Duncan Coral Care Guide: Everything You Need To Know!

Duncan coral, scientifically known as Duncanopsammia axifuga, is a popular choice among reef hobbyists, particularly for beginners. This striking coral is known for being easy to care for, making it an excellent option for those new to maintaining a reef aquarium.

Duncan corals are available in a range of vibrant colors, most commonly exhibiting hues of green, light brown, and purple.

In this duncan coral care guide, we will explore the essential aspects of Duncan coral care, including proper placement, lighting, and feeding. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of these factors will ensure a thriving environment for your coral, allowing them to grow and flourish within your aquarium.

By learning the basics of Duncan coral care, both beginners and experienced reef keepers can provide a supportive and nurturing habitat for these engaging invertebrates.

An infographic going over a Duncan Coral CARE SHEET

Tank Size For Duncan Corals

duncan coral care guide

Duncan corals are popular additions to saltwater aquariums due to their vibrant colors and relatively easy care requirements. When planning an appropriate tank size, it is crucial to consider their growth potential and need for space.

A 15-gallon tank is the minimum size required for a healthy Duncan coral. However, for beginners, a 20-30 gallon tank is usually a better choice as it offers more room for optimal growth and reduces the likelihood of water quality issues.

Duncan corals can also thrive in larger reef tanks that are 40 gallons and over. It is essential to provide them with adequate space to grow and avoid overcrowding.

Duncan coral tank sizes

Overcrowding a tank can lead to other corals stinging the Duncan coral, causing potentially damaging stress to the coral. When planning your tank, ensure that there is sufficient room between corals, typically around 1-3 inches apart. This provides them enough space to grow and helps prevent any aggression between tank mates.

Avoid overcrowing in your tank with duncan corals
Avoid overcrowing in your tank with duncan corals

In summary, the key to keeping your Duncan coral thriving is to provide it with enough space to grow in a tank of a suitable size. With the recommended minimum size of 15 gallons, beginner aquarists are encouraged to utilize a 20-30 gallon tank, while larger reef tanks of 40 gallons or more can also accommodate Duncan corals. Avoid overcrowding the tank, maintaining proper spacing between the corals to ensure their health and longevity.

Water Parameters For Duncan Coral

A duncan coral growing in a reef tank
“Duncan Frag” by coralhaven is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

Duncan corals thrive best under specific water conditions. Ensuring the proper parameters are met in your reef tank can lead to healthy and vibrant corals. Here, we discuss the essential water parameters for optimal Duncan coral growth and health:

Water Temperature: Duncan corals prefer a water temperature range of 75-80°F. Maintaining a stable temperature within this range is crucial for their well-being.

Water Flow: Moderate water flow is recommended for Duncan corals. Adequate water movement helps with nutrient delivery, gas exchange, and waste removal, contributing to their overall health.

pH: The ideal pH range for Duncan corals is between 8.1 and 8.4. This ensures a stable environment that supports their growth and metabolic processes.

Specific Gravity: A specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 is suitable for Duncan corals. It ensures the right balance of elements in the water, promoting coral health.

KH (Alkalinity): A carbonate hardness (KH) level of 7-12 dKH is recommended for Duncan corals. It helps maintain the pH stability and supports coral skeletal growth.

Maintaining healthy water parameters is essential for your duncan coral

Here is a summary of the other essential water parameters for Duncan coral care:

  • Ammonia: 0 ppm, as the presence of ammonia is toxic to corals
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm, to avoid stress or damage to the coral
  • Nitrate: Between 5 and 10 ppm, low levels are key to promoting coral growth
  • Phosphates: Below 0.03 ppm, as elevated levels can lead to algae growth and coral stress
  • Calcium: 380-450 ppm, essential for coral skeletal growth
  • Magnesium: 1200-1350 ppm, assists in maintaining the correct levels of calcium and alkalinity

By monitoring these water parameters and ensuring they remain within the recommended ranges, you will create a suitable environment for your Duncan coral to flourish.

Duncan Coral Lighting Requirements

A duncan coral in a well lit tank

Duncan corals require moderate lighting for their growth and overall well-being. That said, duncan corals can still do well in a lighting range between 50-200 PAR, which provides them with appropriate conditions to thrive.

It is essential to be aware of the lighting requirements because light plays a crucial role in the symbiotic relationship Duncan corals maintain with zooxanthellae. These microscopic algae living within the coral tissues depend on light for photosynthesis, which in turn, provides vital nutrients for the corals.

