Tubipora musica, otherwise known as pipe organ corals, bring gardens bloom to our aquariums. Beneath each polyp lies a red tube of varying height that when retracted resemble a pipe organ. These beauties make great additions to owners who want a nice flowery addition without the aggressive growth of the star polyps.
Unfortunately coral prices have been rising for the past few years, and this year has brought a heavy price hike into the coral keeping realm. In order to get a large colony in their tanks many owners buy small corals in hopes to grow them, which can be done quite successfully. So what exactly does it take to grow these corals quickly and efficiently? Over the years of playing with my coral tanks I’ve recorded many different supplements and their effects on growing corals. That’s what we’re here to discuss today.
Pipe Organ Coral Requirements
Pipe organ corals are fairly easy to take care of given that you have standard tank equipment. Here’s a quick and easy to follow checklist that will change growth time from 2 years to a few weeks. Remember my checklists are in order of most important to least important, not that any of the factors should be left out.
- High to Medium High Lights
These polyps get most of their nutrition through photosynthesis. Giving them strong, unobstructed lights allow the corals to soak in the lights power and convert it into energy. Depending on the type of colony you started with you may need multiple lights at different angles or highly efficient reflectors. Be sure each polyp is getting good light or you may find them dying and falling off the main body.
Optimal growth Lighting: 10000 Kelvin
- Medium Water Flow
Under close observation pipe organ corals can be seen using small pinules on its polyps to filter water, gaining nutrition. Simply said this coral can filter feed when needed. When growing larger the water flow allows the mouths on the polyps to have a never ending supply of nutrition, building up the materials needed for additional body tissue. However, given too strong water flow the mouths will not be able to feed. So blasting your pipe organ coral with direct flow is a big no.
- Keep pH of 8-8.3
Not much to say here. Any lower and corals grow slower. Too high and your tanks in danger. Keep it at 8-8.3 for the best growth.
- Added Nutrients
Due to pipe organ corals consisting of so many small hungry mouths adding nutrition is essential to speedy growth. When first added to the tank, the coral will slowly open and make itself comfortable in the water. Once it has been set the coral will begin to eat more than it needs. With the excess nutrition it absorbs, the pipe organ will try to expand and capture more food. This leads to the coral building more polyps, therefor growing just as we desire.
Best Supplements: Iodine & Calcium
- Target Feeding
More experience coral enthusiast will have noticed that rather than treat the coral as an LPS I am treating pipe organ coral as an SPS. This is entirely true. To really grow these quickly and efficiently I keep their nutrients high to encourage growth while feeding them Kent’s Phytoplex phytoplankton. You can dabble in the field of culturing your own phytoplankton if you’d like, but the time and cost outweighs the ease of order in my experience.
- Clean Water
When you are adding nutrients to the tank to supplement your coral you will be adding a lot more nutrients than they will absorb. It’s not that we pour too much into the tank or that our water flow cannot reach the corals. The water system is just bigger than the coral, allowing nutrients to settle away from the coral and turn into waste. With each pipe growing a polyp, algae has plenty of surface area to pick from under these corals polyps. Dirty water will quickly see to your corals closing up and stopping their growth. Keep the tank clean and if you must clean your corals do so gently. Their pipes are rather fragile so take a few extra minutes to clean slow.
Putting Words To Action
Given the right lighting, nearly every aquarium will be properly equipped to house a pipe organ coral and even make it thrive. Simply place the coral near the top of the tank, under water of course, ensuring nothing is between the coral and light. Allow the water flow to go past the coral, hit a wall and bounce back into the other side of the coral. This gives your coral a good flow on both sides without subjecting it to strong currents that it is unable to handle. Watch your coral, checking every hour to ensure it is not retracting its polyps.
Once the position has been established ensure the coral has room to grow. Place a rock next to the coral, without obstructing the set-up, and secure it into place.
Finally the coral will be set-up for success and can be left alone for a short while. Waiting one or two days to let it settle in is something i always practice, as taking too many actions will put the coral in hiding.
At night, prepare your method of target feeding. Only shut off the light just before you release the food. This makes your fish less likely to run up and steal the phyto. If however your tank is coral only then you can take your time. I personally have a small adjustable syringe to measure out 1 teaspoon each night that I can release slowly and evenly. When starting out I used a turkey baster on these as well. Typically the stronger blast a baster has will blow the food too hard into the corals making them hide for up to 24 hours.
Try to feed the coral very gingerly, spraying the food into the water stream just in front of the coral if you do not have a soft method of distribution. This includes the turkey baster. Slowly release the phytoplankton along the entire body of the coral and then leave the coral alone. Only try this once and do not double feed. You will only waste phyto and dirty the tank if you try to super stuff a coral.
Watching For Growth
As soon as a few days you will see new pipes forming. With proper positioning the pipe organ coral can quickly spread over uncovered rocks. If you see your coral has not grown and instead algae is covering the rock meant for new growth the water flow is too low. Wipe clean the rock and re adjust your water flow to hit the new rock a little more while keeping the pipe organ coral happy.
When the coral has spread onto your new rock do not move it. These corals break very easily and will have a difficult time sustaining itself with only 1 polyp and a lot of membrane. Typically I will wait for at least 4 polyps to be on the new rock before fragging.
Because the pipe organ breaks so easily you won’t need a fragging tool. Simply snap apart the rocks while applying pressure with a knife or saw. Always take safety precautions and be slow. Once they are separated you can feel free to place the new colony wherever you would like. Sell it or start growing twice as fast if you really want a lot of flowery coral. Remember it will be growing exponentially so have a plan for the inevitable time that you have too much coral.