Common Names: Lettuce Coral, Cactus Coral, Leaf Coral
Several species of Pavona have been grown in reef aquaria, getting their start as small colonies attached to live rock with other invertebrates such as mushroom anemones or soft corals. Aquarists with a sharp eye can spot such little treasures and grow nice colonies from them. Pavona cactus (Forskal, 1775) and Pavona decussata (Dana, 1846) are the most often encountered species.
Colour: Brown with slight greenish hue
Distinguishing Characteristics: massive, laminar, or foliaceous colonies, with eorallites on both sides of the fronds.
Similar Species: Agaricia (in the Caribbean). Also can easily be confused with Leptoseris, which forms foliaceous but generally unifacial colonies.
Aquarium Care: Pavona are hardy corals and grow rapidly, attaching to the live rock and sending up new branches in just a few months. They fare best when brightly illuminated, but can adapt to lower light levels. They tolerate both strong and weak currents.
Aquarium Reproduction: Propagation is as easy as snapping off portions of the growing blades. Little is known about sexual reproduction in this family, but it appears that colonies have separate sexes (Fadlallah, 1983).
Family Pocilloporidae Gray, 1842
Scientific Name: Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Names: Birdnest Coral, Lace Coral, Seriatopora, "Seriatophorar, S. caliendrum, Pocillopora, Brush, Cluster, Finger
Colour: Brown with green highlights, especially under blue light. Sometimes pink, or with pink tips.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Pocillopora da mi corn is is a highly variable species, with numerous growth forms, some dependent on environmental conditions, and some being recognizable subspecies (Veron, 1986). The form typically seen in aquaria forms finely branched hemispherical colonies. Another form has thicker branches and may easily be confused with Stylopbora pistil fata. There are about ten species of Pocillopora (Veron, 1986). Several species have thick, heavily calcified branches with bumps called verrucae all over the surface. In P. damicornis the verrucae and branches intergrade. Some species may require strong currents for survival in the aquarium. Some specimens (possibly subspecies of P. damicornis) show the typical form of P. verrucosa or P. meandrina when collected, having distinct verrucae on thick, upright branches, but in the aquarium the verrucae can grow into branches that look like P. damicornis.
Natural Habitat: Pocillopora damicornis has a very wide range, and lives in a variety of environments, including calm turbid bays, wave beaten, clear-water reef fronts and calmer reef slopes. It is obviously an adaptable species, well-suited to aquariums.
Aquarium Care: This species has been propagated for years in European aquariums, beginning in Berlin. This species has been confused with Seriatopora caliendrum (Wilkens, 1986), which it does resemble. Pocillopora damicornis likes bright light and turbulent water motion, which stimulates rapid growth, but it also does well under average lighting, as from standard output fluorescents, and it will expand nicely even in relatively still water. It is not terribly disturbed by rough handling. The polyps retract for only a matter of seconds and expand again immediately after being touched. Low oxygen levels in shipping or toxins in the water may cause portions of a colony to turn white as the polyps "bail-out1. These lost polyps may settle in the aquarium and form new colonies, and the bare spot on the original colony rapidly heals. New tissue and polyps grow over the old skeleton in a few days.
Aquarium Reproduction: The skeleton is fragile, and branches are easily broken off. The broken branches readily adhere to live rock, and grow into new colonies. Polyp "bail-out" and asexual formation of planulae are also means of reproduction that have been observed in aquaria. Planulae settle rapidly, already contain zooxanthellae, and a polyp is visible within one day. Four or five more polyps develop around the first one within ten days (J. Sprung, pers. obs.; see chapter 3).
Mobile planula of Pocillopora verrucosa, stretched out in search of a good spot to settle. S. Tyree.
Newly settled P. verrucosa planula on a glass slide, showing the formation of tentacles. S. Tyree.
Further development: the formation of a skeleton begins within a day. S. Tyree.
Closeup of the developing coral showing the detail of skeletal formation. S. Tyree.
The primary polyp is extended and cells of zooxanthellae are visible in this young P. verrucosa. S. Tyree.
Closeup of a more developed juvenile colony 100 days after settling. S. Tyree.
Pocillopora have hermaphroditic polyps and planula are brooded internally before being released. In the wild, planulae release has been linked to the presence of UV light and this may be a factor worth exploring in closed systems ( Jokiel and York, 1982).
