Beginner Corals - Leathers

want2bsleepy

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I have a leather question. I have three leathers in the middle of my 125, all three different types of toadstools. They are all super happy, out all of the time, yet they don't grow. The first one we got as a tiny frag. It has grown to about 3" across then stopped growing, hasn't grown for about 6 months. The others we got a bit bigger and I'm pretty sure the largest one, maybe 8" across, is starting to shrink. All this while they seem to be quite happy. Any ideas?

thanks!
 
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Greybeard

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I don't think leather corals every reach a 'maximum' size... I've seen examples in the ocean that were far too large for most of us to house in our aquariums. They might well slow down growth naturally once they've reached a certain size... I don't know enough about leather corals to answer that question.

So... if they didn't stop growing for natural reasons... then it's gotta be something else. Some resource in the tank water limiting growth, or some contaminate causing them to stop. Which one? Who knows. Could be anything from shifting spectrum in your lighting, loose voltage in the system, lack or excessive quantities of organics in the water, out of range natural elements, or some foreign contaminate. A big water change might help, but once again, you're guessing.

First thing I'd do would be to look for anything that has changed. Did you change bulbs in your light, add a new reactor, that sort of thing. If nothing comes to mind, in your position, I might consider sending a water sample to Triton for testing... See if you can find the culprit that way.
 
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melypr1985

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I have a leather question. I have three leathers in the middle of my 125, all three different types of toadstools. They are all super happy, out all of the time, yet they don't grow. The first one we got as a tiny frag. It has grown to about 3" across then stopped growing, hasn't grown for about 6 months. The others we got a bit bigger and I'm pretty sure the largest one, maybe 8" across, is starting to shrink. All this while they seem to be quite happy. Any ideas?

thanks!
I have found that while leathers can grow quickly, once they reach a certain size the growth does tend to slow down some. Checking water parameters and also doing a water change is always a good idea. Also, did you know that leathers can be pretty good at coral warfare? They secrete a mucus to protect themselves from predators which will build up and need to be blown off by a good strong current to allow them to grow. If they aren't going waxy on you or pulling in their polyp for a day or two every now and then, then they aren't growing properly. I would run carbon just to be safe (if you aren't already) and check all the things Greybeard mentioned.
 

Cristy17

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Great info Meredith! As always! I have a question, this morning I decided to remove a Meteor Shower Cyphasrtrea that my leather had partially grown over. I pulled the meteor plug out from under the foot of the leather, which was stuck on there pretty well. In hindsight, I probably should have cut the leather off with an exacto knife, but I was in a hurry..don't know why..Anyways, the leather started releasing a fluid into the water. Is this fluid harmful/toxic to my tank? If so, what can I do to assure it wont affect my tank? A water change? I was do desperated to keep this stuff from releasing into the tank, I literally used a plug and glued it to the hole on the side of the leather where there was a hole...
 

VR28man

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I don't think leather corals every reach a 'maximum' size... I've seen examples in the ocean that were far too large for most of us to house in our aquariums. They might well slow down growth naturally once they've reached a certain size... I don't know enough about leather corals to answer that question.
This. Seen very big Sinularia colonies in Oahu, Hawaii, in waters that are usually too choppy to dive/snorkel in. (HI has only one major Sinularia species, which has never been fragged or offered for sale in the commercial ornamental coral industry)

http://www.marinelifephotography.com/marine/cnidaria/sinularia-densa.htm

I hear that many leathers (most Sarcophyton sp., many Sinularia) are very toxic to other corals? Are there some common species that aren't chemical warfare champs?
 
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melypr1985

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Great info Meredith! As always! I have a question, this morning I decided to remove a Meteor Shower Cyphasrtrea that my leather had partially grown over. I pulled the meteor plug out from under the foot of the leather, which was stuck on there pretty well. In hindsight, I probably should have cut the leather off with an exacto knife, but I was in a hurry..don't know why..Anyways, the leather started releasing a fluid into the water. Is this fluid harmful/toxic to my tank? If so, what can I do to assure it wont affect my tank? A water change? I was do desperated to keep this stuff from releasing into the tank, I literally used a plug and glued it to the hole on the side of the leather where there was a hole...
Leathers can be very good at coral warfare. When stressed or just when a neighboring coral gets too close it can release chemicals into the water. Run carbon and change it regularly. Water changes will help as well of course.
 

