On occasion, I’ve seen small colonies of nephtheid corals in captivity, but as yet I’ve never seen a single specimen that is doing anything other than slowly dying. Beyond a few isolated experiences of keeping species such as Dendronepthya in specialists’ systems with expert and targeted care, keeping nephtheids is beyond the ability of the mainstream hobby. There have been some promising results from a few public aquaria of course, but for most people, they’re sadly out of reach.
If you never see the corals growing in the wild and only see very sick specimens in a dealer’s tanks, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are thoroughly disappointing to look at; but trust me, this is not the case.
The Indo Pacific can offer some of the most amazing reef scenes, with rich and luxurious growths of nephtheid corals such as D. hemprichii, Litophyton arboretum, and Scleronephthya corymbosa. Colors range from deep purple to cream, with pinks, oranges, reds, and clarets thrown in for good measure.
Some reefs are full of these fragile-looking corals, whose form is attributed to pressure from internal ‘hydroskeletons’. Other reefs, that seem to offer ideal conditions, can be entirely free of them. My experience suggests strong laminar flow carrying planktonic food is the key, but I’m no expert. I just photograph them and enjoy their colors.