9 Reasons Your Candy Cane Coral Is Dying And How To Fix It!

Candy cane coral, also known as trumpet coral, is a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts due to its relatively easy care and peaceful nature. These corals are known for their unique, trumpet-shaped polyps that resemble candy canes.

However, just like any other marine organism, candy cane corals can experience stress and, in some cases, deterioration that may lead to their eventual death.

There are several factors that can contribute to the decline of candy cane coral health, including changes in water quality, lighting, flow, and the presence of viral diseases. Paying close attention to these factors and properly addressing any issues that arise is crucial to maintaining the health and well-being of these beautiful corals.

In the coming sections, we will discuss the signs, causes, and possible solutions for preventing candy cane coral from dying.

Poor Water Quality

candy cane coral thriving in its tank after almost dying

One major factor that can lead to candy cane coral dying is poor water quality in an aquarium. Maintaining appropriate water parameters is essential for the health and well-being of these corals.

Key parameters to monitor include calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, nitrate, and phosphate levels.

Calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium are vital for the growth and general health of the coral. They are responsible for skeletal formation, polyp extension, and overall coral metabolism. Here are our recommended water parameters for healthy candy cane corals:

Water Temperature: 75 – 82°F
Water Flow: Moderate
pH: 8.1-8.4
Specific Gravity: 1.022-1.025
KH: 8-12 dKH
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: Below 5 ppm
Phosphates: below 0.1 ppm
Calcium: 380-430
Magnesium: 1200 – 1350

A cheap reef tank test kit should be able to test the majority of these parameters for you and give you an indication to the problem. If any of these parameters are out of range then this could be the reason your candy cane coral is dying.

Water parameter test kits for keeping your candy cane corals healthy

If this is your problems, you may see your candy cane coral start to improve within days of correcting the problem. If one or more of your tanks water parameters have been out of range for an extended period of time then the recovery time will also be far longer than normal so keep that in mind.

In addition to these parameters, potential contaminants in the aquarium can threaten the health of candy cane coral. One such pollutant is copper, which is toxic to corals. Copper can adversely affect coral growth and lead to tissue degradation. It is essential to avoid using medications or tools containing copper in an aquarium that houses candy cane coral.

To maintain good water quality, regular water testing and necessary adjustments should be conducted. Efficient filtration systems, proper water movement, and regular water changes are crucial practices to avoid potential issues related to poor water quality. Through diligent care and monitoring, aquarists can provide a suitable environment for candy cane coral to thrive.

Lighting Problems

Different coral frags growing in a tank

Candy cane corals, like other corals, rely on a proper balance of light intensity and spectrum for their overall health and growth. Issues with lighting can lead to these corals experiencing stress and, in some cases, dying.

Light intensity plays a significant role in the health of candy cane corals. Both too much and too little light can cause stress in these corals. Extremely high light intensity can lead to coral bleaching or irritation, while insufficient light can hinder the coral’s ability to perform vital photosynthetic processes.

This is why we recommend that you place your candy cane coral in an area of your tank that gets low to moderate lighting as it helps to prevent a number of problems.

The spectrum of light is equally essential for corals, as it affects their symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae and their photosynthesis. Blue light, in particular, plays a crucial role in the photosynthetic processes of corals. Providing a suitable spectrum of light ensures that the coral can efficiently perform its essential functions.

A correctly lit reef tank

When addressing lighting problems for candy cane corals, it is important to monitor both the intensity and spectrum. Investing in a high-quality, adjustable light source can help maintain proper conditions for not only the candy cane coral but also other coral species within the same aquarium. Regularly checking and adjusting the lighting setup as needed can significantly improve the health and longevity of your candy cane coral and prevent it from dying.

We usually recommend that you provide your candy cane coral with 8-12 hours of light per day. A moderate light setup usually does well with 8-10 hours while a low light setup usually does better with 10-12 hours of light per day.

Water Flow

Candy Cane Coral In Its Tank

Candy cane corals do not require strong water flow within the aquarium. In fact, they benefit from moderate, indirect flow. This level of flow helps to maintain their health and encourages proper growth.

It is important to ensure that the water movement in your tank provides adequate circulation to keep the coral clean and free from detritus buildup.

One key aspect of providing the appropriate water flow is making sure it is indirect. Direct, high-intensity water flow can cause stress on the coral, weakening its immune system and potentially leading to illness or death. In essence, a balance must be struck between too strong and too weak water flow.

Adding rocks to your aquarium can protect your candy cane coral from high water flow

Adding rocks to your reef tank can be a quick, easy, and cheap way to reduce the water flow before it gets to your candy cane coral. This allows you to keep tank mates that require high water flow in the tank with your candy cane coral without having problems.

When setting up the aquarium, consider installing pumps or wavemakers that can create a gentle, uniform current. This will help to facilitate proper nutrient and oxygen exchange for the candy cane coral while preventing excess detritus from accumulating.

If your candy cane coral is having problems due to the water flow in its tank, it will usually start to show the signs of recovery within days of the problem being corrected and the water flow being reduced.

Problems With Feeding And Nutrition

A Candy Cane Coral In Its Tank

Feeding and nutrition are crucial aspects of maintaining the health of your candy cane coral. Proper feeding practices help ensure the coral obtains adequate nutrients for its growth and survival. In this section, we will explore some of the key problems related to feeding and nutrition that may affect your candy cane coral’s health.

Importance of Feeding: Although candy cane corals can obtain some of their nutritional needs through photosynthesis with zooxanthellae, many hobbyists supplement their diet by providing coral-specific foods or planktonic solutions.

This extra nutrition can improve the coral’s overall well-being and ensure that it receives the necessary nutrients it may not obtain from whats available in your reef tank. There are a number of great food options that can help to fill these nutritional gaps in your corals diet but here are some of our preferred options:

  1. Microplankton or Phytoplankton: These are microscopic plants that many corals feed on in the wild. They can be bought in liquid or freeze-dried form from many aquarium stores.
  2. Zooplankton: This includes various types of tiny animals such as copepods, rotifers, and brine shrimp nauplii.
  3. Coral Foods: Many manufacturers make specific coral food blends that contain a mix of plankton, marine proteins, and other nutrients beneficial for corals.
  4. Mysis Shrimp: These are tiny shrimp that are a favorite among many corals. They can be bought frozen or freeze-dried.
  5. Brine Shrimp: Newly hatched or adult brine shrimp can be used, but ensure they’re appropriately sized for the coral’s polyps.
  6. Cyclopeeze: This is a freeze-dried product made from a specific type of zooplankton. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  7. Reef Roids: A popular commercial coral food, made of finely ground marine planktons, designed for filter-feeding corals.
  8. Baby Squid or Fish Flesh: You can feed small bits of these marine products, but ensure they’re small enough for the coral to ingest and always offer these sparingly.
  9. Daphnia: These are small freshwater crustaceans, but they can be given occasionally as a treat.

Spot feeding your coral 2-3 times per week can surge its growth rate as well as help it recover from any potential problems with its diet.

An infographic Food For A Candy Cane Coral

One potential problem is using an incorrect feeding method. Feeding your candy cane coral in an unsuitable way may result in the coral not receiving enough food or not being able to digest it properly.

Target feeding, where you directly place food near the coral, can be an effective method, but it is important to do it gently and patiently, allowing the coral polyps to grab the food on their own.

We usually use tweezers for solid food or a turkey baster for liquid food and just gently place the food neat the coral to avoid problems.

Direct feeding methods for corals
Direct Feeding Methods For Corals

Overfeeding poses another significant issue in maintaining healthy candy cane corals. Too many nutrients in a reef aquarium can lead to water quality issues such as elevated nitrate and phosphate levels.

These imbalances can harm not only your coral, but also the other organisms in the tank. To avoid overfeeding, it is crucial to feed your coral the proper portions according to its size and nutritional needs.

Make sure to observe your candy cane coral and adjust the feeding amount if necessary, ensuring signs of overfeeding are remedied quickly.

Monitoring your candy cane coral’s feeding habits and overall health is essential in preventing problems related to feeding and nutrition. By providing proper care, you can avoid facing these issues and ensure the long-term well-being of your coral.

Pests And Diseases

A candy cane coral thriving after previously having problems

Candy cane coral, like other corals, can experience health issues due to pests and diseases. By understanding the common signs of pests and diseases, avid coral enthusiasts can better care for their coral and maintain a healthier reef environment.

