Carnation Tree Coral Aquarium Care, Lighting Requirements and Feeding Information
The Carnation Tree Coral or as it is often commonly known as, the Dendronephthya Carnation, Cauliflower Soft Coral or Strawberry Soft Coral is both a very attractive coral and also very peaceful in nature. This species can differ in appearance quite a bit with over 250 different identified Dendronephthya species, but is is often found in a variety of flamboyant colors, with red, pink and orange being the most common. It is normally sold attached to a small piece of live rock or coral rubble, which can then be placed within the reef aquarium pretty much any location that has low lighting and strong water current. The Carnation Tree Coral requires excellent water conditions with very low nitrate and phosphate levels; as well as, frequent feedings of phytoplankton based foods. This combination is difficult to achieve for most hobbyists, which makes this species the domain of the expert hobbyist.
While its requirements of low lighting and medium to strong water movement is not unusual, what makes the Carnation Tree Coral difficult to keep is its feeding requirements. It is necessary to have a constant current with an abundance of phytoplankton within, so that the Carnation Tree Coral can be supplied with the necessary nutrition. Unlike many other species the Carnation Tree Coral does not contain symbiotic algae zooxanthellae, thus it needs to get all of its nutrition from micro-foods that it catches from the water currents. This makes it difficult to maintain in the reef aquarium, and should only be housed in an established reef aquarium, by an advanced marine aquarium hobbyist. For continued good health, it will also require the addition of strontium, iodine, and other trace elements to the water.
The Carnation Tree Corals requirements of multiple feedings of meaty foods per day and excellent water quality consisting of very low nitrates and phosphates makes them difficult to keep in many aquarium setups. Larger established reef aquariums with plenty of live sand and live rock are ideal for keeping NPS Corals as they are able to both provide the necessary food sources for filter feeding corals and provide excellent water quality. The large amount of de-nitrification provided by the bacteria living on the live rock/sand is critical for keeping sensitive coral species, as they fully breakdown waste within the aquarium without producing high levels of nitrates. Protein skimmers are also critical in NPS Coral setups as they remove waste products before they have a chance to break down. It is important to not introduce phosphate, nitrate or silicate via water changes or top-off water, thus a RO/DI unit should be used for all water being introduced into the NPS Coral reef aquarium.
The Carnation Tree Coral does not contain the symbiotic algae zooxanthellae; therefore, its diet must include meaty foods delivered either by the water currents or a pipette. Ideally they should be able to filter feed on nutrient rich waters containing phytoplankton and photosynthesizing microscopic organisms that are found inhabiting the upper sunlit areas of the ocean. Only hobbyists with large mature reef systems will be able to sustain enough phytoplankton to meet the needs of NPS Corals. Hobbyists with smaller or less established aquariums will need to feed their NPS Corals foods designed for filter feeding invertebrates. Suitable foods include: cyclop-eeze, baby brine shrimp, plankton and phytoplankton based food designed for corals. These micro-foods must also be available often within the water currents, so that the Carnation Tree Coral can feed many times each day. Only expert reef aquarium hobbyists with mature reef systems will have success keeping this coral due to its rather stringent feeding and pristine water requirements.