Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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.

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