By Bob Goemans
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Tree and Carnation Corals

 Chironephthya sp. (Limp Coral)

Chironephthya sp.

Limp Coral

Likely Reef Tank Suitable

Likely Fish-Only Tank Suitable


These tree-shaped or bushy soft corals are more delicate than the leather corals described above, especially Dendronephthya species, which are quick to waste away in most aquaria. As for the Capnella species it's thought to have formally been called Nephteidae arboreum or Lemnalia africana with its common name 'African Tree.' It grows similar to Colt Coral, however, has a dry feel to its tissue, not the slimy feel associated with Colt Coral. This photosynthetic coral requires very good water quality, medium light and moderate water movement and have had specimens successfully maintained for years.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Dendronephthya species, which in my opinion, should be left in the wild. Their common names include Tree Coral, Carnation Coral, Ledge Coral, and Cauliflower Coral. These very colorful 'non-photosynthetic' tree-like soft corals are found only on deep-water ledges and overhangs and/or in caves. They require little or no lighting, moderate water movement, and a steady diet of phytoplankton.

Usually a white body with red polyps, but other colorful species, e.g., red body with white polyps, or white body with yellow polyps are sometimes available. Not easy to maintain because of its feeding requirements.

Occasionally a small snail (Primovula bellocqae) will be found feeding upon this type coral, and it should be removed.

Another tree-like non-photosynthetic soft coral, often called Limp Coral (Chironephthya sp.), is occasionally seen in the trade. It inhabits deep-water ledges, slopes, and walls of caves. A real oddity, but I've seen it in the trade and it would take large amounts of 'green water' or baby brine shrimp to sustain this animal. A species probably best left in the wild.

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