The Shallow Inshore Habitat

Practically all of the invertebrates collected for the aquarium in the early days came from shallow

— it is easier to work in the water lagoon than in deeper water, and scuba equipment is not often available to collectors in the developing Rapidly gaining favor among reef enthusiasts are the countries that supply most of the specimens. Thus, species small-polyped scleractinian (SPS) corals that predominate of macroalgae, corals, and anemones from this habitat have on the outer reef. Outer-reef fauna thus belong in the third been in the trade for a long time. Any of the following category. In this habitat, water movement can be extreme, groups would be at home in a shallow-water lagoon tank: and nutrient levels are so low as to be nearly unmeasurable. DISC ANEMONES (Order Corallimorpharia). Tentacles Lighting needs can vary from high to low, depending upon are absent from many of the Pacific disc anemones or

Chapter Eight 195

"mushroom corals," of which there are several species from

Shallow, inshore waters do not often have a lot of ver-

the genera Rhodactis, Actinodiscus, and Discosoma. All are tical relief Rather than a steep outer-reef escarpment, or flat, rounded polyps with very short columns. Mushroom even the gradual incline found where the lagoon gives way corals typically do well in moderate light and can be placed to the back reef, horizontal elements, such as a broad, sandy near the bottom of the aquarium or in tanks where lighting bottom or a lea of Turtle Grass, typify the inshore zone, is below 10,000 lux. Also called "false corals," corallimor- This makes choosing an aquarium in which to mimic this

Mushroom Aquar

Spreading mushrooms in a-reef aquarium.

pharians come in many colors, with blue-green, brown, and green being the most common. Some have blue or red pigments and are very striking. This pigmentation may change, however, if the lighting conditions in the tank are significantly different from those under which the specimen was growing in the ocean. Moderate currents are preferred, and elevated levels of nutrients are tolerated. As a general rule, the false corals are easy to keep and will grow and multiply in the aquarium.

One false coral deserves special mention. This is the Elephant Ear, a species of Amplexidiscus. It is perhaps the largest of the false corals, reaching nearly a foot across. It can be spectacular, but it does have a propensity to eat small fishes that may be unwary of its stubby tenta- Large blue mushroom coral (Rhodactis sp.) cles. Most other corallimorphari-

Blue Mushroom Coral

habitat something of a challenge, as most tanks are rather tall and narrow, rather than shallow and expansive. Space considerations in the area where the tank will be placed may also limit the design possibilities. One can always have a shallow tank made to order, assuming one s pockets are sufficiently deep, or one can borrow techniques from artists and designers to give the illusion of expansiveness. Start with a reasonably wide tank — manufacturers now routinely offer designs that are 24 inches from front to back, and several standard tank sizes measure 18 inches, front to back. When the choice is available, opt for a shallower tank; simply by virtue of its proportions, such an aquarium will fool the eye. The principle is the same as that used by restaurants when serving soup: a broad, shallow narrow one.

ans rely either on photosynthesis entirely or upon small container gives the illusion of greater volume than a tall, planktonic organisms for their food. Any species is a good choice for a tank depicting quiet waters with subdued light. Use light-colored sand for the substrate and avoid build-

Companions that thrive in sheltered areas with gentle cur- ing up a huge pile of live rock from side to side across the rents might include Trachyphyllia, a hardy and often showy background. You do not really need that much rock for fil-

stony coral, one of the Lobophytum species, and Pachyclavu- tration, especially if a good bed of live sand is present. Use

I aria sp., the beautiful Green Star Polyps.

small groupings of rock to suggest patch reefs or outcrops,

196 Natural Reef Aquariums with plenty of open space in between. Limit the vertical el- connected, being classified with the sea mats because it ements to no more than is necessary to hide plumbing or shares other anatomical traits with them. This is "Para-other tank equipment. Choose a lighter background for the zoanthus gracilis ' (probably not a valid name for this zoan-rear glass rather than black, which always suggests depth. Pale blue or the shade of green sometimes called "sea foam" will give the impression of peering through shallow water with rippled sand in the foreground appearing to stretch back to the horizon.

Sea Foam Plant

thid, which is most likely an undescribed species) sold as Yellow Polyp colony in shops. This is an excellent choice, and its bright lemon yellow color is unusual and attractive. (Some aquarium references call this organism P. axinel-lae, a Mediterranean sea mat.)

