Acanthophyllia Coral for the Nano Reef

Acanthophyllia deshayesiana

© Albert J. Thiel

This is perhaps not the most commonly available coral, and it is often confused with Scolymia vitiensis, as they look quite similar, and sometimes even with Cynarina lacrimalis, but it certainly is a very nice addition for your Nano-Reef if you can find a nice specimen such as, for instance, the one below:


Acanthophyllia deshayesiana © aquaportail

Note that although confusion with other similar looking corals is possible and exists, even by Store Owners, Acanthophyllia Corals will have a lot more ‘red’ coloration in its polyp than the others mentioned above who may have more ‘yellow and green’ in their polyps. Nevertheless correct identification of Acanthophyllia can still be a problem.

Some will have a nice mix of green and red, and that type of coloration is what often leads to the confusion about its correct identification. Even Biologists have toyed with where to classify it, and it was actually only in 2009 that the ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) finally placed it in its own Genus, of which only one species is currently recognized.

Due to the limited availability of this Coral its price can be fairly high, of course depending on its size and on its degree of coloration. Not long ago I saw one offered for sale for close to $300, which obviously is pricy to say the least.

Its skeleton is not quite round but more of an irregular circle that is somewhat oval and is flatter than, for instance, Scolymia Corals.


Scolymia australis ‘for comparison purposes’ – © The Coral Zone
Notice the difference of the Coral Polyp’s outer edge that is not as ruffled in this case
Also note the lesser overall thickness

Care of Acanthophyllia Corals is very similar to what is needed for other LPS corals, and low to moderate lighting is suggested, with low to moderate and irregular water flow. If you have rather intense lighting over your Nano-Reef you many need to shield the coral somewhat from it at first, and then gradually acclimate it to the higher intensity, but what and how to exactly do it will depend on what type of lighting you are using.

If you have an LED set-up you may wish to dim them somewhat if you can when you take into consideration what other corals are in your Nano-Reef, and if dimming is not an option then shielding the Acanthophyllia from the more intense light will be the better way to go. If you use MH’s over your tank, then shielding is definitely what you will need to do.

It is a slow grower and will not become very large. It is considered hardy and not very prone to diseases as some other LPS corals are. It can be placed on the substrate or attached to a piece of clean live rock, even in a somewhat vertical position, but do not place it totally vertically as it will not get enough light when positioned that way.


This is identified as one but is probably not. The green is there but no red or yellow but rather
some purple. Although it could be I will reserve judgment for now

Since it is a photosynthetic coral, it receives a good amount of its nutrients from your lighting and the coral’s Zooxanthellae, but it will do even better with supplemental feeding of minced pieces of fish, shrimp, clam, Mysis, Cyclop-eeze, and rotifers. Feed at night when tentacles can be seen, or get the coral to show a ‘feeding response’ using shrimp or fish juice, which needs to be spot injected gently on it to elicit that reaction.

Feeding once or twice a week is usually sufficient and will help them grow faster. Acanthophyllia corals tend to morph into strange shapes when fed on a regular basis. This coral, of course, also traps free-floating food particles from the water column, and is believed to also extract dissolved organic material directly from the water.

Whereas water quality parameters need to be high, over-use of GAC is not indicated for this coral, and similar ones.


Red and Blue Acanthophyllia with some green/yellowish Frag © Austin Reef Club
The color on this coral looks somewhat washed out perhaps due to the light it is under


Advertised as Orange Blood Acanthophyllia © Austin Reef Club

Unlike what may be done for many other LPS corals, for this coral asexual reproduction by fragging is not recommended at all. What appears to work for Acanthophyllia corals is to place them in the shade, and when that is done they will typically eject part of the middle of their polyp looking for more light.

The part that was split off grows slowly and will start to build an exoskeleton, and after the ejection of some polyp tissue has taken place, the main coral can be placed back into the lighting conditions it was exposed to.

This is quite an unusual manner of reproduction but it has, according to several reports, been used successfully quite a number of times.

Although hardy, the coral is also fragile and needs to be handled with great care as the polyp can easily tear apart, even under its own weight, so if you need to move the coral, get it to retract fully so the polyp is protected.

Tearing of the main polyp will invariably lead to bacterial infections and, as we have already seen, these are always hard to cure and getting lost polyp tissue to regrow is never a given. So handle this coral with great care at all times.

Although the recommended water flow is moderate to a little higher, make sure that no algae grow on the skeleton as that will cause polyp recession and polyp loss once the algae reaches the top of the skeleton and starts to affect the large meaty polyp.


Hells Storm © Austin Reef Club, Listed as one but does not look like a true Acanthophyllia
Demonstrating how easy it is to mix them up with other corals

© Albert J. Thiel December 29, 2012
About author
Albert J. Thiel owner of Thiel Aqua Tech until it was sold, Author of a number of books on Reef Aquariums

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