Although classified as soft coral, the purple gorgonian shares similar properties with the hard corals. The purple gorgonian is a peaceful creature and most do not sting animals it comes into contact with. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of other creatures, as many hard corals/anemones will not hesitate to sting them. The purple gorgonian should also be kept away from any stinging corals when in a tank (i.e. hammer or elegance coral)- these stings are potentially fatal to the purple gorgonian. In addition, soft corals produce toxic chemicals as part of their chemical warfare defense system, which can poison purple gorgonians. It is always safest to keep the purple gorgonian away from other corals in an artificial environment, to protect it from being injured. The purple gorgonian is one of the many gorgonian species that uses photosynthesis for the majority of its nutritional content, but if kept in an artificial environment, small organisms (micro plankton, marine snow, bioplankton, live baby brine shrimp, etc.) should be included into the aquarium a few times a week so that the coral can filter feed as it would do in its natural environment.
Caring for a purple gorgonian in a reef tank is moderately difficult, requiring medium to high access to light and moderate water movement. Part of the purple gorgonian’s natural patterns is to develop an outer waxy layer several times a month that will shed without assistance if given the right conditions. If the purple gorgonian is not provided with a strong water flow, this layer of waste-filled film would not be removed, and algae and other cyanobacteria will begin to grow, which will cause rapid tissue deterioration. If such growth occurs, there is a way to salvage the purple gorgonian coral, but it must be done immediately. Using a soft brush (i.e. toothbrush), gently remove the exterior algae, and then soak the coral in fresh water for one minute to clean off the cyanobacteria.