Scientific Name: Seriatopora spp. Lamarck, 1816
Common Names: Birclnest Coral, Needle Coral, Brush, Bush
Seriatopora hystrix. S.W. Michael.
Colour: Brown with green highlights, brown with pink tips, solid pink, purple, or pale yellow.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Two species of Seriatopora are occasionally kept by aquarists and, since they grow well in
captivity, their propagation will assure greater availability in the future. Seriatopora c alien drum Ehrenberg, 1834, a rare species in aquariums, is quite similar in appearance to Pocillopora damicornis and Stylophora pistillata. The polyps form distinctive rows in S. caliendrum. Seriatopora hystrix Dana, 1846 is easily distinguished by its sharp-pointed, tapering branch tips and polyps that line up in neat, straight, rows.
Natural Habitat: Seriatopora hystrix can be found on upper reef slopes, in lagoons and on deep fore-reefs (Veron, 1986). In areas wiiere wave action is strong the branches are shorter, thicker and blunter, while those from deeper, calmer waters are more elongate and delicate in appearance (Veron, 1986).
Aquarium Care: Seriatopora hystrix is slightly more delicate than Pocillopora damicornis, but grows very rapidly once established in the aquarium. It usually prefers bright light, and will turn pink or purple in response to strong illumination or UV irradiation. Colonies collected in deep water do not tolerate bright light and can be injured by UV (A.J. Nilsen, pers. comm. ). Use caution when placing this coral. Start with medium light levels and slowly increase the intensity. Seriatopora hystrix tolerates low water flow, but medium to high water velocity is recommended for best growth. We have no information about the care of S. caliendrum, but suspect that it is easy to keep, like P. damicornis.
Aquarium Reproduction: Hobbyists in Europe have spread colonies by fragmenting branches. This propagation insures the survival and availability of the species in the aquarium trade. Polyp "bail-out'1 has been reported in this genus (Veron, 1986), and asexual formation of planulae may be possible, but has not been reported. In nature, this genus is hermaphroditic and broods its planulae (Fadlallah, 1983; Veron, 1986).
Scientific Name: Stylophora pistillata Esper, 1797
Common Names: Cluster Coral, Finger, Brush, Bush, Cauliflower
Colour: The typical colour is yellowish-brown, but it may also be chocolate brown, greenish, pink, or purple, depending on the light conditions where it occurs. It's shape is also highly variable depending on light (Falkowski and Dubinsky, 1981).
Distinguishing Characteristics: Stylopbora pistil I at a usually forms round clusters of finger branches, much like Seriatopora and
Pocillopora. The polyps are also very much like these corals. Stylopbora morel ax Dana, 1846 has thicker branches.
Similar Species: Similar to, but distinct from, Seriatopora.
Natural Habitat: One of the most widely distributed corals, Stylopbora pistillata is a common reef coral that occurs both in lagoons and on the main outer reefs in the Pacific, Indo-Pacific and Red Sea. It prefers exposed reef fronts and heavy surge.
Aquarium Care: At this writing, S. pistillata is only common among hobbyists in Berlin, their friends elsewhere in Europe, and anyone who has collected it by permit. It has not been collected live for the aquarium trade because of lack of demand by importers. The dead skeletons have been sold for years by the curio trade, but collectors haven't caught on to the fact that this hardy, fast growing coral is worth more alive than dead. While the curio trade removes whole colonies, live coral collectors need only m break off branches, leaving colonies intact. Small branches planted in the aquarium grow into symmetrical round colonies within months! This coral is spreading in the hobby through fragmentation and trading.
Aquarium Reproduction: As with Seriatopora spp. and Pocillopora spp., polyp "bail-out" is a possible means of reproduction in Stylopbora. It is also possible that they produce planulac asexually, but this has not been documented. Like other Pocilloporids, Stylopbora pistillata is an hermaphroditic brooder, though sperm and eggs develop at different times. Its planulae contain zooxanthellae, and the majority settle within 6 days
Family Trachyphylliidae Verrill, 1901
Scientific Name: Trachyphyllia geoffroyi Edwards and Haime, 1848
Common Names: Open Brain Coral
Colour: There are several colour varieties of Trachyphyllia, and one should use the appearance as a rough guide to placement in the aquarium. In the natural setting, Trachyphyllia receives strong illumination that is filtered by the turbidity in the water. Where it
Trachyphyllia geoffroyi, green morph. J. Sprung.