To help regulate the zooxanthellae and coral relationship, it is recommended to provide 8-10 hours of light and 14-16 hours of darkness for Duncan corals. Mimicking the natural light and dark cycles of their habitat not only facilitates their growth but also enhances their overall health. Some specialized aquarium lights can even simulate gradual sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset to create a realistic environment for the corals.

Optimal lighting is essential for a duncan coral to thrive

Various types of lights work well for Duncan corals in a reef aquarium. Full-spectrum LED lights, metal halide lights, and T5 fluorescent lights are popular choices among hobbyists due to their ability to support coral health. It is important to note that while selecting the light source, ensuring its adjustment to the desired intensity and duration is crucial for optimal coral growth.

In summary, mindful consideration of Duncan coral lighting requirements plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae and ensuring their proper growth and overall health. Providing the right PAR range, adhering to appropriate light and dark cycles, and using suitable light sources are key factors that contribute to successful Duncan coral care.

Tank Mates For A Duncan Coral

Reef safe tank mates can work well with duncan corals

Duncan coral is a peaceful and community-friendly coral species that can be kept with a variety of tank mates. When considering tank mates for Duncan coral, it is essential to select reef-safe fish, reef-safe inverts, and non-aggressive corals to ensure harmony in the tank environment.

One of the more common reasons that duncan corals close up is due to aggression from tank mates so always research any potential tank mate for your duncan coral prior to adding it to your tank.

Reef Safe Fish: Many species of fish are considered reef-safe and can be excellent tank mates for Duncan coral. Some popular reef-safe fish include:

  1. Clownfish (Various Species) – Always a favorite, most clownfish species should be safe with Duncan coral.
  2. Gobies (Various Species) – Small and typically non-aggressive.
  3. Blennies (Various Species) – Great for algae control and typically coral safe.
  4. Tangs (Various Species) – Known as algae grazers, Tangs are generally safe, but be cautious with larger species in smaller tanks.
  5. Chromis (Various Species) – Schooling fish that are generally peaceful.
  6. Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica) – Peaceful and visually striking.
  7. Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto) – A beautiful and typically non-aggressive fish.
  8. Anthias (Various Species) – Active and colorful, they typically leave corals alone.
  9. Hawkfish (Various Species) – Many are considered reef safe, but watch them for potential nipping.
  10. Cardinalfish (Various Species) – Peaceful and attractive, generally safe with corals.
  11. Six Line Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia) – Keep an eye on them as some wrasses can be problematic, but generally considered reef safe.
  12. Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) – Generally peaceful and reef safe.
  13. Dartfish (Various Species) – Another small and peaceful choice.
  14. Midas Blenny (Ecsenius midas) – Generally coral safe.
  15. Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus) – Known to be a good neighbor in reef tanks.
  16. Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus) – Beautiful and typically safe with corals, but requires specialized care.
  17. Pajama Cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera) – Known to be coral-friendly.
  18. Fairy and Flasher Wrasses (Various Species) – Generally considered safe with caution.

It is important to ensure that the fish species chosen do not display aggressive behavior towards corals or have a history of nipping at coral polyps. Some clownfish can mistake certain corals for anemones and suck on them when trying to pair with the coral so keep this in mind.

A cleaner shrimp can be a good tank mate for a duncan coral

Reef Safe Inverts: Invertebrates that are considered reef-safe can also be good tank mates for Duncan coral. These invertebrates not only coexist well with corals but can also contribute to the overall health of the tank by aiding in cleaning and algae control. Some examples of reef-safe inverts include snails, hermit crabs, cleaner shrimp, and feather duster worms. It is crucial to ensure that the chosen invertebrates are compatible with the other inhabitants of the tank and do not pose a threat to the corals.

A zoanthid coral can be a great option for a tank mate for a duncan coral

Non-Aggressive Corals: As corals can sometimes display aggressive behavior towards one another in a tank, it is essential to choose non-aggressive counterparts when introducing a Duncan coral. Examples of non-aggressive coral species include zoanthids, mushroom corals, green star polyps, and leather corals. Be sure to provide adequate spacing between corals in the tank, as this will allow for proper growth and prevent potential issues related to chemical warfare among corals.

In summary, when selecting tank mates for a Duncan coral, a combination of reef-safe fish, reef-safe inverts, and non-aggressive corals should be considered. Ensuring that the chosen tank mates are compatible and non-aggressive will help create a harmonious and healthy environment within the tank.

Feeding And Nutrition

Brine shrimp and mysis shrimp work well as a food source for duncan shrimp

Duncan corals rely on a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae for most of their nutrition. These microscopic algae live within the coral tissue, providing essential nutrients through photosynthesis. This means that the lighting in your tank has to be suitable for both the coral and the zooxanthellae or problems will start developing.

