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Cyphastrea Coral Care: A Detailed Guide

Cyphastrea Coral Care: A Detailed Guide

Cyphastrea corals, commonly known as Cyphastrea, are a fascinating and vital group of coral species that play a crucial role in marine ecosystems. Belonging to the family Merulinidae, Cyphastrea corals are renowned for their ability to construct massive reefs. 

Cyphastrea corals are known for their distinctive appearance, characterized by encrusting or massive colonies with polyps arranged in neat rows or clusters. Their coloration varies widely, ranging from vibrant shades of green, brown, and purple to more muted tones. This diversity of colors and growth forms adds to the aesthetic beauty and ecological value of coral reefs.

This article will dive deeper into this fascinating aquarium coral, so you know how to make it flourish. Let’s get started! 

How To Properly Care for Cyphastrea Coral

Cyphastrea is well-known as one of the easiest corals to care for and has exploded in popularity in the past few years for this very reason.

Important factors to consider when caring for a Cyphastrea coral include the following: 

  • Water Conditions
  • Lighting
  • Nutrition

Additionally, various coral species can live harmoniously with Cyphastrea. Fortunately, Cyphastrea coral is resilient and thrives in moderate conditions, making them simple to maintain, unlike the more sensitive coral species like Anacropora and Montipora.

I’ll discuss how to care for Cyphastrea coral in more detail below: 

Water Conditions

  • Water temperature: 72 to 78°F  (22-26°C)
  • Water calcium: 420-440 ppm
  • Water hardness: 8-9.5 dkh
  • Magnesium level: 1260-1350 ppm

Cyphastrea’s ideal water conditions simulate that of their Indo-Pacific environment in the wild. Stony coral occurs naturally in the Great Barrier Reef and marine areas in Fiji and thus grows best in warm and tropical conditions.

Cyphastrea corals require specific water chemistry parameters, including calcium, alkalinity (water hardness), magnesium, and temperature, to thrive and flourish in aquarium or natural reef environments.

Calcium is vital for the formation of the calcium carbonate skeletons that compose the coral’s structure. To support healthy growth, it is recommended to maintain calcium levels within a range of 420-440 parts per million (ppm).

Water hardness, often measured as alkalinity or carbonate hardness, influences pH stability and buffering capacity. Cyphastrea corals benefit from stable alkalinity levels, typically between 8 and 9.5 degrees of carbonate hardness (dKH), which allows them to effectively utilize available calcium and carbonate ions for skeletal growth.

Magnesium plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance between calcium and alkalinity. It acts as a catalyst for calcium carbonate deposition and helps prevent the precipitation of calcium and carbonate ions. Maintaining magnesium levels within the range of 1260-1350 ppm is essential for the overall health and growth of Cyphastrea corals.

In addition to these parameters, water temperature is also critical for the well-being of Cyphastrea corals. Most Cyphastrea species thrive within a temperature range of 72 to 78°F  (22-26°C). Consistently providing the appropriate temperature helps promote optimal growth and metabolic processes within the corals.

Regular monitoring and adjustment of these water chemistry parameters, including calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, and temperature, are necessary to create an ideal environment for Cyphastrea corals. By maintaining these conditions, coral enthusiasts can ensure the long-term health, growth, and vibrancy of these remarkable reef-building organisms.

Tank Lighting

Cyphastrea coral thrives in low to moderate light. It’s strongly recommended to keep them out of high-intensity light, as this can be quite a difficult adjustment that they may not be able to acclimatize to well, if at all.

If you really want to keep them in higher-light areas, you can introduce brighter conditions gradually, giving them time to adjust. However, there aren’t any benefits to keeping them in well-lit conditions. 

Corals need UV light to photosynthesize correctly in a domestic environment, and it’s essential to keep the UV levels relatively low around Cyphastrea, so they don’t get overexposed.


Contrary to their plant-like appearance, coral is actually an animal. That said, they carry out photosynthesis and also have a mutualistic relationship with microscopic algae called. 

Zooxanthellae algae are hosted within the coral, providing them with 90% of the energy they need to survive. 

They already have the resources they need to sustain themselves. However, they do benefit from supplemental food, such as shrimp and finely-chopped meat.

Photosynthesis is a reasonably small part of a coral’s growth process, as they’re naturally found in darker parts of the ocean and have evolved to rely less on sunlight.

While targeted feeding can be an excellent way to encourage coral to grow and thrive, be sure not to overfeed your Cyphastrea, as overfeeding can lead to the following:

  • Reduced water quality: Corals and other organisms are good at cleaning their own environments. However, if there’s excess detritus for them to handle, it will end up floating around and muddying the water.
  • Accelerated growth: Stony coral is fast-growing, and overfeeding it can cause it to expand far quicker than you’d like. While that might be impressive to watch, it will throw the ecosystem out of balance. 
  • Chemical imbalances: Too much debris in the water will throw the ecosystem’s chemical balance off, leading to heightened nitrate levels. Nitrate is essential to coral growth, but too much can dramatically accelerate growth.