Trachyphyllia geoffroyi, red morph. J. Sprung.
Trachyphyllia geoffroyi, banded morph. J.C. Delbeek.
occurs it may be totally exposed to the light or partially shaded by an adjacent coral head. The brown and green Tracbyphyllia are generally the most brightly illuminated. The bright red specimens generally are from very turbid water, or they were shaded by an overhang or adjacent coral. They fare best at the bottom of a brightly illuminated tank. The red colour is indicative of green light usage. The use of a green fluorescent bulb will enhance the colour and health of the specimen, though green light makes other specimens appear less colourful.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Colonies are flabello-meandroid with large, fleshy polyps. They are usually bilaterally symmetrical, with one or more mouths (Veron, 1986).
Similar Species: Small Lobopbyllia may be confused with Tracbyphyllia. Lobopbyllia has tougher tissue with rougher texaire, spiny septal teeth, and forms larger, taller walled colonies, generally without a conical base. Scolymia may also be confused with Tracbyphyllia, but is not flabello-meandroid, and has spiny septal teeth.
Natural Habitat: Tracbyphyllia geoffroyi is a common free-living species on shallow mudflats or sandy bottoms around coastal reefs. It grows unattached on the bottom, its ice cream cone-like base holding it in place, and it uses its ability7 to inflate writh water to lift itself up above the sediment to prevent burial (Laboute, 1988).
Aquarium Care: Trachyphyllia is hardy, though not as hardy as, for example, Turbinaria and Cynarina. Iodine (as potassium iodide) is especially critical for the health of Trachyphyllia. Symptoms of iodine deficiency are sudden bleaching accompanied by poor tissue expansion, and inability to adapt to a light field in which the specimen had remained healthy previously. At night, oral tentacles are extended, and the coral can be fed small pieces of fresh shrimp, though feeding is not mandatory for this coral. Weekly feedings may result in greater polyp expansion and growth.
Aquarium Reproduction: Asexual reproduction has been noted in the aquarium. First, a portion of skeleton (or one or more septa) form free from the main colony, and their weight drags down on a portion of tissue until it separates from the main colony (de Greef, 1990). Trachyphyllia may also bud newr polyps around the base as is common in Euphyllia and Plerogyra species. In nature, this genus most likely sexually reproduces via separate sexes.
Family Dendrophylliidae Gray, 1847
Scientific Name: Duncanopsammia axifuga Wells, 1936
Common Names: None Colour: Gray, brown, or green.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Large, fleshy polyps held at the end of a dendroid skeleton. Hermatypic.
Similar Species: Turbinaria beronensis and Tu bast re a micrantba. Resembles Elegance coral, Catalapbyllia jardinei, when fully expanded, but is most closely related to Turbinaria.
Duncanopsammia axifuga. J.C. Delbeek.
When closed, D. axifuga resembles Tubastrea and other non-photosynthetic corals such as Astrangea. This species may form a link between hermatypic and ahermatypic corals (Veron, 1986).
Natural Habitat: This is a deepwater species restricted to Australia, New Guinea, and eastern Indonesia (Veron, 1986). J. Sprung observed this species occasionally in shallow, turbid water under ledges on coastal reefs along the Whitsunday region of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aquarium Care: Duncanopsammia axifuga is a rare species from Australia now being propagated in aquaria. This extremely hardy coral grows rapidly, laying down a dense, heavy skeleton that is difficult to cut. It does well under all types of artificial lighting and,
though naturally a shade-loving or deep water species, it easily adapts to high intensity light. It feeds well on any fish food, and regular (wreekly) feedings increase its growth, it expands best under slight currents that make the tentacles sway.
Aquarium Reproduction: A powerful scissors or a hammer and chisel are needed to sever individual polyps or groups of polyps. No other means of reproduction in the aquarium is reported. Sexual reproduction likely involves separate sexes and brooding of planulae as in other Dendrophyllids (see Fadlallah, 1983).
