Acanthastrea Coral Care: A Beginner’s Guide

image of Placement of Acan Coral Care

Even though there are over 9,000 coral species found in oceans around the world, acan coral is among the most popular kept in reef aquariums.

Here is why…

Acantheastrea corals are easy to fall in love with for their range of beautiful colors and easy upkeep.  Even new reef keepers can learn how to take care of acanthastrea corals with the right advice.


If you don’t know how to take care of them it can end in total catastrophe.

With a little acan coral care guidance below, we’ll help you avoid disasters if you’re still learning to keep a reef tank.

Let’s get started learning how to take care of your acanthastrea corals.

An Overview of Acanthastrea Coral Care:

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Buying acan coral for your established tank and not sure where to start? No need to worry!

It’s easy to break the care and propagation of these corals down into a few simple categories:

  • Acclimatization
  • Water flow and lighting
  • Water parameters
  • Placement
  • Feeding
  • Fragging

Which of these concepts is most important in taking care of acanthastrea corals? The answer is all of them.

Acanthastrea corals need attention to all aspects of their captive environment to be healthy.

Without knowing the correct methods involved with each type of coral care, there’s a chance you might accidentally injure or even kill your corals.

But how do you get started with acanthastrea corals as a beginner?

It all begins when you first bring your corals home. The first step of caring for acan coral is acclimatization.

Acclimating Acan Coral

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If you’re planning on adding acan coral to your reef aquarium, acclimation will be the first major step towards keeping your new coral healthy.

Without proper acclimation, a coral may become sick or weak due to the stresses of being moved from one tank to another.

A few environmental parameters are key in ensuring an acan coral acclimates to its new aquarium environment without stressing it out.

Here are the factors we want you to consider during the acclimation process:

  • Temperature: Sharply fluctuating temperatures can cause a coral to go into shock. In general, corals do best when the parameters of their environment are changed slowly so that they have time to adjust.
  • Salinity: Salinity refers to the amount of salt in the seawater you use in your reef aquarium. Salinity in aquarium records is measured in specific gravity. (*)
  • pH: pH is the measurement of whether the water in a reef aquarium is acidic or alkaline. Corals rely on a specific pH balance in the water to extract calcium from the water to grow. (* )

The point of acclimation is to ensure that your new coral doesn’t suffer stress and shock when it is placed in your reef. Stressing out the coral can result in part of the coral dying off.

Over time this can even lead to coral bleaching out.

Next, we’ll learn about quarantine and why it can be vital for protecting your reef when you add new acanthastrea corals.

Quarantine Tanks and Acclimating Acan Coral

Many seasoned reef keepers use quarantine tanks when adding any new corals to their established reefs.

We recommend that quarantine tanks are recommended for the following reasons:

  • Coral can get diseases that they pass on to your established reef tank.
  • Coral can hide pests and stowaways that can invade your reef tank.

One of the biggest risks with introducing new acan to a reef is that they can bring in sea anemones.

Sea anemones are interesting to look at. However, you should know their paralyzing toxin can be deadly to other members of your saltwater reef.

We recommend that you place acan in a pest control dip such as CoralRx before adding the coral to your tank.

This dip removes the chance of your coral introducing hitchhikers or diseases to the rest of the tank. (*)

Here are the steps you need to take to acclimate your coral when you bring it home:

  • Float the coral in a plastic bag at the top of the tank you plan to keep it in for at least thirty minutes. This method allows the coral to adjust to the temperature of the water when you transfer it to the new tank.
  • Drip acclimate the coral. This involves adding half a cup of seawater from the tank to the bag the coral is in every few minutes for approximately half an hour.
  • Move the coral into the tank. We recommend keeping the tank in darkness for the first twenty-four hours. Keeping the tank dark allows the coral to acclimate without adjusting to new lighting right away.

Acan can be safely exposed to the air during the transfer from one tank to another as long as it stays wet. Any out-of-water exposure should be limited to reduce stress.

