The beautiful pulsing Xenia coral is a stellar addition to a reef tank or an absolute nightmare. It’s often referred to as the Pom Pom Coral for the pulsing motion of it’s tips. Consider the pros and cons of this engaging coral before you pull the trigger.
Beginners may initially love this coral and be overjoyed by it’s rapid growth, only to become overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon for Xenia to have to be pruned and the excess tossed on a regular basis. They love dirty tanks and it’s not uncommon for a beginner tank to be a little dirty. Veterans maintaining SPS corals may struggle to keep them alive due to having tanks too clean. There is even some talk of people using pulsing Xenia coral in in-sump refugiums as they would use macroalgae.
Having trouble keeping Xenia? (Which would be astonishing and proof of some serious OCD reef cred!) You probably simply don’t have a dirty enough tank.
Xenia has been known to crash although I haven’t personally experienced this nor heard much about it. It is suggested to not let it get too overcrowded to prevent this from potentially happening.
Growth is typically rapid, especially in the right. conditions. It loves good lighting, good flow, and dirtier tanks. Zero nitrate tanks may find it less happy. That’s not necessarily bad since a clean tank will help control it’s growth.
Xenia coral spreads in your reef tank by adhering to rock work it comes in contact with as it grows. It attaches itself to the new rock and either breaks off from the original clump, or it will remain attached if relatively adjacent. Xenia is almost like stretching bubblegum, but in slow motion.
When it’s time to remove some Xenia it’s relatively easy to do by either slowly pulling or using a fingernail or something similar around it’s base. Be sure to remove ALL from rock that you don’t want Xenia on as even the smallest of pieces will begin to grow. While it’s not hard to remove if you can easily access it, ensuring it’s all been removed is almost impossible in those hard-to-reach spots.
Various species of Xenia will fair better than others but most likely that you’ll come across hardy, aqua-cultured species. The best way to obtain Xenia is to go to a local reef club. Chances are a member has some and would be happy to share a frag. Not only that, but they can share their experience with that exact species.
To frag it, simply pull a piece of some rock. When placing it in a new tank or new position you can more or less just put it where you want it and it will adhere to the rock after 30 minutes or an hour. I’ve stuffed the end in a crevice typically. As long as there isn’t too much flow in that spot it will stay put. Occasionally Xenia will release and float around until it finds a home it prefers but this is rare. Usually that only happens when initially placing it.
Also, dipping your new Xenia is always a good idea. All kinds of pests could be hitchhiking on them. Not the least of which is aiptasia spores. flatworms and other tiny pests could also be hiding in there. Your friend with the frag many completely unaware. Local fish stores tend to have massive amounts of aiptasia and other pests floating around their systems. Better safe than sorry.
Xenia has been used to replace common macroalgae like chaetomorpha in a sump refugium. It has been reported to be as effective as chaeto. Personally I would suggest not using it for this purpose only because not as well known what the pros and cons are compared to chaeto and there’s a chance some could drift into your display and wedge itself in a hard to get place if you need to remove it.
This is something I’ve considered myself and think would be gorgeous. I imagine a clown harem tank with loads of Xenia would be a joy. The movement of the Xenia combined with the friskiness of a large group of clowns would be immensely entertaining. The additional benefits of the display itself basically having the benefits of a refugium is also pretty darn compelling.
Sometimes Xenia will stop pulsing. It’s disappointing when this happens but it’s not necessarily permanent. It isn’t a sign that the coral is in poor health so there’s no need for concern. Unfortunately not much is know about why this happens and what can be done to get the pulsing to start up again.
I experienced this in a tank myself and the coral did not begin pulsing again before I broke the tank down. It did stop pulsing for several months before I pulled the plug. I didn’t break the tank down because the Xenia stopped pulsing but because my experiment with grape caulerpa in my fuge didn’t go so well. That’s a story for another day.
You’ll either love or loathe Xenia’s rapid growth. It’s a beautiful coral and for the right reefer with the right tank it’s a great addition. With good flow and a not-too-clean tank they will definitely thrive and then some. As with all things reefing, don’t go into anything blind. Do your research! Also go slow.
You should now be prepared for how to deal with it if it begins to become a nuisance. Good luck and happy reefing!
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