Tree Coral

Cauliflower Coral, Branch Coral, Lemnalia Coral
Lemnalia Tree Coral, Broccoli Coral, Kenya Tree Coral

Tree Coral Lemnalia sp. also known as Cauliflower Coral, Branch Coral, Lemnalia Coral, Lemnalia Tree Coral, Broccoli Coral, and Kenya Tree CoralLemnalia Sp.Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Carrie McBirney

   The Tree Coral in the Lemnalia genus is a tall, thin and wiry soft coral!

   The Lemnalia genus can be hard to differentiate from the others in the Nephtheidae family, but like all families, there is always the thin kid. In general, the Tree Coral Lemnalia sp. has a thinner stalk than others in their family, and that stalk has no polyps. Also on its thin branches and branchlets, the polyps are more or less scattered, as opposed to the dense populations of the other genera.

   Lemnalia corals are branching and are usually found in areas of moderate to strong water movement. Their colors are usually cream to brown, white, or pinkish brown with the polyps being very close in color, though maybe a little darker than the main body. Some common names they are known for are Tree Coral, Cauliflower Coral, Branch Coral, Lemnalia Coral, Lemnalia Tree Coral, Broccoli Coral, and Kenya Tree Coral.

   Of the soft coral genera belonging to the Nephtheidae family, the Tree Coral is not as hardy as members of the Capnella genus, like the durable Kenya Tree Coral Capnella sp.. Yet they are also not as hard to care for as the needy members of the Dendronephthya genus, which contain the colorful Carnation Corals Dendronephthya sp..

   Both the Lemnalia genus and their close relatives in the Paralemnalia genus are referred to as Tree Coral, Branch Coral, and Cauliflower Coral. The Paralemnalia genus is an encrusting form that forms thick "fingerlike" projections. This is not to be confused with the Lemnalia genus that has slender stalks and branches.

   The Tree Coral Lemnalia sp. can be moderate to care for. They have a habit of collapsing and not recovering if the water flow is not moderate to strong. Although they use the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, that lives within their tissue for some of their nutrition, they are more dependent on outside foods for survival. Keeping fish in the tank can help. The dissolved nutrients resulting from fish will help to keep it healthy. Don't expose it to fresh water when topping of your tank. This stresses the coral and may lead to its eventual demise.

To learn about different types of soft corals, see:
Soft Coral Facts


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Scientific name   Family: Nephtheidae
   Species: Lemnalia sp.

Distribution / Background    Soft Coral Information: The Lemnalia genus was described by Gray in 1868. There are about 33 species, and a few are L. africana, L. bournei, L. cervicornis, L. flava, L. nitida, L. philippinensis, L. rhabdota, L. tenuis, and L. zimmeri. Some common names these corals are know for are Tree Coral, Cauliflower Coral, Branch Coral, Lemnalia Coral, Lemnalia Tree Coral, Broccoli Coral, and Kenya Tree Coral. The Lemnalia genus has been propagated in captivity.

   Where Lemnalia Corals Are Found: The Lemnalia genus are found in the Indo-Pacific and the eastern African coast.

   Lemnalia Coral Habitat: The Lemnalia genus grow on reef flats, back-reef slopes and fore-reef slopes. They are found in a variety of water movements from moderate to strong, and depend on phytoplankton type foods for survival.

Status    The Lemnalia genus is not on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.

Description    What do Lemnalia Corals look like: The stalk of the Lemnalia genus is tall, thin and polyp free, with slender branches that grow upward from the stalk. The polyps on the branchlets are not as condensed as Capnella, but unlike the Capnella genus, they can fully retract their polyps. Within their stalks and branches, there are "gastrovascular" canals that let them expel water and collapse.

   Lemnalia corals are different from others in the Nephtheidae family since structurally they have needle like sclerites in their stalks and branches, but not usually in their polyps. Sclerites are tiny calcium bodies that help support the coral, and look like various sizes of tiny thin rice if you could see them up close. The colors are usually cream to brown, white, or pinkish brown, with the polyps being very close in color, maybe a little darker than the main body.

   The genus Paralemnalia is an encrusting form that forms thick "fingerlike" projections. This is not to be confused with the Lemnalia genus that has slender stalks and branches, yet they are closely related.

