Kenya Tree Coral Care Guide

Jennifer Doll

Jennifer Doll

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Kenya Tree Coral Care

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The Kenya Tree Coral is believed to be one of the easiest corals to keep in the saltwater aquarium hobby.

Although this soft coral doesn’t demand a lot of light and can tolerate imperfect water parameters, the Kenya Tree Coral grows incredibly fast and has been known to become a nuisance if left uncontrolled.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the Kenya Tree Coral and how to keep and care for this beginner-friendly coral in your saltwater tank!

Name

The Kenya Tree Coral is largely categorized as a member of the Capnella genus.

It is a soft coral, meaning it is very fleshy with little to no skeleton to support it. However, its flesh contains similar-structured sclerites for some support. 

There are many species of Kenya Tree in this genus, though they all share a signature tree-branch appearance. 

Natural Habitat

Though named after the African country, these corals have a large natural range. For the most part, they can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific in regions with many other popular corals.

As we’ll see, Kenya Tree Corals are highly adaptable and will thrive in most environments. In the wild, they can be found among coral reefs at multiple depths with varying light, flow, and nutrient conditions.

Identification

Kenya Tree Coral Care

The Kenya Tree Coral is pretty simple in appearance. One of the appeals is that it can resemble harder small polyp stony (SPS) corals or gorgonians without any extra care.

These corals are named after their often fuzzy branches and tree-like stems.

Most corals within this genus are light browns, greys, and pinks. However, their environment can greatly impact their appearance, even in the aquarium.

Kenya Trees that are subjected to higher lighting intensities will have lighter colors. At the same time, Kenya Tree Corals that are in higher areas of water flow will also have shorter, stubbier appearances. 

Both these factors can make it difficult to tell how your Kenya Tree Coral will look in your aquarium. 

Kenya Tree Tank Requirements

The Kenya Tree Coral is the perfect coral for beginner hobbyists. Not only is it easy to take care of, but it’s often inexpensive and easy to find.

Even though Capnella sp. are believed to be some of the easiest corals available, do note that some hobbyists have difficulty getting them to grow in their aquariums.

This is because parameters can be considered too perfect, leaving “pest” corals to be outcompeted by more demanding species.

Most beginner aquariums do not have these perfect conditions though, so they’re a great first addition!

Water Parameters

The Kenya Tree Coral is very forgiving of unideal water quality. That being said, it is still a coral, which can take some more consideration than a fish-only (FO) setup.

Here are the general water parameters needed to keep your Kenya Tree happy:

  • Temperature: 72-82 (22.2-27.8° C)
  • pH: 8.0-8.4
  • Alkalinity: 8.0-12.0 dKH
  • Salinity: 1.023-1.025 
  • Calcium: 350-450 PPM
  • Magnesium: 1200-1350 PPM

These parameters are in addition to 0 ppm ammonia and nitrite as well as minimal nitrates and phosphates.

It is strongly believed that the Kenya Tree prefers dirtier aquarium conditions though, so available trace elements are preferred. 

Lighting

As mentioned before, Kenya Tree Corals change color based on how much light they receive. Regardless, they do need proper lighting to keep their symbiotic algae fed through photosynthesis.

kenya tree coral changes color

These corals do best with moderate lighting. This usually means middle tank placement, though your coral may venture into the upper regions of the aquarium.

That being said, these corals have been grown in minimal lighting conditions, like those under fluorescent stock lighting. However, if possible, this is not advised.

Water Flow

The Kenya Tree Coral also appreciates moderate to high water flow.

These corals shed at times, and the debris will need to be removed by passing water. They can also take in microscopic food in addition to those created through photosynthesis, which can be carried by the current.

One of the problems of having a Kenya Tree in moderate flow is when it goes to propagate.

These corals are considered pest corals and for good reason! They are known for dropping branches that relocate to other parts of the aquarium (or even into the sump) via water flow. 

Kenya Tree Tank Mates

Kenya Tree Corals can be kept with any reef-safe fish or invertebrate. Remember that these are soft corals and can become a favorite snack for more aggressive fish, like angels and triggers.

The Kenya Tree Coral can be aggressive at times; some hobbyists have reported seeing them engage in chemical warfare with surrounding corals, though this isn’t typical.

Unlike other corals, like large polyp stony (LPS) corals, the Kenya Tree does not have sweeper tentacles that physically damage nearby competitors. Instead, other corals need to come into immediate contact to be affected.

Though this might not seem like a big problem, you need to consider how quickly Kenya Tree Coral frags can spread throughout the rest of the tank.

Not only does this coral spread fast, but new growth can be very difficult to remove; a Kenya Tree Coral can successfully rejuvenate from the smallest pieces of damaged flesh.

Kenya Tree Behavior

As mentioned before, Kenya Tree Corals can be aggressive to nearby corals. 

The easiest way to prevent this is by allowing enough space between your Kenya Tree and the next coral for there to be no possible interactions.

When the time comes, you may need to frag the corals or make arrangements so the two don’t touch.

Do Kenya Tree Corals Shed?

Much like leather corals, the Kenya Tree sheds now and then.

This can be in response to biological, chemical, or physical changes in the environment, but can also be a sign that the coral is growing.