Although this relationship covers the majority of their nutritional needs, Duncan corals also engage in filter feeding to supplement their diet.

To further improve the health and growth of your Duncan coral, you can manually feed them two or three times a week. This benefits the coral by enriching their nutritional profile and helps them maintain their vibrant colors.

Target feeding is a popular technique that allows you to directly deliver food to the coral’s polyps. This method ensures the coral receives the necessary nutrients and minimizes waste in your aquarium.

Food sources for a duncan coral

When feeding your Duncan coral, use the following guidance:

  • Schedule: Feed your coral 2-3 times per week to encourage growth and coloration.
  • Food types: Opt for meaty foods such as mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, or other similar marine-based items.
  • Size: Chop or break up the food into appropriately sized pieces for the coral’s polyps to capture and consume.
  • Feeding tools: Use a baster or pipette to deliver food directly to the polyps, minimizing interference from other tank inhabitants.

Duncan corals do well with a wide range of different food sources for their manual feeding sessions. Here are some of our favorite foods to offer our duncan corals:

  1. Mysis Shrimp: Frozen or live mysis shrimp, chopped into appropriate sizes, can be fed to Duncan corals.
  2. Brine Shrimp: Both frozen and live brine shrimp are a commonly used food for corals.
  3. Reef Roids: This is a commercial product designed to feed corals and is widely used in the hobby.
  4. Minced Seafood: You can mince seafood like fish, squid, or shrimp into very tiny pieces. Be careful with portion sizes, as overfeeding can pollute the water.
  5. Microplankton: Available in various commercial preparations, microplankton provides a good food source for many corals.
  6. DIY Coral Food: Some hobbyists make their own coral food using a blend of the above ingredients. If you go this route, research carefully to ensure you provide a balanced diet.
  7. Coral Pellets: Specialized coral pellets are formulated with the nutrients corals need.
  8. Zooplankton: Zooplankton such as copepods and rotifers can be an excellent source of nutrition.
  9. Phytoplankton: Liquid phytoplankton is available from pet stores and can be added directly to the aquarium.
  10. Cyclopeeze: This is a specific type of freeze-dried copepod that is often used as coral food.
  11. Specialized Coral Food Mixes: There are many commercial coral food blends designed for LPS corals, and these can be a convenient and balanced food source.

Remember to monitor your coral’s response to the feeding sessions and adjust the frequency and amount as needed. By paying close attention to your Duncan coral’s nutritional needs and feeding techniques, you’ll promote their health, longevity, and stunning appearance in your reef aquarium.

An infographic going over Food For A Duncan Coral

Acclimation Process For Duncan Coral

Acclimation Process For Duncan Coral

The importance of acclimating your duncan coral correctly cannot be overstated. Proper acclimation allows your coral to adjust to its new environment and increases its chances of thriving in your reef tank.

Following a systematic approach to the acclimation process can help avoid potential stress, disease, or coral loss.

Dipping your duncan coral before adding it to your main tank is a crucial step in preventing common problems such as parasites or infections.

To do this, prepare a separate container with clean saltwater and a coral dip solution following the manufacturer’s instructions. Gently place the coral in the container, making sure it is fully submerged, and let it soak for the recommended amount of time.

Acclimation Process For Duncan Coral

We highly recommend that you quarantine or dip any new corals before adding them to your main reef tank as this reduces the chances of infections and parasites being introduced to the tank.

Once the dipping process is complete, it is time to start the acclimation process for duncan coral in a new tank. There are a number of different ways to acclimatise a duncan coral to your tank but this is the method we like to use:

  1. Temperature Acclimation:
    • Float the sealed bag containing the Duncan coral in the aquarium for 15-30 minutes to allow the temperature inside the bag to match the temperature in the tank.
    • You may want to attach the bag to the side of the tank or place something over it to prevent it from floating away or tipping over.
  2. Salinity & pH Acclimation (Drip Method):
    • Empty the contents of the bag (both coral and water) into a clean, designated container, such as a bucket.
    • Set up a siphon or drip line using airline tubing from the aquarium to the container. You may use a knot, clamp, or valve to control the drip rate.
    • Aim for a drip rate of around 2-4 drops per second, gradually mixing the tank water with the water in the container. This slow acclimation helps the coral adjust to the new water chemistry, particularly salinity and pH.
    • This process should take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the specific conditions of the water and your comfort level with the process.
    • Continue the drip until the volume of water in the container has at least doubled. If you have a refractometer or hydrometer, you can monitor the specific gravity to match your tank.
  3. Inspecting the Coral:
    • Before placing the coral in the tank, inspect it for any signs of pests or disease. If you see any suspicious organisms, a coral dip in a specialized coral disinfectant may be necessary. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you choose to do this.
  4. Placing the Coral:
    • Using coral-friendly tongs or gloves, gently remove the Duncan coral from the container and place it in the tank.
    • Find a suitable spot based on its lighting and flow requirements. Duncan corals generally like moderate flow and moderate lighting, but these preferences can vary, so adjust accordingly.
  5. Clean Up and Observation:
    • Dispose of the acclimation water properly, as it could contain contaminants.
    • Monitor the coral closely for the first few days to weeks, watching for any signs of stress or disease.
  6. Light Acclimation:
    • If your new Duncan coral is coming from a system with significantly different lighting, you might also consider a gradual acclimation to the lighting in your tank. This can be done by placing the coral in a lower light area initially or reducing the overall lighting and gradually increasing it to the desired level over a week or two.

