Tips On Coral Placement

ne of the more vexatious challenges, even for experienced reef keepers, is the appropriate placement of corals within the aquarium. Finding just the right level of light intensity and water motion can mean the difference between a specimen that thrives and grows, showing full polyp extension and brilliant col

Saltwater Reef Coral Placement

oration, and one that leads a lackluster existence, with polyps retracted or shrunken, dull coloration, and no growth.

Specific recommendations for each species of coral that an aquarist might encounter are not always easy to find, and many are still poorly documented in the literature available to hobbyists. Here are my own general rules for placing corals in the reef tank.

1. Corals (and anemones) in which the ends of the tentacles are pink or purple in color, and corals with a lot of pink in the tis- Trial and error may be the best instructor in sue, such as the red form of Tra- learning to arrange specimens in a reef tank. chyphyllia geoffroyi, were likely collected in shallow water where they received very bright light. It is believed that the pink and purple pigments help to protect the coral from ultraviolet light.

imally abundant. Massive, rounded corals grow at moderate depths. Platelike growth forms are characteristic of areas where light is lowest, resulting in the coral spreading out to expose maximum surface area to the sunshine.

3. Extreme variation in form in a single species can lead to confusion about which species are found where. For example, in Pocillopora damicornis from the Great Barrier Reef, a "colony from the reef flat has more in common with colonies of other Pocillopora species than it does with colonies of P. damicornis from other environments." (Veron, 1995) It is probably more useful to consider the nature of the growth form of a particular specimen, rather than its actual species designation, when deciding whether the specimen would be suitable for an aquarium depicting a limited microhabitat.

Trial and error, in the end, will be the best guide in many situa tions. If a coral seems not to be doing well, try another location with a different set of conditions. We must resist the temptation to constantly rearrange a tank, but judicious ex-2. Branching corals grow nearest the surface of the perimentation with a problem specimen can often yield sur-

ocean, high up on the reef, where light and oxygen are max-

prising improvements.

220 Natural Reef Aquariums son is noteworthy among professional aquarists and marine biologists for his willingness to involve aquarium hobbyists in his studies of coral reef biology.)

The collection of stony corals is prohibited in many countries, and the question of whether stony coral species should be collected for the aquarium is debated. Captive spawning of stony corals may be a very rare event. Stony corals do not as readily reproduce themselves by other means, as do soft corals, but vegetative reproduction of all the branching stony coral species is successful. Coral "farms" have sprung up all over the United States, ranging in size from what can be accommodated in a suburban basement to multiple greenhouses to a multimillion-dollar, high-tech facility in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse. Cultivation of coral fragments in trays placed in shallow water is being pursued in Palau and probably in other locations in the tropical Indo-Pacific. The supply o ; SPS corals, and many of the other species as well, may one day come exclusively from such sources, although at present there are not enough propagators to keep up with demand. Hobbyist interest is high, however, and this bodes well for the future of the captive-propagated coral market.

Spawnings of many coral species occur seasonally and

Bicolor Blenny

Bicolor Blenny iEscenius bicolor)

predictably, with the waters surrounding the reef clouded with millions of eggs and sperm. But for every larval coral that finds a suitable spot and grows into a visible colony, billions die. An idea that takes advantage of this natural fecundity is the placement of artificial substrates, such as ceramic tiles, in hopes of collecting coral larvae that will grow into aquarium-sized colonies. The "seeded" tiles could then be transferred to grow-out aquariums in which conditions could be adjusted to optimize the rate of coral growth. The government of Guam is reported to be interested in seeing a coral industry of this sort attempted in its waters. FISHES FOR THE OUTER-REEF HABITAT. Because they are mobile, fishes are not as restricted in their habitat preferences as are sessile invertebrates. Some rough habitat guidelines, however, are possible for the most commonly seen aquarium species. Among those species usually seen on the outer side of the reef are:

Most anthiid species, including Pseudanthias hawaiien-sisj which lives under deep ledges in Hawaii, or Serranocir-rhitus latus, inhabiting caves and ledges at greater than 90 feet in Micronesia;

Flame Hawkfish, Neocirrhites armatus, found on surge-swept areas in association with Pocillopora corals, and the

Neocirrhites Armatus

Flame Hawkfish (Neocirrhites armatus)

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

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