Diet, Size, Colors, Mates and Breeding

Welcome, fellow saltwater aquarists, to our comprehensive care guide for delicious clove polyps! These colorful organisms display vibrant shades of color creating a stunning visual spectacle in your aquarium.

As pet owners, we are always looking for ways to not only make spaces visually appealing but entertaining for our fish and what better way to add soft corals than that. They are affordable and maintenance is not too difficult as long as you are aware of certain things like preventing growth in unwanted areas. Ready to learn? Let’s dive!

Species Summary

Clove is a soft coral with many common names, including fern polyps, palm polyps, and eight-tentacled polyps. Clavularia spp. is the scientific name of this coral, and it belongs to the Clavulariidae family. This coral is found on Indo-Pacific reefs, with one species in the Atlantic.

These corals are sometimes confused with blue clove polyps due to the similar name, which is a full tank coral. Unlike blue clove polyps, these corals only grow where there is a hard surface.


Feathery tentacles create a flowery appearance, making it hard to miss clove polyps. In fact, it appears to be dancing inside the tank as it sways in the current. Some species have eight thinner tentacles, and they are always a nice addition to your aquarium.

Clove polyps can be found in green, purple, orange, yellow, white, cream, and brown. The center of some corals is lighter than the tips of their tentacles, and some corals exhibit multiple colors that make aquarists think of a rainbow. On the other hand, some corals exhibit only one solid color.

Different clove polyps in a saltwater aquarium


A colony of soft corals has a shorter life expectancy than reefs that started growing centuries ago. In some cases, your clove polyp coral may only have a lifespan of about 10 years. Nonetheless, proper care can help you get the most out of the lifespan of your clove polyps.


The average size of a clove polyp is 2 inches to 3 incheswhile its head only grows up to 0.5 inches to 0.75 inches.

Care of clove polyps

Clove polyps are easy to care for, making this coral a great addition to a starter tank. However, you still need to make sure that you are providing these corals with the quality care they deserve, especially if you place them in an aquarium with other corals and fish species.

tank size

A colony of these soft corals can be contained on a rocky island. When you also consider its small size, you have more choices when choosing a tank. You can place your clove polyps in a minimum 10 gallon tank, as this is the ideal size if you are looking to start a nano aquarium.

Water parameters

When placing your clove polyps in their saltwater tank, you want to keep the water flow moderate to high to feed and clean your corals. One idea is to start your corals at moderate flow. You can stay at this level or increase the flow if you notice dancing corals and a clean base. If you notice their tentacles retracting, the water flow is too high.

When creating the right water parameters, you also need to consider things like water temperature and hardness.

Water temperature: 76-81 degrees Fahrenheit (24.4-27.2 degrees Celsius)

pH levels: 2-8.4

Water hardness: 8-11dKH (make sure it is stable within 0.5dkH)

Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025

Tank configuration

Clove Polyps do well in lighting from 50 to 100 PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation). They should receive about eight to 10 hours of full light and two to four hours of up and down light. If you need to increase the lighting for any reason, it’s essential to give your coral time to adjust to a different environment.

Additionally, caution is essential when adding nitrates and phosphates. Although the nutrients in these elements increase their growth and coloring, you can also slow their growth and coloring by adding too much of these elements. It is recommended to stick to nitrate levels of 1-10 ppm and phosphate levels of 0.01-0.05 ppm.

As for the tank itself, clove polyps spread to any hard surface as they grow, including rocks already occupied by other corals. It is easier to avoid this problem than to remove the corals from these rocks. When setting up your aquarium, use at least 4 inches of fine sand to separate their rocks from the rest of your aquarium.

Author’s note: Corals cannot attach themselves to fine sand, so you don’t have to worry about them invading your tank. It is essential to avoid coral rubble as your clove polyps can attach themselves to the gravel pieces.

Are Clove Polyps Reef Safe?

Yes, clove polyps are reef safe corals and fun additions to your reef tank.. As mentioned earlier, clove polyps are found on reefs in the wild.

