The Stylophora coral, also known as the Cat’s Paw, Brush Coral, or simply “Stylo” is a unique SPS coral. Rather than growing pointed branches like many other SPS corals, its branches have blunt or rounded ends that are generally larger than the branch itself. This makes it an easily recognizable coral in any reef tank.
Stylophora are available in many different colourations with green and purple being the most common and pink and blue being less widely available. Like many SPS corals, it grows as a branching colony with a single frag capable of growing into an entire colony relatively quickly for an SPS coral. Like other SPS corals growth may start slow but become exponential once the coral becomes established. The colonies will often take on a rounded shape but this is dependent on many factors such as lighting and water flow.
Generally Stylophora are found in the Indo-Pacific region but they are also extensively aquacultured as they become more popular. Many of the rarer colour morphs are more likely to be found as aquacultured specimens. In the wild, they are found at shallower reef depths between 3 and 30 meters where they receive high levels of light and water movement. In a home aquarium they should be placed on an exposed area of the rockwork in the top half of the tank. Since they are peaceful and have no sting, care should be taken not to place them too close to aggressive LPS corals. As always, pre planning is key.
Like most SPS corals, Stylophora prefer higher levels of light and flow. While they do not need the same level of light intensity as Acropora they still should be placed in the upper half of the tank. A coral that is receiving too much light may begin to turn white and one that is receiving too little light may begin to brown. Stylophora love flow and should receive enough indirect flow that their polyps are in constant motion.
Stylos are photosynthetic and can obtain all of their energy from aquarium lighting but can be fed an SPS specific food if desired. This may improve growth and colouration. Like all hard corals, they use sodium carbonate to build their skeletons so it is important to monitor calcium and alkalinity levels in the tank. While they are more forgiving than some other species of SPS corals they still require a mature tank with stable water parameters.