Scientific Name: Tubastrea spp. Lesson, 1829
Common Names: Orange Cup Coral, Sunflower, Sun, Turret
Colour: Usually orange with yellow polyps with orange mouths. Tubastrea micrantha Ehrenberg, 1834 and T, diaphana Dana, 1846 are brown with a greenish fluorescent glow.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Tubastrea species have no zooxanthellae, tubular corallites, and typically form fist-sized hemispherical colonies. The most commonly seen species are T. faulkneri Wells, 1982, T. coccinea Lesson, 1829, and T. micrantha, which forms lovely branching colonies up to several feet tall that can easily be mistaken for hermatypic corals because of the brown colour and green fluorescence. Tubastrea m ic ra nth a was formerly called Dendrophyllia nigrescens, and the name is still used for it and brown colonies of T. diaphana. Both are occasionally imported for the aquarium trade, particularly from Tonga.
Similar Species: Dendrophyllia. Distinction is in the septal arrangement in mature polyps (see Veron, 1986).
Natural Habitat: Since Tubastrea are ahermatypic, they can grow in areas of little or no light, avoiding competition from the faster growing hermatypic species. Therefore Tubastrea are usually found in caves or crevices. Tubastrea micrantha can be found growing in the same areas as hermatypic species, provided fast growing Acropora spp. are not common (Veron, 1986).
Aquarium Care: Tubastrea are common imports from Indonesia and the Caribbean. They are popular because of their bright colour, but they are not especially long lived in most aquaria because of their need for large quantities of food. When they begin
Tubastrea sp., probably T. faulkneri, as it appears with the polyps contracted. J.C. Delbeek.
These look like Dendrophyllia, but cannot be distinguished from Tubastrea without examining the skeletal structure of the corallites. A.J. Nilsen.
Tubastrea sp. with polyps expanded to capture planktonic prey. A. Storace.
Tubastrea sp. growth series from a planula. This specimen was spawned in a holding tank in the
The New York Aquarium for Wildlife
J. Yaiullo and F. Greco.
Two weeks later. J. Yaiullo and F. Greco.
One month later. J. Yaiullo and F. Greco.
to starve the tissue recedes from the skeleton. Algae can gain a foothold on the exposed skeleton and smother the coral. For this reason we do not recommend them for the beginning hobbyist unless he/she is willing to give this coral the special attention it needs: daily feeding of shrimp tissue, mussel tissue, brine shrimp, worms, or other foods offered to the open polyps by means of a long pipette. Daily additions of live brine shrimp to the aquarium may train this coral to open in the light. When cared for, this coral can be hardy and long lived.
Placement is also critical. Tubastrea tolerate light but they don't require it to survive. Therefore it is best to position colonies under ledges, in the shade, either upside-down or right-side up. Current is essential for their health, and stimulates polyp expansion. Ideally the current is strong for part of the time and weak at other times, imitating a tide cycle. The easiest way to position a colony upside-down under a ledge is by drilling a hole in the base and inserting a plastic screw there, for insertion into a hole underneath the ledge. The head of the screw can lock the coral in place, perhaps with the aid of small stones, gum, or epoxy cement to serve as shims. See aquascaping, chapter 7, for more detail about this technique.
Be aware that Tubastrea often carries parasitic nudibranchs or the Wentletrap snail, Epitonium sp. These will eat the coral's tissue! See chapter 10 for more detail about nudibranchs and snails.
Aquarium Reproduction: Tubastrea aurea has produced planulae larvae a number of times in various public and private aquaria, in both North America and Europe (B. Carlson, J. Hemdal, J. Tullock, and J. Yaiullo pers. comms.; Musgrave, 1976; Wilkens, 1976). In most cases the planulae settled within a few days and developed into small colonies. What triggered the release of planulae is not known. There is evidence that planulae can be produced asexually in this coral (Richmond and Hunter, 1990). Tubastrea faulkneri on the Great Barrier Reef is a gonochoristic brooder (Richmond and Hunter, 1990).
Turbinaria reniformis. J.C. Deibeek.
Genus Turbinaria Oken, 1815
Scientific Name: Turbinaria mesenterina (Lamarck, 1816)
Common Names: Lettuce Coral, Cup Coral, Scroll Coral, "Rugosa"
Colour: Gray, greenish, or pale brown. The growing outer margin is often lighter in colour.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Small corallites are only about 1.5-2 cm (0.5 - 0.75 in.) in diameter. This species is very similar to T. reniformis Bernard, 1896, and the two are easily confused. Turbinaria reniformis is most often bright yellow, but gray, green or brown colonies resemble T. mesenterina so closely that distinguishing them is a job for the coral taxonomist. The polyps are usually more crowded in T. mesenterina than in T. reniformis, but specimens of either species from shallow water will have crowded polyps and a very highly convoluted shape. The authors suspect that T. mesenterina has a shallow water form that can be yellow.
