While the cactus coral may not be one of the most unique or brightly colored corals it boasts one of the most interesting coral growth patterns found of any SPS. Also known as a Pavona Coral or lettuce coral can be found in purple, brown, and different shades of green.
Common Names: Cactus Coral, Pavona Coral, or Lettuce Coral
Skill Level: Moderate
Light Level: Moderate to High
Water Flow: Moderate to High
Water Conditions: 72-78° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.023-1.025
I have seen the Pavona Coral listed as both peaceful and semi-aggressive on other blogs, forums, and coral shops but in my personal experience I have never had any reason to think of this as anything but a peaceful coral. I have had frags blow around and bump into other corals and sit that way for a day or more with no damage to itself or another coral.
To me the neatest thing about the Cactus coral is the interesting growth patterns. It reminds me of elephant ears and thats the reason it makes it one of my favorite SPS corals. When the coral begins to grow into a large colony it does start to jumble all together so you lose a little bit of the pronounced shape but even then it remains an extremely unusual coral.
As well as very interesting and leafy shapes the Cactus coral has incredible looking markings. These can be hard to see sometimes as this coral can become very “hairy” looking with full polyp extension. I managed to get a pretty good picture though of the markings.
In regards to placement of the Pavona Coral, moderate water flow and moderate to strong lighting is best. A strong flow is required to keep debris from settling on the Cactus Coral and to help the coral filter feed.
Cactus Corals are a photosynthetic coral and do not need to be directly fed. The coral produces its food from the lights on your tank. The polyps will occasionally catch food in your tank but its main source of food is through photosynthesis. Feeding this coral directly is not needed.
Propagation of this coral is handled like many other SPS corals. I personally use clippers and break off pieces from the main mother colony. I usually break off the branches where they “fork” off. Once the piece is removed I glue it onto another piece of live rock or a frag plug. It’s okay to have your coral out of the water for several minutes. Once the glue is dry place your rock back into the tank. Give your coral several days before you begin to see full polyp extension.