A ‘Dying’ Soft Coral

I have a [tag-tec]soft coral[/tag-tec] (well, there we go, lucky person, actually many aquarists have got several). Seriously, I have a soft coral that’s a joy to behold.

I’m not exactly sure what it is, I believe it could come under the general term ‘colt’ coral. More specifically, it may well be Alcyonium sp. I cannot be sure. It is a multi-branched very feathery (my wife says fluffy) coral. It is beautiful.

Or at least it was and is again. A few weeks ago I noted that the coral was not as expanded as usual. It became less so as the days went by. All other corals in the aquarium remained normal, so I had no reason to suspect water quality problems.

As time passed, about a week in all, the coral became totally deflated. Or I thought it was totally deflated, but it continued to shrink. Then one morning I noted that it had completely fallen over, and had taken on a very bent appearance. There was no sign of rot or damage. Wait and see?

Matters did not improve. Over a few more days the [tag-ice]coral[/tag-ice] shrank even more, so much so that the branches were very short indeed. In addition, the stalk was very nearly flat, bent nearly double, and had taken on very grey appearance. To all intents and purposes it looked like a strangely shaped stone, and the flesh was solid and hard.

I’ve been keeping corals for many, many years and I have never seen anything like this. I’ve seen corals close up and then re-open after a number of days, or sometimes more, but never seen a coral in such a state. The coral was left alone, but no improvement was seen. I began to watch carefully for signs of rot, if I detected any I might attempt to cut it out or remove the coral in its entirety permanently. I didn’t see any rot, but had generally accepted that the coral, for reasons unknown, was a dead duck.

One morning I was having a ‘lay-in’ with a book and my wife very kindly brought me a coffee. She said ‘You know that dead thing, well it’s moved.’

‘Oh, thanks’ was my quiet reply. I continued to read. I reckoned it must have fallen off the rock. When I was ready, I’d take it out.

When I got to the aquarium I noted my wife was correct, it had moved. It was still attached to the rock and there were some signs of more expanded branches though it still looked very bad.

Over very many days it continued to expand and it slowly stood up. It is now back to its full self, though leaning at a more acute angle. It isn’t any bigger, or more beautiful, or more anything. It is just as it was.

The whole episode has taken five weeks. Maybe the coral had a need to completely exhaust its internal fluids (if so what a long time it took). Maybe it was a reaction to a parasite (though I doubt this).

Whatever it was, what a good thing I didn’t jump to any early conclusion that it was dead despite the length of time of the problem. The reward is the return of a perfectly good and beautiful coral.

A ‘Dying’ Soft Coral
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  1. Hi, I think my coral is dying it is a toadstool, so Ive recently started adding supplements including calcium and magnesium and also a ph buffer as I had’nt previously just water changes. But whilst testing my water for calcium and magnesium I cant seem to get a reading, I dont know whether I should leave it a bit longer I only started adding about a week ago and the coral still has not shown any signs of perking up. My sg is 1.024-5, ph is around 8, I know it needs to be higher, KH is 10. phosphate is reading 0, any ideas? thank you your website is great and easy to follow.

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