Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Clementine, our Orange Linckia Sea Star

Echinoderms, or sea stars, in general, are such amazing creatures. They have no brain and no blood. They propel themselves slowly via water pulpusion through a series of tubes in their arms. They have thousands of "suction cup" feet that can stick to anything. If they lose an arm, they grow it back. And the severed arm grows into a new starfish as well! They reproduce asexually. In addition, they are detritovres, scavenging and sifting through sand and rubble, eating bacterial film and other unknown wastes. Sea stars are incredibly strong and can even pry apart mollusk shells. They can also voluntarily prolapse their stomachs into the shell of a clam (or other mollusk), where it secretes digestive enzymes to puree the food. Dude! Without a doubt, these creatures are pretty amazing.

I knew they were sensitive creatures in the home aquarium but after having success with the shrimp, I decided to try one out. I asked the LFS about a small, reef-safe, peaceful starfish that would be easy to care for. He suggested the Linckia. They come in lots of colors (red, blue, purple, spotted). He got the reef-safe, peaceful part right (some starfish (the "bumpy" or "knobby" ones, in general) are extremely predatory and can become quite large, preying on your shrimp, crabs, snails, and fish!) but not the "easy to care for" part. Unfortunately, I found out later that most Linckias in home aquariums die within a few months either due to starvation or parasitic infections. Ugh! I HAVE to be more careful.

Orange Linckias grow to a max of 3-4" and are from the Indian Ocean. Despite their small size, keeping them is most successful in a large, well-established reef tank of 100-gallons or more with lots of live rock (at least 6 months old). Oops. This is probably because we don't know what they eat, and a larger, well-established tank is likely to provide them with a stable source of food. The linckias, like other sea stars are very sensitive creatures. They prefer a high salinity of 1.025 and will not tolerate fluctuations in temperature, salinity, pH, or other parameters. They require pristine water conditions (no nitrates). Like other invertebrates, copper medications (used for sick fish in a fish-only system or hospital tank) will kill them. In addition, they require a slow acclimation process, using the drip system of 3.5 hours. When selecting one, choose a healthy speciman that can right itself when flipped on its back. Also, avoid specimans with white, fluffy growths (often parasites) or other injuries.

I really hope Clementine makes it. She is verrry healthy. I actually only did a 1-hour acclimation (unknowingly). Our salinity is 1.023 so I'm slowly rising it to 1.025 over the next week or so. When I first put her in the tank, she landed on her back in the sand and immediately flipped herself over and climbed up the wall. She likes to be out front and center, on display. She's pretty active, moving all over the glass and rocks. I absolutely adore her. She's gorgeous.

Linckia Links:

Oops. Flowerpot Coral

I did something rather foolish. I bought a coral that looked pretty, not really knowing anything about it. It sort of resembled clove polyps (Clavularia sp.), which are relatively easy to care for. Thinking it would require similar care, I bought it. Duh. Turns out, it's probably doomed for a short life. It's a "flower pot coral" of the species Goniopora. Only 10% of aquarists are successful at keeping them, and most websites and experts recommend staying away from them completely, advising to leave them alone in the ocean. Oops. Now, on top of having wasted $65, I also feel bad. Maybe you guys can learn from my mistake.
Scooter on new Flowerpot Coral. Polyps haven't opened yet.
Two more views of this gorgeous new coral with polyps open. The polyps sway back and forth and undulate sporadically, independently of the water movement. I placed it in a section with moderate low and fairly high lighting. From what I've read, it won't last more than a few months. Be prepared. Maybe next time, I'll choose from an easier-to-care-for, yet similar-looking coral (see list at bottom of post of similar but hardier corals).
Let's learn about this new coral. It's of the Goniopora species. A very challenging, yet somewhat more successful coral (read: not as doomed to failure) that looks almost identical is the Alveopora coral. This coral is rarer than Goniopora but easier to care for. I was hoping and praying this was the type of Flower Pot coral I had purchased. However upon further reading, I learned that the Alveopora species has 8 tentacles around each polyp. The Goniopora has 24. I went home and eagerly began counting tentacles (not an easy task). I quickly surpassed 8 and lost count by 24. So I bought the more sensitive, Goniopora species. (See above) Crap.