There are many other Pacific sea mats. These come in a variety of colors, but coloration is usually restricted to the center of the oral disc, with the column and tentacles being dull gray, brown, or greenish. Colors range from greens to blue and even pink. Without a technical reference book, the species are difficult to identify. I regularly see specimens that are green with orange centers, and a lovely pinkish purple form, waters. Any aquarium, almost by Green Sea Mat or zoanthids (Protopalythoa sp.), All these Indo-Pacific sea mats

Bright, uniform lighting of high intensity, such as that supplied by metal halide lamps, not Yellow polyp colony Czoanthid species)

only provides energy for photosynthesis but eliminates shadows that suggest a confined space. Halides, in combination with water returns or powerhead pumps that disturb the surface of the tank, also create the highly desirable "glitter lines" of light sparkling across the sand and rock that one would see in shallow reef

Red Finger Gorgonian

definition, constitutes a living one of many desirable colonial species.

trompe Toeil — the painterly ap-

probably belong to the genera Isaurus, Palythoa, and Zoanthus.

proach to tricking the human eye into seeing a scene as re- Often, corallimorpharian specimens have zoanthids present, ality by intensifying and manipulating the elements present. SOFT CORALS (Order Alcyonaria). While shallow-wa-

For a shallow-water system, achieving the appearance of ter hard-bottom habitats in the Florida Keys are frequently space must involve visual deception, but doing it right can dominated by photosynthetic gorgonians, the photosyn-

bring a sense of reality missing from the average fish tank.

thetic alcyonarians occupy this niche in the Indo-Pacific

SEA MATS (Order Zoantharia). Sea mats are also called Photosynthetic soft corals are very popular as aquarium sub-

"colonial anemones," and most species look like a colony of jects and are amenable to captive propagation by simple veg-

small anemones connected at the base by a sheet of tissue etative reproduction. They generally fall into three groups, that spreads over the substrate. One in particular is not so the leather corals, the pulse corals, and the stoloniferans.

Chapter Eight 197

Flat Corals

Flat Leather Coral (Simularía dura)

Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.)

Images Niche Around Coral ReefLeather Coral Identification

Finger or Digitate Leather Coral (Simularía sp.)

Colt Coral iAIcyomium sp.)

Leather Corals. Sarcophyton species, usually called leather corals, are among the most suitable of alcyonarians for aquarium care. In all of the leather corals, the body mass is brownish or yellowish in color, and the polyps are embedded in this skeletal mass. Leather corals generally prefer high light intensities and a stable, high pH. They often grow in abundance in shallow lagoons. These conditions are also favored by many green macroalgae, and leather corals look good in tanks with lots of green macroalgae growth, as they are often a contrasting brown to yellow-brown in color. It is not unusual for the polyps of leather corals to remain contracted for several days after a change in water conditions, such as a move from one aquarium to the other. Close relatives of Sarcophyton include other leather corals in the genera Lobophytum (Devil's Hand Soft Coral or

Cabbage Coral), with only a few short polyps; Sinularia

(Lettuce or Cauliflower Soft Coral), in which the large skeletal elements are prominent, and Alcyonium, a bushy

198 Natural Reer Aquariums

Natural Aquarium Designs

Iodine is thought by many experienced aquarists to be essential for successful management of the pulse corals. Noel Curry, of Scientific Corals, suggests using Lugol's solution (5% iodine with 10% potassium iodide) along with a trace element supplement in aquariums housing Xenia, Anthelia, and their relatives. Dosing once a week is the usual approach, but the use of a reliable test kit to ensure that the iodine/iodide concentration remains at the natural seawa-ter level of 0.06 ppm is recommended. Remember that more iodine will be consumed as specimens grow and multiply.

Soft and hard corals in Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia.

Lemnalia Soft Coral Gold

species that produces a lot of mucus when handled. Other regularly available genera include Lemnalia and Litophyton.

Pulse Corals. Several species of soft corals hold special interest for invertebrate enthusiasts because they may exhibit continuous pulsing movements. These are collectively referred to as "pulse corals," and may be species of either Xenia, Heteroxenia, Cespitularia, or Anthelia. In Xenia, the individual polyps arise from thick stalks or trunks and Pulsing Xenia: note polyps arising from thick stalks or trunks, can be translucent in color, as well as brown, green, white, or a pale gold. In Anthelia, the feathery, cream, brown, or blue polyps are attached to a matlike base that anchors to a hard surface. Heteroxenia specimens are have two distinctly different types of polyps rising from stalks. All of the pulse corals may stop pumping when currents are too strong or when aquarium nutrient levels are not to their liking. The pulse corals are known to feed on nanoplankton, but there are suggestions that they may also rely on photosynthesis for growth.1 Pulse corals are generally hardy and will reproduce readily in the aquarium.