Cristy17

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Leathers can be very good at coral warfare. When stressed or just when a neighboring coral gets too close it can release chemicals into the water. Run carbon and change it regularly. Water changes will help as well of course.
Thank you! So far nothing has seemed to be affected and the leather seems to be bouncing back well.
 

reeftank220master

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Beginner Corals- Leathers

All photos by: Melypr1985

Leather corals encompass a wide range of species. While there are many different types with different sizes, shapes, growth patterns and rates and even colors, they all have similarities. They are easy to care for, grow quickly, enjoy lower light and are beautiful especially when they get larger. It is an exceptional choice for the beginner who hasn’t learned enough about water chemistry or tank maintenance to be comfortable keeping more difficult corals like LPS (Large Polyp Stony) and SPS (Small Polyp Stony). They are also a great option for those that want corals but also a heavy fish load.

Leathers are soft corals, so named for their lack of hard skeleton made of calcium carbonate. They are often leathery or grainy in feel and appearance which is where they get the slang name of “leathers”. They do, however, have tiny skeletal bits called sclerites within their tissues. They can focus these sclerites into the base of their structure firmly attaching them to the rocks. This element also gives them the leathery look and feel we spoke of and the added benefit of making them a little less appealing to predators. Most of the corals in this category are photosynthetic and rely on nutrient rich water along with light to produce energy. These corals don’t need to be fed directly like you would an LPS coral that has a mouth and feeder tentacles. They will feed off of Phyto plankton in the water or other very small particle foods suspended in the water. You will find the colors are more subdued than you might find in SPS or LPS corals, but there is quite a bit of beauty there. Creams, whites, soft blues and purples, green and neon green, even yellow!

These corals can be grown fairly quickly compared to most LPS corals and they don’t get real picky about water quality. Lighting can vary as well, from the old compact fluorescent bulbs, T5HO, metal halides and LEDs, they can adjust to most light intensities. Most of the tanks I care for have been upgraded to LED but there are different spectrums and intensity with each tank. I have leathers in each tank at different levels and all have done very well. The leathers in the tanks with higher light had to be acclimated to that light over time, though it was done within a week or two and I had no ill effects from it. Flow is another requirement for leathers. Most people will tell you they need low flow, but I’ve noticed that they do much better in a higher flow environment. While they will do ok in a low flow tank, it’s better to be able to (at a minimum) adjust the flow a bit higher on occasion or to be able to move the leather to that higher flow area when needed. The main reason for this is as the coral grows it will become waxy looking buildup. The coral uses this as a defense mechanism and helps it keep from being overgrown by other surrounding corals. Knowing that, it can be useful to us as well. Seeing it several times a year is normal, but seeing it for a long period is not. If the waxy appearance doesn’t get blown away by the current, infection can set in and cause the coral harm. It can also show that the coral is stressed either by a new tank or a neighboring coral.

Fragging leathers can be very simple and straightforward. A sharp blade and a steady hand are often all that are needed. For the most part, just cutting off a bit of the coral at the edges will be sufficient to start a new coral. Toadstools, cabbage and crown leathers are like this. You can cut a piece off the edge, or a wedge shaped piece, rubber band it loosely to a rock or frag plug and in a couple weeks you’ll have a new coral growing for you. Finger leathers are just as easy. Take a firm hold of a “finger” or stalk of the coral and cut close the main, center stalk. You’ll want to use a sharp blade and clean strokes for cutting. These corals are easy to frag but they aren’t indestructible. I have a toadstool in the display at the shop that was severely injured during the “remodel” of that tank. The stalk and head of the toadstool was roughly sheared off and subsequently died. The bit of the stalk, or “foot” that was still attached to the rocks grew back a whole new toadstool in about 6 months.
This is the exact toadstool that I speak about that died and regrew.

Leathers are one of the best starter corals around. Some of them can grow quickly enough to be considered invasive (the Kenya tree comes to mind here), but most are moderate growers, easily fragged, and won’t break the bank to purchase or care for. Some people even keep leathers in angel tanks or predator tanks because, yeah.. the angels may take a bite every now and then but they grow quickly enough to recover well and they can handle the dirty water that preds can cause. What leathers do you keep in your tank? What do you love about them?


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