What else can I tell you about Goniopora? It's an LPS coral that lives in the South Pacific. It requires perfect water conditions, and even then, advanced aquarists can't keep them. I don't think we've learned what their requirements are to thrive (or just survive) in captivity. It requires medium to strong water flow and lots of light. It's also considered an aggressive coral (like other LPS corals, has stinging tentacles that extend at night). I also read somewhere that it often doesn't do well in a tank with an Elegance Coral (crap, crap), perhaps because of different water chemistry requirements (elegance needs slightly "dirty" water? Flowerpot requires pristine). In addition to Flowerpot Coral, it's also called a Ball, Daisy, or Sunflower Coral. Clownfish may take up residence (mine are special; they don't like the Elegance, Frogspawn, or Flowerpot; stupid clownfish, although I guess it's good since they won't harm the fragile polyps; stupid coral).

From a website that actually sells the stupid coral:
Goniopora sp. requires PERFECT water conditions, the proper trace elements and the habitat must match its requirements.
Another website said:
Goniopora is delicate and long term survival (>12 months) is probably less than 10%.
Not encouraging considering companies usually try to downplay how hard their stuff is to keep alive.

Links to Goniopora or Flowerpot Coral:

Take a look at other similar looking corals that are much easier to care for:
(Maybe this is what I should try next time. Duh.)

Clove polyps (Clavularia):
There are many hardy species in this class, also including star polyps. These are a fast-growing, soft coral, perfect for beginners. Some species resemble Xenia.

Pipe Organ Coral:
A soft coral that is similar in apperance to Star Polyps (above).
Scientific name: Tubipora musica
A little harder to care for than the Star Polyps but still doable.

Galaxy Coral (Galaxea):
Also called Star Coral or Starbust Coral.
A beautiful LPS coral with polyps resembling gorgeous stars.
Fairly easy to care for.
Pagoda Cup Coral:
Scientific Name: Turbinaria sp
Also called Vase Coral (among other things)
This LPS coral does require a little delicate handing and feeding but many species are relatively hard and great for the novice reef aquarist.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aquarium Entertainment!

Now that Chantal is getting better, our tank has returned to a comfortable state of homeostasis. I'm spending lots of entertaining hours just watching. The swaying coral is very meditative and the fish put on a show for me constantly. It's like a little soap opera in there! Better than t.v. Thought I would share. Today is a picture show 'n tell.

Scooter (our scooter blenny) is such a little ham. He really strutted his stuff for the camera. Take a look! He's SO adoreable (I know I'm not supposed to play favorites but he just melts my heart).

Scooter soars between the rocks, probably begging for Nahla to clean him. I love when he puts his dorsal fin up! It's like his sail.

Scooter on our new mushroom coral at night. (Btw, isn't our new rust-colored mushroom coral pretty?)
Scooter gives Louie an annoyed look as Louie taunts him. "Go find your own rock to pick at!" Scooter protests.

Scooter, spotting me with the camera stopped what he was doing and hopped over to pose and say hello. What a charmer!

Next, we have friendly shrimp. I was cleaning the tank, and I had to be extra careful not to acidentally brush the Merry Maids (shrimp) or Nahla. They wouldn't leave me alone!
Nahla and the shrimp (the Merry Maids, Merry and Melvin) are irresistably drawn to the toothbrush.
Then, Merry crawled right onto my hand!

It didn't hurt. Just tickled. I loved it!

This was our aquarium almost 4 months ago. Look how far we've come!
Night view of the aquarium.

Mushroom city!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nahla, our bluestreak cleaner wrasse

When Chantal got sick, one recommendation was to get a cleaner wrasse. In the wild, these gracious fish set up "cleaning stations", which other fish line up in order to receive a free cleaning service. The cleaner wrasse eats parasites off the fish, forming a symbiotic relationship with each other. You've probably seen these guys on National Geographic's Shark Week. Remember the small, eel-like fish swimming alongside the sharks? Remember being amazed that the sharks didn't just snack on these guys like Cheetohs? Nope, predatory fish value the cleaner wrasse's services and have been known to fiercely protect them from harm.

