Duncan Coral 101: Beginner’s Care Guide

Duncan corals (Duncanopsammia axifuga) were originally rare specimens outside of Australia and China, but have since spread to the rest of the world’s aquatic scene and have quickly become one of the most popular corals.

Duncan Coral displaying its stunning colors

Their striking colors and easy maintenance make them a perfect fit for both advanced and beginner aquarists.

Physical Description & Lifespan

This stunning coral features a bright green oral disc and vibrant tentacles that will gently wave day and night, retracting only when disturbed. Though shorter, these tentacles will come in a variety of stunning colors such as green, purple, pink, and cream.

It is part of the Large Stony Polyp (LSP) species of corals, meaning it has a calcified skeleton and thrives in waters with high calcium concentrations.

Their lifespan varies drastically depending on if the coral lives in its natural habitat, is wild-caught for an aquarium, or is a product of commercial aquaculture and has lived its entire life in captivity.

In the wild, they can live for many decades, and some have even been lived for more than one hundred years. Unfortunately, their lifespan shortens significantly in captivity, though the degree to which is not well-known.


This is a peaceful coral that is not known to become aggressive or attack its owners or tank mates. It cannot sting, either in defense or offense, and is not overly territorial.

It is also one of the corals more easily bred in commercial or home setups, meaning that it will need ample room to grow and form a healthy colony.

However, it also needs a reliable setup to attach to, as it can easily fall. Its sensitive nature means that damage generally results in infection and, later, death.

Natural Habitat

Duncan corals are native to Australian and the South China Sea, especially where the waters run deep and warm.

In such areas, they’re known to readily propagate and form expansive colonies whose brilliant corallites often disguise the colony’s true size.

Though they’re photosynthetic like most other corals and benefit from symbiotic algae, they can also be avid hunters when necessary. Their short but stocky tentacles capture prey and feed them into their mouth, at the center of the polyp.

Basic Tank Setup

The more water a saltwater tank holds, the more stable its water parameters tend to be. Combined with the Duncan coral’s preference for ample breeding room, it is recommended to keep these corals in tanks that are 30 gallons or more.

They should be placed at the bottom or middle of the tank, in an area that receives moderate to high lighting and low to moderate currents.

They prefer sturdy objects to attach to and soft, sandy areas for their colonies.

As far as plants or other décor go, they are not overly picky. As long as they have solid rockwork, they are happy.

Required Equipment

Thankfully, the natural habitat of Duncan corals can be easily replicated in the home aquarium, although the sheer size of their original home is unlikely to be matched by the average aquarist.

Even so, if your tank includes the equipment below, your corals will live a long and happy life.

  • Heating: Heaters are required to keep Duncan corals thriving, as they can only survive in tropical temperatures and warmer water.
  • Cooling: Overheating is just as dangerous to these corals as being underheated, so incorporating a chiller or fan into your setup may be wise.
  • Water Flow: Though only a low to moderate current is required, this coral can also deal with more high-powered wave makers and pumps.
  • Filtration: Maintaining good water quality is key to growing healthy colonies; sump filters and canister filters can easily accomplish this.
  • Lighting: Moderate to high lighting is required for this coral; halide, compact fluorescent, UV, and T5 fluorescent lighting are all good options.

This equipment is easy to obtain and includes affordable options.

As a result, the Duncan coral is not only one of the easiest corals to take care of, but also one of the most cost-effective, too!

Water Parameters and Preferences

Though known as one of the more low maintenance corals, Duncan corals still require certain parameters to thrive, propagate, and reveal their striking colors.

  • Temperature – 72 – 78° F
  • pH Range – 8.1 – 8.4
  • dKH Range – 8 – 12
  • sg Levels – 1.023 – 1.025

Common supplements include calcium, strontium, and other trace elements, and nutrients are recommended for prime appearance and health.

Despite the relatively limited ranges listed above, the Duncan coral remains one of the comparatively hardiest and most beloved of its species.

Tank Mates and Compatibility

Because of its own peaceful nature, this coral does well with other fish, invertebrates, and corals that are similarly tranquil.

It is not able to defend itself with strong stings against other corals that stray into its territory or, conversely, if it wanders into another coral’s territory.

Because of this, it is not recommended to place it in a tank with other corals that are aggressive or can sting.

Similarly, more peaceful fish are recommended with regard to community tanks. Though some aggressive species may not harass the Duncan coral specifically, hostile behavior could still stress this coral and have adverse effects on its health.

Food and Diet

Duncan corals feed almost exclusively through photosynthesis courtesy of zooxanthellae algae and supplement their diet through hunting if need be, but regular target feedings of frozen or live coral foods are recommended to keep them looking their best.

  • Mysis
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Nauplii Larvae
  • Shellfish
  • Copepods
  • Cyclops

These foods are easily obtained either online or at a local aquatic store.

They’re also accepted by a variety of other corals and fish, making this food ideal for both species-specific and community feedings.

Bringing the Duncan Coral to Your Aquarium

Aquarists would be hard-pressed to name a coral better suited for beginners or community coral tanks.

Duncan corals are easy to care for, grow quickly, and display beautiful colors when kept correctly.

Their minimal care requirements mean that owners can focus their attention on other areas of the tank.

With this coral, you can cultivate a stunning saltwater garden that will provide pleasure for years to come.