LPS: A Primer
Large Polyp Stoney Corals: A Primer
Large Polyp Stoney Corals are very common additions to the reef aquarium, as most are beautiful, easily kept corals, needing only bright light and occasional feeding to thrive when properly kept. Keep in mind, though that several of the LPS corals can grow large, some very large. I'll stay with primarily photosynthetic corals in this list.
As like all corals, one should endeavor to maintain Natural Sea Water levels of minerals, and as always, stability is the name of the game. One should understand that sweeper tentacles on the coral species that have them can sting and cause intense pain in people, so care should be taken when doing maintenance around those corals.
Though it's not absolutely necessary for some, feeding them zoo and phytoplankton, either live (better) or prepared on a daily bases is a key to health and vitality of all in this list.
Now the species. You'll forgive me for starting with my favorite.
Native to South Pacific reefs and commonly kept is Euphyllia ancora, the Anchor Coral.
Available aquacultured by fragmentation, this species was my very first stoney coral, its three-inch frag arriving August 1988.
This species prefers medium light. If kept under metal halide illumination, it should be in the lower third of the tank. It can be kept under Very High Output, Power Compact, or bright T5 illumination as well, but should be sited in the upper half of the aquarium. It can be nearly blinding under actinic lights.
Anchor does best with medium, chaotic, pulsing current. You want the polyps to move in a smooth, wave-like motion. Properly kept, it is one of the easier LPS corals to keep.
This coral greatly benefits from twice or thrice weekly feeding. A defrosted mysis shrimp placed among the polyps in the evenings will be slowly consumed. Commercial coral foods can also be used.
Usually coming in brown flesh with bright C-shaped polyps in electric blue, lavender, or shades of green, Anchor Coral is sold in both a wall-shaped and a branching form. The latter is called E. parancora. The polyps of both versions sway particularly beautifully in the current.
The wall-shaped form can grow to a truly massive size, so one should place it along the front of the tank. As it can grow up to, and sometimes past, three feet long, one should keep in at least a four-foot tank, or better a six-foot one. Usually it forms a meandering wall with long branches. Clownfish (Amphiprion species) will nest in this coral, sometimes preferring it to anemones.
The branching form grows fairly large, and can cover an area roughly 30x30 inches over time, as it and it's relatives are extremely long lived. The branching form is usually less colorful, with its polyps are usually shades of brown with light-colored tips, though aquacultured examples can be far more vivid, especially those from Australian waters.
This species has long and powerful stinger polyps that will kill any coral nearby, so should be kept at least with 16 inches between it and any other coral.
Even more popular and available is the Frogspawn Coral, Euphyllia divisa, another South Pacific reef species.
This is the most commonly kept LPS coral, and available in many fish stores. Properly cared for, it is extremely hardy, since nearly all available are tank raised from frags.
This species doesn't grow quite as large as the above, its skeleton a rounded or oblong form. You can anticipate it growing to about two feet in length. The common name describes the coral, as the tips of its polyps are branching and in close mass, looking like frog spawn. It usually has brownish flesh with light-colored tips, in whitish, blue, green or pinkish shades.
It likes its light moderate to fairly bright, and prefers a medium pulsing current that waves its polyps smoothly.
This is another coral that benefits from regular feeding. It does best with products designed to simulate plankton several times a week, but will also take defrosted Mysis shrimps as well.
This is also available in a branching form E. paradivisa, so one should feed each branch. It forms masses of close polyps, looking rather like bunches of tiny grapes. It's a bit more difficult to keep, demanding perfect NSW levels and zero dissolved organics.
Frogspawn is also an aggressive coral, using sweeper tentacles to sting and kill nearby corals. As the branching forum can span widely, one should place corals at least 10 inches from each arm.
Always in a branching form is the Torch Coral, Euphyllia glabrescens.
A common sight in local fish stores, Torch is unlike others of its family, as it's polyps are long, straight and numerous, and always tipped in a light color, like bright blue, purple or green. Though the original imports were in shades of brown, many other colors are now available. Rarely there are different colored polyps in the same branching colony, say most are green and one or more is purple tipped. Such rarity makes Torch rather pricey. Frags of the single tip color Torch Coral are quite reasonable.