Once the coral has been quarantined and acclimated, it should be ready to be added to its home tank. Beyond that, you’ll need to look at your water flow and lighting situation.

Water Flow and Lighting for Acan Coral

image of Water Flow and Lighting for Acan Coral care

Along with temperature and salinity, we know there are two other major factors that influence the health of an acan are:

  • Water flow
  • Lighting

The current created by water flow helps imitate a coral’s natural oceanic environment, while the coral uses lighting for photosynthesis to feed itself.

Water Flow for Acan Coral

Acanthastrea corals prefer a water flow with a medium current.

Be sure when you are placing your acan that you don’t place the coral directly beneath the reef tank’s pump overflow. This coral does not tolerate direct current well.

Proper water flow helps suppress the build-up of carbon dioxide that can eventually affect your tank’s alkalinity levels. It also helps remove excess waste through circulation into the filter. (*)

Lighting for Acan Coral

Acanthastrea corals prefer medium lighting with some shade to maintain their lustrous colors.

These corals don’t do well in high-intensity lighting. Strong direct lighting can cause the coloration on these corals to fade.

Because acan is sensitive to high amounts of light, we recommend that you not place these corals too high up on your reef.

Placing your acan in the middle of the tank or lower can help reduce light intensity and prevent stress to the coral.

Think water flow and lighting are the only things you have to worry about? Not the case! There are many other water parameters that you have to adjust to keep acan in good shape.

Water Parameter Requirements in Acan Coral

Maintaining proper water parameters (pH and salinity) is important for continued coral upkeep, not just during the acclimation process.

It is just as important to keep these levels steady as it is to keep them at a level that is well-tolerated by acanthastrea corals. Corals need consistent water chemistry. (*)

pH and Acan

Acanthastrea corals do best in water with a pH that is slightly alkaline, so reef keepers who want to keep these corals should strive to keep their reef tank’s pH between 8.1 and 8.4.

In case you might be asking yourself, keeping acan coral at the correct pH is important because of the following reasons:

  • It ensures the reef water is alkaline enough that the corals can draw calcium from it.
  • It allows the acan corals to form sclerites within their tissue. Sclerites are the skeletal structures in coral that give it form and protection. (*)

It is easiest to maintain pH in any aquarium by performing frequent water changes on the tank and removing any excess or uneaten food.

pH can be increased in a saltwater tank by gradually adding one teaspoon of baking soda per twenty gallons.

This should be done slowly over time to prevent pH shock in your reef inhabitants.

The other major factor to consider when maintaining coral is salinity or specific gravity. Read on to learn more about the salinity requirements of acan corals.

Water Chemistry and Acan Coral

Reef aquariums require a level of salinity that is slightly higher than most saltwater aquariums to maintain the vibrancy and coloration of the corals in them.

Most corals are cultivated at a specific gravity between 1.023 and 1.025. We think that’s a great range to aim for in your home reef too.

Along with pH and specific gravity, there are also a few other water parameters you should consider when keeping acanthastrea corals.

These parameters include the following:

  • Alkalinity
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Nitrate
  • Phosphorus
  • Temperature

Below you’ll find a table of water parameters you should try to maintain to keep your acan corals happy.

Environmental Parameter

Required Range for Acan


9 to 12dKH


350 to 450ppm


1200 to 1350ppm


1 to 10ppm




72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit

If you’re unsure of the water parameters in your reef tank, these parameters can be easily tested using a saltwater aquarium testing kit.

Next, we’ll talk about the placement of acanthastrea corals in the reef tank.

Acan Coral Placement

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The placement of acan coral in the aquarium is important for several reasons. Here are a few of them:

  • Helps regulate a coral’s aggression
  • Helps to fulfill its lighting requirements
  • Helps to promote suitable water flow

We recommend that acan coral is placed in the middle or bottom of the reef tank.

Because of their semi-aggressive nature, acanathastrea corals need to be kept separate from other corals in the tank.

These corals also don’t like to be close to the filter output or lighting. This is another reason placing them at the top level of the reef is not a good option. (Source: Live Aquaria)

Let’s face it, if you put acan coral in the top level of your tank, you’re going to have a bad time.

