The Fish Guru

The Beauty and Challenge of Caring for Acropora Coral

Acropora Coral: A Comprehensive Guide

Coral reefs serve a crucial role in maintaining ocean biodiversity, and one of the most iconic corals you’ll find on a reef is the Acropora. This stunning branching coral is a staple of the Indo-Pacific and can also be found in the Caribbean.

In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the Acropora coral, including its appearance, habitat, care, and fragging techniques.

Origins and Habitat

The Acropora coral is found in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean regions. In the Indo-Pacific, you’ll find these corals in the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Triangle, and the Red Sea.

While in the Caribbean, they are often referred to as the staghorn coral, elkhorn coral, or fused staghorn coral. The Acropora serves an essential role in the ecosystem, providing shelter for microscopic life and serving as a foundation for the reef’s calcium carbonate backbone.

Unfortunately, they’re increasingly threatened by fishing trawlers, ship anchors, and climate change, which leads to the death of reefs.


Acropora is a branching coral that features elongated polyps. The polyps located on the outer edge of the branches are radial corallite, while the axial corallite is located near the base of the branches.

The coral can grow to be very tall and bushy, covering large areas of the reef.

Placement in the Aquarium

It’s important to place the Acropora in the top or middle area of your tank, as they thrive in high light settings. Furthermore, they require a considerable amount of water flow to stay healthy.

This can be achieved with a strong powerhead and the right placement within the tank.


Acropora corals are known to be quite aggressive towards other coral. This is because they have long and reaching sweeper tentacles that can cause tissue damage to neighboring coral.

Therefore, it’s best to keep them away from other corals in your aquarium.


Maintaining the Acropora coral is difficult, making it suitable for experienced reef aquarists. The lighting must be strong, providing a PAR rating between 250 and 350.

They can be sustained with LED, T5 fluorescents, and metal halides when adequately spaced from the coral. Water flow should be high and random to simulate the natural sea currents.

Water parameters such as alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, nitrate, and phosphate should also be monitored to keep the coral healthy. Keeping water chemistry stable is essential, which can be achieved with automated dosing using tools like the Neptune Trident.


Zooxanthellae in Acropora coral help provide a significant portion of the nutrients they require. However, they are still capable of broadcast feeding on tiny planktonic organisms in your tank.

It’s best to feed the coral twice a week with a high-quality reef plankton mix to keep them healthy and happy.


Fragging an Acropora coral can be profitable, but it’s not recommended for beginners. The process involves the use of an electric saw or bone cutter, which causes minimal damage to the coral while allowing you to create clones for sale or propagation.

Once fragged, it’s essential to dip them in a coral dip to prevent disease.


Acropora coral will expel zooxanthellae in response to unfavorable water chemistry conditions. This process is known as bleaching and can cause the coral to lose its vibrant color.

From there, the coral can either recover or die, depending on the environmental conditions.


In conclusion, the Acropora coral is a stunning species that requires a lot of attention and care. They are not recommended for beginners but are an excellent opportunity for experienced reef aquarists to take on a challenging and rewarding addition to their tank.

The most important aspect of coral care is maintaining stable water chemistry, providing adequate lighting, and providing strong and unpredictable water flow. With these requirements met, your Acropora coral can thrive in your aquarium and provide a glimpse into the intricate beauty of life on the reef.

Appearance and

Placement in the Aquarium

Acropora Coral is a branching coral that is characterized by elongated and tapered polyps. These polyps are connected by a mass called coenosteum, which is composed of calcium carbonate.

The corals growth pattern forms a unique structure that is both beautiful and functional.

The coral also has two types of polyps the radial corallite, located on the outermost edge of the branch, and the axial corallite, found near the base of the branch.

The radial corallite can be distinguished by its distinct pattern of alternating long and short petals around a central mouth. In contrast, the axial corallite has a similar appearance to the radial corallite but with shorter petals.

The intricate design and bright colors of the Acropora coral make them an excellent addition to any reef tank. However, they require specific conditions to stay healthy and thrive.

When placing Acropora coral in your tank, it’s essential to consider the lighting and water flow within your aquarium. They require a high light setting to photosynthesize effectively, which means they must be placed in the middle or top of your tank.

Acropora also requires strong and random water flow to simulate natural ocean currents to achieve optimal health.


Maintaining Acropora coral is notoriously challenging and requires careful attention to specific parameters to provide the necessary conditions for survival. The lighting for Acropora coral should provide a PAR rating between 250 and 350, which can be accomplished with LED, T5 fluorescents, and metal halides when correctly spaced from the coral.

Ensure that the lighting source is angled appropriately to cover the entire coral, preventing the coral’s underside from shading out.

Water flow is also essential for the Acropora coral’s survival as they require a considerable amount of water flow to thrive.

Strong and unpredictable water flow helps the coral rid themselves of detritus and other waste materials also preventing stagnant areas to form. This can be facilitated by a powerhead or wavemaker to create the necessary flow without pointing directly at the coral.

Water parameters must also be carefully monitored when maintaining the Acropora coral. The ideal water parameters are alkalinity between 7-11 dKH, calcium concentration between 350-450 ppm, magnesium between 1200-1400 ppm, and a phosphate value of less than 0.02 ppm.

