How to Care for Palm Tree Polyp

How to Care for Palm Tree Polyp (Clavularia viridis)

Palm tree polyp (Clavularia viridis) is a unique, fascinating colonial coral that makes an excellent candidate for established reef aquaria. This species is also known as Clove polyp, and it features multiple thick-stalked tentacles bearing feather-like pinnae that make it look like a palm tree, hence the common name “Palm tree polyp”.

Palm tree polyp is sturdy and adaptable to a wide range of water conditions. Also, it is forgiving and will handle fluctuations in water parameters better than many other soft corals in the hobby; however, it’s best to keep the parameters as stable as possible.

This coral comes in several color morphs, thus ideal for adding contrast and improving the reef aquarium’s aesthetical appeal, ambiance, and overall quality.

Keep reading for everything there is to know about the fantastic Palm tree polyp. This guide contains valuable information about the coral’s natural habitat, taxonomy, ideal water conditions, feeding, and other vital growth requirements to nurture it in a captive aquatic environment.

Quick Notes about Palm Tree Polyp

Name Palm tree polyp
Common Names Clove polyps, Octocoral, Naga-umizuta, Green star polyp coral, Eight Tentacle Polyps, Encrusting Polyps, or Clavularia Viridis Papaya
Scientific Name Clavularia viridis
Tank size (minimum) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy
Propagation Easy
Medium to high 
Water flow Moderate to strong
Optimal Temperature 72 – 81 ° F (22 – 27 °C)
Optimal Salinity SG = 1.021 – 1.025
Optimal PH 8.1 – 8.4
Optimal KH 8 – 12
Nitrate 5 – 10 ppm
Feeding Photosynthetic 
Tank placement Bottom to Middle
Growth Rate Moderate to fast
Invasive Yes (under optimal conditions)
Temper Peaceful
Color Form Green, brown, purple, pink, cream, and white with contrasting colors
(blue, green, or yellow) at the center of the oral disc

Origin of Palm Tree Polyp

The Palm tree polyp is a species of stoloniferous, colonial soft coral that belongs to the family Clavulariidae. It is often referred to as an “octocoral” because of its eight-tentacled polyps. In addition, this species bears the name “Palm tree polyp” because the individual polyps resemble a Palm tree.

The taxonomic hierarchy of the Palm tree polyp goes thus:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Alcyonacea
Family: Clavulariidae
Genus: Clavularia
Species: Clavularia viridis

Habitat of Palm Tree Polyp

Clavularia viridis, the Palm tree polyp, is native to the Indo Pacific reef region. These corals are wildly distributed in the Red Sea, South Africa, Korea, Palau, Guam, New Guinea, Great Barrier Reef, IndoPacific region, India: Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

This soft coral occurs at depths of up to 19 m (62 ft) and usually colonizes other marine coral species.

Also, Palm tree polyp mainly grows on rocky areas and hard surfaces. They habitually attach to these hard surfaces and spread out across, thereby forming a mat.

Although Palm tree polyps are present throughout reefs, they mainly occupy the back and front reef slopes and the shallowest part of the reef zones with tidal currents.

Description of Palm Tree Polyp

Palm tree polyp is a soft coral characterized by eight tentacles borne in several extended, tubular polyps, arising from a thin plate-like or membranous basal stolon. These tentacles have feathery margins (pinnae), approximately 0.6 inches (20 mm) in long, 0.12 inches (3 mm) in maximum diameter, and become thicker toward tips.

They vary in coloration — from fluorescent green, brown, purple, and pink to cream and white with contrasting colors (blue, green, or yellow) at the center of the oral disc.

The polyps sit in tubular stalks (calyces), growing up to 2 inches (5 cm) tall. A colony can achieve a huge size in its natural habitat, more than 3 ft. (>1 m) in diameter.

Palm tree polyp forms a mat when it attaches to rockwork or the aquarium substrate; it is an encrusting coral for a reason. Encrust colonies are connected at the base by stolons or thin membranes.