Nitrates and phosphates are some of the most essential chemicals for coral growth and aid in producing the amino acids that Cyphastrea coral thrive on. 

If corals over-consume or are deficient in certain chemicals, they can look emaciated and can develop issues like algae blooms.

The ideal pH level for a Cyphastrea tank is 8.0 to 8.24, with a salinity of 1.023 to 1.025.

Keeping Cyphastrea With Other Coral Species

Beautiful, fast-growing, stony coral is a highly desired coral species to keep in saltwater aquariums. However, how well do they handle living with other coral species?

Cyphastrea can’t sting, so they can grow amicably with other coral species that also don’t sting. Cyphastrea can’t grow into or with other corals but can grow well alongside them. 

Many people who keep corals in captivity keep various species together, which shouldn’t be an issue in this case.

To avoid clashes between coral species, place Cyphastrea on a rock or another object you can move around so it has enough room to spread. It’s also essential to routinely trim the coral to keep it tidy and manageable.

If you’d prefer to keep the Cyphastrea by itself, that’s not a problem either. Stony coral comes in various strains, each with unique and vibrant colors, meaning you can keep a tank visually interesting with only this type of coral.

Cyphastrea is also extremely easy to propagate or frag, and filling one or more tanks with this type of coral isn’t tricky. 

Signs of a Healthy Cyphastrea Coral

Coral, like all other living creatures, show obvious signs when they’re feeling unwell and also have several clear indicators that they’re healthy and flourishing.

Below are the most common signs of a healthy Cyphastrea coral:

  • Consistent growth: Healthy coral will grow and spread rapidly, especially in the case of stony coral. Halted or slow growth signifies unhealthy coral, which calls for environmental changes.
  • Vibrant color: Cyphastrea comes in gorgeous and vibrant colors, which are a sign of healthy coral. Unhealthy coral appears bleached or emaciated.
  • Clear water: Healthy coral can clean its environment and filter detritus. If the conditions in the tank appear abnormal, the coral won’t be able to maintain cleanliness, and the water will appear murky.

Constantly monitoring factors like exposure and pH levels are crucial in reducing stress on coral communities and keeping them healthy.

What Does Unhealthy Coral Look Like?

The area that coral reefs occupy in the world has declined by 50% since 1967. This major threat to biodiversity and ocean health continues to grow, and the first signs of coral death appear as bleaching and certain species-specific diseases.

The following are the most common signs of unhealthy coral: 

Coral Bleaching

Stony coral isn’t a fragile coral species but is still sensitive to environmental changes. Higher water temperatures in the ocean can cause coral to release photosynthetic algae to such a degree that they bleach.

The same thing happens to Cyphastrea kept in aquariums. Loss of this life-giving algae makes coral vulnerable to disease and malnourishment.

As the name suggests, bleached coral appears incredibly light in color or completely white. For more information on the causes and effects of bleaching, check out the video below by The Australian Institute of Marine Science:

Tissue Loss

Tissue loss frequently occurs because a virus attacks the zooxanthellae algae, killing off the coral’s flesh until it strips down to the skeleton.

An example of this viral disease is Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Little is known about its causes, but it’s infectious and transmitted through currents and direct contact between coral species.

The mortality rate is incredibly high, with entire colonies dying out within months or even weeks of contracting the disease. However, evidence suggests this disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Algal Overgrowth

While nitrates are needed for every living thing to survive, raised nitrate levels can cause algal overgrowth in coral. 

Eventually, algae will suffocate the coral and prevent it from consuming nutrients from the surrounding environment. The result is tissue loss and, in extreme cases, the death of entire coral colonies. 

Algal overgrowth, also referred to as algal blooms, is caused by biotoxins brought on by the following:

  • Nutrient runoff
  • High temperatures
  • Slow-moving or stagnant water
  • Decaying matter
  • Excess light

These are all things that affect wild saltwater and freshwater ecosystems, aquariums, and the coral species that live in them.

Some solutions to algal bloom include the following:

  • Managing nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the water
  • Introducing small doses of hydrogen peroxide into the affected water
  • Not overfeeding coral to reduce excess detritus in the water

What Type of Aquarium Does Cyphastrea Coral Need?

Saltwater aquariums require a fair amount of upkeep and maintenance and must maintain specific qualities to keep the life within them healthy. With so many sizes and shapes to choose from, what tank type is the best for coral?

