Candy Cane Coral Care
Caulastrea, commonly called trumpet corals or candy cane corals, are great beginner-friendly LPS corals. The reason they make good beginner corals is three fold. Candy Canes are generally hardy. While it’s always a good idea to pursue pristine water conditions, these corals give hobbyists some room for error. Every slight dip in calcium or alkalinity is not going to result in a colony crash.
Second of all, they are not particularly aggressive compared to other LPS. It’s always a good idea to give corals plenty of room to grow, but some LPS require extra space because of their ability to extend sweeper tentacles to kill off their neighbors. Candy Canes do not exhibit this behavior to nearly the extent other LPS do. This give the aquarist some room to work in terms of aquascaping, which comes in handy in smaller aquariums such as nano reefs.
Lastly, they are not drama queens when it comes to lighting them. There are some corals that will go from vibrant and color fun under one set of lights only to look drab and lifeless under another. Candy canes are remarkably consistent in their appearance so they do not require extravagant lighting setups to maintain their aesthetics.
Though these corals are found throughout the Pacific Ocean, they are more commonly found near Australia and Indonesia.
Now let's move on to more care specific topics, starting with lighting.
This coral is not particularly light demanding, 50 to 70 PAR is more than enough, and as mentioned previously, they will do well in a variety of lighting conditions.
If I showed you ten pictures of the same candy cane coral under 10 different lighting conditions it would be really difficult to pick out which one was grown under an $800 LED/T5 hybrid fixture, versus a $20 T5 Retrofit. Lighting just does not play that big of a role with this coral.
The only thing I would look out for is over exposure, 50 to 70 PAR is the sweet spot we found for both growth and color, but I wouldn’t over think it.Low Light
Low light translates to about 30-50 PAR
Medium Light is between 50-150 PAR
High Light is anything over 150 PAR
Lighting is a loaded topic, so for a more in-depth discussion of lighting, please see our Deep Dive article.
Placement and Flow
Because Candy Canes don’t need much light, they make a great candidate for the bottom of your tank. They don’t require a crashing flow either, if anything too much flow can cause the polyps to lose their fleshiness. So I would recommend finding a low flow spot in the tank for them. A low flow spot can also help when it comes time to feed.
Now I hesitate to say that feeding is required for these corals, but spot feeding 2-3 times a week can really help spur on growth. As for what to feed candy canes, it’s really wide open. Typically we feed them frozen mysis shrimp and bite size pieces of krill, however they will also eat LPS pellets.
When it comes to spot feeding, you’ll have the best results by turning off your pumps and letting the food settle on the polyps. However, you will have to watch out for fish who will want to eat the food off of the corals. The worst case scenario that I can share with you, the fish will eventually figure out that the corals are full of food and can pretty much use them as vending machines later by biting them until they spit it out.
Along with mysis and krill, dosing these corals with amino acids wouldn't hurt either if you wanted to go the extra mile. Let's go a bit deeper into what amino acids are. Amino Acids are simple organic compounds that play a major role in building proteins as well as other biological functions at the cellular level. There are a little over 20 different types of amino acids. Most of them can be synthesized by the organism but some cannot be and must be taken in by feeding. Those amino acids are termed essential amino acids and they vary from species to species. Corals regularly take in available amino acids from the water column so it is easy to provide them with adequate quantities by broadcast feeding an amino acid solution. They are available from any number of commercially available reef supplement manufacturers. This may be the easiest way to feed your corals because as long as amino acids are bioavailable in the water column, the corals will soak them up. If you want to know more about amino acids, I made a video going into great detail about them so check that out below:
Due to Candy Canes being pretty hardy, you don't have to stress a whole lot with maintaining alkalinity and calcium to a T, but due to being stony corals, they will need that calcium and alkalinity so let's look more closely into what those entail.
Starting first with Calcium, it is one of the major ions in saltwater. In the ocean, its level hovers around 425 parts per million (ppm). As a coral grows calcium is absorbed from the water and used to forms its calcium carbonate skeleton.
Alkalinity is probably the most important parameter to pay attention to. It is not a particular ion, but rather a general figure of carbonate availability in the water. Technically it is the amount of acid required to lower the pH of saltwater to the point bicarbonate turns into carbonic acid. If you have more alkalinity, it can soak up more acid. Less alkalinity and you have less buffering capacity making the tank more susceptible to chemical changes.
In practice alkalinity tends to be the parameter that fluctuates the most, so if you can only manage one test, test for alkalinity. In natural sea water, the alkalinity of the water measures around 7 or 8 dkh though most salt mixes these days mix up closer to 8 to 9 dkh. Some aquarists like to overload this parameter a little and keep their tanks around 10 or 11 dkh with the belief that having elevated calcium and alkalinity in the water contributes to faster stony coral growth, which is relevant in this case, because even though Pipe Organs are technically soft corals, remember they still have that skeleton to take care of like stony corals do.
Raising both calcium and alkalinity together can be tricky because of how they interact. Calcium ions and carbonate want to react with one another. Addition of a calcium supplements often comes with a corresponding fall in alkalinity levels and vice versa. If you are experiencing this in your systems, it is normal, but wild swings are not. If you are experiencing dramatic swings of calcium and alkalinity every time you use an additive, you may want to look at your Magnesium levels.
So why Magnesium? Magnesium behaves chemically similar to calcium. It can bind up carbonate ions thus increasing the overall bioavailability of alkalinity compounds in the water. If you are tweaking calcium and alkalinity and getting strange results, you may want to make sure it is not your magnesium level that is low. In the ocean, Magnesium sits at about 1350 ppm.
Candy Canes form branching units, similar to Euphyllia. Unlike Euphyllia that grows buds at the base of the stalk, Candy Canes replicate by means of longitudinal fission. In layman’s terms that means where a single polyp starts to form 2 mouths and eventually splits into 2 separate polyps.
To propagate these corals, it’s a straightforward process to clip the individual branches and glue them down to a plug. To do this cutting, we like to use a band saw so we can get a very flat base that’s much easier to glue down
Ok, that about does it for Candy Cane corals. Go ahead and check out the Candy Canes we have in stock here at Tidal Gardens if you are interested in adding some to your tank.
I hope you found this information helpful, and as always, Happy Reefing!