The cabbage leather coral, Sinularia dura, is one of those inimitable corals that all reefers should keep at some point in their aquarium career. This coral has the potential to be incredibly beautiful but it is rarely ever displayed in a flattering light when it is offered for sale.
Nearly ALL of the cabbage leather corals we’ve ever seen for sale at the local fish store look like undesirable lumps of coral tissue, with colors bordering on grey or mauve. How is anyone supposed to appreciate this coral when it usually looks like precisely the kind of coral you don’t want in your home aquarium? We’ve been meaning to give Sinularia dura some love for a while and fortunately, recently we encountered a few show colonies of cabbage leather coral which demonstrate how cool this coral can actually be.
The cabbage leather coral, like most other Sinularia species, doesn’t offer a rainbow of colors but it still exists in brown, brown with green polyps, and a wicked shade of green. The neon green cabbage leather has been coming primarily from Australia and Bali in recent years, and this latter morph is truly deserving of more respect and attention in the reef aquarium world.
It’s odd to think that cabbage leather coral is both a beginner and an advanced coral in the aquarium – anyone can easily keep this coral alive and growing but getting it to look its very best takes more work. While Sinularia dura can survive in a wide range of environments, in the aquarium it will actually do its best when offered brighter light and stronger flow than one would typically recommend for this species of coral .
Under ideal conditions the cabbage leather coral can transform from a misshapen lump of soft coral into something much more beautiful and desirable. Pictured above is one such gnarly example of cabbage leather coral which is growing in high flow and strong blue lighting, under this environmental regime the cabbage leather looks more like a crazy type of encrusting stony coral than the typical sad colonies we’re used to seeing.
Cabbage leather corals react and grow pretty slowly, this is what makes them a good beginner coral, they don’t die on a dime, but it also makes them a coral for the more advanced reefer, as it takes patience and effort to find that perfect spot in the aquarium where this coral will look and grow its best.
Even in the best environment cabbage leather corals can close up and enter a state of suspended animation where they won’t expand or extend any polyps for a really long rime. This is Sinularia dura’s usual response to stress or sedimentation and with good water flow they will shed a waxy film and return to blossoming.
With so many neon green cabbage leather corals available to reefers today, there’s never been a better time to try this coral in your home aquarium again. Hopefully this spread of large showy colonies of Sinularia dura will give adventurous reef aquarists more incentive to take the plunge.