Want an underwater rainforest in your living room? Of course, you do!
By learning war coral care, you can buy and keep some of the most stunning coral specimens in the world. If you’re looking for a vivid splash of red and lime green in your tank, you’ve come to the right place.
War corals are a fantastic addition to any semi-aggressive reef and come in a wide variety of dazzling color morphs. These corals are popular with new reef keepers and seasoned reef keepers alike.
In this beginner’s guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about caring for your coral. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could cause your entire reef tank to crash.
Want to keep your war corals beautiful and happy?
Now it’s your turn to learn all about these gorgeous soft corals and how to keep them looking their best.
An Overview of War Coral Favites
One of the best things about war corals is that they come in a wide variety of different colors and types. Here are just a few of the different war coral morphs you can run into:
- Tyree Favites Pentagona: This coral has a typical war coral coloration with a red body and bright lime green polyps. Many varieties of war coral come in this coloration.
- Australian painted Favites Pentagona: This coral is an unusual war coral known for its striped red and blue or purple coloring with lime green polyps.
- Red Favites Pentagona: This coral has similar coloration to Tyree with red bodies and green polyps.
- Bi-color Favites Pentagona: This coral has a red body mixed with purple with green polyps.
- Fire and ice Favites Pentagona: This coral is one of the most interesting morphs available, with a body that is striped in orange and blue.
There are so many kinds of war corals! But the good news for new coral keepers is that despite their different colorations, all of these corals can be cared for in the same way.
We can break the basics of care down into the following categories:
- Water flow and lighting
- Water parameters
These are the same categories of care that can be applied to pretty much all coral types, but here’s the truth: skipping any one of them can lead to a tank full of dead and dying coral. Yikes!
Before you get started with war corals, we’ll need to teach you how to add them to your tank without causing them stress that can damage or kill them. This step is called acclimatization.
Acclimating War Coral
When you’re adding coral to your reef tank, we recommend that you acclimate them first. This process is getting coral used to the water parameters in your tank.
The dangers of not acclimating your coral are causing the coral to become weak, sick, or damaged due to stress. While war corals are relatively hardy compared to other corals, they are at risk of moving to a new tank.
There are several environmental parameters that you need to look at when it comes to acclimating war corals:
- pH: pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline the water in your reef tank is. Most corals thrive in slightly alkaline water since this allows them to draw calcium from the water for building harder structures in the coral’s body. (*)
- Salinity: All marine life in a reef tank depends on the water having a certain volume of sea salts, measured in specific gravity.
- Temperature: A large swing or fluctuation in temperature is one of the biggest causes of new corals dying, so keeping a steady temperature during transfer is important.
Making sure to ease your new war coral favites pentagona into your reef tank can help keep them alive during the transfer process, but it’s not the only thing to think about. We also recommend that you think about putting your new coral in quarantine.
Need a handy breakdown of what to do when you bring your war coral favites home? No problem! Here’s a step-by-step of what to do:
- Float the coral: Before you add your war coral to your reef, the coral should be floated in a plastic bag at the top of the tank for at least thirty minutes. This allows the water in the bag to come to the same temperature as the water in the tank to reduce fluctuation.
- Drip acclimate the coral: Along with getting your war coral used to the temperature, you’ll also need to get them used to the pH and salinity of the tank. This is done by gradually adding half a cup of seawater from the reef tank to the coral bag every few minutes for half an hour.
- Place the coral in the tank. After placing your war coral in the tank, we recommend that you turn the lights off and leave them off for twenty-four hours. This reduces the number of stimuli the coral has to react to. It also reduces stress in a new environment.
- 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.
But we’re not through yet! Now it’s time to learn about quarantine.
Moving War Corals into Quarantine
One of the biggest pieces of advice given by seasoned coral keepers to beginners is to put all of your new corals, live rock, and other live specimens in quarantine before adding them to your main tank.
So why is quarantine such a good idea?
No matter where you source your coral, introducing it means that you’re also taking a chance on introducing parasites, stowaways, or diseases to your reef.
A stray sea anemone might not seem like a big deal, but these little invertebrates can cause havoc in your tank by killing other tank members with their defensive toxins.
We recommend using a pest control dip designed for coral to prevent parasites and stowaways before adding them to the main reef.
Remember to limit out-of-water exposure when you transfer your coral from the quarantine tank or floating bag to the reef.
While coral can survive being removed from the water as long as they stay wet, this can cause the coral to become stressed during a tank transfer.
Even if you acclimate your coral properly, that isn’t guaranteed that the coral will do well over time. To ensure that your coral stays healthy, we’ll need to look at your reef’s lighting and the flowing in water.