Difficulty of Care    Soft Coral Care: The Tree Coral Lemnalia sp. can be moderate to care for. They have a habit of collapsing and not recovering if the water flow is not moderate to strong. Do not expose to fresh water when topping of your tank. This stresses the coral and may lead to its eventual demise.

Foods / Feeding    Soft Coral Feeding: In the wild, Lemnalia corals have developed several feeding strategies. They capture microscopic food particles from the water column, can absorb dissolved organic matter, and have a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, where they also receive some of their nutrients.

   In captivity, although they use the symbiotic algae that lives within their tissue, they are more dependent on outside food for survival. They can be fed microplankton, marine snow, phytoplankton and similar foods. Blow the food across the polyps. With fish in the tank as well, the dissolved nutrients they produce will help keep it healthy. Experiment with different "green waters" to see which phytoplankton species they prefer.

Aquarium Care    Stable tank conditions are needed to keep the Lemnalia genus. Doing water changes of 20% a month or 10% biweekly is needed, although it is suggested that doing 5% water changes once a week will replenish many of the needed additives. Soft corals still need to have proper chemical levels for proper growth. This family of corals does well with trace elements, especially Iodine and Strontium.

   Suggested levels for Lemnalia species are:

  • Calcium:  400 - 450 ppm
  • Alkalinity:  3.2 - 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 11 dKh - 10 is recommended)
  • Phosphates:  0, zero.
  • Magnesium:  1200 - 1350 ppm. (Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.)
  • Strontium:  8 - 10

Aquarium Parameters

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

   A typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Tree Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. It has been noted that they prefer a gravel like substrate.

   Provide proper lighting and water movement. They like a moderate to high light They also need a moderate to strong water flow. The Lemnalia genus is aggressive toward other corals if the corals are weaker.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 10 gallon (38 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Temperature: 72° - 79° F (22° - 26° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 - 1.025
  • Water Movement: Moderate to strong
  • Water Region: Any area of the aquarium

Compatibility and Social Behaviors    The Tree Coral does give off chemical toxins to ward off encroaching corals. The Lemnalia genus is the most toxic of all the soft corals in terms of their chemical defenses. Keep your Lemnalia away from other corals as It is aggressive toward other corals if the corals are weaker. Also, if your Tree Coral starts to deteriorate, it is a good idea to get it out of the tank as soon as possible to prevent contamination or danger to fish.

Sex - Sexual differences    No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding and Reproduction   The Lemnalia genus will reproduce by budding, fission, and dropping little branches. They are very easy to propagate, and similar to Capnella corals. Constriction is best, slowly tightening a branchlet until it severs itself. Those without the luxury of time can cut the coral at the "V" where the secondary branchlets start. The two following methods may be applied to help the frag attach to the desired spot:

  1. The most successful way is to use a plastic toothpick, cocktail pick, or similar item to impale the frag right through the center of the stalk, far enough up from the incision point to make sure it doesn't tear through. Cocktail picks usually have a deco at the end, which can keep the coral from slipping off. Then, after positioning the coral frag 1/2 way through the impaling device, use super glue or rubber bands on each side of the pick to fasten it to rock work. This holds the coral in place, thus giving it an opportunity to adhere naturally.

  2. Place each frag in a "tube" that is just a little shorter than their height, on top of rubble will help them naturally attach. Drill holes in the tube (usually a small piece of PVC) to make sure the water flow gets in, yet does not life the frag off of the rubble and float away. This is similar how they "settle" in nature on rubble in certain areas of the reef.

Potential Problems   The Lemnalia genus is susceptible to stress from shipping. At times commensal creatures that were within the branches, undetected by divers, will die in transit, thus affecting the coral. They are also prone to parasites, and hermit crabs can irritate them when crawling on their tissue.

   In the main display, prolonged deflating or a deterioration should be handled quickly with the coral being removed to a quarantine tank. Soft corals can make a mess of your water quality if they die, as well as infecting other soft corals if they happen to be diseased. If you acquire a Tree Coral and it is deflated, put it in a moderate water flow to help it "revive" itself.

Availability    Soft Corals for Sale: The Tree Coral Lemnalia sp. is very easy to find pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $30.00 to $70.00 USD and up, depending on size and/or color.

References

Author: Carrie McBirney, Clarice Brough CRS

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