Temperament and Behavior of Acan Coral

Acan coral is considered a semi-aggressive kind.

In maintaining captive coral, aggression refers to the following coral behaviors:

  • How it responds to other corals
  • How it responds to other inhabitants of the reef such as fish and invertebrates
  • Colonization tendencies and how competitive coral is for nutrients and light

Some reef keepers report that acan is peaceful as long as it is given at least four inches of space in the tank. Others say that this type will happily kill and eat neighboring corals that stray too close.

We believe giving this beautiful coral plenty of space from its reef neighbors, either way, can prevent trouble.

Despite the fact that acan coral is aggressive to other corals, it is also vulnerable to aggression from fish who like to nip at corals.

Be sure to pair this coral only with non-aggressive fish or corals to prevent damage.

Now that you know how to deal with coral aggression, it’s time to learn how to feed them.

Feeding Acan Coral

Feeding acan coral is relatively simple. Using a turkey baster, these corals can be fed with a mixture of the following food types:

  • Mysis: Mysis is a tiny transparent shrimp-like crustacean. These creatures form a dietary staple for many different creatures in the reef environment.
  • Brine: Live brine is a popular food for reef aquariums since it has a more complete nutritional profile than frozen and freeze-dried foods.
  • Arctipods: Arctipods are large copepods harvested from arctic waters and used as food for reef aquariums. These copepods are nutritionally dense and popular as food for corals.
  • Cyclops: Freeze-dried cyclops are a freshwater copepod that is commonly sold as food for fish and other aquatic life.

Feeding corals a mixture of different foods can help promote good health. Another advantage of feeding corals a varied diet is that this allows polyps of all sizes to feed efficiently.

It’s a good idea to offer several food types to determine which foods your corals prefer.

Finding your coral’s favorite food type can cause it to take up more food during each feeding session, which in turn increases the coral’s growth and overall health.

What Time of Day Should You Feed Acanthastrea Corals?

The best time of day to feed acanthastrea corals is in the evening. At night, the feeding tentacles of the coral polyps come out to forage and the corals will be extra receptive to taking up food. (*)

Feeding at night also helps discourage food stealing in the reef aquarium from scavengers such as the following:

  • Starfish
  • Bristlenose worms
  • Reef fish

These tankmates can easily out-compete corals for food if you allow it.

How Often Should You Feed Acanthastrea Corals?

A good feeding schedule for acan coral is twice a week to promote growth and vibrant coloration.

How do you feed an ACAN coral?

When feeding, be sure to squirt the nutrient solution over each polyp to ensure that each part of the coral colony has a chance to feed.

Maintaining a regular feeding schedule is important in an aquarium with multiple corals since not feeding often enough can lead to competition and increased aggression between corals.

Fragging Acan Coral

Fragging acan is the process of breaking the coral up into multiple parts. Acan corals can reproduce both sexually and asexually.

In captivity, corals can be reproduced by fragmenting or “fragging” them and breaking them into multiple pieces. (*)

There are several different tools that reef keepers can use to frag acan coral. These are a few of them:

  • Wet band saws
  • Coral cutters
  • Razor blades

To frag the coral, the cutting tool should be moved around the edge of each polyp to cut the coral into many pieces.

Cutting across polyps will often cause that portion of the coral to die, so it should be avoided if possible.

Fragging can be done to help increase the number of acanthastrea corals in your home tank.

If you get into corals more seriously, you can frag your acanthastrea corals and sell off the plugs to other reef keepers.

Still not convinced?

This fragging practice can even help subsidize the costs of maintaining your tanks. Anyone who has had a reef tank knows that they aren’t cheap!

Acanthastrea Is Great for Novice Reef Keepers

For aquarists who are new to keeping reefs and corals, acanthastrea corals are one of the best groups to get a handle on the tricks of the trade.

With this ancan coral care guide above, you’ll have a strong basic understanding of how to get the most out of these beautiful corals in your reef tank.

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