Shallow Aquarium

Charles Delbeek, personal communication.

Anthelia (Anthelia glauca): polyps arise from a matlike base.

Chapter Eight 199

Anthelia Glauca

Organ Pipe Coral (Tub¡pora música): note hardened tubes

Daisy Polyps or Palm Coral iCIavuiaria sp.): soft coral

Consequently, regular testing, rather than the habitual addition of a certain amount of supplement, is necessary for long-term success.

Stoloniferans. Green Star Polyps, commonly called Clavularia viridis but probably a species of Pachyclavularia, is also called Starburst Soft Coral and is frequently misiden-tified as Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora music a), another stoloniferan. In these alcyonarians, the skeleton is a rubbery, flattened sheet that encrusts a solid substrate. Each polyp resides in a short tube that projects upward from the basal sheet about Va inch. The polyps themselves are generally pale green with bright green centers or an overall lime color. When expanded, this is a very beautiful species. It is also, happily, one of the hardiest soft corals and can be highly recommended even to the beginner. Its only special requirements seem to be water current and very bright light, under which it will grow and spread. In the much harder to keep Tubipora, the wine-colored skeleton is heavily calcified and shows distinct layering.

STONY CORALS. The scleractinian corals seen in the aquarium trade fall neatly into two groups that may be easily differentiated. Small-polyped scleractinian (SPS) corals, now the rage among advanced hobbyists because of the ease with which they may be propagated, are generally thought of as species of the outer reef. The delineation is not so sharp, and Veron (1986) notes that Montipora, Pachyseris, and Leptoseris can be found in extensive stands in deep lagoons with sediments present; even A crop or a species can thrive in sandy- or rocky-bottom lagoon areas.

Typical inshore lagoon species have mostly large polyps, although the designation "LPS" for these species is not widely used. There are, of course, species of stony corals that occur over a range of habitats, and many of these may alter their growth form to take advantage of a particular micro environment. This can make identification of species extremely difficult, and all identifications to the species level should be considered suspect. This is why, with few exceptions, only genera are mentioned here.

SPS Corals. These reef-building corals are the jewels of the reef ecosystem — occurring in every shade of pink, purple, lavender, blue, fluorescent green, and electrifying orange. Without them, the reefs themselves would not exist.

Although they are somewhat challenging to the marine aquarist, given a proper environment, SPS corals will grow

200 Natural Reef Aquariums

Seamat Marine Reef AquariumShallow Reef AquariumGonioporas

Plate Coral ( Heliofungia actiniformis)

Mushroom Coral (Fungia scutaria)

Flowerpot Coral (Goniopora sp.)

Extremely Shallow Water SpsShallow Water Reef TankExtremely Shallow Water SpsShallow Water Reef Tank

Open Brain (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi)

rapidly and display amazing colors under the proper aquarium lighting.

Stony corals all produce a hard skeleton composed of calcium carbonate. They require excellent water quality, good water movement ("chaotic" is a term often used to describe the type of water movement favored by many corals), and suitable illumination. They are typically unforgiving of any lapse in temperature control, lighting, or water chemistry, and they should be regarded as suitable specimens only for aquarists who have already succeeded in keeping the hardier soft corals. Anyone attempting to keep SPS corals for the first time is encouraged to seek out captive-propagated fragments, which bring with them a greatly elevated chance of success. These fragments have already adapted to artificial lighting and aquarium conditions and do not carry the same risk of introducing coral dis-

Tooth Coral U-obophyllia sp.)

eases, bacteria, or parasites from the wild. They can grow with amazing rapidity and are an inexpensive way to learn the demands of keeping sensitive reef-building corals.

LPS Corals. Stony corals of the shallow-water lagoon habitat are often large, single polyps contained within a cone-shaped skeleton that sits partially buried, pointed end down, in a soft substrate. Asexual reproduction is less commonly seen in these species than in SPS corals and is seldom easy to induce without risking damage to the parent colony, which may become infected rather than heal. Sexual reproduction in lagoon species is less common in the aquarium. Lagoon corals are often species in which the sexes are separate, and therefore both male and female colonies must be present for spawning to occur. Lagoon corals are more tolerant of high nutrient levels, higher temperatures, and sluggish water movement than their cousins on the fore reef.

