What is leather coral

corals, General

What are leather corals

Leather corals are a soft coral with a solid base. They come in a variety of attractive shapes and can add a lot of movement to your aquarium. They can change shape by expanding and deflating their bodies with water or by expanding and retracting their tentacles.

They are considered one of the most suitable soft corals for beginners. Not only are they very popular with novice hobbyists, but experienced hobbyists are also a big supporter of these corals. They give a lot of movement in the aquarium which many stony corals lack. Many leather corals are easy to care for, especially the corals in the Sarcophyton, Lobophytum, Sinularia and Cladiella genera.

In addition to the leather corals, there are many other types of soft corals that are very suitable for novice hobbyists. These include gorgonians and other unique corals such as organ pipe corals, disc anemones, ears and green star polyps. In order to keep these corals in good condition, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the needs of these corals.

Leather Coral Identification

Like other types of soft corals, leather corals are attached to the substrate or rock. They have a body which is covered with polyps. These corals, as well as all soft corals, are also part of the Octocorallia species known as the Octocorals. These are defined as corals, which for each polyp have the distinctive eight pinnate tentacles and eight septas used to gather food. They can then share this food with the rest of the coral.

The polyps of different leather corals can have long or short tentacles and they can be of different lengths. Even the corals with long polyps have a smooth body when the polyps retract. Leather corals come in many colors, with yellow, orange, red, olive, rust and purple being the most common.

Types of leather corals

Leather corals are loved by novice and experienced hobbyists. There are a number of readily available varieties that we will name.

Some leather corals that are easy to keep include:

  • Cladiella Sp.
  • Sarcophyton glaucum
  • Sarcophyton tenuispiculatum
  • Sarcophyton trocheliophorum
  • Lobophytum crassum
  • Lobophytum Sp.
  • Sinularia dura
  • Sinularia notanda

Some of the more difficult leather corals to care for include:

  • Sarcophyton elegans
  • Sinularia flexibilis
  • Sarcophyton ehrenbergic

Leather coral care

Leather corals are generally very strong and thrive in a well-maintained aquarium. Most require moderate to strong water flow and tend to do very well under various types of aquariums with fluorescent lighting. They are also easy to propagate by simply cutting them into pieces and attaching these pieces to a plug or piece of rock.

They often contain symbiotic algae that provide the coral with food and therefore do well in strong light. Leather corals also need currents to repel the slime they produce. They produce this to get rid of algae or other irritants that may be present on the coral’s body. Sometimes they shrink and it seems as if they die. However, this is a natural occurrence where they shed their outer layer and then open up and grow again. If you see this, don’t panic. Within a few days to weeks the coral will look like normal again.

Leather corals are also sometimes used as hosts for clown fish. This happens especially when there is no anemone available. However, leather corals can be harmful to other corals. They emit chemicals to repel other corals to create space for themselves. Provide plenty of space between leather corals and other corals, at least a few centimeters.

Feeding leather corals

Leather corals get most of the nutrition from the symbiotic algae that reside in the coral’s body. However, many leather corals will accept small foods such as brine shrimp and plankton well. Some can be fed with plankton. With additional feeding, these corals will be stronger and grow faster.


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