Carnation Coral – Cauliflower Soft Coral (Nephtheidae) – Phu Quoc Coral Species Information

Carnation coral in Half-moon Reef Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

The Carnation Tree Coral or Dendronephthya Carnation is one of the most beautiful and peaceful corals, and is also known as the Cauliflower Soft Coral, or Strawberry Soft Coral. There are over 250 different identified Dendronephthya species. It is found in a variety of flamboyant colors with red or orange being the most common. It is normally shipped while attached to a small piece of live rock or coral rubble.

Carnation coral is also called tree coral, cauliflower coral, and strawberry coral. This brightly colored coral is a soft coral species that comes in a wonderful range of colors, including reds, pinks, purples, and yellows. Carnation coral is a coral you may have seen in an indoor aquarium!

Carnation corals have rubbery branches and do not form a hard exoskeleton. Each branch has a knobby end, which looks a little bit like a flower. Carnation coral is a filter feeder. At night it inflates and uses its tentacles to catch floating plankton. It does not have zooxanthellae and relies solely on plankton for food.

Carnation coral is a soft coral, does not like strong light, so it is usually found at depths above 8-12m but we found a Carnation coral tree at a depth of about 4-5m, unfortunately they were broken because we thought the boat was anchored irresponsibly. The photos of carnation coral below were captured at the Half-moon Reef, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. It’s not common to see this coral species in Phu Quoc Island.

Sinularia will periodically retract its polyps and form a waxy film that is why sometimes we found it white resembles coral bleaching. This shrunken state may last a couple weeks before the film is shed and the polyps re-extend. We believe this shedding is a healthy process that Sinularia employs to prevent nuisance algae from growing on it. This process can be aided by greater circulation around the coral.


Finger Leather Coral(Sinularia or Nepthea Coral) in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Tree-like Finger Leather Coral (Sinularia or Nepthea Coral) in the Half-moon Reef, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Polyps of Canartion Tree Coral colonies form highly branched structures that can reach 1 meter in height. They may be richly pigmented; color varies considerably, but exquisite pink, orange and lavender hues are common. Though they are a “soft” coral, the colony is well supported and stiffened by numerous hard slivers of calcium carbonate (or sclerites). This feature allows the coral to retain its shape in, and orient itself perpendicularly to, swift water currents. This is important, because it is in areas of strong flow that these corals can capture the most food in a given amount of time. And, to be sure, they need a lot of food.

Joining us on the Advanced snorkeling trip (only for experienced free-diver, snorkeler): Finding Coral to see this Leather Finger Coral

Finger Leather Coral(Sinularia or Nepthea Coral) in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Finger Leather Coral(Sinularia or Nepthea Coral) in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam