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Leather corals – easy yet tough to keep




Most of us consider leather corals to be an easy starter coral at least until you see it shedding away. Leather corals are a term used for a number of corals of whom the bulk belongs to the genus Sarcophyton even if there are a number of other corals that are called leather corals. There are many species of leather coral differing in shape and color and also ways of propagation. The good thing about these corals is their easy requirements regarding lighting and nourishment. They thrive well in low lights of florescent as well as metal halides. However you should never increase the intensity of light all of a sudden. If you are to increase the lighting intensity, do it gradually and slowly.




Leather coral species grow faster and many species grow larger. Until you have researched about the species you are about to buy, never add them to your established tank. Most Leather or Family Alcyoniidae corals once in a while blow off a thin top layer of tissue. This process of shedding is in fact not a regenerative action, but one that serves to rid the coral’s surface of accumulated waste, debris and algae. Once a leather coral has shed what could be described as a layer of old skin, it’s not abnormal for it to appear larger and more magnificent than before.

Almost all leather corals will from time to time pull back their polyps and form a mucus layer over themselves which they later shed. The shed mucus layer should be soon after noticed be detached to safeguard the water purity else they might contaminate water if left too long inside tank. The polyps will expand over again after this procedure is accomplished which is held to serve function of preventing algae to grow on the coral. Please note that this procedure is not a sign of disease in your leather coral. Escalating the current around the coral at this time can help speed up this process. The filtration and water movement should otherwise be kept moderate.

At the time of shedding it is important to keep an eye on the corals and the corals that might be sharing the tank. Leather corals discharge a toxin in the water which has a damaging effect to less hardy hard corals in the tank. These toxins do not generally destroy hard corals but does have an adverse effect on the growth pace of effected corals. This effect can be narrowed by the use of chemical filtration. You can keep leather corals with hard corals even without chemical filtration but you should be conscious of the effects this have on your hard corals.

Following are the stages of shedding in leather corals:

  1. In the first phase of shedding, the coral close up and shrink, and the surface takes on a waxy look. The coral remains in this stage for several days before it actually starts to shed but you will have to observe them quite often to minimize any damage to other corals.
  2. In the second phase of shedding, you will be able to evidently see a thin, slimy-like membrane flaking away from the surface of the Leather Coral. In the area where sloughing already occurred, the coral’s polyps started to come out again. You must immediately remove from tank the peeled off skin that the coral throws out.
  3. In the next stage the leather coral continues to shed its outer layer and you will be able to witness shedding area widened than before from where polyps will emerge. This stage continues until the entire outer layer is shed off from the coral. The coral will appear rejuvenated.
  4. The polyps will emerge to be more expanded and lively than before and even the color will look more bright and clean.The shedding of leather corals is not an issue if you keep a strict eye on it and save the other corals from being affected by the toxins. The leather coral will recover no matter what and appear healthier and fuller than before but the adverse effect on the other corals sharing the tank is very sad and you must try not to let that happen.