Beginner Coral: Candy Cane (Trumpet)

Beginner Coral: Candy Cane (Trumpet)

Candy cane corals are excellent for beginners! They are relatively fast growers and tend to be forgiving of lackluster water quality. They come in several colors and are easily fragged. Candy canes are mostly inexpensive as well so they are very attractive for new hobbyists since there is very little investment involved in this coral with potentially great rewards.

Photo by: 143gadgets
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The candy cane coral (Caulastrea furcate) is an LPS coral, or Large Polyp Stoney coral. This means that it’s made up of a hard skeleton that, in this case, branches out and ends with a large polyp at the end of each branch. Each polyp has a mouth and small tentacles around the oral disk that come out when the coral is feeding. This coral grows by splitting a polyp into two identical polyps. This can happen with many of the polyps all at one time, hence the fast growth rate. As it gets larger, the candy cane forms itself into a large ball of polyps.

Photo by: Mr. Ugly
trumpet coral B.jpg

Lighting should be moderate to strong for best results, but moderate lighting like T5’s are just fine for the candy cane. I’ve even seen them grown under compact fluorescents without any trouble. Moderate flow with periodic feeding will aid in quick growth as well. Feeding is easiest when you use a turkey baster or similar feeding apparatus to put small meaty food directly into the mouth of the candy cane. Since the feeding tentacles come out after lights out, you’ll get better results if you wait to feed until the lights go out.

Photo by: Wiz
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These corals are tolerant of mistakes like a dip in salinity or a temperature spike. They may look bad for a while afterward, but usually make a swift recovery from it. No matter how tolerant they are of mistakes, this is a good time to start monitoring your big three parameters weekly. Calcium (CA), Magnesium (Mg) and Alkalinity (Alk or KH) are important when maintaining a reef aquarium and should be monitored weekly to be sure you are maintaining the proper levels of each for the health of your corals. Each of these is used when an LPS coral builds its skeleton to grow. I don’t want to go into depth on the chemistry of it, but I do want to make the point that if you are wanting to start getting into harder corals to keep, the candy cane is a good one to practice on and is a good time to start learning about those elements in your tank water.

Photo by: NanaReefer
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Fragging the candy cane is simple. Bone cutters or a band saw make quick work of it, though it may be easier to use the bone cutters when fragging a dense, large colony. Pick a branch on the outer edges of the coral to start with since it will be easier to access with the bone cutters. The bone cutters will partially crush what it cuts to make sure to make the cut far enough down away from the polyps so that they aren’t damaged. These frags can be glued to a small rock or a frag plug and traded or sold after a week or two of healing time. Even one or two polyp frags will quickly grow into a decent size colony before long.

Photo by: geris
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The next time you are at the LFS check to see if they have any candy canes in stock. There is likely to be a good selection and since there are many colors available, you are likely to find something that appeals to you. From the striped candy canes, from which these corals get their name, to the solid blues, teals and neon greens, these are a beautiful addition to your tank!

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About author
Meredith Presley started keeping marine aquariums in 2007. She’s done everything wrong that can be done in the hobby (mostly but not all in that first year) and that has afforded her to learn a lot of hard lessons. Recently she’s been focused on marine disease diagnosis and treatment and hopes to focus on breeding soon as well. She also keeps a blog with basic info on saltwater keeping and her experiences with her own tank and livestock.

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