, the elegance coral is best suited to larger tanks – around 90-100 gallons (341-379L) in size. However, that’s under the assumption that you would like to keep this coral along with several other species. If you wish to keep this coral in a smaller tank, consider making it the focal point and provide plenty of room to grow.
Elegance corals may reach an adult size of 12x 8 inches (30.5×20.3cm) in the wild, with tentacles extending out an additional 6 inches (15.2cm). Suffice it to say, this is a fairly large coral, which you should consider when placing it in your tank.
Elegances also have sweeper tentacles, which are tentacles specialized in stinging and destroying. So be sure to give it a wide berth and room to grow in your tank if you want to avoid coral warfare in your tank. The elegance coral is hardy and relatively easy to take care of, making it an attractive addition to the average reef tank.
Like most other LPS corals with large, fleshy polyps, elegance corals tend to do best with a moderate water flow. Higher water flows will cause the tentacles to remain retracted and small (at best). At worst, they may get damaged and ripped.
It isn’t healthy for an elegance to keep its tentacles retracted for long periods of time. An individual specimen with retracted polyps is likely to starve.
In the wild, you’ll find them on soft, sandy substrates. So if you’re looking to replicate their natural environment – in terms of substrate and lighting – the best placement for your specimen would be at the bottom of the tank, on fine-grained sands.
Of course, that isn’t the only place you can keep them. Many aquarists have had success attaching them to live rock.
With that said, they need to be placed in the part of your tank where they’ll receive a moderate flow and unshaded access to moderate-intensity light.
Elegance corals require a moderately high amount of light to support photosynthesis. But that doesn’t translate to strong light. LEDs, fluorescent, or other reef-caliber lights will be sufficient. You want to aim for a PAR of about 80-120. PAR stands for Photosynthetically Available Radiation, which is how you measure the quality of the light.
Water flow is important in every reef tank containing coral. Since elegances have large (elegant, right?) fleshy polyps, the key descriptor here is MODERATE. (Think Goldilocks and the three bears) You don’t want the flow to be too hard or too soft. “Just right” means the tentacles flow gently, like leaves in a light wind. Too little and elegance corals will not thrive. Too much flow and you risk tearing the delicate polyps.
The proper flow brings nutrients to the polyps, ensuring they remain nourished. And you’ll see the typical “sweeping” movement as they drift in the current. You’re not going for a cyclone, more of a dramatic sweep.
The elegance coral is photosynthetic, which means commensal photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, live inside its body tissue and provide nutrition by harvesting the energy in light – much like a plant. They also benefit from regular feedings.
What should you feed your elegance coral?
Care should be given to the size you feed this coral. Preference is given to high-quality foods that are relatively smaller in size. An elegance coral may greedily accept larger food, but it may get regurgitated later if the food is too large to reach the digestive tract.
Clownfish and other species that share a symbiotic relationship with anemones are excellent tank mates for elegance corals. If you’re lucky, these animals may take a liking to your corals and settle in as a new home. Some elegance specimens will tolerate this well; others may seem bothered by it.
Considered an extremely aggressive member of the LPS coral group, you’ll need to think carefully about the community in your reef tank. Similar to anemones, elegances sport sticky tips at the ends of their tentacles. The “stickiness” helps them to catch hold of prey items. But it ALSO works when they’re waging war with everything fighting for space in the aquarium around them.
The elegance coral has relatively large sweeper tentacles that WILL sting neighboring corals. So it’s best to provide a lot of free space around it. The tentacles will extend ~6 inches (15.2cm) around the base. And the base continues to grow over time (hopefully), so be sure to give it ample room or be prepared for your neighboring corals to get ZAPPED.
You will also want to keep this coral away from other corals with potent sweepers to prevent it from getting damaged.
Avoid keeping this coral with fish species that are notorious polyp nippers as the elegance coral may end up the target of their nipping desire.
If you are thinking about adding an elegant coral to your tank, here are a few elegance coral tips:
- Look at the coral polyps carefully before purchasing. Avoid buying a specimen with polyps damaged in transit. Sometimes, these corals don’t recover from serious injuries.
- Don’t forget that corals are animals, not plants, and this coral likes to eat. So be sure to feed it regularly to get the best growth.
- Give it space to grow into. Even a year or two from now, make sure it will still be far enough away that it can’t sting its neighbors.
Elegance corals ARE prone to elegance coral syndrome (ECS). The infection targets Catalphyllia species, particularly individuals gathered from Indonesia. You’ll see swelling around the oral disc and unopened polyps or a white mucus coating. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for ECS. This is why you want to quarantine any new purchases – AND ask where they were harvested in the first place. DON’T attempt to frag “healthy” portions, either. You could kill the coral in the process.
If you are looking for a hardy LPS coral that looks great and is relatively easy to care for, the elegance coral (or elegant coral, if you prefer) is a good choice. Keep lighting and water flow moderate and give it space to grow.
Want to learn more about Elegance corals? Watch this handy YouTube video:
If you are looking for other LPS corals with similar care requirements, check out:
Enough from me. Now it is your turn. Do you have an elegance coral in your tank? Show it off and post your picture in the comments below.