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Torch coral (Euphyllia glabrescens), also known as “pom-pom” or “trumpet” coral is a native to the Indo-Pacific region. It makes a glorious addition to a saltwater aquarium, being easy to care for and able to happily live in many different environments and water conditions.
Belonging to the family of Caryophyllidae, torch coral is classified as a large polyp stony coral (LPS). Corals that have a hard, stony exterior and long polyps that extend outwards and move with the flow of the water. Combined with their luminescence this gives them the appearance of a flickering underwater flame in certain conditions and lends them their name.
The base of the torch coral is a calcified skeleton with multiple long polyps emanating from it. These polyps can be as large as 10 inches across with another ten inches found in the tentacle that extends from it. The polyps are long with rounded tips that can possess a wide variety of colors. These can range from pink, gold, brown, or green. Using actinic lighting, the green color will become more pronounced and visible due to the chemical reactions in the coral.
Torch corals vary in size, as far as the main part goes. The “skeleton” of the coral can be as small as only half an inch to 4 to 5 inches long. On average they will live for 75 years if cared for properly.
Surprisingly, torch corals are active in the tank. They move about the tank depending on the conditions and currents, reacting swiftly to changes. The fact that they move allows them to hunt for their food. Their tentacles can catch prey and allow them to defend their territory against invaders.
Be warned that torch corals do have the capacity to sting. Like most LPS corals they have nematocysts like jellyfish. These small barbs will inject a toxin into those that get too close and annoy the coral.
This toxin is more of an irritant than a threat to a creature the size of a human and will only cause mild irritation in the skin, but some people have been known to become very allergic to it. Wearing gloves is recommended when working with them. Both for your safety and it is also kinder to the coral.
If a sting does occur the best treatment is to run the area under hot water and to also add vinegar. Barbs from corals are composed of calcium carbonate and will be dissolved by the vinegar.
Reef-safe fish that are not going to try and nibble on or bother the coral will usually be safe from attack and can exist quite safely with them.
Torch Coral Care
Torch coral are easy to care for. As long as the tank has good conditions it won’t require a lot of attention.
While torch corals can move about and catch food on their own they still rely on the water column for a majority of their nutrients. A common problem that a lot of aquarists have with them is actually keeping too clean of a tank. They need a good supply of nitrates and phosphates to sustain their vibrant colors. However, it’s also possible to give them too much of a good thing as well.
Nitrates should be kept under 40 PPM and phosphates below 0.1 PPM. They will also need steady levels of magnesium (1250-1350 PPM), calcium (350-450 PPM), and alkalinity (8-12 dKH) for their skeleton to continue to grow.
Most importantly though is to keep these levels stable and consistent.
Torch coral do not like bright light. It is best to keep them in places where the light level is moderate or slightly below moderate. Too much light will cause the polyps to retract as they try to escape the brightness. This can retard the growth of your coral.
The ideal temperature for a torch coral is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature of more or less can make it hard for your coral to survive.
Torch corals are technically a self-sufficient species that do not require feeding. They are photosynthetic, meaning other organisms exist within their tissues that create sugar from light. These organisms, called zooxanthellae, feed the torch coral while living inside them in a symbiotic relationship.
That being said, torch corals are also carnivorous and will grow more quickly or thrive better if given a meaty diet to sustain themselves with as well. Torch corals will consume bits of small meat, fish, even small shrimp or microplankton. Really they will eat any meat you put in front of them that is of an appropriate size.
If you choose to feed your torch coral, it is best to do so no more than once per week so they have time to consume the meal fully.
Torch Coral Placement in a Tank
Torch corals are best placed in an area of moderate flow and light. If the flow is too strong then the current can harm the corals swaying tentacles. If too weak however the coral cannot move about and catch food. The best way to recognize this is when the polyps are fully extended and gently swaying like in a breeze. If they are stiff or bending then the current is too strong.
As far as lighting goes, the best place is usually somewhere around the middle-to-lower ends of the tank. This would place them in reasonably bright light but not straight under the most intense areas.
Torch corals are also an aggressive species and will lash out and attack things that irritate them within their territory. Be sure to keep them away from other types of coral in the tank and give them plenty of room to themselves. However other corals within the same family (such as hammer and frogspawn corals) will be tolerated and can be grown alongside torch corals just fine. As well as others of their own kind.
Fragging Torch Corals
Torch corals, like other LPS corals, can reproduce both sexually and asexually. In the wilds, they will reproduce sexually by a male and female coral specimen releasing eggs and sperm into the environment simultaneously. Creating an egg that develops into a free-swimming larva. These planula larvae will settle on the substrate and become plankters. These plankters develop a small, initial polyp that begins to excrete calcium carbonate (limestone) which forms the skeleton and grows into a coral.
Asexual reproduction of torch coral in captivity is known as “fragging”, a slang term derived from fragmentation. Which is when coral is allowed to self-propagate by splitting it into fragments and forming new coral.
For torch coral, the best method is by using an electric saw or bone cutters. You want to cut carefully between the flesh and the skeleton and the parts where the coral branches off. Disinfect the area with iodine and superglue the frag to a plug.
The piece should be placed near the sand bed in a low or medium flow until your coral can acclimate to the tank conditions.