Possible common diseases and prevention

In addition to slowing growth and coloring, too much nitrates and phosphates can lead to disgruntled, retracted, and possibly dead clove polyps. You can avoid problems by sticking to the nitrate and phosphate levels shared previously, but to be more specific, you want to keep phosphate levels closer to 0.1 ppm. Phosphate causes more problems for these soft corals than nitrates, and you never want to find your corals permanently retracted.

Additionally, corals need clean, warm water to survive, and water pollution should be avoided in their aquarium. In fact, too much debris can cause starvation by blocking out the sun, leading to coral death. Prevention is to maintain a temperature of at least 76 degrees Fahrenheit and keep the tank clean.

Food and diet

Clove polyps enjoy a diet of zooxanthellae, microfauna and phytoplankton, which they capture with their tentacles. These foods provide the nutrients your corals need to thrive and survive.

Although some aquarists don’t care about targeted feeding, you don’t have to completely rule out this method. As long as you monitor nitrate and phosphate levels, this is a great way to add more nutrients to their diet.

Author’s note: You can offer the liquid of thawed rotifers, krill or mysis shrimp to provide protein to your corals. Other options include Oyster-Feast, Marine Snow, Cyclops, and Roti-Feast. Otherwise, zooxanthellae, microfauna and phytoplankton are enough for your corals.

Behavior and temperament

Clove polyps are mostly peaceful corals as they do not attack other species. However, they can also be semi-aggressive as they do not hesitate to grow on other corals. This is why it is recommended to keep their rock island separate from other hard surfaces.

Although these corals do not sting, they can fall victim to other corals that sting and damage them. This can lead to your clove polyps losing their heads and dying from toxins, so it’s important to keep them away from more aggressive corals.

A pretty Clavularia spp with open tentacles

Clove Polyp Reservoir Buddies

When properly spaced, clove polyps do not disturb other corals. They also don’t bother other fish in the tank, but they can hide if they feel threatened. These corals also produce a chemical that tastes horrible to reef-munching fish, which is another way to protect against predators.

Despite their behavior when they grow or feel threatened, these soft corals can make peaceful tank mates. The best tank mates for clove polyps are jawless and toothless algae-biting fish which include the following species.

  • Some wrasses like the Red Coris Wrasse but be careful as they can inadvertently damage them by moving nearby rocks and structures
  • Puffer Dogface
  • Darts
  • Miss Domino
  • Gobies (we love the mandarin goby)
  • Seahorses
  • Grammas like the Royal Gramma

If you want to add other soft corals to your aquarium, you are safe with the following tank mates.

  • Green star polyp
  • Kenya tree coral
  • Kenya tree coral

There are fish that eat soft corals so be careful with the following guys:


There are several methods of rearing clove polyps, from providing a hard surface to letting nature take its course.

Placing a piece of rock or seashell on the edge of the colony is the easiest way to elevate your clove polyps. In fact, you can never go wrong with this method because the edge of the colony is a popular budding spot. Your corals grow on the structure, allowing new corals to sprout and settle on their surface. Once the corals have grown, you can cut and move the segment as desired.

Although this method requires a lot of time and patience, it is easier than sharding. To fragment a soft coral, use a razor blade to cut through the stolon of the colony. Remove as much water as possible by dabbing the cut area and attach the frag to a new location.

Author’s note: Fragmentation is a faster method of reproduction, but it’s best to stick to the method of providing a new surface if you don’t have much experience with fragmented soft corals.

The production of planula larvae on the surface of the colony is another way of reproduction. Planules drift with the current, allowing them to settle and metamorphose. A new colony begins when the planules form the calyx and stolon. It’s a slow process, but worth seeing the start of a new coral colony.


We hope this care guide has provided you with valuable insight into the enchanting world of clove polyps, these vibrant additions to your saltwater aquarium. Their unique nature as soft corals provide a striking alternative to traditional reef structures, adding a splash of color and diversity to your underwater oasis.

Creating a stable environment with proper lighting, water flow, and proper nutrition will ensure their health and vitality. Don’t forget to create a no growth zone to avoid spreading to unwanted areas.

If you’re looking for more knowledge, feel free to check out our other saltwater care guides and maybe even tag us on Facebook when you post a cool photo of your aquarium.

Thank you for your visit and good guard of the reef!

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