Grape Coral

Grape Coral Euphyllia cristataEuphyllia cristataPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Carrie McBirney

   Having polyps tipped with purple or pink, the Grape Coral resembles clusters of very small grapes!

   The Grape Coral Euphyllia cristata is similar to its close relative the Frogspawn Coral Euphyllia divisa. However its tentacles look nothing like the Frogspawn, but rather more like shorter versions of the Torch Coral Euphyllia glabrescens tentacles. A close look will quickly help you to easily identify this coral. The Grape coral does not have branching polyps and each tentacle is perfectly straight with one contrasting tip.

   Colors of individual tentacles on the E. cristata are green to brownish green. They are topped with yellow, cream, pink. lavender, or pale-orange tips.The variety of colors they come in makes them a fun "collectable" if you can find them. They are not as readily available as other Euphyllia but they are worth the hunt, and bound to catch some attention once in the aquarium.

   The Grape Coral can be easy to moderate to care for. It is a big eater and will grow easily if kept well fed. Providing it with sufficient lighting, a moderate but turbid water flow, and the availability of passing food will contribute to their success. They are on the easier side to care for as far as Euphyllia are concerned, and do quite well under T-5 lighting. Like others of its genus, it will be the first to warn you that the water quality in the tank is less than acceptable. It is recommended to people who have had some LPS experience with species like the Elegance coral.

   The E. cristata has been propagated in captivity. These corals are not hermatypic, which means they do not contribute to reef structures. Yet in the wild it takes 2 years for a colony to repopulate, and there is concern about over collecting these corals. In some countries they have been outlawed for collection. Propagating these corals is very important in preserving the wild colonies.


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Scientific name    Family: Euphyllidae
   Species: Euphyllia cristata

   The family Euphyllidae, "... is a very large family of zooxanthellate scleractinans, that were previously grouped in the family Caryophylliidae (Mather, 1994). It includes such genera as Euphyllia, Catalyphyllia, Nemenzophyllia, Plerogyra, and Physogyra." Source: Tropical Marine Biology II, Classification of Scleractinian (Stony) Corals, by Pierre Madl, University of Vienna, 2001, Revised in Nov. 2002

Distribution / Background    Euphyllia Coral Information: The Grape Coral Euphyllia cristata was described by Chevalier in 1971.

   Where Euphyllia Corals Are Found: E. cristata are found in the Indo-West Pacific in the Philippines, New Caledonia, and around Australia including the Great Barrier Reef and Dampier Archipelago.

   Euphyllia Coral Habitat: The E. cristata are found down to depths of 98 feet (30 m), which is shallower than most Euphyllia spp. They form small colonies in waters that are turbid, yet gentle, and enjoy indirect bright light. They also have stinging cells to help capture small prey and to defend themselves against predators.

Status    The E. cristata is not on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

Description    What do Euphyllia Corals look like: The skeleton of the Grape Coral E. cristata has short stubby branches, with all the heads of the branch tops being very compact and close together. The septa, or small protrusions of the skeletal structure located at the head can be seen in-between the tentacles of the polyps at times. The polyps extend during the day and only partially at night.

   The tentacles of the Grape Coral are green to brownish green, They are topped with oval contrasting blunt tips that can be yellow, cream, pink. lavender or pale-orange. They do not branch like those on the Frogspawn Coral E. divisa, and are shorter than those on the Torch Coral E. glabrescens.

   E. cristata form colonies and their polyps have the ability to completely retract into the skeleton. When feeding, the individual tentacles can elongate 2 to 3 times their normal state. Some colonies can reach 1.5 feet (46 cm). Lifespan is unknown.

Difficulty of Care    Euphyllia Coral Care: The E. cristata can be easy to moderate to care for. Provide sufficient lighting and good turbid water flow, that is neither too strong or too weak. The availability of passing food will also contribute to their success. Using trial and error, by placing coral specimens in different areas of the tank, will eventually result in locating a favorite spot. This will be evident by full polyp expansion and feeding.

   Due to collection procedures, they are often broken from parent colonies in the wild. A specimen may have soft tissue damage, especially if the skeleton has splintered into the fleshy polyp area. When purchasing your coral, make sure it has been in the store for a week or so and doing well before bringing it home. This will help you avoid a potentially sick coral, since they may take a few days after shipping to show ailments.

Foods / Feeding    Euphyllia Coral Feeding: The Euphyllia corals, like other large polyp stony (LPS) corals, have developed several feeding strategies. Through a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae, known as zooxanthellae, they receive many of their nutrients. They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.

   In captivity, mysis, krill, brine shrimp and other smaller items can be fed. These corals can eat surprisingly much larger chunks of food as well. Chop up or dice whole fish or shrimp and feed the entire organism to the coral. Since different parts of the animal have varying nutritional qualities, this practice of feeding your Euphyllia in such a way will yield good results. These corals are hungry all the time, so feeding as needed with various foods is helpful.

Aquarium Care    Typical water changes of 20% a month, 10% biweekly, or 5% weekly are needed. It has been noted that 5% weekly water changes replenish many of the needed additives and it is ultimately cheaper than purchasing additives for the water. With higher concentrations of coral with calcareous skeletons though, there may be a need put in additional additives to maintain proper levels for good growth.

