Aquarium Fish

Pulsing Xenia - Pulse Coral

The Pulsing Xenia or Pulse Coral, is a fascinating soft coral because of the pulsing action of the polyps. Pulsing Xenia can be fairly hardy once acclimated to your tank and provided that you can provide a suitable environment, they grow rapidly for a coral. Their polyps will pulse or, in other words, open and close. Picture your hand slowly opening and closing and you'll get a good idea of what we're trying to describe. There are many species of Xenia with many different colors such as white, pink, brown and cream colored.

Lighting is important with Xenia. They get most of the nutrients they need via the photosynthesis in their zooxanthellae. They will also feed on the dissolved nutrients in your tank and actually seem to do even better in tanks with higher than normal dissolved nutrients. If you keep these corals in tanks with lower lighting levels (such as power compacts) you may need to place them in the upper half of the tank. Metal Halide, VHO and HO light owners could get by with keeping them in the lower part of standard depth (36 inches or less) aquariums.

There are many theories out there regarding the pulsing action of the Pulsing Xenia. Some think it is related to oxygen/gas exchange and some feel that it is for the filter feeding. Whatever the reasoning is, they are neat to watch. Slower flowing water usually provides better pulse rates. One thing you don't want to do is keep a steady blast of current on them. They may fail to open their polyps and stay retracted. The good thing to know is that just because it's not pulsing doesn't necessarily mean that they are on the decline health wise. You'll usually read that natural seawater levels of iodine (0.03 - 0.06 mg/L) is needed for this pulsing action, but please have an iodine test kit on hand before you start a dosing regimen.

The xenia species you see in your local reef store are usually captively propagated or aquacultured. However, even given their relatively quick growth rates, Pulsing Xenia can still be expensive to acquire. One idea for getting some of the more expensive corals is to join a local aquarium or reef club. These clubs usually have frag swaps where you can trade or buy corals from club members inexpensively.

A word of caution is worth noting here. Some xenia corals can release chemicals that are thought to cause "significant damage to stony corals" (E. Borneman, Aquarium Corals). Given this information, you may want to reconsider keeping them in your tank if you also keep stony corals.

Pulsing Xenia Pictures

Pulsing Xenia Pulsing Xenia
Pulse Coral Xenia contracted
(click for larger pictures)

Pulsing Xenia Video

Pulsing Xenia Care

Scientific Name : Xenia sp., many different species

Common Names : Pulsing Xenia, Pulse Coral, Hand Coral

Pulsing Xenia Care Level : Moderate to Difficult

Life span : These corals are believed to live anywhere from 5 - 10 years in the wild.

pH : 8.2 - 8.5

Temperature : 75°F - 80°F (25°C - 27°C)

Specific Gravity : 1.023 - 1.025

Carbonate Hardness (dKH) : 8 - 12°

Calcium Levels : 300 - 420 mg/L

Tank Light Requirement :

Minimum recommended lighting levels would be power compacts in tanks with standard depth (24 inches) with the Xenia placed in the top half of the tank. For tanks deeper than 24 inches you'll need High Output (HO), VHO or Metal Halides.

Origin / Habitat : Aquacultured nowadays, found all over reefs.

Temperament / Behavior : It's believed that they may relase chemicals or toxins that may damage stony corals and some reef keepers avoid keeping them in their tanks for this reason. If you do keep them in your reef tank, be on the safe side and leave a good amount of space between them and your stony corals.

Breeding : Reproduces asexually, forming new branches and extending the coral base. If they favor your system, they may grow rather quickly.

Aquarium Size : 30 gallon (114 liters) minimum

Compatible Tank Mates : May be considered reef tank safe (sans stony corals), but avoid keeping known coral nibblers such as many of the crab species, starfish (sea stars), and some butterfly species.

Diet / Feeding : Primarily gets what it needs from photosynthesis but it also does well in reef systems with higher than average dissolved nutrients.

Tank Region : They can move around if they want to using their branching stalks. They may very slowly pull themselves to different locations.

Author : Mike FishLore

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Pulsing Xenia

Pulsing Xenia Comments and Tips:

From: Tony - keeping xenia with Chocolate Chip Seastars
I just wanted to reiterate the warning about keeping Pulsing Xenia with chocolate chip starfish. My starfish left the xenia alone for quite some time, actually about 6 months, before finding it, sampling it and then devouring it. I was ticked to say the least, but at myself not the starfish. I shouldn't have had these two species in the same tank.


From: Fish Fanatic
I started out with one stalk of xenia and for about five months it just acclimated, then almost as if by magic, in the past three months has multiplied into 10 stalks. Nothing has changed in the aquarium, except that the lights are getting old. I am now replacing and wonder if it was too bright for the xenia up until now? I have 55 gal. and 216 watts of light, 10k and actinic combined. The xenia are about 8" from the light.


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