In this post I'm going to highlight the Pulsing Xenia - one of the most unique soft corals available, but also a coral that needs to have a warning label for anyone looking to put one in their tank.
Pulsing Xenia goes by its scientific name Xenia elongata. It has study stalks covered with a crown of featherly polyps. The polyps open and and close in a pulsing motion which is where it gets its name from. As they grow, they group into colonies and spread into mats across the rockwork.
Xenias tend to vary in hardiness. Some aquarists cannot keep them alive while others grow them so well that they become invasive in the tank. Usually this is because one's tank actually may be too specialized for xenia. A SPS heavy tank would be a tank where Xenia would not grow as fast as SPS tank setups have as low phosphates and nitrates as possible while soft coral tanks have some phosphates and nitrates above trace amounts. Usually a beginner reef tank has higher nutrient levels - which will make Xenia grow faster as they absorb these. The best chance for success would be to purchase a specimen that is aquacultured. They are easily found as aquacultured either from a local store, online, or even from local aquarists trimming them or wanting to get rid of them.
But what if you are visiting this post and actually want to get rid of them? Yes, that is the issue with these corals. They can grow so fast that they can overtake a tank. To illustrate, let me show you an example case from TRex from the reef2reef forum.
TRex's tank was a 65 gallon reef tank that had a single pulsing xenia placed in. Within a year, the pulsing xenia had grown, reproduced, and completely taken over the tank:
A picture says a thousand words doesn't it?
If the pictures above have not discouraged you, let's talk about factors when purchasing a pulsing xenia. They are pretty corals no doubt and in a species only tank they are actually pretty breathtaking with the non-stop pulsing and movement in the tank. Here are some things to consider to prevent an invasion.
Place the xenia on its own rock away from others. You will want to place them at least 4 or 5 inches away from any other rock. Any type of grow that appears on another rock should be removed immediately. Removal can be done by gently pulled out by walking a fingernail around the base of the coral to slowly loosen it. If you are planning to have them in your tank long-term, you will need to be prepare to trim them down as they grow to keep them contained.
Xenia feed off of Nitrate in the tank as they grow and would have uses in a refugium. The key is to regularly remove the growth so they can grow again and consume more nitrates. A Xenia refugium also serves as an excellent sanctuary for fry as they provide limitless hiding places. Here is a video from Troy V showing off his Xenia Refugium.
A Xenia only tank is actually pretty breathtaking, though I personally would never consider one in a large display tank. If you have a smaller tank, it's definitely something you can consider and would provide an easy to care coral. They actually are very compatible with clownfish as they readily host them.
I have seen this as a last measure for reefers who have had their aquarium taken over, but do not want to break down their tank or remove rocks. Aggressive LPS corals like hammer, torch, and frogspawns excel at clearing the way with their sweeper tentacles. Any of these corals with etch out their own space and clear out anything within 4 or 5 inches from it.
Have a story or have pictures you would like to share about pulsing xenia growing in your tank or maybe you have a xenia tank of your own? Share in the comments below.
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