A great starting point is a 30 to 40-gallon (114-151 liters) all-in-one tank. They’re small enough not to get in the way but large enough to accommodate coral and also look attractive. You also save money due to the smaller size and filtration systems already built into the tank.

Although this is a general suggestion for beginners, it doesn’t suit everyone’s needs. Below are several questions you should ask yourself when deciding on an aquarium:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • What can you afford to spend on your tank monthly?
  • What volume do you need or want?
  • Where do you want to install it?
  • How much time do you have available to spend on it per month?

Note that tanks with a larger volume are more resistant to change. If you want to raise the water temperature, you’ll have to work slightly harder than you would with a small tank.

It’s also objectively more work to maintain and clean a large tank. That said, a smaller tank tends to get dirtier faster, depending on how much you feed the coral.

Smaller tanks are typically better for beginners for numerous reasons:

  • They’re more affordable
  • They’re easier to maintain
  • They don’t come with as many placement restrictions
  • They make it easy to observe coral

In general, saltwater tanks aren’t hard to maintain. However, they require extensive research and regular maintenance.

Saltwater Aquarium Costs

Though saltwater aquarium maintenance isn’t overly complicated, the initial costs can cause a bit of a headache.

As an example, let’s assume you’re planning on buying a 40-gallon (151-liter) tank. In this case, you should set aside at least $300 for the tank itself and the stand. Items like pumps and lighting can exceed $200 apiece on the higher end, while substrates and rocks are around $80 in total.

This total cost doesn’t factor in the cost of the coral and monthly cleaning and maintenance costs.

Though it isn’t necessary to buy the most expensive equipment on the market, it’s crucial to purchase good-quality equipment built for long-term use.

Other items to include in your final cost count-up include:

  • A heater
  • A thermometer
  • pH testing kit
  • Algae scrubber
  • Tank canopy
  • Nets
  • Chemicals like hydrogen peroxide

You need these items regardless of how large your tank is, where it’s placed, and what creatures you’re caring for.

Types of Tanks

The material your tank is made of isn’t going to determine whether the coral live or die. However, it certainly makes a difference in other areas. 

The two main kinds of tanks are:

  • Glass
  • Acrylic

Glass Tanks

Glass tanks are commonly used, mass-produced, and easy to get your hands on. They offer various benefits: 

  • They tend to be thicker and heavier.
  • Glass tanks are widely available.
  • They’re cost-effective.
  • They’re easier to clean.

That said, glass tanks also risk shattering from any impact or significant pressure. Additionally, the thicker the glass, the more distorted the view.

Acrylic Tanks

Acrylic tanks, while slightly more expensive and not as common as glass tanks, are more popular because of the following:

  • They’re more impact-resistant.
  • They’re lighter.
  • They’re clearer than glass.
  • Damage on an acrylic tank is easier to repair.

However, they’re more prone to scratching and tend to yellow with age.

How To Make Salt Water

A saltwater aquarium imitates the ocean conditions coral would otherwise live in. This doesn’t always extend to the water itself, though. Ocean salt water contains a lot of oil and waste due to human interference, so making your own is cleaner and healthier.

Use purified water and reef salt from your local pet store to make salt water. For every half a cup of salt, add a gallon (3.79 liters) of water. Use a pump to swish the water around, mixing it thoroughly, and allow some time for the pH to balance itself out.

You can also combine your saltwater with regular tap water. However, there’s always a risk of unwanted bacteria finding their way into the tank, so purified water is the best option if you have the financial opportunity to do so.

Cyphastrea Coral FAQs

Is Cyphastrea hard to keep?

Cyphastrea is considered beginner-level coral to care for. It requires low to medium light, placement, and water flow. It’s fast-growing and easy to propagate, generally very hardy, and thrives in many aquarium environments. 

Where do you put Cyphastrea?

Place Cyphastrea on a rock or another object you can move around so it has enough room to spread. Place the coral in the lower two-thirds of your tank where there are moderate currents and moderate lighting.

How fast does Cyphastrea coral grow?

Cyphastrea coral is fast-growing, and you can usually see a difference in size within 6 months.

Are Cyphastrea corals aggressive?

Cyphastrea coral grows amicably with other coral species that also don’t sting. It can’t grow into or with other corals but can grow well alongside them. It’s fairly peaceful except when something gets in its way, then it can become aggressive.

Wrapping Up

Providing proper care for a Cyphastrea coral or any stony coral requires dedication, knowledge, and the right equipment. However, the rewards are undoubtedly worth the effort. 

By maintaining a moderate temperature and light setting, along with providing an ample food supply, you can create an optimal environment for your Cyphastrea coral to thrive. It is crucial to closely monitor the coral and ensure that water conditions remain favorable to avoid subjecting the coral to unnecessary stress.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...