I hesitated before purhcasing one. I had read many websites about how they perish in captivity. I wasn't about to get a fish in the slim hope that it would save my sick fish, especially not knowing if Chantal even had parasites that a cleaner wrasse could eat. After much debate, I decided a cleaner wrasse would be a good addition to the tank in the long run, regardless of Chantal's condition.

I picked a very healthy, bluestreak cleaner wrasse since the bluestreak species is the hardiest of the cleaner wrasses. I picked the LFS owner's brain about the cleaner wrasse's ability to adapt to captivity. He believes many don't do well due to the stress of shipping. His cleaner wrasses came from Kenya, where apparently, they are collected and shipped individually to reduce stress, as opposed to groups, as is done in the Indo Pacific.

We named her Nahla since she's from Kenya, and I instantly fell in love with her. She's super friendly and outgoing. She never had to "adapt" to our tank; she immediately began making friends with her tankmates, eating and swimming around curiously. She seems very healthy and happy. She tries to clean all of our other fish; some of them really don't like it. Maybe it tickles. Paticularly Chantal, which is unfortunate because she needs it the most. Scooter and Pedro love to be cleaned by her. We caught Nahla cleaning Pedro's eye. Scooter floats in front of Nahla as she swims past, dorsal fin erect, just begging to be cleaned. It's pretty hysterical. In addition, Nahla is very friendly towards me. She's obsessed with the magnet I use to clean the glass; I have to be careful to shoosh her away. When I clean the algae off the live rock with a brush, Nahla comes right over to me and gets in the way! No fear whatsoever.

Nahla, posing for the camera

Facts about the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse:
Labroides dimidiatus
Peaceful and reef safe
carnivorous and eat parasites off fish as well
lifespan: 4 years
adults reach 5.5 inches
usually from Indo Pacific (ours is from Kenya)
like all wrasses, these guys are jumpers when scared; keep a lid on it!
all start as females; one becomes male and they form harmes
although the bluestreak is the hardiest of the cleaner wrasses, many die in captivity (due to malnutrition) so think twice before getting one

Nahla, swimming peacefully with Louie, our other wrasse (canary wrasse). Unlike most wrasses, these two get along great! (Mrs. Roper is lurking in the background).

Chantal is Better!!!

I am SO relieved! I didn't think sick fish got better. She must have simply been stressed from shipping and moving to different tanks suddenly. After a water change, small, frequent feedings, and wringing my hands a lot as I watch her, the bumps are going away! Yippee! I wish I could say our new Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse had something to do with it. But as much as the cleaner wrasse (Nahla) wants to clean Chantal, Chantal will have nothing to do with it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Help! Sick Fish. Lymphocystis?

I have yet to do a post on common saltwater fish illnesses (ick, marine velvet, lateral line erosion, etc.). Obviously, in lieu of recent events, this post is called for (can you guess what I will be posting in the next few days?). But for today, let's focus on why I'm interested in saltwater fish illnesses in the first place.

I introduced Chantal to the tank on Saturday. She had just come to my favorite LFS from Hawaii on Thursday. The guy at the LFS was hesitant to sell her to me, not sure about their health since they had just come in. I decided to risk it; I had missed out last time! When I came back to see which one was the healthiest, they were all sold! The LFG (local fish guy) selected the healthiest one and carefully netted him into a bag with tankwater for me to take home. Upon introducing her the tank, she seemed very happy, eating, swimming, playing with the other tankmates. I was very encouraged.

