Kenya Tree Coral Care Guide
The Kenya Tree coral, Capnella sp., is a hardy soft coral species that is tolerant of a range of living conditions, which makes it great for beginner aquarists. In terms of color, this rapidly growing soft corals species is somewhat drab and is generally available as a brown/pink frag or colony. The more rare and desirable Kenya tree corals tend to have a green coloration.
In addition to being generally very hardy and tolerant of life in a saltwater aquarium, Kenya tree corals are fragging machines. A small colony will grow quickly in a tank and form other small colonies by dropping branches. This self-propagation is a form of fragging that a growing Kenya tree coral specimen will undergo all on its own. New colonies are quickly formed from new buds, and frags may detach from their place and float away in the tank, in search of a better place to live. This is why they need constant monitoring and pruning if you want to keep them under control.
So this is a great coral species if you are just starting out or are just starting to get interested in fragging corals (coral propagation).
The Kenya Tree coral hails from the Indo-Pacific Ocean area and the Red Sea, in deep reef areas, with clear water. They prefer strong water currents, which help them float away and develop large colonies.
In the tank, these corals can adapt to a wide range of tank environments, but they usually do best under moderate light and medium water flow.
You could arguably keep these corals in just about any-sized tank, including a nano aquarium, with one big caveat. These are fast-growing corals that will eventually take over a fairly large space in the tank. Because of this, you will need to prune back (frag) the coral to keep the size in check. You also want to allow enough space for the Kenya tree coral to grow without overgrowing its neighbors.
This coral requires low-to-moderate reef tank lighting. That generally means, keep them shaded from the hottest part of the light, generally lower down in the aquarium and on the periphery of cone of light. Keep them shaded from metal halides, by placing them under rocks or larger corals.
Feeding: what do Kenya tree corals eat?
Kenya Tree coral has symbiotic zooxanthellae that will produce some of the necessary nutrition through photosynthesis. It is also thought that the Kenya tree coral gets some of its nutritional needs by absorbing nutrients from the water as well as by capturing tiny plankton. Feeding this coral with fresh phytoplankton should boost growth.
Behavior and tank mates
The Kenya Tree Coral is considered to be semi-aggressive. It doesn’t have sweeper tentacles or another way to overtly hurt a neighboring coral, other than the fact that it will grow into and over them.
Keep in mind that this coral will also seem to move about your tank and colonize new areas by dropping branches and attaching to the substrate.
Some aquarists that have had success growing these corals and have since moved on will affectionately call the Kenya tree coral a weed because of this habit of springing up in areas of the tank where it is not wanted.
If you are new to the hobby and have never kept corals, or have tried and struggled to keep corals, you may be thinking this way of thinking shows a bit of snobbery and reflects the type of problem one can only have after having significant success in this hobby.
Fragging and propagation: how does a Kenya tree coral reproduce?
Capnella species, like the Kenya tree coral, will create miniature clones of itself by “dropping” buds and branches. A branch of the ‘tree’ will literally pinch off and float downstream until it gets trapped, where it will attach to that substrate, if possible, and grow. You can manage a more active reproduction, by fragging or trimming the branches, to keep them in the desired location or keep them from taking over the tank.
They can be fragged easily with a sharp blade, by simply cutting a limb off, then you can just attach it with a rubber band to a frag plug, rock, or shell. In a few days, the cut branch will attach itself to the rock or rubble and start growing by itself.
To learn more about how to frag corals, check out this article.
Pros and cons
Now that we already know what keeping Kenya Tree Corals means, let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of having this invertebrate in your reef tank:
The Kenya Tree corals are:
- Easy to care for
- Will adapt well to most reef aquarium living conditions
- Easy to propagate by fragging
- Readily available
- Inexpensive (you may even find aquarists that would give them away for free, especially in reef clubs)
- Grow rapidly
Here are a few cons about keeping the Kenya Tree coral (Capnella species)
- You will not be able to keep this coral ‘in its place’. Branches or buds will detach, float away and grow anywhere and everywhere it can
- Grow so rapidly they may overtake some slower growing coral species if you are not careful and do not prune back the growth
- You may in fact never rid your tank of the Kenya tree coral once introduced–they are that prolific
- It may be difficult to keep them in the same place, as Kenya Tree Corals tend to detach and float away, as well as drop buds next to them, and form new colonies;
The Kenya Tree coral was one of my first coral species. For you veteran salties out there, you might cringe when I say this, but I still have the Kenya Tree coral in my current display tank. If you are looking for a type of low maintenance, rapidly growing coral, this is a great choice.
Learn more about a few 0ther great beginner soft corals
If you enjoyed this article about the Kenya tree coral, check out these other great soft corals that require similar care as the Kenya tree coral:
Watch this video to learn more: