Candy Cane Coral (Caulastrea Furcata): Ultimate Care Guide

Caulastrea furcata, often known as candy cane, trumpet, or bullseye coral, is a bright and colorful LPS (large polyp stony) coral. Characterized by striped polyps inspiring its common name, it can be found in vivid yellow, green, red, or blueish brown. Each branching polyps contains a neon green mouth. Some common varieties available to purchase are Kryptonite, Orange, Green, and Alien Eye Candy Cane Coral.

Candy Canes originate from the Indo-Pacific Ocean from Fiji to Australia and the surrounding waters. In the wild, they can usually be found in shallow waters, tide pools and even lagoons. Though they prefer moderate water flow and lighting, they can flourish in a variety of conditions making them perfect for a beginner hobbyist.

In this article, we will talk you through everything you need to know to care for your Candy Canes and keep your saltwater aquarium looking vibrant and healthy.

Candy Cane Coral Care

Candy Cane Coral is extremely easy to keep as it is a hardy coral, meaning it’s resistant to variations in lighting, flow, and other minor changes in its environment. This makes it forgiving to mistakes commonly made by novices and a great choice whether you are experienced or just starting out.

Are Candy Cane Coral Aggressive?

Candy Cane Coral is considered not very aggressive since it has relatively short (2 inch) sweeping tentacles, unlike many other LPS corals. However, it could still sting corals which are close by, so it is important it has plenty of room to grow. As it is one of the fastest growing corals you should aim to give it around 6 inches of space at a minimum.

Candy Cane Coral (Caulastrea Furcata)
Candy Cane Coral (Caulastrea Furcata)

Candy Cane Coral Placement

The best placement for Candy Cane Coral is in an area of moderate lighting and flow, although it can also thrive in low flow or light intensity. For this reason, it is ideally placed at the bottom of your tank and no higher than the middle. You can place it directly on the sand bed as sand is its preferred substrate.

If the flow is too high, it can damage the fleshiness of the polyps; too low and the coral will need more help with feeding, although this isn’t an issue if you plan to feed it regularly yourself. To ensure it takes well to your desired placement it’s recommended to start with a darker and lower flow part of your tank and gradually move it over the course of a few weeks.

Candy Cane Coral Lighting Requirement

Candy Cane Coral does not have a high lighting requirement, responding best to low-to-moderate intensity. Anything from 30 to 150 PAR is acceptable, though between 50-70 is recommended. Avoid more than 150 though as light intensity that’s too high could bleach or irritate the coral.

Placing your Candy Cane Coral towards the edges of your tank can help to soften the intensity it’s exposed to. Alternatively, a shaded area can be a good spot to provide the right conditions too.

Candy Cane Coral Temperature

The temperature preferred by Candy Cane Coral is between 75°C-82°C/24°C-28°C. Higher temperatures cause thermal stress, resulting in much of the zooxanthellae algae being expelled and depriving the coral of the nutrients they provide.

Candy Cane Coral pH

A pH range of 8.1-8.4 is ideal for Candy Cane Coral. The calcium levels should also be kept between 350-420ppm. As it is an LPS coral, these parameters are essential to prevent erosion of the coral’s hard skeleton and to keep it strong and healthy.

Candy Cane Coral Growth Rate

Candy Cane Coral has a fast growth rate, especially compared to other corals. This is particularly true when it is fed on a regular basis. The exact growth speed will depend on the available nutrients, light and space, including nearby competition and rocks which could limit the area it spreads.

Candy Canes grow by dividing a polyp into two identical polyps. This is a big reason why their growth is so rapid if their environment allows it, as their polyps can quickly multiply, and the process can occur with multiple polyps simultaneously.

Candy Cane Coral Growth Height

The growth height of Candy Cane Coral can depend on a number of factors from the amount of food to the light intensity it receives, just like its growth rate. In the average aquarium you can probably expect it to grow up to several inches tall. However, due to their variability it’s difficult to predict exactly how high Candy Canes will grow.

What Do Candy Cane Coral Feed On?

In general, Candy Cane Coral is happy to feed on a variety. Bitesize meaty food is most suitable, such as prawns, mysis shrimp and small pieces of krill. It will also accept LPS pellets and other coral foods, or even pellets and flakes intended for fish.

When feeding your Candy Canes, you’ll get the best results if you use some form of feeding apparatus, or even a regular turkey baster. Try to place the food directly into the mouths to make it easiest for the sweeping tentacles to reach. This also helps to prevent your fish from stealing it – they are sometimes known to harass the coral by biting it to access the food inside if given the opportunity.

It’s useful to remember that Candy Canes are nocturnal, so the tentacles will naturally come out at night, or when the lights are off. While they extend during the day if they detect food nearby, strategic timing can speed up the process. You should aim to spot feed them 2-3 times a week.

In some cases, you may not need to directly feed your Candy Cane Coral at all. Providing that the flow isn’t too low, and you feed the rest of your tank heavily enough, it may get enough nutrients on its own. It will also benefit from its symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae algae living in its surface tissues photosynthesizing and giving another source of nutrients. However, spot feeding Candy Canes can help them to grow faster and appear brighter in color, so it’s up to you which approach will achieve your desired effect.

How to Split Candy Cane Coral

In order to split Candy Cane Coral, look for an outer branch for easy access and ensure you cut as far away from the polyps as you can to avoid damaging them. Glue the piece to a frag plug or rock to allow it to heal.

Bone cutters or a band saw work well as a cutting tool – the latter has the advantage of creating a flat base which is helpful when gluing. After a couple of weeks of healing the frags should be ready to be traded or even sold.

Candy Cane Coral Dying

If your Candy Cane Coral is dying you will notice a change in appearance – in particular, the polyps not opening or puffing up is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. In some cases, the flesh may recede, causing the skeleton to show. You may also see changes in color.

Don’t panic if you notice these symptoms however, as with careful monitoring you should be able to get your Candy Canes back to being happy and healthy. The most common cause of these changes is a chemical composition in the water that is harmful to Caulastrea. To diagnose the problem, start by measuring the levels of calcium, magnesium, nitrates, and water hardness. The ideal ranges for these variables are as follows:

  • Calcium: 350-420ppm
  • Magnesium: ~1350ppm
  • Nitrates: <10ppm
  • Water hardness: 8°-12° dH

If your water falls within these recommendations, there could be an issue with the temperature or pH. As previously mentioned, Candy Canes require a temperature of between 75°C-82°C/24°C-28°C and alkalinity ranging from 8.1-8.4 pH. Check the light intensity too as anything higher than 150 PAR can cause the polyps to retreat. If the water flow is too high, it can also damage the coral.

It’s also possible that the coral is simply adjusting to recent changes in conditions. If you have moved it to a different spot in the tank, replaced your lighting or made other alterations, it can affect the appearance. If this is the case, your Caulastrea should recover quickly on its own.

Sometimes the cause is other livestock in your tank. Try observing your Candy Canes to spot fish or other coral bullying them, especially around feeding time. If this is the case you may be underfeeding your fish, or there may not be sufficient space between your corals. Keep in mind though that at times this behavior from fish is unavoidable and you might need to manage the problem instead of attempting to prevent it entirely.

Finally, if none of the above methods prove successful, you may need to resort to fragging a healthy segment and starting over.

That concludes our guide to Candy Cane Coral! If you found it helpful, be sure to check out our other articles to help make your aquarium the best it can be.