On Thursday, I noticed several lumps on the right side of her body, near the dorsal fin and her belly. They looked like hard, warty, cauliflower-like lumps. The coloring was pale to reddish. Other than that, Chantal's behavior was unchanged. Eating, swimming around happily. Nonetheless, I knew those bumps were not supposed to be there. I had to do something. Quick! What was going on with my prize fish?
Chantal with mysterious lumps on right side of body (particularly near dorsal fin).
After some research on-line and talking with 3 different fish "experts", I'm still not entirely sure what it is. I've ruled out some of the more common Blue Tang illnesses like ich and marine velvet. (Btw, I found out that tangs are more susceptible to these diseases because they have skin, not scales. Kind of cool, huh? I guess that's what makes them both very sensitive to water parameters as well as beautiful. If you haven't guessed, these are my favorite type of fish.) Both of those have a white powdery appearance (more like salt sprinkling for ich and a smooth fluffy coat for marine velvet). My vote is for lymphocystis.
What is lymphocystis?
Juvenile emperor angel with classical lymphocystis on fins.
" Lymphosystis is a viral growth that can appear on the fins and skin of aquarium fish. Lymph can be distinguished from other tumors by its distinctive appearance. Close inspection of the Lymphocystis nodule reveals white to gray cauliflower or raspberry-like growths that usually begin at the tips of the fish's fins and may eventually spread to other areas of the fish's body. Usually, the cuase of Lymph is from unusual stress or shipping. Lymph that appears on new additions to the tank is most likely caused from the stress of capture and transport.
Symptoms: White to gray, cauliflower or raspberry-like groths on the fins or body of the fish.

Yellow Tang with Lymphocystis (a fish who doesn't normally get this disease).

Clownfish with Lymphocystis (also a fish who doesn't normally get this disease).
Chantal with mysterious lumps. What do you think?
Close up of Chantal's warty lumps.
"Since lymph is not very contagious or fatal, the best treatment is to leave the fish in the main tank and let the disease run its course. If you have an ultraviolet light, keep it on to stop the spread of the virus. If the Lymph tumor covers most of the mouth, causing eating problems for the fish, the growth should be removed. If you want to perform the surgery, net the fish and place it on a clean, wet towel. With a scalpel or new razor blade, carefully trim the portion of Lymph that is obstructing the mouth. Be careful not to cut into the actual skin, if at all possible. Disinfect the area by dabbing it with a cotton swab dipped in a broad spectrum antiseptic such as betadine. Let the drug penetrate for ten seconds then place the fish directly back in the main tank. Do not keep the fish out of the water for more than one minute."
Let's compare notes.
First, Chantal is an easily stressed fish. In addition, she's been through A LOT over a very short amount of time. From Hawaii to 2 different tanks in less than a week. That's quite a bit of travelling, shipping, and introduction to new tanks in a short amount of time! Not to mention being removed from the wild (I'm kicking myself for not ordering a captive-bred blue tang on-line). Particularly for a type of fish (blue tang) that's very sensitive to stress. Okay, so we have a reason for how she became immunocompromised and susceptible to disease.
Let's look at her symptoms. Cauliflower like bumps on her body that are pale gray to raspberry colored. Um. Wow! Did they look at Chantal before giving that description? Check.
The disease is usually asymptomatic and non-lethal. Hmmm. Chantal is behaving and eating normally (although she does itch her bumps on the rock; normal for tangs. I would too if I had all those nasty lumps on me!). So far, so good.

Strikes against a lymphocystis diagnosis? Well, tangs don't normally get this virus (angels and butterflies do). And the lumps are usually localized to the edges of the fins, not on the body itself.

Thankfully, if it is lymphocystis, the virus is asymptomatic, rarely infects other fish, and usually goes away on its own. That's very good news. On the flip side, there is no known cure for lympocystis (kind of like there is no cure for the common cold). All in all, I'm hoping this is what is plaguing Chantal. Poor Chantal has the flu. (Greg says she has the fish form of poison ivy).