   The following water supplements are suggested for Euphyllia species:

  • Calcium:  400 to 450 ppm. If a large poly stony (LPS) coral does not have enough calcium, it will not grow. (Seachem makes a calcium additive that states 385 as sufficient)
  • Alkalinity:  3.2 TO 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 11 dKh, 10 is recommended)
  • Phosphates:  0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
  • Magnesium:  1200 - 1350. Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.
  • Strontium:  8 - 10

Aquarium Parameters   A well-feed live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Grape Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. A mature tank is recommended.

Quick Reference Chart
Lighting: Prefers Low Lighting Levels Prefers Medium Lighting Levels Prefers High Lighting Levels
Water Flow: Prefers Low Water Flow Levels Prefers Medium Water Flow Levels Prefers High Water Flow Levels
Temperament: Peaceful Temperament Semi-Aggressive Temperament Aggressive Temperament

   Be sure to have proper water movement. Water flow that is too strong can cause the polyps to not extend properly thus inhabiting their ability to capture food. Provide sufficient lighting, they enjoy indirect bright light. Do not place directly under metal halides or its polyps can be damaged, which can lead to rapid tissue necrosis or RTN. Make sure that no other corals can come in contact with your Euphyllia. This coral can be aggressive, especially when hungry, then their sweeper tentacles can reach over 10" (25 cm). Feeding them regularly will help alleviate this problem.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 50 gallons (190 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: Moderate to strong, yet diffused light, but no direct metal halides.
  • Temperature: 74° - 83° F (23° - 28° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 - 1.025
  • Water Movement: Moderate / turbulent.
  • Water Region: All areas of the aquarium, depending on light and water movement.

Compatibility and Social Behaviors

   Euphyllia corals can be aggressive if touching other corals and should be positioned away from all other corals. The Grape Coral is peaceful to its own genus, but will attack other genera within its family. When hungry, their sweeper tentacles can reach over 10" (25 cm) in large colonies, which poses a threat to nearby corals due to their strong sting. Feeding them regularly will help alleviate this problem. The Euphyllia genus tend to be sensitive to aquariums that have large collections of soft corals, specifically, some Sinularia species.

Sex - Sexual differences    Unknown.

Breeding and Reproduction   The large polyp stony (LPS) corals are male and female and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. In the wild they reproduce sexually by releasing eggs and sperm at the same time, resulting in a fertilized egg which then forms into a free-swimming planula larva. Eventually the planula larvae settles onto the substrate, becoming plankters. This then forms a tiny polyp which begins to excrete calcium carbonate and develops into a coral. Planula larvae are extremely vulnerable to predation, and very few survive.

   Euphyllia genus reproduce asexually as well. In captivity, the E. cristata will bud off small groups of polyps with little skeletons attached. They will also pinch off their own tentacles, which then floats off, and being sticky, will reattach and start a new colony.

   To propagate you first you need to choose a healthy coral that is not showing any signs of distress. Propagation should be done with an electric saw at least 1 1/2" to 2" away from the top. Do not use a bone crusher or scissors, since they will splinter the skeleton and harm the polyp. Glue the frag to a plug or rock. You can use the 2-part epoxy or underwater putties.The slime that the coral will exude should not come in contact with any other corals and gloves are suggested. Give the frag ample water flow.

Potential Problems   The Euphyllia spp. are fairly hardy, but are susceptible to a few maladies. The E. cristata is susceptible to brown jelly or protozoan infections, collection problems, and intense lighting.

  • Brown Jelly
       Brown jelly or protozoan infections can infect the rest of the colony if not treated. This brown jelly looks exactly like it sounds, and can be caused by poor water quality and/or tissue damage. To treat, remove the coral to a container with water from the main display, then brush or siphon off any visible brown jelly. Give the coral a freshwater dip in water with the same pH and temperature as the main tank for several minutes to kill a lot of the microorganisms.
       Use an antibiotic paste on the infect areas and/or a Lugol's dip. Cyanobacteria and brown jelly infections can be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics. The pill can be pulverized into a fine powder, mixed with sea water to make a paste, and then applied to the wound, or affected site of the coral with a simple artists brush.
       Try to treat the coral with the least stressful method first. Place in a quarantine tank until coral recovers.
  • Metal Halides
       Do not place directly under Metal Halide, or the E. cristata's polyps can be damaged and can lead to rapid tissue necrosis or RTN.
  • New Specimens
       Collections from the wild may have soft tissue damage, especially if the skeleton has splintered into the fleshy polyp area. When purchasing your coral, make sure it has been in the store for a week or so, since they may take a few days after shipping to show ailments.

Availability    Euphyllia Corals for Sale: The Grape Coral E. cristata is not as easy to find at pet shops or on line as other members of this genus. They are sometimes confused with the Frogspawn Coral, so be sure to look closely at the specimen you want to purchase. They can run about $60.00 USD or more depending on size and/or color.

References

Author: Carrie McBirney, Clarice Brough, CRS
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