The polyps emerge during the day, and fan out, the light colored tips looking like a torch, hence the common name.
Though it's not necessary, Torch can be fed, since it thrives better if you do. It will take pelleted marine foods that fall among the polyps, defrosted Mysis shrimps, and zooplankton products.
Torch likes a higher light level than others of it's family, so with careful and patient moving, it can be moved nearer the lights, even metal halide-based lighting. Current should be moderate that gently moves its polyps and should be pulsing and chaotic. If using power heads or similar, they should be pointed either at the glass or a rock to randomize it.
With good lighting, natural sea levels of minerals, and occasional feeding, Torch will grow quite well, producing several heads. The one I have has a span of nearly 30 inches. It has long stinging tentacles, so give it at least ten inches between it and other corals.
An easily kept LPS, Torch is a popular addition to the reef aquarium.
Perhaps one of the most aggressive LPS coral one can buy is the Galaxy Coral, Galaxea fascicularis.
This coral has many long, thin sweeper tentacles that in larger specimens can reach more than a foot. So, neighbor corals must be kept far away from it.
Now available captive raised by fragmenting, for many years was known as having a very fragile skeleton and was a poor shipper. Few were able to survive in the aquarium.
Which was a shame, but today is easily available as frags.
Why keep such an aggressive LPS? Galaxy, so named for its star-like polyps, is one of the more attractive corals.
Each polyp emerges from a thin tube within the skeleton in this colony-type coral. The mass of starlike polyps have a brightly-colored tip that can be in a bright creamy white, earning the common name. It's also available in florescent shades of green, which is quite popular, as well as several other colors.
This coral normally grows into a pillow-like or domed form, but really well kept and over time, can grow truly massive, easily ten feet across, but such sizes are extremely rare in the confines of the average aquarium. Keep in mind that star fish, even those that are small and purported to just eat algae, can't seem to resist this coral, and will steadily consume it.
It likes bright light, but it may be some time before it adapts to halide-based lighting, although it looks and lives best in it. Moderate, chaotic, pulsing current that smoothly displaces the polyps is best. It should be placed in the lower third of the aquarium under halides, higher for VHO or T5 lighting.
This is one coral that should be fed regularly for its continued health. I've found it to benefit greatly from zooplankton in both form and vitality. Commercial products may work, but for maximum health, feed it zooplankton.
Properly kept and fed, this species can grow into a really beautiful form that nearly always gets admiring comments.
Obviously one of my favorite corals.
One of the most stunning LPS corals is the Elegance Coral, Catalaphyllia jardinei.
Available in many different colors, the large polyps of Elegance fold out from the skeleton, resembling a group of colorful anemones. One of the most popular is florescent green with purple tips from Jakarta and the Solomon Islands, and is the one you're likely to see as frags. You can also find it in browns and greens, and green with red polyps. Both usually have smaller polyps and thus a rather smaller span than the more commonly available.
In any guise, a very pretty coral. Hardy too, and can be kept by hobbyists taking their first steps into stoney corals.
Given bright light and occasional feeding, and Elegance can expand tremendously with a wide span of polyps. As it has stinging tentacles, it can injure or kill nearby corals, so one should give at least 12 to 16 inches between it and other corals.
Elegance does best in moderate, pulsing current that gently sways its polyps. They can thrive in medium lighting, but lives and looks best under halides. It may take time and patience to slowly acclimate it to halides, but it will reward you with better color and growth.
It benefits from regular feeding. A defrosted Mysis shrimp placed on the polyps in the evenings will be taken, and products purported to simulate zooplankton are helpful. Properly kept, Elegance grows to a manageable size, roughly 16 to 18 inches in size, but it can double that over time. It reproduces by budding, and when the new coral is pretty well established, can be detached and relocated.
This coral is occasionally used by clownfish in the aquarium, especially if no suitable anemone is present.
In natural sea water levels of minerals, bright lighting with regular feeding, Elegance becomes a true showpiece in the aquarium.
Available from nearly any shop or online source is Caulastrea furcata, the Candy Cane Coral. A good choice for your first reef tank, as it is hardy and attractive.