What have I done to help Chantal? First, I made sure no fish were bullying her. Check. If anything, she calls the shots in the tank. It's a very happy family. Second, I did a 20% water change. Lots of scrubbing away excess grime and algae. New filter sock and new activated carbon. I tested all the water parameters. Temp 80, specific gravity 1.024, pH 8.5, nitrates 0, phosphates 0, alkalinity 8, calcium 400. Looks good. In addition, it's stable. That's what it was 1 month ago. I have 2 cleaner shrimp in there that are supposed to help clean parasites off fish (unfortunately, they seem to squirm away as if cleaning were ticklish). I also added a bluestreak cleaner wrasse (more on this in a later post). She immediately tried to clean the fish in the tank. Again, most of them swam away. I think they thought she was getting fresh with them! Poor Scooter (scooter blenny) protested quite vividly, "Hey! I'm not that kind of fish!" The last thing I'm doing is feeding Chantal (and the other fish) frequent feedings (3x/day) of a varied diet (oyster eggs, prawn eggs, mysis, other frozen meats, veggies, seaweed, etc.). Anyway, I'm hoping these measures will help Chantal.

In general, I have read that for sick fish, if she is eating normally and behaving normally, the best course of action is to leave it alone. Most likely, the fish's immune system will fight it off on her own. This is basically what I'm doing. Just monitoring. Of course, if your fish is displaying more harmful symptoms (not eating, lethargic, swimming on its side, breathing heavily, or infecting other fish), more drastic action needs to be taken. I'll go over these details in a later post but briefly, treatments include: removing the sick fish and placing her in a hospital tank, freshwater dip, and copper treatment (as well as lots of others on the market; NOTE: Be careful! Lots of treatments will kill your inverts and coral, especially copper!). Take into consideration that every treatment will add stress to your fish, potentially weakening her immune system. You have to weight the risks and benefits and decide what's best for your ailing fish.

Chantal itching on a rock.

Another view of Chantal itching.

Video of Chantal itching her bumps.
Most importantly, what do you think? Does Chantal have lymphocystis? Something else? How can I help her? Suggestions?

Links about Lymphocystis:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Finally! My Blue Tang

Chantal and Phillip (royal gramma)

Chantal loves the clowns!

--our aquarium!
I have been dying to purchase a Blue Tang (also known as a regal tang and hippo tang; it's scientific name is Paracanthurus Hepatus). Everyone told me this was a bad idea since they are sensitive, get stressed and bullied easily, and tend to get diseases. "They're ick magnets!" an aquarium expert scoffed at the LFS. I was undeterred. The bright blue colors with black streaks and yellow tail! Oh my! I fell for this fish's beauty. Plus, tangs (my favorite group of fish) are peaceful, reef safe, and eat algae. What more could you want? Anyway, I was tired of playing by all the rules. It was time to venture out and be bold. I spotted some healthy juvenilles swimming around at my favorite LFS and couldn't resist. They were fresh in from Hawaii. I purchased the healthiest gal (we can't tell the sex but decided to proclaim her female since our tank was becoming male- dominated).
We brought Chantal home and carefully acclimated her to the tank. I even gave her a little cup to hide in the acclimation chamber. I dimmed the lights and carefully netted her into the tank. I held my breath and waited. I had been told she would be shy and skittish, hiding in the live rock for days. The "experts" told me I would probably not see much of her for the first week or so. Surprisingly, she started taking over the tank, bullying the other fish! I guess she had heard the motto from prison: "Make someone your bitch the first day or else be someone else's." Luckily, the other fish didn't fall for her bluff and pretty much ignored her false charges and zipping about the tank. She immediately started gulping up copepods pouring in from the refugium. A quick check on the internet confirmed that the blue tang's diet consists mostly of plankton in the wild (not algae as I had falsely been told).
I have high hopes for her! She's quite the diva and spends most of her time swimming out in the open, eating copepods. She's very frisky! Not at all what I expected. I am keeping my fingers crossed that she stays healthy.
Blue Tang Facts
Other names: regal tang, hippo tang, yellow-tailed blue tang
Scientific Names: Paracanthurus Hepatus
Diet: Herbivore. Eats mostly plankton but supply a varied diet of meaty foods and greens. Provide kori or seaweed on a veggie clip.
Size: adults group up to 12 inches; when she starts to grow too big for our 75-gallon tank, we'll either have to trade her out :*( or get a bigger tank :) An ideal tank size is 200 gallons.
Region: Hawaii
Disposition: shy and hides in rock and caves but also likes to swim a lot; high metabolism; tends to get stressed easily, making it susceptible to diseases like ick, marine velvet and lateral line erosion.
Note: has sharp spines that can cut if handled (typical of surgeonfish)
Other: peaceful and reef compatible