Meat Polyp (Cynarina lacrymalis)

Lobophyllia Care Sheet

Chapter Eight 201

Heliofungia actiniformis (Plate Coral) needs a soft, sandy ease of aquarium care. The skeleton is in the form of an in-

substrate and plenty of room. It is spectacular in a tank de- verted cone, often attached at the apex to a hard substrate signed with its special needs in mind. It is the only com- when the coral is young, but later breaking off, allowing monly available coral capable of moving from place to place. the coral to sit upright in soft sand or silt. As a result of

Symbiotic shrimps, Periclimenes holthuisi and Thor am- this growth form, it is easily collected without damage, boinensis, are found on this coral in nature. It lives in shallow which may explain why aquarium specimens do so well.

water subject to intense illumination.

Trachyphyllia prefers the same conditions favored by false

Herpolitha (Slipper Coral, Hedgehog Coral) is a close corals. Cynarina (Button Coral) is also a single large polyp relative of Heliofungia and needs similar conditions. Pro- and should receive the same care as Trachyphyllia. Another vide it with average light intensity and moderate, not force- similar genus is Lobophyllia, recognizable by the "teeth" at ful, current. It should be placed on the floor of the aquarium the margin of the colony, which are lacking in Trachyphyl-

on sand, rather than perched upon a stack of live rock.

Goniopora (Flowerpot Coral, Sunflower Coral) is pro-

lia or Cynarina.

Catalaphyllia jardinei (Elegant, Elegans, or Elegance lific in nature and commonly offered for sale, but many ex- Coral) is closely related to Euphyllia (see below). This is one of the most popular, hardy and spectacular stony corals.

XXXIV XXX iiUL V-4X V-x U11VA WllliilVlil ^ V7 XX VX VVi X V/ X UUXVj L/ t X X X w-V X JLjf Wk perienced reef keepers consider it a difficult species to

maintain. A related genus, Alveopora, with 12 tentacles to Like Trachyphyllia, this species is a single polyp that lives Goniopora s 24, is sometimes available. Despite the fact that in mud and is easy to collect in an undamaged condition.

these species are challenging, they may produce offspring

In addition, the polyps can withdraw completely into the extratentacular buds — that survive and grow rather well. I skeleton where they are adequately protected during trans-

have observed that Goniopora survives longest when no port, and the coral rarely arrives at its destination in dam-

other cnidarians are present in the tank. Nevertheless, I can- aged condition. It is highly prized and commands a not recommend this species to beginners until we know bet- premium price, but if I were planning to have only one coral, ter how to keep it alive.

this would be my choice. Specimens can double in size in six

Trachyphyllia geojfroyi (Open Brain Coral) is a hardy and months.

attractive species that is regularly imported. This coral is a

Several species of Euphyllia are available to aquarists, single large polyp, a design that seems to be associated with and all make good additions to the reef tank. All have rela-

Reef Tank ShallowShallow Reef AquariumFrogspawn Euphyllia Divisa

El eg a nee Coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei)

Anchor Coral (Euphyllia ancora)

Frogspawn Coral (Euphyllia divisa)

202 Natural Reef Aquariums

Shallow Reef AquariumTorch Coral

Torch Coral (Euphyllia glabrescens)

Cup Coral {Turbina ría pel tata)

Bubble Coral íPlerogyra sinuosa)

Nemenzophyllia

Fox Coral (Nemenzophyllia túrbida)

The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The word aquarium originates from the ancient Latin language, aqua meaning water and the suffix rium meaning place or building. Aquariums are beautiful and look good anywhere! Home aquariums are becoming more and more popular, it is a hobby that many people are flocking too and fish shops are on the rise. Fish are generally easy to keep although do they need quite a bit of attention. Puppies and kittens were the typical pet but now fish are becoming more and more frequent in house holds. In recent years fish shops have noticed a great increase in the rise of people wanting to purchase aquariums and fish, the boom has been great for local shops as the fish industry hasnt been such a great industry before now.

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Responses

  • alexis wood
    How to make a shallow tank?
    7 years ago
  • efrain
    What depth are natural sps reef found at?
    6 years ago
  • Marcel Bar
    Why are Reef aquarium all the same in appearance?
    2 months ago

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