Natural Habitat: This species is a regular import from "Tonga'1, and rarely from Indonesia where it also occurs but is seldom j collected. Shallow, turbid water is where it proliferates. It may also occur in clear water on deep reef slopes. Occasional in tide pools exposed to extremes of temperature, salinity, and light.
Aquarium Care: This species and T. reniform is are a little more demanding than T. peltata, and are not recommended for the novice. The highly convoluted specimens that are collected in
Turbinaria reniformis, Papua New Guinea, at 14 m (45 ft.) depth. B. Carlson.
Turbinaria reniformis. This aquarium specimen exhibits bleaching. When the light is not strong enough, yellow colonies turn brown, and the tissue may receed, exposing the coenosteum. Shortage of trace elements, particularly iodide, can also result in bleaching in strongly illuminated specimens. J. Sprung.
shallow water require veiy strong illumination and water motion. Specimens that are saucer-shaped fare much better, being adapted to shadier conditions with less water flow. The polyps extend mostly at night, but may also extend during the day, though not as prominently as in T. peltata. It may fare better with night-time feedings of live brine shrimp nauplii.
Aquarium Reproduction: Not reported. Fragmentation of plates or upright convolutions will produce new colonies. Turbinaria species have separate sexes and spawn in autumn when the water becomes cooler. Fertilization is believed to be external (Veron, 1986).
Scientific Name: Turbinaria pe/fafa (Esper, 1794)
Common Names: Turban Coral, Cup Coral, Plate Coral, Octopus
Coral, Column Coral, Pagoda Coral, Bowl Coral, Vase Coral
Colour: Usually grayish with polyps that are green or brown or a combination of green and brown. Occasionally whole colonies are bright green.
Turbinaria peltata. J.C. Delbeek.
Turbinaria patuia is quite similar to T. peltata, but it has smaller corallites. J.C. Delbeek.
Distinguishing Characteristics: This coral has numerous growth forms, but the common cup, saucer, or plate is most typical. In larger colonies the convolutions at the edge of the plate may grow upward to form erect columns. These are commonly broken off and offered for sale, or the naturally broken pieces around a large
colony are collected. Wounds heal quickly in this hardy, fast growing coral. The calices are 3-5 mm in diameter, and the polyps may expand over 2.5 cm (1 in.) in diameter, completely obscuring the skeleton in a carpet of tentacles. A similar species, T. patula (Dana 1846) is occasionally found. It has more tubular corallites than T. peltata, and these incline outward toward the margins (Veron, 1986). Still another species, possibly T. frondens (Dana, 1846), has smaller corallites than T. peltata 2nd the living polyps, which expand nicely, often have the oral disc of contrasting colour with the tentacles. These two species are also hardy like T. peltata, and easy to care for in the aquarium.
Natural Habitat: Turbinaria species typically occur in shallow, brightly illuminated water, either turbid inshore, or clear offshore water. Turbinaria peltata is most common in inshore water that is very muddy. It is especially common in bays where tidal currents keep fine sediment in suspension, blocking out some of the light. It may be found in tidepools, and tolerates exposure at low tide.
Aquarium Care: Turbinaria peltata is very hardy, grows well, and is most desirable because it does not inflate greatly nor send out sweeper tentacles. It fares best under metal halide and actinic combinations, with strong currents at least for portions of the day. It does not need strong currents, but grows best when it receives good water flow. Turbinaria may fluoresce bright green under blue fluorescent light, and tolerates dim lighting, under which it will remain healthy, but grow more slowly. It extends its polyps both day and night, often more dramatically at night, which is the best time to offer food. Turbinaria peltata, T. patula, and T. frondens eagerly take food such as brine shrimp or blackworms, though it is not necessary to feed them at all. Feeding may enhance growth or encourage reproduction.
Aquarium Reproduction: Not reported. Fragments will form newr colonies, and will attach to live rock. Turbinaria species have separate sexes and spawn in autumn when the water becomes cooler. Fertilization is believed to be external (Veron, 1986).
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