Earl, our Lawnmower Blenny

We recently purchased Earl, our lawnmower blenny. We have some algae cropping up on our live rock, and he seemed like an easier way to get rid of it rather than scrubbing the rock weekly with a brush (although I have to do that too). He was described as "drab and boring" but I love him! He's very active and always munching on algae. When I pass by, he stops to stare at me like, "What do you want?" and then continues grazing. He's got lots of personality. When he's done eating, he perches in a cave in the live rock and peeks out, surveying the tank from above.
At first, I thought he was going to go after Scooter (our little scooter blenny). He kept charging and attacking him. Argh! Another blenny gone bad? It turned out to be just play. Scooter could have easily gotten away and taken up residence somewhere else in the tank; they have plenty of room. However, Scooter seemed to enjoy "teasing" Earl. He would swim into Earl's space and munch away at the live rock, right in Earl's algae patch! Earl would charge Scooter, and Scooter ignored him, pretending he wasn't there at all! Now the two hang out and actually seem to enjoy each other's company. I guess those guys are Kings of the Mountain when it comes to the live rock.
It's so much fun to watch these guys in action!

Scooter, Earl's friend.
Facts on the Lawnmower Blenny
Scientific name: Salarias fasciatus
Diet: Herbivores; eat algae; supplement with green foods
Activity: Likes to munch on algae on live rock
Region: Indo Pacific
Compatibility: Reef safe, peaceful and hardy
Size: Max 5"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taking Risks...and Being Rewarded--Pedro, our Bluejaw Triggerfish!

I had been sooo careful. Carefully researching every move I made before trying it out on our aquarium. Reading, looking on-line, talking to my aquarium expert friends. Everything was going swimmingly. But I started getting aquarium envy upon gazing at other people's aquariums. Everywhere I looked, people were taking risks. Fish that are supposed to eat coral in a reef aquarium that peacefully went about their business and left the coral alone. Coral beauties, Flame Angels, Copperband Butterflies minding their own business in a reef tank. I spotted fragile fish, coral and invertebrates that are "difficult" in beginner tanks left alone with little attention, such as starfish and sea anemones. Finally when I spotted a Coral beauty angelfish licking the algae off a friend's aquarium, something inside me snapped. I'd had it playing safe!

Triggerfish are probably one of the most unsafe fish you could add to a peaceful reef tank. They have voracious appetites, eat everything from shrimp to fish to coral, and are extremely aggressive (as in: you-may-lose-your-fingers-when-hand-feeding aggressive). So why would you want one? They are extremely intelligent, loaded with personality, friendly towards people (I've heard of them coming to the surface and "barking", begging to be fed), brilliantly colored/shaped/patterned, and just about the coolest fish you could possibly have.

I decided to add one to our tank. Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe I was just tired of Greg calling our present fish "fresh-water minnows". Regardless, I took the bait and fell for the dare. Upon hearing that the Bluejaw Triggerfish was one of the most reef-safe triggerfish you could have, I purchased a cute, juvenile male. Is the term "reef-safe triggerfish" an oxymoron? Well, we're going to find out.

The Bluejaw trigger feeds on plankton, unlike his other more carnivorous trigger cousins. They are smaller than other triggers (which are normally gi-normous). Smaller here means up to 12". If ours grows up to be that big, we'll sadly have to trade him out or get a bigger tank. He'll be too cramped in our measly 75 gallons! In addition, this trigger is actually very shy! If I move too quickly, he dives into his favorite cave in the live rock.

