top photo by Jennifer Mendonca,
next two photos by Charlie Ehlers,
Sinularia pictures by Bob Fenner
Common names: leather coral, colt coral, toadstool/mushroom coral, tree coral, etc.
Natural origin: Indo-Pacific
Sensitivity (Level 1): These
corals are usually exceptionally tolerant and forgiving. They're also
easy to fragment and propagate. Beware of dyed corals (pink leather
corals have almost certainly been dyed).
These corals have extensive feeder tentacles. They feed on very small
particle food. Some are pickier eaters than others, so variety is
Lighting (Level 3 to 8): Though adaptable, most prefer more intense lighting conditions. If kept under less light, be sure to feed well.
Water flow: To avoid sediment damage, moderate to strong water flow is preferred.
Placement: It's important to note that some species are highly toxic to stony corals (especially larger polyp stony corals in the genera Lobophyllia, Symphyllia and Trachyphyllia).
Since specific species identification of leather corals can be quite
difficult (sometimes even to identify a genus), these corals should be
added with reservation to any tank with stony corals. Also consider that
many leather corals are relatively fast growing and can get quite
large. However, this isn't usually so much of a concern since they can
be literally cut down when they get too big.
General: Leathers are great corals for beginner aquarists or anyone looking to keep more low maintenance corals. Note that when stressed or introduced into a new tank, they may close up and not open up again for several days or even weeks. This
might also happen right before the coral sheds. Stronger water flow
will decrease the "shut down" time before shedding. This
periodic shedding of the outer layer of cells is a normal occurrence and
is thought to help keep algae and/or other corals from growing over
It's important to keep the toxicity issue in mind. Someone
hoping to keep larger polyped stony corals at a later time should think
carefully about adding leathers to their tanks, especially those in the
genus Sacrophyton which are known to be particularly toxic.