Scroll Coral, Turbinaria reniformis, also known as the Vase Coral, Turban Coral, Scrolling Turbinaria Coral, Yellow Scroll Coral, and Yellow Lettuce Coral
Turbinaria reniformis

The colorful Scroll Coral is one of the most unique Tubinaria species, and is also one of the hardier ones!

The Scrolling Tubinaria Coral Turbinaria reniformis is one of the most recognized of the Turbinaria genus. In mature specimens, their scroll-like or whorled shape can be either vertical or more horizontal, depending on the depth in which they are found. Specimens found at deeper levels have a plate like or flatter, horizontal appearance. That can change to a scroll like, upright shape in shallower water with brighter lighting. These characteristic Turbinaria shapes are reflected in some of the Scroll Coral’s other common names like Vase Coral, Turban Coral, Scrolling Turbinaria Coral, and Yellow Lettuce Coral.

The Turbinaria species take on various characteristic shapes, depending on the depth at which they are found. Their shapes include vase, plate, and columnar, yet they are quite adaptable. They will robustly change shape with a change in environment. If one were to transplant a shallow dwelling species to deeper levels, or visa versa, they will actually change shape to make the most out of the lighting in each habitat.

Besides having various shapes, Turbinaria corals also have variations in their polyps. One side of any plate or column generally has polyps or at least tissue coverage. The color of the Scrolling Coral T. reniformis is usually a yellowish or greenish brown, usually with yellow polyps and a yellow edge. Some Scroll Coral specimens you may see in stores may not have as many polyps, due to lack of feeding, yet the polyps are still distinctly small and spaced, and so it is easy to identify.

The Turbinaria corals are much sought after for reef aquariums. Depending on the variety, Turbinaria species can be grouped as small polyp stony (SPS) corals or as large polyp stony (LPS) corals. The Scrolling Turbinaria Coral T. reniformis has smaller polyps with calices (opening of the corallite) that are only 1.5 to 2 mm diameter. Yet they are most often grouped as an LPS corals, though you can find it occasionally listed as an SPS coral. Either way, the Turbinaria polyp expansion is a great indicator of the overall health of the aquarium, thus a great addition to most systems.

The Scroll Coral is fairly easy to maintain in an aquarium with good lighting and water quality. They are mostly friendly towards other corals, making them a popular choice with all levels of reef enthusiasts. They do have polyps, that when irritated can produce a hefty mucus net. If this mucus comes in contact with other corals, it can damage them. They have been known to reproduce in captivity, and captive bred specimens are generally more healthy and easier to maintain than wild caught.

Yellow Scroll Coral, Turbinaria reniformis

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This is a perfect specimen of T. reniformis or the Yellow Scroll Coral! They make up a unique form that can actually change depending on water flow and light. Make sure you use a turkey baster to blast away sediment to prevent infections. And his cool accent makes it easy to listen as well!

Scientific name

Family: Dendrophylliidae
Species: Turbinaria reniformis

Distribution / Background

Turbinaria Coral Information: The Turbinaria genus was described by Oken in 1815. According to author Vernon in his book “Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific”, there are 80 nominal species, with 10 true species from Australia. There are currently 30 recognized species in this genus, yet the most commonly purchased and imported are the Scroll Coral T. reniformis, Yellow Cup Coral T. frondens, Pagoda Coral T. mesenterina, Cup Coral T. patula, Turban Coral T. peltata, and Disc Coral T. bifrons.

The Turbinaria genus is considered one of a few of the hermatypic or “reef building” corals, and are only one of the three reef-building genera in the Dendrophylliidae family. Turbinaria are also the only genus in this family that are symbiotic, meaning they live in symbiosis with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, from which they derive some of their nutrients.

Unique to Turbinaria is the ability to have a variety of shapes, depending on the depth at which they are found. They will actually change shape to make the most out of the lighting in each habitat. Specimens found at deeper levels have a different appearance than the same animal found in shallower water with brighter lighting. Consequently common names are sometimes used interchangeably between species. Common names the Turbinaria genus are known for are Turban Coral, Cup Coral, Scroll Coral, Yellow Scroll Coral, Yellow Cup Coral, Pagoda Coral, Vase Coral, and Chalice Coral.

The Scroll Coral Turbinaria reniformis was described by Bernard in 1896. Other common names they are known for are Vase Coral, Scrolling Turbinaria Coral, Turban Coral, Yellow Scroll Coral, Yellow Lettuce Coral, Yellow Turbinaria, and Bowl Coral. Turbinaria corals have been reproduced in captivity, and there are plenty of captive grown corals to choose from. Captive bred specimens are generally more healthy and easier to maintain than wild caught.

Where Turbinaria Corals Are Found: The T. reniformis are found in the Red Sea, Indo-Pacific Ocean , Indian Ocean Australia (excluding most of the south coast) and the east coast of Africa.

Turbinaria Coral Habitat: The T. reniformis are found at depths from 0 to 131 feet (0 – 40 m) in shallow reefs, rocky foreshores, and lower reef slopes.


The T. reniformis is not on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.