I have quickly fallen in love with our Bluejaw. His name is Pedro. After getting rid of Kujo, our crazy Midas Blenny, Pedro came out of his shell. (The Midas Blenny was terrorizing poor Pedro! Ever heard of a blenny picking on a triggerfish? Me either!) His eyes are my favorite; they are a soft brown and have the ability to move independently of his body, much like a human's. He eats pretty much everything I feed him and has become quite chubby! A fat fish is a happy fish. If I sit still, he swims in front of me, undulating his gorgeous yellow fins. I love the white dots on his sides! When he gets excited (like when he's feeding or showing off), the blue around his jaw brightens, almost like he's blushing. He hasn't bothered any of his tankmates (they were pretty terrified of him at first); Pedro doesn't take any of their gruff either. He's very mellow and easygoing. In fact, Mr. Roper, who keeps getting picked on by Mrs. Roper (our Banggai cardinalfish, actually 2 males, unfortunately), hides behind Pedro to keep from getting chased! I've seen Phillip take refuge behind Pedro as well to ward off Mrs. Roper. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he continues behaving this way. He is quickly becoming a tank favorite!

Pedro, what a cutie!

Bluejaw Trigger Links:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Venturing into LPS Coral (Stonies!)

Our aquarium with Mrs. Roper (actually a Mr.), the clowns (Bonnie & Clyde) and Merry Maids (shrimp).
Not to be outdone, Phillip, the Royal Gramma, makes an appearance.

LPS stands for large polyp stony coral. As opposed to the soft coral, they have a more calciferous skeleton and require slightly more care. However, contrary to popular belief, many will do well in an aquarium with less light and flow than required by the finicky SPS (small polyped stony) coral cousins. Although the SPS coral is typically what we all think about when we think of coral (stony, cool, calcified formations under the sea, forming branches, skeletons, and intricate networks of amazing, brilliant colors and patterns), these guys are not the easiest to maintain in the average home aquarium. Because of this, we've decided to stick to some of the easy corals: soft and LPS. Keep in mind, because LPS corals are still fairly soft and fleshy, many extend long sweeper tentacles at night to sting competing, neighboring corals that stray too close. These guys claim a lot of real estate!

We've already added a lot of soft coral: mushrooms, zoanthid, leather finger coral, toadstool, and xenia. We even added an LPS coral (frogspawn).

It was time for something different. Something more daring. Something more bold. I went with 2 new additions:

Open Brain Coral (Lobophyllia)
Other names: Lobed Brain Coral, Flat Brain Coral, Open Brain Coral, Wrinkle Coral, Meat Coral, Modern Coral, Large Flower Coral, Carpet Brain Coral, and Brain Root Coral.

All I can say about this guy is, Wow! Wow! Wow! So many intense colors. This guy (aptly named, "Brain") opened up more brilliantly than in the shop from the instant I put him in our tank. I think he loves it! He's in a spot with lots of light and moderate-to-high flow. In addition to photosynthesizing, I supplement his diet (along with all my LPS corals) with a mixture of live phytoplankton and some oyster eggs 1-2x/week (I dilute this with some tank water in a cup; then, I spot feed with a turkey baster while the pumps are off). This guy is considered quite hardy and excellent for the beginning aquarist. Like many LPS corals, he does extend long, stinging sweeper tentacles at night so he needs lots of room. Other interesting facts? Unlike many LPS, this guy can be propagated pretty easily in captivity.
Elegans Coral (aka "Elegance Coral")
Catalaphyllia jardinei

I was told this was a very hard LPS coral by my LFS (local fish shop). However, after reading about it on-line, this line-of-reasoning is somewhat controversial. Apparently, they were over-collected, and more recently, the ones being collected are coming from deeper and deeper ocean regions (in Australia). These new, deeper Elegance Corals are much more finicky and perish in captivity. Therefore, the care listed for these has changed from "Easy" to "Moderate".

It's also known as "Elegant", "Ridge", or "Wonder" Coral. It likes low to moderate water flow and moderate lighting. Use caution when handling to avoid being stung. It's considered "aggressive" towards other competing corals because of its stinging tentacles. It likes to be placed directly on the substrate as rockwork can scratch and irritate it's fragile skeleton. When the Elegance Coral opens up, it expands up to 2x as much as at night. Clownfish often take up residence in it when no anemone is present (we're keeping our fingers crossed). Like other LPS corals, it likes to be spot fed a mixture of phytoplankton and brine shrimp 2x/week.

This coral is by far my favorite. It's like an alien creature with so many brillilant colors.