It is also known for its fast growth habits and sessile nature; this coral may remain isolated to one rock for long periods.

Behavior of Palm Tree Polyp

Palm tree polyp is a relatively peaceful and reef-compatible species.

It is sturdy and can withstand mild scuffles and chemical warfare of other marine corals. Having retractable polyps makes it easier for them to deal with poor/harsh conditions.

As a mat-like encrusting coral, Palm tree polyps can comfortably grow over a neighboring coral. Hence it is recommended to place the species on an isolated rock or maintain an adequate spacing of about six inches (15 cm) or more.


  • Peaceful: Yes
  • Toxicity: No
  • Invasive: Yes (under very favorable conditions)

Feeding Palm Tree Polyp

Palm tree polyp feeds through photosynthesis. This mode of feeding occurs due to the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with marine algae called zooxanthellae.

Note: A wide variety of tropical hard and soft coral species harbor symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium spp.), broadly known as zooxanthellae, in their endodermal cells. According to the study, the zooxanthellae transfer more than 90% of their photosynthetically fixed carbon to their host.

Here, the coral hosts zooxanthellae in its tissue, offering it shelter and protection. And in exchange, zooxanthellae aids the coral to conduct photosynthesis, hence providing sustenance.

In addition, palm tree polyp filter-feeds; by absorbing dissolved organic matter from the water column. Therefore, a sure way to ensure your aquarium coral gets enough nutrition is through supplemental feedings of meaty foods such as:

Do not give them too big pieces of food. Ensure that the food is finely crushed and mixed with aquarium water before feeding it to the coral using a feeding tool, e.g. turkey baster or pipette.


  • Photosynthetic: Yes
  • Diet Type: Micro-plankton
  • Feeding Frequency: 1 – 2 times a week

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Tank size:

Palm tree polyp is ideal for small and large aquariums because of the potential size of the colony. That said, the recommended tank size for housing the Palm tree polyp is a minimum of 10 gallons (40 liters).

Note: Nonetheless, you can house it in nano aquariums if regularly trimmed.

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Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: The optimal temperature for Palm tree polyp is between 72 – 81 ° F (22 – 27 °C).

pH: Standard reef aquarium pH is between 8.1 – 8.4.

Hardness: Keep water hardness levels between 8 – 12 dKH.

Salinity: Maintain specific gravity within the range of 1.021 – 1.025 in the reef aquarium.

Calcium: 400 – 450 ppm
Magnesium: 1200 – 1300 ppm
Salinity: 1.023 – 1.025
Strontium: 8 – 10 ppm
Phosphates: < 0.05 ppm
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrates: 5 – 10 ppm

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Provide moderate to high lighting intensity with quality LED aquarium lights, incandescent bulbs, or even metal halides.

Ensure that the light output is enough to penetrate the water and reach various areas in the aquarium. Lastly, maintain a standard photoperiod of about 8 – 10 hours daily.

Water flow:

According to the study, Palm tree polyps are mostly found in areas with strong currents or wave action.

Therefore, moderate to strong water flow will help convey organic matter or planktons to the mouth of the polyps and equally carry away waste material and detritus from their body.

Ensure that the flow is not too strong to prevent damages to the polyps.

Placement of Palm Tree Polyp in the Tank

Under optimal conditions, Palm tree polyps can be invasive! Ideally, keep them confined to a particular area.

Note: Generally, Clove polyps are not invasive but … there are about 70 different species of Clove polyps! You never know for sure how this or that species may behave.

Nonetheless, unlike other invasive species, it should not worry you much. The point is that it is very easy to remove them from the tank!

You can simply peel the Palm tree polyps back.

Palm tree polyp will enjoy placement on rocks preferably in the low or mid-sections of the reef aquarium; where it can receive bright lighting and where the flow points towards this direction.

Note: Some people put aggressive corals (like FrogspawnTorch corals, etc.) along the perimeter of the Palm tree polyp. They will sting it away and prevent any expansion. Well, unfortunately, it may stress the coral to the point when it melts away.