Because of its looks and smaller size. From a stalked skeleton, rounded to oval polyps radiate. They can come in a dazzling number of colors, almost always with light strips on the border and a contrasting color in the center, where the mouths are located. Polyps are spaced a bit apart from each other, but are clustered and they stay rather close to the skeleton.
Since all available started as frags from mother colonies, Candy Cane is one of the most hardy of LPS corals.
Candy Cane prefers indirect bright light and rather low current that slightly moves it's polyps.
Similar to the above with far larger polyps is C. echinulata, the Trumpet Coral.
Though the polyps are separated by emerging from individual stalks, they cluster closely together, and Trumpet can appear as a mound or ball of coral.
Trumpet likes a higher current than Candy Cane, so moderate, pulsing current is what it prefers. It is a shade less colorful than Candy Cane, but recently more colorful examples have become available. Both are not aggressive towards other corals.
Both corals can be fed, as each polyp has a mouth, which is obvious in Trumpet. Feeding is very beneficial and will improve health and growth, Defrosted Mysis shrimp placed gently in the center of the polyps in the evenings will be taken. Zooplankton has been used to good effect, so commercial products can be used.
Mysis should be fed once or twice a week, but zooplankton can be given more often, even every day.
Both corals are hardy and attractive, and being in a moderate size, can be kept in smaller reef tanks, even a 29 gallon.
For many years known as one of the most challenging and beautiful corals to keep is Flowerpot, Gonipora lobata.
Since its introduction, Flowerpot was well known to die in weeks or sometimes months after introduction. First, the polyps in part of the coral refuse to extend, then more do until the coral dies. Thus, it is best kept by experts who can maintain temperature, and NSW levels, that are that of the natural reef. Any variation of the levels can kill this coral.
Why try? Flowerpot is a lovely coral. From a base, long polyps topped with 24 tentacles radiate, looking like a feathered mound of coral. With a moderate, chaotic current, the polyps sway beautifully. Though the polyps are open day and night, it only feeds after dark. Lighting should be bright but indirect, and to my knowledge halide lighting should be used.
I did research for several years before attempting to keep Flowerpot. Its native waters are rather turbid with much zoo and phytoplankton, so I thought constant and varied zooplankton numbers were necessary. Thus, after four years of my phytoplankton drip, I tried it, and at this writing has thrived in one of my reefs for the last 8 years. It has creamy green polyps.
It needs bright light, but under my halide-based lighting, I have it about half-way up in my tank. There it gets a lower current that slowly moves its polyps. Flowerpot has sweeper tentacles, so the nearest coral is a foot away from it.
Only the most deeply experienced, prepared, and seasoned reef keeper should ever attempt to keep this coral. Thus, I cannot recommend it.
Somewhat easier to keep than the above is Alveopora gigas, a branching species called Daisy Coral.
It has 12 tentacles on its long polyps, but is similar in form as the above, though it exists in close branches.
'Gigas' means large, and refers to size this species can attain over years; over two feet in width and three in length.
It, too feeds only at night, and to my experience needs a constant supply of zoo and phytoplankton to thrive in captivity. It prefers a lower, random current that gently waves it's polyps, and moderate lighting. It should be sited in the lower regions of the reef, and if using halide-based lighting, it should be indirect.
Of course NSW levels must be maintained as close to that of the natural reef as possible and dissolved organics like Nitrate must be absent for a good chance at keeping this coral long term (decades). Given the conditions it needs, it should grow quite well.
Thus, I do not recommend it to those with smaller reefs, nor those who cannot maintain NSW levels constantly.
Available in dazzling colors in frags from Australia is Duncanopsammia axifuga, the Whiskers Coral.
Much more hardy than the above two corals, Whiskers is rather easy to keep, thus can be a good addition to the experienced keeper's reef.
From a based skeleton with many close small tubes, long, flowing polyps that are always tipped in a lighter, bright color radiate. A very attractive coral in health. It resembles Elegance as the polyps are anemone-like, though it doesn't fold out widely like Elegance does. Whiskers grows into rather a mound-shaped form.
Given proper NSW levels, low medium water flow and moderate to higher light levels (it easily adapts to brighter light), and it will grow well for you, adding new polyps besides another regularly. You want the polyps to sway gently in the current for maximum expansion.
