Fire Coral


Maximum Size:

3 ft (1 m)


Unknown, but likely decades.

Typical depth:

3–130 ft (1–40 m)


Several fire coral species occur in the Caribbean, attaching to the reef substrate and growing in branching, blade or encrusting forms. Fire corals are hydroids with a hard skeleton, and are more closely related to jellyfish than corals. They get their energy from photosynthetic zooxanthellae in their tissues, but also from feeding on plankton.


Fireworms, certain nudibranchs and filefish.

Did you know?

A number of shrimp and fish species live in symbiosis with fire corals and seem to be immune to their sting. Hawkfish in particular are often found within the branches of fire corals.


Microscopic fire coral polyps are located throughout the surface of the hard skeleton. Each polyp has hair-like tentacles covered in stinging cells called nematocysts that they use to paralyze their tiny prey. Fire corals cause a lingering, burning sensation when they contact bare skin. A rash or blistering may occur in some individuals and may last several days, but is not usually dangerous.


Exit the water as soon as possible and rinse the affected area with vinegar or alcohol to neutralize the fire coral toxin. Do not rinse with fresh water which can increase the pain by causing untriggered nematocysts to discharge into the skin. Apply hydrocortisone cream to the area once dry. The papain enzyme found in meat tenderizer and papaya can also reduce swelling, pain, and itching.


The treatment advice contained in this book is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, either in terms of diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider if you are injured by a marine organism. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this book.