Coral-eating pests such as certain nudibranchs, flatworms, or parasitic snails can cause significant damage to coral colonies. These pests often feed on the coral’s polyps and tissues, leading to decline in the overall health of the coral. It is essential to monitor the coral environment and remove any visible pests to prevent further damage.

Fungal or bacterial infections can also negatively impact candy cane coral health. These infections manifest in various ways, such as discoloration, rapid tissue necrosis, or slime production. Some common bacterial infections include brown jelly disease and white band disease, while fungal infections may cause white patches or lesions on the coral.

Fungus, bacteria, and parasites can all cause your candy cane coral to die

To combat fungal and bacterial infections, it is crucial to maintain optimal water quality and quarantine any infected coral fragments. Additionally, treatment with coral dips containing iodine or other medications may help to combat infection and promote recovery.

If your candy cane coral is dying due to an infection, it will usually start to show signs of improvement within a week of the infection being treat. A candy cane coral may take months to fully recover from certain infections though so keep this in mind and don’t rush the process.

In conclusion, early detection and prompt action against coral pests and diseases play a significant role in maintaining the overall health and longevity of candy cane coral. By staying vigilant and proactive in care, coral enthusiasts can enjoy a thriving and vibrant coral environment.


Candy Cane Coral

Corals in a reef environment are in constant competition for valuable resources like space, light, and nutrients. In the midst of this struggle, candy cane corals may face challenges in their ability to grow and thrive.

Candy cane corals can be affected by aggressive neighboring corals, which might sting or shade the candy cane coral, hampering its ability to survive.

Aggressive neighboring corals can impede the growth of candy cane corals in a number of ways. For instance, some corals may extend their sweeper tentacles to sting the candy cane coral, ultimately causing damage or even death. Additionally, other fast-growing corals might outgrow and overshadow the candy cane coral, depriving it of the light it requires to carry out photosynthesis efficiently.

An overcrowded reef tank will have increased competition for resrouces that may cause your candy cane coral to start dying
Overcrowded Reef Tanks Have Increased Competition

When working to maintain or improve the health of a candy cane coral, it is essential to pay close attention to the coral’s placement within the aquarium or reef environment. Providing ample space between the candy cane coral and its neighboring corals can help reduce the likelihood of negative interactions and foster a healthier environment for all corals involved.

Monitoring light accessibility and considering the light requirements of each coral will contribute to the overall success of the candy cane coral and its surroundings.

In conclusion, understanding the importance of competition among corals is crucial to maintaining the well-being of a candy cane coral. Taking attentive measures against aggressive neighbors, as well as ensuring optimal spatial arrangement and light accessibility, can significantly enhance the coral’s chances of surviving and thriving in its habitat.

Handling And Acclimation

A Candy Cane Coral
“Candy Cane Coral (Night)” by Brett Levin Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

When introducing a candy cane coral to a new environment, it’s crucial to follow proper acclimation processes to ensure its health and well-being. Careful handling and acclimation are essential because the coral may be stressed due to transportation or movement within the tank.

There are a number of different ways to successfully acclimate a candy cane coral to a new reef tank but here is our preferred method:

  1. Prepare the New Tank:
    • Ensure the reef tank is stable with the appropriate water parameters.
    • Make sure the lighting, flow, and temperature are suitable for your candy cane coral.
  2. Floating the Bag:
    • Start by floating the sealed bag containing the coral in the tank for approximately 15-20 minutes. This will allow the water inside the bag to match the tank’s temperature.
  3. Drip Acclimation:
    • After floating, prepare a clean container or bucket.
    • Place the bag in the container and open it. Roll down the edges of the bag to help it stay upright.
    • Start a siphon using some airline tubing from the tank to the container. Use a knot or a clamp to control the flow rate.
    • Aim for a drip rate of about 2-4 drips per second. This slow introduction of the tank water will allow the coral to gradually adjust to the new water parameters.
    • Allow the volume of water in the container to double. This can take an hour or more depending on the drip rate and the initial volume of water.
    • Periodically check the salinity (specific gravity) in the container to ensure it’s getting closer to your tank’s parameters.
  4. Test and Match Parameters:
    • Before transferring, make sure the parameters (especially salinity, pH, and temperature) of the water in the container closely match that of the main tank.
  5. Transfer the Coral:
    • Once acclimated, gently lift the coral from the container, letting any excess water drip off.
    • Place the coral in the desired location in your tank. For Candy Cane Corals, a spot with moderate lighting and flow is ideal. Avoid placing them in direct, high flow as it can damage the fleshy polyps.
  6. Monitor the Coral:
    • For the first few days, monitor the coral closely for signs of stress or bleaching. It’s normal for the coral to take some time to fully open and adapt to its new environment.
    • Gradually increase the lighting over a week or two if you’re introducing the coral to more intense lighting than it’s used to.
  7. Avoid Feeding Immediately:
    • Wait for a day or two before feeding the coral in its new environment to allow it to settle.
  8. Maintenance:
    • Always monitor your water parameters, especially in the initial days, to ensure they remain stable.
A candy cane coral with optimal placement in its tank