This is another coral that thrives and grows best when zoo and phytoplankton are constantly available. The downside the coral will grow apace, and over time can get rather large, several feet in width and length. At the size it can maintain, it should be kept in larger reef tanks that posses enough space for it.
Whiskers is highly aggressive, possessing long and powerful sweeper tentacles, thus with it's propensity for good growth, corals should be sited a good distance away from it.
I can recommend this coral to serious keepers with large, very well established tanks.
Pleyrogyra sinosa is one of the most commonly available members of the spectacular group of Bubble Corals.
Available as frags for many years, sinosa is The Bubble Coral to many people.
This coral inflates large, elongated bubbles to protect the delicate feeding tentacles during the day. Specimens of this coral can have pearl white, cream, blue and very uncommonly green colored bubbles.
Though this coral does have very powerful sweeper tentacles, they are short and at the base of the bubbles. However, at night Bubble Coral uses longer ones, and will sting and kill any coral that is too close to its 'space'. Thus, neighbor corals should be placed where they won't conflict. This coral doubles in size at night.
As night is when this coral feeds. Zoo and phytoplankton should be provided for maximum health and growth of this coral. It grows to a moderate size when properly kept and over time. It reaches a size roughly that of a dinner plate, sometimes larger.
With smaller, rounder bubbles with thin, pimple-like protrusions on them is Octobubble, Pleyrogyra sp.
This coral has the same needs as the above; medium to bright light, and a lower current where it can inflate maximally. It grows into a mound shape of a size between a softball and basketball.
Both species should be well set when their frags are purchased, because if they tilt over, over time, the bubbles can be torn by the sharp skeleton, causing necroses and eventual death. Thus, they should be well sited in a gap on a piece of live rock.
Both are easy to keep when NSW levels and steady temperature are maintained, and with regular feedings.
Similar to common Bubble Corals is Pearl, Physogyra lichtensteini.
The bubbles of this coral are more rounded, closely packed, and numerous, but it has the same needs as it's close relatives; bright light, low medium random currents. It may take time to move it into a spot closer to the lights, but it lives and looks better under halide or very high output lighting.
It also forms larger colonies than the common species, and over time, can grow to quite a mound of bubbles. Very well kept and fed, it can grow quite large; up to eight feet across, though such sizes are rare in reef aquariums. You can anticipate it growing about 28 inches across, well-kept and fed. As it is also larger and aggressive at night, one should make sure other corals don't grow within a foot of it.
This coral benefits greatly from regular feeding. Defrosted Mysis shrimp placed gently among the bubbles will be taken, and a constant flow of zoo and phytoplankton will make this coral a real showpiece.
Pearl can come in shades of green, blue and cream colored. A bit more difficult to find unlike the other two bubble corals, but it has a larger base skeleton, thus is more stable when newly acquired. In health it looks like a pile of grapes.
Another easy bubble coral.
Not as commonly kept as it once was is Fox Coral; Nemenzophyllia turbida.
A lovely species, large polyps expand enormously, then fold over its wavy, thin skeleton. The polyps form a flowing wave. Colors available can be green, white, blue and light creamy brown.
This species prefers bright indirect light with low, random currents so it can expand normally. Thus, direct halide or VHO lighting isn't necessary for it.
It grows to a moderate size of about a foot, and lacks sweeper tentacles, thus can be a target of aggressive corals. Multiple Fox corals can be kept together for a nice display; maintain sufficient space between them for polyp expansion.
It does feed at night, displaying feeder tentacles, so a phytoplankton drip is very helpful in keeping it in maximum health.
Given proper care, though some publications describe it as difficult, I and my reef-keeping friends have found it quite hardy.
A single polyp species is the Button Coral, Cynaria lacrymalis.
Though it is just one polyp, it can expand to quite a size in the aquarium, larger than a softball, which surprises some keepers. It spreads out in a roughly round or leaf-like form. The 'skin' of the polyp are translucent and glossy, and the coral looks easily punctured. Blade-like teeth are visible. It's usually found on the substrate in tropical reefs, but grows well when its frag is secured to the live rock.
Button is available in many colors, including shades of brown, green, red, yellow and purple. In any color, an attractive coral.