Care for Palm Tree Polyp

To ensure optimal growth, health, and longevity of your Palm tree polyp, you need to provide ideal and stable water conditions. Therefore, keep the aquarium water temperature, pH, hardness, salinity, and mineral composition at the correct levels and make necessary adjustments carefully.

Furthermore, make sure to perform regular, partial water changes — ideally 20% (monthly), 10% (weekly), and 5% (weekly). The essence of this activity is to maintain excellent water quality and replenish depleted trace elements.

Palm tree polyp is a moderate to fast-growing coral. So, always keep an eye out for the coral since it tends to branch out and grow over nearby corals. A measure to prevent such occurrence would be to mount the coral on a separate rock other than the main rockwork in the tank.

Lastly, adding calcium and other mineral supplements is vital as this contributes to the proper health and development of the coral.

Common Problems Associated with Palm Tree Polyp

Brown Jelly: This is a common disease for many corals including Clavularia species. It is characterized by a jelly-like brown mass that appears to be floating on the surface of the coral. The brown jelly disease can be caused by poor water quality or tissue damage, it can lead to rapid tissue necrosis and it is capable of spreading to other corals in the tank.

Solution: Remove the sick coral from the tank, scrub off and siphon any visible brown jelly. Afterward, treat the sick Palm tree polyp with iodine dip (15 ppt), then place it in a quarantine tank till it recovers before transferring to the main tank.

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Do not overdose. Use the instructions on the bottle based on your tank size.

Don’t open # 1: If it stays retracted for a few days after introduction to the new system, it is a sure sign that the coral is still shocked.

Solution: Check and adjust your water flow and lighting. They can react this way if it is too strong or too weak. Next, give it some time and see if it adjusts in another few days.

Don’t open # 2: Sometimes Palm tree polyps stop opening after a few months of normal behavior. In many cases, this is because of detritus and/or algae gathered inside the tentacles.

Solution: Clean it with a turkey baster and tweezers if necessary. You need to keep the mat that they grow out of clean. 

Reproduction of Palm Tree Polyp

This species of soft coral reproduces sexually and asexually.

  • Sexually. Sexual reproduction entails the release of male and female gametes into the water (spawning), followed by a union (fertilization) and the formation of planula larvae.

At first, these larvae exist as free-swimming organisms, but they tend to develop and settle on sediments later on. They will undergo metamorphosis, turn into polyps, then form a colony, and growth continues.

  • Asexually. Also, Palm tree polyp can reproduce asexually by budding or detaching a part(s) of its body through fragmentation; this grows individually and forms a new colony.

Fragging Palm Tree Polyp

Palm tree polyp (Clavularia viridis) structureMoreover, reef aquarists are also at liberty to divide the coral into several parts — this is a common practice aimed at propagation.

This process is pretty simple and straightforward:

  1. All you need to do is locate the tubular stalks.
  2. Cut the polyp towards its base (stolon). You should use a sharp blade or scalpel for the procedure, and keep in mind that precision matters a lot during cutting to prevent loss of lives.
  3. Next, gather the newly cut frags.
  4. Disinfect in an iodine solution and attach them to individual coral frag plugs using a quality cyanoacrylate gel.
  5. Then place each one into the reef tank, preferably at isolated spots in central tank areas where they will not be disturbed by curious or hostile tank mates.

However, if you don’t want to cut and stress the coral, there is a safer way as well. Put some rocks or plugs at their base. With time Palm tree polyp will spread their long tentacles and attach to another surface.

Buying Palm Tree Polyp

It costs about $35 – $100 to acquire a fairly large colony from local aquarium shops or reputable online aquarium websites.

Make sure to source for a specimen that is healthy and lively, and also, avoid ones with drab coloration and jelly-like substance on their body.

In Conclusion

Palm tree polyp is one of the famous marine corals that you won’t run into many problems keeping in your reef aquarium.

This species is relatively hardy, and it will thrive for several years in a saltwater tank as long as optimal, stable conditions exist.

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