Trumpet Coral Care Guide for Absolute Beginners

Trumpet corals, aka candy cane, are generally considered a very beginner-friendly large polyp stony species. Even aquarists that haven’t had a lot of practice with LPS won’t have any trouble with candy cane corals. If you want to dabble in reef-keeping, this species is your golden ticket. 

Basic Information

Scientific name: The CaulastreaCommon name: Trumpet or Candy Cane СoralType of Coral: LPS Coral
Average size:up to 5 inches Optimal Spacing: 3 to 5 inchesСomplexity: Easy

Make sure to read the rest of the article to discover important tips, exact water parameters, and tricks related to trumpet coral.

Natural Habitat and Appearance

The Caulastrea Trumpet Coral is often called Candy Cane, Candy, Bullseye Coral. The name, as is often the case in the scientific world, comes from the physiological structure. Kaulos — stalk, and aster — star. There are star-like outgrowths at the ends of the stalks. The lush round polyps range from lighter colors such as bright green or yellow to darker shades such as brown, teal. This is particularly true of aquacultured corals from the Tonga Islands. Although the color palette varies depending on habitat and conditions, the entire family shares a common white tip.

Over the years of evolution, the trumpet coral species have learned to survive, but unlike many corals, it does not appear to be overly aggressive. Although this species has sweeping tentacles, it poses little threat to its neighbors. The length of the tentacles varies depending on the size of the coral itself. Starting at 0.5″ (aquacultured) and ending with very large fragments, which can reach up to 5.5″.

Placement in a Reef Tank

Trumpet coral isn’t a highly sensitive species. Meaning that you can put it literally anywhere within the tank. But what I recommend is to place the coral close to the bottom. As trumpet corals don’t require as much in the way of lighting, they make a good candidate for placement towards the bottom. High turbulence is not required either.

You can literally place this coral all over the tank. As long as you stick to the specific water parameters, proper lightning, and other preferable conditions, your trumpet coral will feel great. 

Bear in mind that even though this coral is peaceful, you should keep it distanced. A couple of inches either can make you happy, or bring a headache… To avoid unwanted consequences, keep trumpet coral 3 to 5 inches away from any other species. At least for the first 2 months. When the adaptation period passes, the flora and fauna in your aquarium will get used to each other. This can manifest itself, among other things, in a shorter distance, denser growth. If you notice corals settling too close or even growing one on top of the other, there is nothing wrong with that. Although in that case, there is a question of aesthetics and beauty, it’s your decision whether to separate or leave as is.

Water Quality

You share at least one common thing with corals — water is as important for them, as for you. Imagine drinking polluted, technical water from an industrial waste discharge pipe. It’s probably not a good idea. Corals feel the same if you don’t pay attention to water quality. Poor water = inevitable stress. Which can cause bleaching, or even death.

Water quality is a general term, to be more specific, let’s talk about Calcium, Alkalinity, pH, temperature, water flow. Each of these parameters can affect the overall health of your reef tank.

Calcium

Trumpet coral prefers 400ppm to 450 ppm of calcium. Some enthusiasts leverage 370ppm. You can capitalize on it, start with the lowest of 370ppm, and then gradually increase it all the way up to 450 ppm. Normally you may want to add as little as 5 ppm every other day, or 10 ppm twice a week. However, it’s important not to overdo weekly ppm. Make a pause if needed (caught some bad appearance of your trumpet corals, for example). 2 or 3 days should be more than enough for the coral to adjust.

Alkalinity 

It’s recommended to float around 420 to 450 ppm for your trumpet. Alkalinity shares the same rule with calcium. Keep it balanced, adjust slow, start from the bottom value. I prefer launching from the recommended 420 ppm, gradually increasing it until I reach a desirable value. How do I determine when the ppm is ok? Watch your coral. If it seems healthy — you’re doing great.