Duncan Coral Tank Placement

The tank placement for your duncan coral is not as important as some people think

When setting up a tank for Duncan coral, it is important to ensure optimal placement for the coral to thrive. Place your Duncan coral in an area of the tank that has moderate water flow and moderate lighting. This helps the coral to filter feed if required and get sufficient nutrients.

As for the position in the tank, the ideal placement for Duncan coral is towards the bottom of the tank, even in the sand bed.

This is because Duncan corals are commonly found in lower-light conditions and slow water flow areas in their natural habitat. If an alternative position is preferred, placing the coral in the middle or top sections of the tank might still provide the needed environment as long as lighting and water flow requirements are met. However, it is always better to follow their natural preference for placement at the bottom.

Tank placements for duncan coral
Bottom, Middle, And Top Placements Can Work

Regarding substrate, make sure to choose a material that provides stable support for the coral, as it can indirectly affect the coral’s overall health. Sand or fine gravel substrate can be appropriate for Duncan corals, considering their placement in a lower-flow area of the tank. It would also allow corals to anchor themselves properly and grow well.

The key to a thriving Duncan coral is creating a suitable environment that mimics its natural habitat. Following these placement guidelines and keeping a close eye on your coral’s tank conditions will help ensure its success and longevity in your aquarium.

Duncan Coral Growth Rate


Duncan corals, when properly cared for and provided with the right nutrition, have the potential to grow at a rapid pace. In some cases, they can transform from a small one-head frag to a full-grown ten-head colony in less than a year.

This growth rate depends heavily on factors such as water flow, lighting, and the quality of their diet.

The average size of a fully grown Duncan coral largely depends on the conditions provided in the aquarium. With proper care, a substantial colony can be achieved. The coral can grow wider and taller as their branches extend so keep this in mind when choosing the tank size for your duncan coral.

However, size can vary greatly depending on individual specimens and tank conditions. It is essential to give these corals ample room to grow and not place them directly next to other corals, as this can inhibit their growth and cause conflicts with other species.

Growth rates for duncan corals
Duncan Coral Growth Rates

When tending to your Duncan coral, keep in mind that water quality plays a significant role in growth rate. Although Duncan corals can be somewhat forgiving with water parameters, maintaining these optimal conditions will help ensure the most vibrant colors, healthiest growth, and overall thriving colony.

Here is a reminder of our recommended water parameters for a duncan coral:

Water Temperature: 75-80°F
Water Flow: Moderate
pH: 8.1-8.4
Specific Gravity: 1.023-1.025
KH: 7-12 dKH
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 5 and 10 ppm
Phosphates: below 0.03 ppm
Calcium: 380-450
Magnesium: 1200 – 1350

In summary, the growth rate of Duncan corals is influenced by factors such as proper nutrition, water parameters, and tank conditions. By providing your coral with the ideal environment and attentively tending to its needs, you can effectively encourage the growth of a thriving and visually stunning coral colony in your aquarium.

Duncan Coral Propagation

A duncan coral growing in its tank
“Duncan Coral” by xAquatics is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

Duncan coral propagation, also known as fragging, is a process that helps reef enthusiasts grow new coral colonies from an existing one, in a controlled environment. This process is relatively simple and can be successfully done by following a few essential steps.

That said, we do usually recommend against this process if you are a total beginner as certain mistakes can cause serious problems with your coral.

Before starting the propagation, it’s crucial to prepare and have the necessary tools, such as a clean and sharp pair of bone cutters or coral scissors, gloves, a small container of tank water, and a coral dip solution. To ensure the health and safety of the coral, it is imperative to sterilize all equipment with a suitable disinfectant and use gloves to prevent contamination.