What do Turbinaria Corals look like: The T. reniformis has a lightweight skeletal structure and there are a variety of shapes, depending on the depth where they are found. Mature specimens are generally deeply scrolled or deeply cupped. Especially those found in shallower waters with brighter lighting will develop the scroll-like, upright shape. These corals also tend to be in areas of high water movement, which causes the convoluted shapes like the “scroll” and vase shapes. The deeper dwelling T. reniformis typically have a have a plate like or flatter, horizontal appearance, so all available light is utilized. Their colors can be a yellowish or greenish brown, usually with yellow polyps and a yellow edge.

The Scroll Coral has polyps that can capture and eat larger foods. The polyps use mucus secretions to both capture food and get rid of waste. Their polyps are smaller and tuft like, with plenty of space in-between. They sit on small corallites, with calices (opening of the corallite) that are only 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter. The polyps can be yellow to yellowish brown. Some coral you may see at the stores may not have as many polyps, due to lack of feeding, yet they are still distinctly small and spaced as far as the polyp is concerned and easy to identify.

The T. reniformis can grow up to 3 feet (91 cm) across. Juveniles are generally shapeless, yet conform to water and light availability. Their life span is unknown.

Difficulty of Care

Turbinaria Coral Care: The Turbinaria genus is fairly easy to maintain in an aquarium with good lighting and water quality. The T. reniformis is one of the easier species to care for, as are most of the deeper dwelling Turbinaria, being less demanding of light and water movement. Because the T. reniformis are usually thin and deeply cupped or folded, they require brighter light and surging water movements to keep their folds and curves free of debris. You can use a turkey baster if needed. Their polyp expansion is a great indicator of the overall health of the aquarium.

Foods / Feeding

Turbinaria Coral Feeding: The Turbinaria genus, 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 some of their nutrients. Turbinaria are the only genus in the Dendrophylliidae family that are symbiotic.They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.

In captivity, although the Scroll Coral relies on lighting for their zooxanthellae, they also need to be fed a variety of other foods. Feed such foods as mysis shrimp, enriched baby brine shrimp, cyclopeeze, and finely minced silversides or other fish from the ocean that you can get at your grocery store. They need to be fed several times a week. Use good sense in determining how often your particular animal needs food. If their polyps start to disappear, then you are not feeding them enough.

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. They also benefit from strontium and trace elements. Frequent water changes help to supply trace elements, but with higher concentrations of coral with calcareous skeletons, there may be a need put in additional additives to maintain proper levels for good growth.

The following water supplements are suggested for Turbinaria species:

  • Calcium: 385 to 425 ppm. If a large poly stony (LPS) coral does not have enough calcium, it will not grow.
  • Alkalinity: 8 to 12 dKh
  • Phosphates: 0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
  • Magnesium: 1350 minimum. 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 live rock/reef environment with a sandy substrate is what is needed for your Scroll Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. A mature tank is recommended.

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

Be sure to have proper water movement and provide sufficient lighting. Turbinaria species can be tolerant of several lighting conditions, though a moderate to high light is preferred by the T. reniformis. Along with adequate lighting, provide a moderate and turbid, or a surging water movement for the best health. This is a peaceful species, but other corals may not be, so provide adequate space between species.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length:100 gallons (380 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Temperature: 74° – 83° F (23° – 28° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 – 1.025
  • Water Movement: Moderate and turbid, or surging
  • Water Region: Bottom to middle of the aquarium

Compatibility and Social Behaviors

The T. reniformis is peaceful towards other corals. However, if their polyps become irritated, they can produce a hefty mucus net. If this mucus comes in contact with other corals, it can damage them. So they do need adequate space between themselves and other corals.

Scroll Corals do well in a mixed reef, a small polyp stony (SPS) coral tank, or a large polyp stony (LPS) coral tank. They do need to be kept away from contact with polyps of Zoanthid corals, and away from the sweeper tentacles of other corals. They are safe with reef safe fish, yet do not like to be walked on, sat on, or otherwise pestered by any kind of crab.

Sex – Sexual differences

Differences are unknown

Breeding and Reproduction

The large polyp stony (LPS) corals are hermaphrodites, male and female within the same organism, 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. The Turbinaria genus can reproduce asexually as well, by fragmentation or extratentacular budding.

In captivity, propagating the T. reniformis is fairly easy through fragmenting. Coral farmers may use sexual reproduction to propagate in the future, as it has been successful.

To frag, first start with a healthy coral. The best choice for cutting this coral is an electric saw. Once cut the frag should be left on its side, keeping the cut or wound completely open to water flow so it can heal. If the wound is face down, there would not be enough water flow and the cut area can get infected. They may not look pretty when you frag them, but they quickly start to grow into beautiful cups, scrolls, or whatever shape your environment encourages them to form. Give the frags a chance to heal before moving them to a new tank.

Potential Problems

The T. reniformis are attractive and durable when their needs are provided for. They have mucus secretions that they use to capture food or get rid of waste. The only time an aquarist should worry is if the actual tissue looks unhealthy under the mucus. The species can be scrolled and convoluted. Keep their folds free of detritus, food and algae with good water flow and a periodic blast of a turkey baster to get into the crevices.


Turbinaria Corals for Sale: The T. reniformis is very easy to find at pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $20.00 USD or more depending on size and/or color.


 Coral (Turbinaria reniformis) (Image Credit: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 International)