During the entire handling and acclimation process, it’s important to minimize any disturbances and avoid exposing the coral to air or drastic changes in temperature. Take note that the candy cane coral is sensitive to light, so avoid placing it under direct, intense lighting during the initial acclimation period.

It’s essential to constantly monitor the conditions of the aquarium and provide both stable water parameters and lighting conditions to reduce stress and ensure the coral’s survival. Proper water chemistry, including calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium levels, can contribute significantly to the overall health of candy cane coral, thereby decreasing its chances of dying.

By following these proper acclimation processes and maintaining the right water conditions, aquarists can help their candy cane coral thrive in its new environment and reduce the risk of stress and mortality.

Tank Mates

Candy Cane Coral Tank Mates Can Cause Problems
“File:Yellow Clown Goby.jpg” by Sean McGrath is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

When selecting tank mates for your candy cane coral, it is crucial to consider the compatibility of these tank mates with the coral. Some fish or invertebrates might disturb or feed on your candy cane coral resulting in a number of different problems.

Keeping peaceful, reef-safe fish is the best choice for a candy cane coral tank. Examples of such fish can include clownfish, cardinalfish, and gobies. These fish species are known not to feed on or harm corals and thus make excellent tank mates for candy cane coral.

Invertebrates can also coexist harmoniously with candy cane coral, as long as they are reef-compatible. Cleaner shrimp are probably the best invertebrate option for candy cane corals but some hermit crabs and snails can sometimes work too.

Cleaner shrimp can work well with Goniopora corals
A Cleaner Shrimp

It is advisable to research and ascertain the compatibility of fish or invertebrates before adding them to your aquarium. Avoid aggressive fish species, such as butterflyfish or angelfish, that could potentially nibble on the coral.

Remember to monitor the behavior and interactions of different tank mates, and adjust your tank setup as needed to ensure that your candy cane coral and its environment remain healthy and thriving. Keep the confidence and knowledge that selecting appropriate tank mates will go a long way toward the long-term success of your candy cane coral.

Chemical Imbalance

Three candy cane coral in a reef tank

Candy cane coral, like other marine invertebrates, requires a stable and healthy environment to thrive. One of the factors that can contribute to the coral’s decline is a chemical imbalance in the aquarium’s water.

A consistent water quality monitoring routine is essential to maintaining a thriving coral reef system.

Certain additives or medications might impact the health of corals negatively. For example, some medications used to treat fish diseases contain copper, which can be highly toxic to corals. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that any treatments or additives used in the aquarium are safe for all inhabitants, including the candy cane coral.

Keeping the water chemistry parameters in the appropriate range is vital to avoid stressing the coral and causing it to lose its color or health. Key parameters to monitor include pH, alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, and salinity levels. Fluctuations in any of these parameters can create an environment that is unfavorable for the coral, leading to stress or dying conditions.

To maintain a balanced aquarium environment, regular water changes are necessary. Water changes help maintain proper nutrient levels, remove waste, and replenish trace elements essential for coral growth. In addition, the use of high-quality salt mixes and considering the use of a protein skimmer can help maintain optimal water quality.

Addressing chemical imbalances early on can significantly reduce the chances of candy cane coral dying. Consistent monitoring and a proactive approach to maintaining water quality will contribute to a healthy and thriving reef aquarium for the candy cane coral and other inhabitants.

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