Torch coral is a favorite of many home aquarists. The way that a torch coral’s tentacles will seem to languish in the water’s movement can be mesmerizing. The colors are spectacular, and the formation of branches makes it a sight to see.
They can be easily cared for and can be happy self-sufficient tank additions. Of course, you need to understand their preferences to be able to do this, but this guide can help with that. Everything you need to know to care for a torch coral properly is included so you can enjoy the magic of torch coral too.
Torch Coral Basics
The scientific name for torch coral is Euphyllia Glabrescins. Hammer and Frogspawn corals are also members of the Euphyllia species and are very similar to Torch corals. Torch corals are LPS corals. LPS, or Large Polyp Stony, corals are characterized by stony skeletons formed from calcium carbonate with large fleshy polyps. They are vital as the builders of reef structures in the warmer oceans around the globe.
Torch coral can be found in the Indo-Pacific, Australian, and Indonesian regions of the world and enjoy tropical temperatures, like most other corals we see in fish tanks. They prefer warmer water and moderate current, like they would in the wild.
Torch Coral looks like clusters of long tentacles sprouting from a stony, tree-like base. The tentacles are elongated polyps. These long bodies will be a different color than the tips, and the contrast creates the illusion or likeness to a lit torch. The bodies can be blue-grey, purple, yellow, or brown and the tips are often green, white, or pink.
Torches come in rarer color combos, and the prettier they are, the more expensive they will be. These will tend to run you around $150 on average, and their rarity has driven this price up as torches are becoming harder to come by.
Torch corals are known to be a temperamental species. In addition to the polyps present, they have long, thin, sweeper tentacles that emerge at night to check out the environment, gather food, and fend off threats. These sweeper tentacles have nematocysts on the tips, which can deliver powerful stings to other corals they consider dangerous—torches like their space.
Tank Expectations for Torches to Thrive
There are a particular set of guidelines that a torch coral requires. These optimal conditions should light a fire under the Torch coral, and they should grow well. Torches can be susceptible to sudden changes, so you must keep the water and environment consistent for the best results.
Anyone who has kept an aquarium will know that maintaining the creatures is all a matter of keeping the water to meet their needs. FIshkeeping is water-keeping is an expression used to represent this often among hobbyists. Like all corals, torches live or die by parameters. Important parameters include:
Test your tank regularly once the bioload has been established, and try not to add too many things to avoid spikes. This testing is critical with Torch coral as any sudden shift in parameters will affect them negatively.
Salinity, pH, Alkalinity, and You
Test your salinity using a refractometer. You should test this most often as the evaporation from the tank setup will change concentrations of trace elements in the salt water. Like most corals and fish, Torches want the salinity to measure 1.025 or 35 ppt.
The water in the tank shouldn’t be too acidic or too alkaline. The pH should be between 8.0 and 8.4, with 8.2 being the goal. Reef salt mix should help keep the levels here if you mix your saltwater. The salt also helps keep alkalinity stable between 8-12 dKh, ideal for Torches.
Nitrates and Phosphates
These two parameters are exceedingly crucial for the health of the coral, especially phosphates. Phosphates and nitrates will halt growth and cause retraction of Euphyilla polyps. They can cause algae blooms in the tank and can negatively affect everything. The nitrates should be less than 20 ppm, and the phosphates less than 0.1 ppm.
Some hobbyists dose their tanks with calcium and magnesium, which are needed to help Torch coral grow. Calcium is essential to a stony coral; without it, the skeletons will not retain the rigid structure the animal needs to survive. If you buy high-quality water or mix your own with quality reef salt, these parameters should remain stable in the tank, and you may not need to dose.
Be sure to test the levels at least once a week, if not more, before and after adding anything.
The calcium should sit around 400 ppm, with the full range spanning 350 ppm-450 ppm. The value is stable from test to test; anywhere in the range is acceptable. Magnesium should register anywhere from 1260-1350 ppm in the tank. Magnesium will allow the coral to properly utilize the calcium needed for their skeletons, as humans do.
The way the inside of the tank looks is as important as the water conditions and is not just for aesthetics. The components in the tank make up the world to the inhabitants. Torch Coral has obvious likes.
The substrate should the soft and sandy as torch coral prefers this to being on a rocky surface. The temperature can be around 75 degrees. Just keep it stable like the other parameters. Use a couple of circulation pumps to create a healthy flow for the Torch corals.
Flow and lighting are essential to Torches. They need moderate flow to keep their tentacles in motion and prevent the water from stagnating in the corners of the tank and causing disease. Torches like average flow, but be careful, as a too-robust flow will rip the polyps off the skeleton.
Lighting should be less intense and never be over 150 PAR for LED lights. If the lighting is too fierce, the coral may begin bleaching. They will expel the zooxanthellae, which help them photosynthesize and look pretty. Bleaching can be the beginning of the end for coral, so keep the lighting mild. You can also put Troch coral toward the ends of the tank where the light is less intense.