It produces light-tipped feeding tentacles in the evenings, or when suitable food is detected during the day. A phytoplankton drip to fond a zooplankton population is very beneficial, enhancing the health of this coral and a likelihood of budding. This coral lacks sweeper tentacles, thus is peaceful.
This species prefers a low, chaotic current, and can easily adapt to higher light levels. With its translucent flesh it is a lovely display under halide lighting, but can be kept in VHO or T5 lighting just as well.
A rather easily kept LPS, Button grows to a moderate size, so is suitable to smaller reefs.
Found on the sand near tropical reefs are the Tongue and Slipper corals, Herpolitha limax and Polyphillia talpina, respectively.
The difference between them is Tongue, which is what it looks like, has a deep groove down the middle of its skeleton where the feeder polyps are sited, and there are grooves on the skeleton. Slipper has a much more shallow and narrower groove, and lacks grooves on the skeleton.
Tongue has short polyps that are tipped with a light color. Over time, some specimens grow branches from the skeleton. Slipper has long, flowing polyps that totally obscures its skeleton.
Tongue can come in several colors, from browns with white tips, florescent green, blue and purple. A very attractive coral.
If placed on the sand, it can move around on the bottom looking for a site that suits it. Tongue can appear in other shapes than tongue shaped. You may see it grow into a boomerang shape, or a 'C' 'X' and 'Y' shape. Normally it's shaped like a tongue.
Tongue likes very bright light, and pulsing lower moderate current. Keep in mind it can grow quite large, up to 40 inches, but it'll take several years to get there. It needs a larger aquarium (at least a six-foot tank) for full growth.
Tongue has a slight mucus covering it uses for feeding and protection. It is one coral that really needs feeding, so a phytoplankton drip for zooplankton production is all but essential.
Its needs addressed, Tongue is an unusual, hardy coral.
Slipper is shoe-shaped, hence the common name.
Slightly more challenging to keep, Slipper grows long, flowing polyps, making it appear fuzzy or mop-like. Some liken it to a warm winter slipper.
It comes in several colors, one of the most attractive being a clear green with light tips. Normally its creamy or brown colored. Though the vast majority are shoe-shaped, I've seen other forms of it, like much wider and rounder.
Slipper does best on the substrate. It can move around to a site that suits it, and it possesses a slight mucus covering like Tongue does. It also needs regular feeding of zooplankton for maximum health and vitality. It's slightly more sensitive to currents that don't precisely suit it than Tongue is.
It also needs bright light and pulsing, random currents that are rather moderate in intensity.
It doesn't grow quite as large as Tongue, topping out about 2.5 feet. A very unusual, hardy LPS, and commonly available.
The sole non-photosynthetic coral in the list is the Sun Coral, Tubastrea faulkneri.
Being non-photosynthetic, Sun Coral, so named for it's sunshine yellow polyps, must be fed daily. Each polyp has its own nutritional needs, so one must feed each polyp individually. Defrosted Mysis shrimp are perfect. Though in smaller specimens that's not a problem, but over time, it can grow fairly large, up to the size of half a bowling ball, with many dozens of polyps. Thus, it behooves one to start phytoplankton drips so sufficient zooplankton is generated to keep this coral fed months prior to purchase. Sun Corals' flesh is pinkish.
Its sweeper tentacles are short, so Sun is considered a non aggressive coral.
It likes a moderate, random current, and lower lighting, so can be placed in a shady spot in brightly-lit reefs.
Though its most glorious at night with all polyps out and feeding, some will open during the day, especially if you blow baby brine shrimp or one of the cyclop-based foods across the coral with a turkey baster.
Rich dark purple with red polyps is the so-called Black Sun, Tubastrea micrantha.
It's fairly commonly found, but unlike T. faulkneri can grow into a branched form.
Both Sun species are fairly easily kept, especially for non-photosynthetic corals, as long as their nutritional needs are addressed.
Though not exactly a large polyp stoney coral, the Organ Pipe, Tubipora musica, is our next species.
It's included among the large polyp stoney corals because it constructs wine-colored tubes of calcium carbonate to house its polyps. Because of the tubes, this species can be attacked by bristle worms who take refuge in the pipes if too many of the worms are in a tank.