It is also possible for the torch coral to do this on its own. Corals in the Euphyllia genus will pinch off their tentacles that will float away and reattach elsewhere to form a new colony.
Torch Coral Problems
Bubble algae are small, dark greenish bubbles that form in the tank on rocks and other surfaces. In small numbers, they are not a huge problem. Dangers arise when they become numerous and cover your coral, causing suffocation.
Bubble algae spread quickly because each bubble contains spores that release when the bubble is broken. The spores spread through the water and allow the algae to propagate. If you see green bubbles about the size of a bead on your rocks in the aquarium you should remove that rock from the tank immediately. Be cautious of not breaking any of the bubbles, however.
Aiptasia is an anemone that quickly reproduces, is highly resistant to environmental conditions, and is very hard to remove. It can quickly become a nightmare in the aquarium. Aiptasia nettles and kills the corals around them and will even damage fish.
It can be removed by several methods but the faster you identify it and act the better. Lemon juice injection, calcium hydroxide injection, hot water, and plucking are your best options. If it is allowed to reproduce it will get into even the hardest to access places in the aquarium. Even once you get rid of all the ones you can detect there might be a few hiding away in places you didn’t see, waiting to come back and reproduce.
Brown jelly disease is recognized by a brown, jelly-like substance covering the surface of your coral. It can infect many coral species, but torch coral are extra susceptible to this so keep a close eye out for it.
There is no solid information on the cause of brown jelly disease, but it is believed to be related to the presence of a protozoan called Helicostoma nonatum. The jelly itself is made of protozoans, bacteria, and dying coral tissue. Regardless, despite the name, this is not really a disease so much as the result of an unknown underlying condition.
If you notice any signs of brown jelly disease you must act quickly to save what you can. Especially as this can spread to other corals in your tank.
If the case is still small, then you can potentially solve the issue by increasing the flow of water in the aquarium. This will increase the level of oxygen the coral absorbs, boosting its ability to heal and repel infection. If not you can attempt to use an iodine dip to help with the problem.
The use of UV lights can be used to prevent the infection from spreading. UV light kills bacteria and some pathogens so it may help to reduce the chance of other corals getting infected. Quarantine of the infected coral is a good idea as well, if possible.
As a last-ditch effort, you can frag the coral. Removing the infected portions to save what you can of the colony. Be sure to use a turkey baster or something similar to suck up any excess fragments floating around the tank,
Torch Coral Tentacles not Extending
There could be many reasons for this occurring. First make sure that all of your water parameters are correct and, more importantly, consistent. If water quality or parameters change frequently this will become stressful to the coral and it will not open up as a result.
Water movement could also be an issue. Too high of a water flow can also cause them to retract in defense. You may need to try various other places in the aquarium to find a spot with a more appropriate level of flow.
It is also possible that one of the more aggressive fish in the tank may be nipping at the coral or otherwise bothering it, which would also cause them to keep their tentacles retracted. Check for parasites that might be disturbing your coral.
Why is my Torch Coral Melting?
Many issues can cause tissue necrosis in your coral. The most common culprits however are a sudden change in the levels of alkalinity or salinity in the water or consistently low levels. Significant temperature changes, either up or down, can also cause this to happen.
Carefully check all of your levels to be sure that they are proper and consistent and keep testing daily as long as the problem persists.
Once this sets in it is nearly impossible to stop. Your best option is to try and minimize the damage by cutting off the impacted area.
Why is my Torch Coral Changing Color?
Typical problems with changing colors in torch coral are when your coral turns either a brown or bleached white color.
Turning brown tends to occur when there is an overproduction of zooxanthellae in the tissue. As these levels increase they block the natural pigment production of the coral, in turn causing the color to turn a dull brown. Usually, this is a result of high nutrient levels like nitrates and phosphates. These nutrients are food sources for the zooxanthellae, resulting in their overproduction.
Another cause can be fluctuation in tank parameters or, for new corals, the light levels in the new tank are less intense than in their previous habitat.
As always, tank stability is the key here. Maintain the proper nutrient levels in your tank.
Color bleaching in coral is most often a sign of stress. This stress can be caused by high temperatures causing the coral to rid itself of zooxanthellae, too intense lighting, large swings in the tank parameters, nutrient levels too low, or nutrient levels too high.
Once more, keep your levels consistent and within optimal parameters.
Other Types of Torch Coral
There are many other varieties of torch coral that can be found in the aquarium hobby. All have different colors, tentacle length and hardiness. In general the more attractive the color, the more you should expect to pay. All of the different type have the same general care requirements.
Some of these variants include:
- Indigo Gold Torch
- Aussie Gold Torch
- Black Torch
- Hellfire Torch Coral
- Gold Hammer Torch Coral
- Joker Torch Coral
- Cotton Candy Torch Coral
- Green Torch Coral
- Orange Torch Coral
- Rasta Torch Coral
- Dragon Soul Torch Coral
- Purple Hammer Torch Coral
Where Can I Buy Torch Coral?
Torch coral is a popular addition to your tank, though it has become harder to acquire them over the last few years. You can buy them in stores and in many places online. However, it is also an expensive addition to your tank. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $80 to $150 US for a single head. More premium colors or larger colonies can range even higher to the $400 to $800 range.
It is important to buy your torch coral from a trusted and reputable seller.