Fragging duncan corals can result in rapid expansion in your tank

There are a number of different fragging methods out there for duncan corals but this is our preferred method:

Equipment You Will Need:

  • Clean and sharp scissors, bone cutters, or coral cutters
  • Frag plugs, tiles, or small rocks to mount the new frags
  • Coral glue or epoxy
  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • A small container with tank water to hold the frags
  • A clean and stable work area

Fragging Process:

  1. Prepare the Work Area: Clean the tools with rubbing alcohol or a coral-safe disinfectant and rinse with freshwater. Lay out your frag plugs, glue, and any other equipment you’ll need.
  2. Remove the Duncan Coral: Carefully remove the colony from the aquarium if you can. Doing so can minimize stress to the other tank inhabitants.
  3. Identify the Fragging Points: Duncan coral is polyp-based, with each polyp growing on a separate stalk. Look for natural separation points where individual stalks branch off.
  4. Make the Cut: Using the scissors or coral cutters, make a clean cut at the base of the stalk, separating an individual polyp or small cluster of polyps.
  5. Place Frag in Container: Temporarily place the frag in a container filled with aquarium water.
  6. Mount the Frag: Apply coral glue or epoxy to the frag plug, tile, or rock, then press the cut end of the frag onto the glue. Hold for a few seconds until it adheres.
  7. Return Frags to the Aquarium: Place the newly mounted frags in a low-flow area of your aquarium to allow them to heal and attach more firmly. Be mindful of the lighting as well; you might want to place the frag in a lower light area initially and gradually move it to its desired location.
  8. Monitor the Coral: Keep a close eye on the frags for the next few days and weeks, watching for any signs of stress or disease.
  9. Care for the Parent Colony: Return the parent colony to its original location in the tank and monitor it closely as it heals.

Important Considerations:

  • Ensure the parent colony is healthy before attempting to frag it, as a stressed or diseased coral is less likely to survive the process.
  • Use proper safety equipment, including gloves and eye protection, to protect yourself from potential irritants.
  • Ensure that the newly fragged corals are placed in suitable locations within the tank that meet their specific needs for light and flow.
  • Practice good hygiene, washing all tools thoroughly after use.

Dealing With Common Diseases And Problems

Dealing With Common Diseases And Problems

Duncan corals are generally hardy corals, but they can still encounter diseases and problems in their growth. Some common issues include bleaching, tissue necrosis, and pests. By maintaining proper water parameters and closely monitoring your coral, you can prevent and treat these issues.

Bleaching is when the coral loses its vibrant colors and becomes pale or white. This can occur due to sudden changes in water temperature, lighting, or water chemistry. To resolve bleaching, restore the appropriate water parameters and provide optimal lighting conditions for the coral.

Tissue necrosis is the rapid loss of tissue, which can lead to the death of the coral. It can be caused by poor water quality, insufficient light, or aggressive tank mates. To prevent tissue necrosis, ensure your tank has clean, well-maintained water, provide plenty of light, and keep aggressive fish or invertebrates away from the coral. If necrosis is detected, remove the affected parts of the coral and maintain stable water conditions for recovery.

Pests, including flatworms and nudibranchs, can prey on the coral’s soft tissues or polyps. To deal with pests, inspect new corals for signs of hitchhikers before adding them to your tank. If you find pests, you can manually remove them or use natural predators, like wrasses or sea cucumbers, as biological controls.

Remember, prevention is the best approach to maintaining the health of your Duncan corals. Keep your water parameters stable, check your corals regularly for signs of diseases or pests, and provide them with the right conditions for growth.

On Going Maintenance For Duncan Coral

On Going Maintenance For Duncan Coral

Performing regular water changes is a crucial aspect of Duncan coral care. Ideally, you should conduct partial water changes of around 10-20% every week. This not only keeps the water clean but also helps maintain a stable environment for the coral by preventing a build-up of unwanted toxins and nutrients.

Maintaining optimal water parameters is essential for the health and growth of Duncan coral. Key water parameters to monitor include temperature, water flow rate, pH level, and water hardness. Keep the water temperature between 75-80°F (24-27°C), maintain a moderate water flow rate, and ensure a pH level of 8.0-8.4, with a water hardness between 8-12 dKH.

Providing appropriate nutrition is also a vital aspect of Duncan coral maintenance. Duncan coral benefits from regular feedings, aiming for 2-3 times per week. Feed the coral with small marine-based, nutrient-dense foods, such as copepods, brine shrimp, or commercially available coral foods. When feeding, gently target the coral’s oral disc and tentacles; be cautious as to not overfeed, as this can lead to unwanted consequences such as increased algae growth and a decline in water quality.

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