Organ Pipe is an octocoral, meaning its polyps have eight tentacles. Those polyps are often in interesting colors or form; the one I have has flowing green polyps, though most available have tan or white polyps. This is another colony-type coral that can grow large. Well kept, it can easily reach several feet in length and width.
This coral is peaceful, and lacks sweeper tentacles. However, for maximum health, fond a phytoplankton drip two or three months prior to purchasing the coral, so it will thrive having plenty of zooplankton to eat.
Organ Pipe is adaptable to nearly any intensity of light and current, making it ideal for most tanks. However, the current shouldn't be so strong that it displaces the polyps.
An easily kept stony coral, and ideal for the newer reef keeper.
Included among lists of large polyp stoney corals, but similar to some SPS corals, is the Yellow Scroll, Tubinaria reniformis
Yellow Scroll is a beautiful yellowish-green species that forms curved plates, cups and sometimes convoluted ridges, depending on current. The skeleton is thinner and smoother than other of the LPS family, and it has hundreds of very small corallites from whitish polyps emanate, though they are rarely seen during the day, as this species feeds at night. Because of it's ability to spread in large colonies in nature, Yellow Scroll is considered a reef-building coral.
Vital in keeping this coral is rock-solid NSW levels. It's quite sensitive to dissolved organics, so a protein skimmer rated for at least double your aquarium size is essential. Most times you'll see this coral listed in reference books as a Large Polyp Stoney Coral, but some online sources have it as a Small Polyp Stoney Coral.
No matter, Yellow Scroll is a beautiful coral once seen is remembered.
It needs bright light, including metal halide lighting, and a medium to a bit stronger pulsing, random current. Over time this coral will form colonies looking like a stack of curved plates. Its frag should be placed near the edge of a piece of live rock, so it'll grow into a proper broad curved plate shape. One should take considerable time in moving this species nearer the lights; two-thirds up is about right. Well established, it is quite hardy, but some frags fail before the right combination of current and light is established. Thus, it is a moderately challenging species to keep properly.
This species feeds almost solely at night, so a phytoplankton drip established some months before purchase will produce the micro-life this coral eats. It is a peaceful coral, lacking stinging sweeper tentacles. It is fascinating watching it feed in the evenings.
A standout in a reef aquarium, Yellow Scroll is a good coral for experienced keepers to try.
Resembling Flowerpot but with shorter polyps and very much easier to keep are the Cup Corals, Tubinaria species.
Cup corals are a large group of species that closely resemble each other. All form what can be called a folding saucer or cup. It grows to about the size of a dinner plate in aquariums, much larger in nature. They have prominent corallites which house the polyps. Another peaceful coral.
Unlike Flowerpot the skeleton is covered with a skin-like tissue, often of an attractive color. Though in the old days they were available in browns and grays, the one I have (T. peltata) has a deep orange skin and bright olive green polyps.
Other species available include Yellow Cup (T. frondens) and Octopus (T. patula). Yellow Cup has, of course, yellow skin and polyps, and Octopus has rubbery skin and polyps with short ends looking like the suckers of an Octopus.
All can be kept the same way, moderate to very bright lighting and random, medium current. The lighting depends on that in which the frag was kept, so the keeper has to very patient in moving it nearer the lights. Water quality must be top notched, as this species is sensitive to dissolved organics like Nitrate.
These species have polyps open most all day, and can and should be fed for maximum health. A phytoplankton drip some months prior to purchase is very helpful in keeping these moderately challenging, pretty species properly.
Similar to Button but don't puff out as much are the Doughnut Corals, a single polyp coral.
The Scolymia species are often confused with brain corals, often called flat brain, but is included among the LPS corals. The circle of blade-like teeth is obscured by the flesh, making Doughnut appear rather bumpy.
They are available in many colors, including striped ones, and can form rather circular forms or, well-kept, a multiple folded plate or bowl. Most Doughnut frags have one oral opening. Over time, with good growth, more appear; the one I have has three oral openings.
And the presence of them is a strong indication that this coral actively feeds. One should feed it regularly, but better is starting and maintaining a phytoplankton drip for zooplankton production. Given them, this coral is quite hardy and will grow well for you. It should be placed in the lower third of the aquarium, as these species don't care for very bright light.
