Like the other soft corals, Ellisellidae is a family of whip corals which do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons. Instead, these corals have flexible skeletons made from a complex protein called gorgonin. Each gorgonian polyp has eight tentacles which catch plankton and particulate matter passing in the currents. This family are recognised by their typical colony formation, which generally grow or branch upward.
Sea whip coral colonies grow vertically, up to 2m in length and are unbranched, with their upper third twisted or bent. The unbranched main axis is heavily calcified. The colony stem is white to brownish, densely covered with small polyps and containing zooxanthellae, which are responsible for the nutrition of the colony.
These corals are found in reef areas exposed to strong currents in deeper water or reef flats, reef slopes and flat coral rock.
The colonies reproduce asexually; the upper end of a colony is shed and grows into a new whip-like coral. This results in very dense fields of these corals where thousands of colonies settle very close together.
The bivalve Pteria brevialata and gobies on the genus Bryaninops are found living symbiotically together with these corals. Brittle stars often climb up on to these gorgonians to use their exposed position to collect food from the current.