Hint: another way to measure alkalinity is meq\L. Here is a calculator

pH (power of hydrogen)

Do you think water consists of oxygen and hydrogen? You’re right. However, water has another important parameter which is pH. And this is huge in terms of reef-keeping. Ideally, you want 8.2 to 8.4 pH for a trumpet coral. Some swings from 8 to 8.5 are acceptable (although not desirable)

What if your pH is broken? Here is a quick tip 

Baking soda helps to raise pH, white vinegar and lemon juice drops it down. As well as pH down chemicals. No matter how you’ve decided to adjust pH — make it slow and steady. Step by step approach. That is the key. Changing pH from 7 to 8.5 for trumpet coral is the same as jumping into an ice hole, climbing out, and walking over hot coals for you. The change may not kill the coral instantly but stress… causes some real issues.

Schedule a couple of partial water changes. Big ones maybe about 25% of water to be changed, while small ones are 10%. Consider a partial change every other week. But this method of regulation should not be abused. Changing the water is not a panacea. Animals need a rest, so don’t change the water too often.

Temperature and Flow

Excessive heat can kill the coral, while too cold an environment will damage the tissue by shrinking it. The natural range for a trumpet coral is 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Regarding water flow, set your water circulation system to medium. Too much turbulence damages the tissue and causes unnecessary stress to the coral. Lack of water flow may cause inflammation, pests, pollution.

Useful tip: If you have many species, consider replacing them to find balance. Some species may require high water flow, then put them in the most active areas of the tank. More passive corals may benefit from settling behind some rocks or use some other corals to body-block passive species.

Lighting

Trumpet corals can be kept under a wide variety of lights. Here is how they can change coloration due to lights. (2 to 4 small photos. Different colors)

Unless you fail to follow general tips for optimal coral-keeping, this species won’t be harmed. Both $1000 LED T5 hybrid, or $30 T5 models fit just well when dealing with trumpet corals. Lighting is just not the major factor, that’s all. 

However, this species can be capricious to overexposure. I’ve made a research about the best PAR level, it’s 50 to 75 PAR. This range seems to be the sweetest spot for growth and coloration. I don’t recommend overdoing this range.

Talking about spectrum, I’d stick to the 420 to 460nm range. This is a solid option for the majority of species. Trumpet coral included. As for the source, any should be good. Be it T5, halides, or LEDs. The only rule to keep in mind is “Don’t overdo” Even this tolerant and undemanding species can suffer to death because of aggressive lights. I personally stick to T5 and expose the corals for 60% of the day. Generally, I combine 8 hours of complete rest (in total darkness) with 16 hours of combined exposure. The blue part of the spectrum + white part. 

Based on the opinion of 279 reef-keepers, the best option is to mix blue and white. Even though 50\50 is a good ratio to consider, I prefer using 55\45 with a slight dominance of the blue.  

Reference

Trumpet Coral Threats (Based on the Frequency of Complaints)

Bleaching & Opening

The biggest headache of all coral-lovers… Provide coral with nearly perfect water and forget about bleaching, not-openings, retraction, etc. To do so, consider partial water changes with a weekly cadence. Use supplies if needed (calcium, magnesium, etc). You can tell whether your coral is healthy or not by simply looking at it. Pay attention to the appearance, color, size. If something looks odd, the chances are your coral isn’t OK. Change conditions, experiment with lightning, temperature. FIND SOME BALANCE!

Infections

Infections can cause a lot of inconveniences. Most often the infection comes to the aquarium from outside. For example, when you bought a new coral and immediately put it in the tank. However, there are nearly millions of roads untraveled for infections. One way or another, that day will come… Someday you’ll find either flatworms, bugs, or something else.

To avoid that, use disinfectant solutions. If you have already noticed an infection inside the tank, fence off the infected coral and remove it from the water. Cut or peel off the infection manually. Once you’ve done that, dip the coral. A couple of minutes should be fine.

The next step is to do freshwater dipping. A 2-minute freshwater bath can prevent flatworms, brown jelly infections, and aiptasia.