A shedding Kenya Tree Coral will have shiny, waxy flesh. Likely, the branches will also be closed up or not as expanded as normal.

Over the next few days, this film will start to slough off. This is where water flow becomes important as it helps to remove the shed.

Hobbyists can help their corals by gently squirting water onto them with a pipette, though this isn’t necessary if the water flow is adequate.

It should be noted that this shed can irritate other corals that might get caught up in it. Contrary to popular belief, this shed is harmless in terms of toxicity, though activated carbon can be run for extra precaution.

Is Your Kenya Tree Dying?

Though the Kenya Tree Coral is one of the hardiest species in the reef tank, not all hobbyists have incredible success with them.

As mentioned before, the Kenya Tree is highly adaptable and can thrive in conditions where there are plenty of dissolved nutrients available in the water column.

Many home aquariums are low in nutrients, specifically phosphate and nitrate levels.

Because of this, hobbyists may find their Kenya Trees wilting away. The problem is that this can look very similar to shedding or propagation.

Healthy Kenya Tree Corals can hold themselves upright in moderate water flow, whereas a sick or dying Kenya Tree might:

  • Turn brown
  • Slump over to one side
  • Decrease in size
  • Develop bruises and holes
  • Stay closed for considerable amounts of time

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to recover a dying Kenya Tree Coral.

Because these behaviors can also mean that the coral is shedding or propagating, it’s best to wait a few days before taking action; in the meantime, test aquarium water parameters and make sure there are available nutrients.

Keep in mind that a shedding Kenya Tree will develop a shiny, waxy appearance. Usually, these sheds only last a few days, after which the coral will often return bigger and brighter than before.

If after a week your coral is still closed and slumped over, then there’s a good possibility that it’s on its way to dying. At this point, it’s recommended to alter parameters and even move the coral around the tank to see if there are more preferred conditions.

If your coral starts to look pitiful, then remove the coral from the tank. Smell it and touch it. If the smell is rancid and the flesh is soft and falling apart, the coral should be removed as soon as possible.

Feeding Your Kenya Tree Coral

Though Kenya Trees get a good amount of food from their photosynthetic symbiotic relationship, they are one of the more eager corals to accept smaller foods.

They can be fed a variety of coral food sources as well as phytoplankton and other microorganisms. It is usually not necessary to target feed as its many branches are capable of collecting passing food.

It should be noted that many hobbyists don’t want their Kenya Trees to grow more than they already do. These types of coral grow very quickly and self-propagate even faster than that.

Remember, there is a reason these corals are known as pests! 

Fragging Kenya Tree Corals

For the most part, you won’t need to worry about the fragging process for your Kenya Tree Coral. If it is happy where it is, it will let you know by shooting off branches throughout the rest of the tank. 

Most hobbyists don’t frag their Kenya Trees for the purposes of their reef tank. Instead, you’ll need to regularly trim your tree to control its growth. 

As a soft coral, Kenya Trees are one of the easiest corals to frag. This does not require removing the coral from the tank, though the process might be easier in dry conditions.

Once you have a secure hold of the coral, simply use a scissor or blade to cut off a branch. However, you probably won’t be able to directly glue the frag onto a coral frag plug.

Remember, these aquarium corals are capable of excreting their old skin, making it difficult to get a secure seal between the coral and a new surface. Instead, place the coral on a plug or a piece of rock in an area of low flow.

Over the next day or two, the coral should attach itself to the surface. A rubber band may be used to further encourage attachment.

This frag can then be rehomed to another hobbyist or placed elsewhere in the tank. 

Controlling Kenya Tree Coral Growth 

Kenya Trees can be pests; they’re very quick to grow and propagate and many hobbyists struggle to keep their growth in moderation.

Fragging is a great way to control growth but can take a lot of time and isn’t a foolproof solution. Eventually, you will need to deal with a rogue Kenya Tree Coral growing in a bad spot.

One of the best ways to control growth is by never introducing these species into your tank. Many reefers regret getting pest corals as they advance to harder and more space-demanding species.

But, if you want to have one, then you’ll need to get used to scraping them off of rocks. This will require you to remove the given piece of rock from the tank and use a sharp blade to cut away any remnants of the Kenya Tree Coral.

This can be very difficult as these fast-growing corals can regenerate from minimal cells. Because of this, many hobbyists choose to completely chisel away the piece of rock or cover the coral with superglue (cyanoacrylate).

Another option for controlling Kenya Tree Coral growth is by introducing natural predators in the form of more aggressive corals. Though Kenya Trees can be aggressive, there are much more aggressive species with sweeper tentacles that can keep your coral at bay.

On top of this, reducing available nutrients can potentially slow growth rates, though this isn’t recommended if the system is already stable.

Conclusion

The Kenya Tree is a great beginner coral. Big, easy to grow, and easy to frag, this type of coral is highly adaptable to many water conditions and parameters.

However, some hobbyists struggle with keeping them fed with nutrients and have difficulty controlling the extreme growth and propagation rates.

If you have any questions about Kenya Tree Corals, any other soft corals, or have had experience dealing with explosive Kenya Tree Coral growth, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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