Acanthophyllia (Meat Coral)

Acanthophyllia are a large polyp stony coral often referred to as a donut or meat coral. They are similar in appearance to Scolymia/Homophyllia or Cynarina in that they are a single polyp, round in shape, and often times come in some dazzling colors and patterns.

Acanthophyllia are found throughout Indonesia and Australia. The specimens from Australia are predominantly that greenish blue mint-chocolate chip appearance. The specimens from Indonesia are mostly red and blue, but there are rare color variants that are all the colors of the rainbow. Those are the most desirable.

Depending on the colors high end collectors are willing to pay well into the four figures, and occasionally I see a truly stunning piece that I can imagine someone spending a fortune on. Part of the reason for their scarcity is their availability in some countries. Right around the time of the Indonesian export ban in 2018, there were changes in what corals could be sent where and from what I understand Acanthophyllia was one of the most restricted corals once things opened back up.

Here in the US they are still being brought in, but the prices are much higher than before. As for the future of the imports and exports for this coral, that remains unclear.

The other aspect affecting its price is the fact that there are no good aquacultured sources for Acanthophyllia. They cannot be cut and sexual reproduction hasn’t been accomplished on a commercial scale. Hopefully that changes in the future! That would be game changing, but we are talking about a monumental challenge given the difficulty associated with sexual reproduction on the commercial scale and the incredible slow growth of this coral.

That’s a little bit of background on Acanthophyllia. Let’s now talk about their care requirements starting with lighting and placement.


We primarily keep Acanthophyllia in low to medium light intensity here at Tidal Gardens which is around 50 to 100 PAR. We have kept them in higher lighting but they did not appear to appreciate it and were always at risk of bleaching out. If you have a colony of Acanthophyllia and want to experiment with higher light, remember that it can be a risk, so be prepared to move it into a shadier region of the tank at the first signs of trouble.

As for placement, almost every tank I see these corals in keeps them at the bottom of the tank regardless of whether it has a substrate or bare bottom. They settle in nicely down there are when they are happy will extend nicely and take on that Chili’s lava cake appearance. I suppose there isn’t a good reason that they couldn’t be put up on a rock scape, but it is much less common. Perhaps the thinking is that higher up on the rock scape would expose the coral to more light and more flow which might not be the best combination for this coral.

One other thing about placement to consider is to consider how much it will spread out once it settles into your reef tank. Acanthophyllia do not grow fast AT ALL, but they can swell many times larger than their skeleton so you want to avoid a situation where this coral reaches out and covers its neighbors.



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