Compatibility with Other Species

Trumpet corals are peaceful in nature. The species won’t declare war on any neighbor. Even if other corals settle too close. However, it’s better to keep distance. 

Trumpet corals feel great almost in any company. The only exception would be aggressive corals. They can attack peaceful species as trumpet corals. Aggressive corals such as Frogspawn, Hammer, Torch, Bubble, Flowerpot, or Tooth corals can cause some problems within your tank. Make sure to provide enough space to prevent war. Find more details about the aggressiveness of corals in this article about Hammer coral.

Tip: Check whether or not the coral is aggressive. If not, place it anywhere in the range of at least 3 inches without any problems. If the intended coral is hostile in nature, settle it as far as 8 to 10 inches to prevent possible sweeper attacks & toxin release.

Trumpet corals are great companions for fish as well. Any reef-safe fish will pair well with the species. The green mandarin, clownfish, cardinalfish — just to begin. Some other fish as dwarf angels, puffer, Foxface may cause a ruckus.

Fragging Trumpet Coral

Fragging trumpet coral is fairly easy. However, you should not forget about protection. Get a pair of gloves and goggles to prevent accidents.

To frag trumpet corals you can use a whole bunch of instruments. That could be dremel, disc, bone cutters, clippers, etc. As long as you do a clear cut, the instrument doesn’t really make any difference. With a proper technique, you can use any of them. I prefer clippers, as they require almost no preparation. 

Once you’ve cut a trumpet coral, use Iodine disinfectant to prevent pests, infections. Disinfectant is the ultimate weapon against pests, and it also helps in healing. Tissues of the coral tend to heal faster if iodine was applied. You can use a separate container and dip the coral, or alternatively, get a turkey baster to spread the solution over damaged tissues. Avoid getting iodine on healthy tissue, it can cause irritation

After the recovery stage, you’re all set up to use glue. Dry your coral with a towel and spread the glue (or two-part epoxy, it’s up to you). The superglue usually takes 1 or 2 minutes to set. That’s pretty much the end of fragging. Of course, you should observe the frag. Pay attention to whether the frag has shifted (rare case if you’ve done a good cut and used glue). The whole procedure takes somewhere around 1 to 3 weeks.

Feeding Trumpet Coral

Trumpet coral is filter-feeding coral. Meaning that there is no need for targeted feeding. The main source of energy for trumpet coral is a special alga called zooxanthellae. This alga lives inside the coral, generating energy from the sun’s light. About 90% of the energy received is a credit to algae. If you want to improve the growth rate, the health of the coral, make sure to provide proper water quality, lightning, and supplements. 

Targeted feeding may improve the growth rate as well. Even though it’s not scientifically proved, some reef-keepers share their experience. They claim that feeding the coral with meaty food such as brine shrimps, krill, copepods affected the growth rate and the overall health of the coral. 

Overall, trumpet coral is out of the “fancy” range. There are 3 reasons why this coral makes a good choice for rookies:

  1. Gives you some room for experiments. You won’t harm the coral seriously by putting on the wrong calcium, alkalinity, etc. At least, they won’t suffer as much as other species. 
  2. They are not as aggressive as some other LPS corals. Even though the spacing is important for every coral, aggressive ones require much more space (because of their ability to extend sweeper tentacles to kill off the neighbors). Well, that’s not the case for trumpet corals. You can keep them in a relatively small tank, which is perfect for beginners.
  3. The chances are you won’t face dramas related to lighting. Trumpet corals can easily adjust to almost any lightning (that doesn’t mean you should neglect general reef-keeping tips about lightning). From vibrant and colorful under one set of lights only to look drab and lifeless under another kind of lights. Candy canes are remarkably consistent in their appearance. As I already told you, the drama queen title is not about this species.  

Trumpet coral has to be seen and admired, like a serpent in a transparent cage. If you aren’t really sure about the choice, make sure to read about another beginner-friendly coral — Green Star Polyp Coral

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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