It does best in moderate light - it should be indirect if halide light is used on your reef. Current should be random and moderate; one should very carefully move it where the flesh is fully expanded.
Properly kept and fed Doughnut is quite hardy, and can grow into a very attractive coral.
Widely spread from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean to Australia are Rose Corals, Trachyphyllia geoffroryi, a single-polyp species.
Among the easiest of the LPS corals to keep since they are found in turbid conditions in tidal zones, Rose Corals, also called Open Brain Corals, come in a dazzling variety of colors. Though in the old days all available were brown, they can be found in greens, yellows, blues, pinks, multi-colored, and most strikingly, blood red. The latter are aquacultured from captive colonies, since they are found in the very highly-protected Caribbean reefs.
Rose Corals are commonly shaped in a broad folded figure-eight. When it folds out during the day, the wide rim has the most intense color, while the center of the coral are usually in a lighter or darker shade of brown or cream, and the skeleton can be seen. The feeding polyps are inside the rim, and when food is detected, will be more than an inch tall. Rose Corals grow to about eight inches across, meaning one can be kept as the featured coral in a smaller reef tank, say a 29 gallon.
They like moderately bright light, but with time and patience can be moved closer for a better display. Current should be random, pulsing and moderate. It does have short sweeper tentacles, displaying them at night, when it detects a coral too close to it. Other corals should grow no closer than eight inches from a Rose Coral.
Rose Corals do best, and mature specimens may bud in your tank, if a phytoplankton drip is maintained, since this coral is an avid feeder. You might see this coral listed as a Wellsophyllia species in shops, but that is incorrect.
Probably the easiest LPS coral to keep, Rose Corals are a good choice for competent beginners just starting in stoney corals.
Found on soft sands in nature are Disk Corals, Fungia species, another easily kept coral.
A solitary species, these corals are found on soft, sandy bottoms in shallow water near reefs. By inflating and deflating its tissue, Disk Corals can move about the substrate, moving about a foot per day, looking for current and lighting that suits it. Disk Corals can also move up low gradients, so you may find your Disk Coral up on a live rock.
Fascinating as the movement ability of Disk Corals, one should keep other corals out of its sphere, since Disk Corals produce a toxic mucus that can injure or kill any coral it comes into contact with. Also, one should use aquatic gloves when adding a Disk Coral, since the stress can produce that mucus, which is dangerous to people.
Disk Corals are round or occasionally oval, the former looking like the broad hats Chinese peasants used to wear. At the peak of the coral is a long, slim mouth, denoting daily feeding is necessary. A phytoplankton drip is recommended, as Disk Corals, which feed at night, thrive when they have plenty of zooplankton to eat. Disk Corals grow to up to eight inches across.
In wild-caught examples there's several families of parasite that take refuge in a Disk Coral mouth, but since nearly all are captive raised these days, that's not a problem.
Disk Corals come in many, many colors. Most you'll see are green or purple, but if there's a color you can think of that's reasonable, there's probably a Disk Coral available that has it.
One should take care placing a Disk Coral in your tank, because if air is caught beneath it, the coral will die.
All Disk Corals prefer the same levels of light and current; moderate to very bright light, and lower moderate random currents. Given them, Disk Corals are a unique addition to the reef aquarium.
Kept in similar conditions as the above are Long-Tentacled Plate Corals, Heliofungia actiniformis, a solitary coral.
Rather hard to find these days, Plate Corals look remarkably like a sea anemone. Its long polyps are tipped in a bright color. The polyps themselves are often in translucent, attractive colors, and the tips can be almost neon bright. Because of its resemblance to an anemone, I've known Clownfish to be fooled and nest in it, despite a bulb-tipped anemone in their tank.
It grows into a roundish form and the long, beautiful polyps sway very attractively in the current. Best kept on the substrate, the Plate Coral is a bit more fragile than Disks, so one must be especially careful in acclimation, and doubly so in placing it in your tank. Established though, Plate is rather easy to keep.
As long as natural sea levels are maintained and close as possible to the natural reef, and the temperature rock solid stable. Protein Skimming should be large and capable, since this species doesn't long tolerate dissolved organics.