Nitrate should be kept below 5ppm to prevent excess algae growth. Regular monitoring of these parameters is essential, with a reliable test kit and maintaining stability over time being critical to the coral’s health.

Dosing the aquarium with supplements like calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity is essential to maintaining water parameters. It’s vital to keep these parameters stable as fluctuations can cause trauma and detrimentally effect the coral.

Automated dosing is an excellent way to maintain stability, as dosing needs to be consistent to prevent any possibility of fluctuations occurring. Tools such as the Neptune Trident drastically simplify this process, taking measurements and automatically dosing as necessary.

Feeding and


Zooxanthellae living within Acropora provide them with a portion of their dietary requirements. However, our aquariums don’t provide enough concentrations of zooxanthellae for sustained health.

As such, Acropora will still require supplemental feeding at least twice a week. A high-quality reef plankton mix should be used to feed the coral, simulating their natural diet.

Lastly, fragging Acropora can be a profitable venture, although it’s not recommended for beginners. The process involves electric sawing or bone-cutting, causing minimal damage to the coral while allowing you to create clones for sale or propagation.

Once fragged, it’s the coral should soak in a coral dip to prevent disease spread.


Acropora Coral is a unique and beautiful coral species, adding a unique dynamic to any reef aquarium. While they are not recommended for beginners, maintaining and caring for Acropora Coral can be incredibly rewarding and allows expansion into more complicated reef aquatics.

Attention to lighting, water flow, water parameters, dosing, feeding, and fragging techniques are essential to keep your coral healthy and beautiful. With proper care, Acropora Coral can thrive in your aquarium for many years, providing a glimpse into the intricate beauty of life on the reef.


Bleaching is a natural process that occurs when corals expel the symbiotic algae, known as zooxanthellae when the coral becomes stressed. The algae provide the coral with their primary source of energy through photosynthesis, giving them their bright and vibrant colors.

However, when the relationship between the coral and algae becomes imbalanced, due to changes in temperature, light, water quality, or other water parameters, the coral expels the algae, causing the coral to appear dull and white. Definition and Causes of


The primary cause of bleaching is stress on the coral. This stress is brought on by changes in water temperatures, light levels, or other water parameters, which disrupt the balance of the relationship between the coral and its symbiotic algae.

The coral then expels the algae from its polyps, leaving them white and lifeless.

Bleaching can happen naturally, but scientists have noted increasingly frequent and widespread cases of bleaching recently, as the Earth’s climate rapidly changes. Increases in seawater temperature, pollution, and overfishing are also causing stress to the delicate balance of the coral reef environment, leading to more significant incidents of bleaching in recent years.

Preventing and Addressing


Preventing and addressing bleaching is essential to maintaining the health and vitality of corals in our tanks. The key to preventing bleaching is to maintain stability in the water parameters of your aquarium.

Regular testing of water parameters, especially temperature, alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, nitrate, and phosphate, is crucial to avoiding coral stress and the possibility of bleaching.

Additionally, maintaining the proper amount of lighting and water flow in your aquarium is vital to prevent bleaching.

Corals require specific light and flow conditions to photosynthesize and maintain a healthy symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae. Failing to provide these optimal conditions can lead to stress and, ultimately, bleaching.

Dosing your aquarium with calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity supplements is beneficial in preventing bleaching and maintaining the coral’s health. These supplements help keep the water chemistry stable, preventing fluctuations that can cause stress and bleaching.

In cases where bleaching has already occurred, addressing the issue requires fast and careful intervention. First, its important to identify the cause of the bleaching and try to mitigate the stress factors, whether that be temperature, lighting, or pollution.

Additionally, providing optimal conditions such as the proper lighting, temperature, and water flow, combined with targeted supplement dosing, can help the coral recover and re-establish a healthy relationship with the zooxanthellae. Overall, preventing and addressing bleaching is a critical aspect of maintaining a healthy coral reef ecosystem in your aquarium.

It requires careful attention to water parameters, light, and flow, and fast intervention in the event that bleaching occurs. By working to prevent bleaching in your aquarium, you can help support the continued growth and sustainability of these vital and beautiful creatures.

In summary, the article covers all aspects of Acropora coral care and maintenance, from appearance to placement in the aquarium, maintenance, feeding, fragging, and bleaching. Acropora coral is a beautiful addition to any reef tank that requires specific conditions to thrive.

The care and maintenance of this delicate and unique species can be challenging but ultimately rewarding for experienced reef aquarists. Preventing and addressing bleaching is essential to maintain the health and vitality of corals in our tank, requiring consistency in water parameters, including a proper amount of lighting, water flow, and dosing supplements.

By maintaining stable water chemistry conditions, providing targeted supplements, and paying attention to coral stress factors, you can maintain a flourishing Acropora coral ecosystem in your aquarium. The care of Acropora coral is a necessary and rewarding pursuit, providing valuable insights into the intricacies of life on reefs and the importance of proper environmental conditions for our aquatic pets.

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