Once the coral has been quarantined and acclimated, you might be wondering whether it’s ready to be added to its home tank.
Beyond that, you’ll need to look at the movement of the water and lighting situation. Let’s dig a little deeper into war coral requirements for both.
Water Flow and Lighting for War Coral
The next thing we’ll learn in this guide is how water flow and lighting influence your coral’s health.
Together, both of these environmental factors help simulate a war coral’s natural environment in the ocean. Coral uses both light and the currents of the reef tank to feed itself. This is because it draws nutrients from the circulating water and photosynthesis.
Water Flow for War Coral
So let’s get down to it: war coral does best in water with a moderate current flow. This means that we recommend you don’t place your coral near or directly under the overflow from the reef tank’s filtration system.
War coral depends on good water movement for the following reasons:
- Feeding: Whenever you aren’t hand-feeding your war corals with a turkey baster, they will actively feed themselves by drawing micronutrients from the water.
- Alkalinity: Without good water flux, carbon dioxide begins to build up in the water. This can cause water to become more acidic, which is bad news for coral.
- Waste removal: The reef tank’s filtration system needs good water circulation to pull excess waste through the filter and clean the water. Waste build-up can lead to your tank becoming poisoned by ammonia, nitrates, and other toxic chemicals.
Lighting for War Coral
War coral is a shady type of coral, and it’ll do best in medium to low lighting. Keeping these corals in low lighting conditions can help you keep your coral’s colors deep and rich.
Since coral doesn’t do well in direct or strong lighting, you should plan on keeping this coral type in a somewhat dim tank.
You can also place coral on the bottom of a tall tank where the light has to pass through several feet of water to reach them.
If all you had to worry about was lighting and flowing in the water, keeping coral would be so easy; everyone would do it. But no such luck!
Next, we’ll go into more water parameters you need to consider to keep your coral in tip-top shape. Let me explain what to do.
Water Parameters for War Coral
While salinity, temperature, and pH are some of the most important water parameters to consider when you’re keeping war corals, we want to let you know about some of the other parameters you need to watch.
Below you’ll find a table of the best water parameters for keeping coral in your reef tank.
Use these parameters with regular water testing to check your levels and see if you can make any adjustments to improve.
Here are two major tips we think will help you get a better handle on caring for your war corals when you’re first getting started:
- Do water testing often. Testing the water in your reef aquarium with a saltwater testing kit can tell you exactly where your water parameters stand so you can fix them if necessary.
- Do regular water changes. Doing water changes on your reef aquarium is important to keeping the water clean and within the proper parameters to keep your coral happy.
Half of the battle of managing water parameters on a saltwater reef is keeping track of them. We recommend that you record your water parameters each time you test to see where you stand.
So now we know what kind of water conditions war coral needs, but how does it act in the reef aquarium?
To answer that, off we go to take a look at war coral’s temperament and how it should impact placement in the home reef.
Placement and Temperament of War Coral
War coral needs to be placed in isolation away from other neighbors on the reef aquarium. This is because war corals are known for their aggression.
War corals show aggression by sending out sweeper tentacles at night well beyond their home territory. These sweeper tentacles can damage and even kill other corals they come into contact with.
This defense mechanism is similar to a bee’s sting and is known as a nematocyst. (*)
Where Do I Put War Corals?
When placing this coral, you need to consider how close it is to other corals and how big it might eventually grow. In my experience, you’ll need to give them some distance.
How Large Do War Corals Grow?
Most war corals are purchased between an inch and seven inches in size.
War corals are considered a somewhat fast-growing coral and may put on a few inches of growth a year in good conditions. (*)
There’s one surefire way to make war corals grow faster, and that’s feeding! We’ll show you how to feed war corals and some of their favorite things to eat.
Feeding War Coral
War corals get some of their food through photosynthesis.
To get the most growth and the best health out of your coral, we recommend that you also feed the coral directly at least once a week. In care, corals should get 10-20% of their energy through predatory feeding. (*)
War corals thrive on a diet of meaty foods such as the following:
- Diced squid
- Diced shrimp
- Diced fish
Introducing a variety of foods can help you find the type of food your war corals like best. War corals can survive without being fed directly if they have proper lighting, but they won’t grow fast.
How Do You Feed War Corals?
When you’re feeding your war corals, don’t leave excess uneaten food in the tank. This can cause the water to develop dangerous levels of nitrates that may kill your coral over time. Be careful!
They Are A Beautiful Addition to Your Reef
No matter what colors you like in your coral, you’re sure to find a morph of war coral that fits your dream reef. If you use this guide to learn proper care, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best-looking coral you can find in captivity.