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Pulsing Corals: Why Do They Pulse?
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
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Q. I recently purchased a Pumping Xenia coral. Since its arrival a week ago, it has not pulsed. Is this normal?
 
A. Pulsing/pumping corals may remain still in an aquarium. Lack of movement is not necessarily a sign of ill health. In fact, pulsing behavior in corals has been a subject of controversy since the various species of pulsing/pumping corals were introduced into the hobby. All species of corals within the different genuses of the Xeniidae family  €“ Anthelia sp., Cespitularia sp., Heteroxenia sp., and Xenia sp.  €“ have the ability to pulse. Why these species pulse, and the environmental conditions that encourage them to pulse, is unknown. Scientists have speculated that corals pulse/pump to increase water movement within the colony, which, in turn, helps corals release waste products and obtain nutrients.

Ultimately, the total expansion and growth rate of the coral determines the health of the colony. If the colony shows poor expansion and slow growth, gradually move the colony to a location within your aquarium that provides a different water flow and lighting pattern. Be careful not to shock the coral with dramatic lighting changes, especially if you use metal halide lights.

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