It likes moderate to bright light, and low-medium pulsing current. Plate, too, has the toxic mucus coat for feeding and defense, and since it can move around, corals should be place away from its area
This is another coral that lives best well fed. A phytoplankton drip is very helpful, as this coral will do very well when it has a steady supply of zooplankton to eat. Well kept and fed, Plate grows to about the size of a dinner plate.
Because of the movement on the sand in the reef tank, the mucus produced by disk and plate corals can get clogged with sand. After a light tap to make the coral go back into its skeleton, you should remove the sand, using aquatic gloves of course. Doing so regularly enhances the health of the coral.
Long-Tentacled Plate, with its flowing and beautiful polyps, is very attractive in a well-established reef.
Usually grouped with the brain corals, though it is a large-polyp stoney coral is Blastomussa wellsi, our last species.
Not as commonly available as it once was, though its a quite common species in its native range, Blastomussa is one species many reef keepers would like to have. Found in many, many colors, some from Australian waters absolutely gorgeous, if you see a frag, grab it, since it may be some time that you'll ever see another. Rather expensive, especially in bright colors, one would think Blastomussa is difficult to keep and propagate.
But its not. From a stalked skeleton, very large polyps cluster closely together, obscuring the skeleton completely. Each polyp has an obvious central mouth, meaning feeding this coral is all but essential. A phytoplankton drip is very helpful, as the coral can easily eat the zooplankton generated. Well cared for, Blastomussa is easily kept.
The only challenge is light acclimation. Blastomussa is a deep water coral, so it is accustomed to lower light. One should initially keep it in the lowest region of the tank where the light it indirect. After two weeks, you can move it several inches into more direct lighting. Allowing two weeks between moves, the coral can slowly be moved up to the middle level under halide lighting, higher in VHO or bright T5 tanks. One must be observant and extremely careful during the moves.
In current it prefers a lower to medium pulsing, random current where the polyps are fully expanded. Blastomussa has very short sweeper tentacles, so it can be considered peaceful.
In appearance, Blastomussa has large, roughly round, closely packed polyps that totally obscures the skeleton. They each have an obvious central mouth. Save for the mouths, a Blastomussa colony looks rather like a group of mushroom leather corals. Colors can range from browns, reds, greens, blues, and if lucky you'll find them with a contrasting color in the center of the polyps. Blastomussa has very meaty looking flesh, so use dwarf angelfish with caution, since they may pick at the coral.
Unless very well kept, most Blastomussa colonies posses just a few polyps. Though it does grow rather slowly, I though feeding was the key to better growth, the mouths being the onus. Thus, under my phytoplankton drip my Blastomussa has steadily added more polyps over the years, growing more than a foot tall with many dozens of polyps.
One can manually feed Blastomussa by gently placing a defrosted Mysis shrimp on each polyp in the evenings. Keep in mind though, that such a method can result in a surge of dissolved organics in your tank, necessitating large and constant protein skimming and regular partial water changes.
An easily-kept coral, if one can find a frag for a reasonable price.
Thus ends the LPS primer. Next will come SPS, and if interest is high, I will do additional primers on other families of corals, including those ideally suited for beginners.
Last edited by Cliff; 10-24-2011 at 12:23 PM.
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Excellent info Dave
I know I will be referring back to this from time to time
Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I don't know about anyone else, but I sure would be interested in the SPS Primer you have mentioned
If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
"Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info
Great article Dave! Very helpful and informative. Thanks for taking the time to write it! I too would be interested in SPS and other corals too.
Great info here Dave. I agree with 99.9% of it. lol The only statement I don't 100% agree with is the following concerning the Elegance Coral:
While this may be true of the species in general, in recent years, specimens collected from anywhere other than Australia have been quite fragile, and not surviving long in captivity. Australian Elegance corals, however, fit your description perfectly. Because of this, if I was purchasing an Elegance, I would only purchase one from Australia. Sadly, those specimens are very pricey in certain areas. Around here, a 2-3 head Aussie Elegance goes from somewhere around $120-$150
Hardy too, and can be kept by hobbyists taking their first steps into stoney corals.