Size of the Tank
Tank size is also somewhat important here. It would be best if you had a big enough tank to house the Torch and enough room to have other marine life in the tank to avoid them. Usually, this means at least fifty gallons. A bigger tank means that the Torch has more room, which is generally the best for all. Fifty gallons also gives space to create the flow the Torch needs.
Take your time trying to figure out where the Torch should go in the tank. Starting at the bottom and adjusting the depth until it seems happiest. Or move it around the substrate until it has the optimal light and flow. It may take a little time, but slow adjustments and observation will lead you to the best conclusion.
Water changes can be the most tedious and least fun aspect of your tanks. With Torch coral, smaller, more frequent water changes are usually the best. They remove toxins and stabilize the parameters, and the torch coral is happy. You could try 5% weekly or 10% bi-weekly. This amount is the consensus and works well, but you must be consistent. And don’t forget to test before and after changing the water.
You may choose to feed if you want to encourage growth. If this is the case, once or twice a week is best, but no more. You can chop up meaty fish foods, use powdered food made specifically for coral, or even try something like Mysis shrimp. Just make sure it is meatyas Torch coral are carnivores.
Target feeding is best. Mix the food with some tank water and then use a pipette or turkey baster to suck some of the mixture up and gently squeeze it directly onto the Torch. You may want to turn off the circulation pumps for the duration of feeding to prevent food from being swept away from the coral.
Diseases and Other Problems
Torch Coral is a bit more sensitive than some coral, so remember this when you bring home a new piece. For any problems you notice, you may want to consider quarantining so that it doesn’t spread to anything else in the tank.
Always make sure that you check for any parasites that may have come home with the Torch. Even if you don’t see any, a coral dip is an excellent idea before introducing the coral into the tank. This dip will ensure that nothing unwanted joins the tank’s bio load to cause future problems. Common tank pests include aiptasia, flatworms, amphipods, and isopods; the dip will take care of these.
Tentacles not Extending
This problem is the topic of many reef blogs and forum posts. When the tentacles of the Torch don’t fully extend, you know the Torch is unhappy. It would help if you did a couple of things to figure out the cause. Check for parasites and check the parameters. Sensitive Torch coral retracts their tentacles due to:
- Too direct or intense lighting
- Changes in alkalinity
- Changes in pH
- Change in salinity
- Extreme nitrate or phosphate levels
- High water temperature
Any of these could be the cause, and fixing them should lead to the polyps returning to their extended state.
Brown Jelly Disease is when the polyps on the Torch will look covered in a viscous brown goo. The polyps will eventually seem to dissolve or wash away, and all left is the calcium carbonate skeleton. Brown Jelly causes are unknown, although too many nutrients from overfeeding could contribute, so remember the feeding guidelines above to keep the tank healthy.
All corals are subject to bleaching if they feel stress from something in the tank. Stressors are usually fairly obvious. The most common causes include the changes in parameters that cause the non-extension of tentacles listed above, especially too-direct or too-intense lighting. Torches do not respond well and will eject their zooxanthellae and bleach if the lighting is wrong.
Final Insights on Torch Coral
Torch corals are a delightful addition to any fish tank but should be considered carefully. Like any marine creature, you should decide if the coral will fit in with the other inhabitants in the aquarium. If you have any doubts or concerns about it going well, this may not be the right choice.
Conversely, if your tank meets the needs, a Torch will illuminate the aquarium with the vibrance of its gently swaying tentacles. You won’t be disappointed if you take the time and assess the situation reasonably.
Torches are beautiful, but not for every tank, so if you feel like it works, feel free to let the Torch coral be a brilliant addition to a healthy tank.
Other Tank Inhabitants
There will be other things in the tank beside the torch coral. It should go without saying that you want to try and find fish that don’t want the Torch as a delicious treat. Reef-safe fish are always a good choice. Be careful of other corals getting too close to it as it will sting them and cause the retraction of the flesh and the coral to expel the zooxanthellae.
Feel free to place any of these with your Torch coral:
- Damsel Fish
- Some Wrasses, but not all
Fish To Avoid
These fish are usually no-nos in a tank with coral, and it’s especially true with Torch. Torch coral doesn’t mix well with
- Parrot fish
These fish are probably gong to want to eat the Torch. You may also want to avoid clownfish, as they sometimes try to host a Torch. This leads to damaging the Torch, which can cause the death of the coral.
Torch coral doesn’t like other coral, except otherEuphyllia, like Hammers and Frogspawn. Any other coral risks being stung by the long sweeper tentacles that the Torch will extend in search of food and protection.
Avoid them in a mixed reef type of tank, or give Torch quite a bit of space. Otherwise, the Torch can sting and severely damage or kill other corals.
If you try them in a mixed reef, you may consider having a section of tank where the Torch is separate from the other coral or in the sandy substrate away from other coral in the tank, but there is always a chance for the territorial Torch to reach out and sting.
Torch corals do not need feeding. They will do fine in the tank if left to their own means. The nature of the coral and the symbiotic zooxanthellae make this possible. The zooxanthellae will photosynthesize and create food that feeds the coral, and the sweeper tentacles will supplement this by grabbing whatever other bits of meaty food they can out of the tank.