You’ve Never Seen Caribbean Corals Like This!!! (VIDEO)

Discussion in 'Reef Builders' started by Jake Adams, Jul 7, 2017.

  1. Jake Adams

    Jake Adams Valuable Member R2R Supporter Article Contributor

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    When you think of a real colorful, lush Coral Reef with fields of corals growing like a garden, all of us picture the crystal clear waters and endless corals of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. That’s because we’ve mostly wiped out the Caribbean corals to the point that don’t really form lush reefs anymore. However […]

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  2. clsanchez77

    clsanchez77 Active Member Louisiana Reef Club

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    That is wonderful. I believe most of the ruffled coral that dominates the top of the reef is fire coral (Millepora sp), which not a true coral but a hydrozoan. I have designed several tanks for myself, including my current tank, to resemble Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico (Flower Gardens) reefs using similar pacific proxies. Unfortunately there is no way to get the colors correct.
     
  3. TexasReefer82

    TexasReefer82 Member

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    I'm in the process of setting up a small Caribbean Coral tank. I would love to know what Stony Coral proxies you used to approximate Caribbean species.

    You'd think that finding a boring brown staghorn would be easy, but it's really not!
     
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  4. clsanchez77

    clsanchez77 Active Member Louisiana Reef Club

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    Honestly, there is no good Coral A equals Coral B formula. It's more about how far are you allowing yourself reach. To be frank, any local divers will no right away they are not Gulf/Caribbean corals. On the flip side, most hobbyists are clueless as to where there corals come from. In the middle is a gray area I was pleased to explore. I did put a fair amount of time into this and admittedly, most hobbyists will never appreciate the effort. But I am always looking to improve and explore on it to get as close as I legally can.

    For reference information, I used several sources.

    The first one was the Flower Gardens Sanctuary Website:
    Main Site: https://flowergarden.noaa.gov
    Species List: https://flowergarden.noaa.gov/about/cnidarianlist.html
    Encyclopedia: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/#FG The Encyclopedia appears to be down

    The second one was the Florida Keys Sanctuary Website:
    Main Site: https://floridakeys.noaa.gov
    Species List: https://nmsfloridakeys.blob.core.wi...media/archive/scipublications/speciesList.pdf
    Encyclopedia: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/#FK The Encyclopedia appears to be down

    The next source I used was an old reference I can no longer find that got into the typical Gulf/Caribbean/Florida Reef Zones. Off the top of my head there was the Diploria-Montastrea-Porites Zone, the Madracis-Algae Zone, and the Stephanocoenia-Millepora Zone. Here is a good primer on it: ftp://ftp.ncddc.noaa.gov/pub/bgardner/FGBNMS%20Soft%20Bottom%20Habitat%20(within%20Sanctuary%20Boundaries)/Coral%20Reef%20Zone.pdf

    The Florida Keys also has the Gorgonia Forest, the Near Shore, Beach, etc zones (probably have more scientific names). Also, the deeper waters also provides a Coralline-Sponge zone where you will find NPS corals along with scolymia type corals.

    For my next reference, I am digging a little deep. Here is an online document regarding the classification of corals based on morphology from 2001: http://biophysics.sbg.ac.at/coral/family.htm

    Now, this method of classifying corals is obsolete due to genetic mapping and classification. However, this older method is actually what we want! The reason is this is the best source I have found to determine with Info/Pacific corals look like the ancient Atlantic ancestors. It's thick!

    Now keep in mind, I did this research over a period of a few years while in reefing purgatory. You will actually still find some of my original posts on Reef Central going back many years on the subject...which garnered absolutely no interest aside from whats wrong with regular corals, or just use gorgonias. Very frustrating!

    Here is a thread on Louisiana Reef Club where I worked through some of my logic:
    http://lareefclub.com/community/threads/atlantic-corals-for-my-reef-tank.43961/

    In the end, what I settled on was to mimic my tank on the Flower Gardens Sanctuary Diploria-Montastrea-Porites Zone with a supplemental addition of some Florida Gorgonias.

    My final species list is:
    • Three Cladocora heads*
    • A single Siderastrea head*
    • Multiple Solitary Polyps*
    • A single large Oulophyllia
    • Assorted Favia frags (7 frags of 4 type)
    • Platygyra frags (3 each)
    • Diploastrea frags (2 each)
    • Cyphastrea frags (2 each)
    • One multi-headed Lobophyllia
    • A single headed Lobophyllia
    • Assorted branching Porites (5 of assorted colors)
    • Purple Sea Rod
    • Golden Sea Rod
    • Purple Plume Gorgonia
    • Palythoa Grandis (Caribbean Brown, not Indo Pacific Green)
    • Captain America Polyps (why not)
    * Atlantic/Gulf Native Corals were obtained by using Florida Aquaculture Live Rock. Tampa Bay Saltwater and Gulf View Live Rock are both good sources.

    I have several large heads of Calaustrea that I will probably start fragging off to replace with something more natural to the area. I am also toying with adding some pociliora as a stand in for madracis.

    Almost all of the other corals were obtained from LFS's by selectively shopping or online from Vivid Aquariums.

    To one up this exercise, pick a few points you want to build your biotope around and head over the the diving fish surveys at Reefs. For example, here is the survey for the Flower Gardens area:
    http://www.reef.org/db/reports/geo/TWA/2402

    Use this to select your fish. I picked a few areas so my fish are not from a single survey, but what I ended up with was:
    • Atlantic Blue Chromis
    • Royal Gramma (Harem of 4)
    • Red Spotted Hawkfish (actually Falco by mistake)
    • Molly Miller Blenny
    • Seaweed Blenny
    • Neon Gobies (currently MIA)
    • Masked Gobies (eaten by hawk)
    Future additions will include pygmy angels and wrasse bass. On my final note, I do grow macro algae in my DT, which I think completes the look of a natural reef. All the algae came from the live rock mentioned above and DOES include Caulerpa. This does create the additional chore of having to manually harvest this algae back...but the plus side is it is excellent nutrient export. I do not have issues with asexual spawning or caulerpa sludge over taking the tank. If I get lax and the algae takes over, I simply pull it back and all the corals are fine. I have not had any corals losses due to the algae.

    It's not the look for everybody but I am very happy with it.

    Have Fun with it!

    IMG_3828.jpg

    IMG_5740.jpg
     
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  5. TexasReefer82

    TexasReefer82 Member

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    Wow! Thanks so much for all that information! I really do appreciate it. This is totally the type of thing I would obsess over so now I have some great starting points.

    The tank I'm working with us much smaller than yours, only a 38 gallon innovative marine tank (display part is only 30g).

    Another couple ideas for proxy corals are:
    - A plainly colored trachyphyllia brain Coral in lieu of Caribbean rose Coral.
    - either pavona decussata or grey pschyseris in place of the "lettuce" Coral in the video. It's actually almost a dead ringer for pschyseris.
    - a Pacific Christmas tree worm rock really doesn't look much different from the Caribbean version.
    - there's gotta be some plain brown staghorns that can stand in for A. Cervicornis.

    I should add that I've never been diving in a really good Caribbean reef to know exactly what these corals look like.

    I wasn't thinking so far about mimicking a particular type of reef but now I'll have to reconsider. My original plan was just to create a convincing display of a general Caribbean reef scene using native corals and maybe a surrogate or two.
     
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  6. clsanchez77

    clsanchez77 Active Member Louisiana Reef Club

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    I have thought about that, but in all honesty, Rose corals are not all that plain. In fact, there is a misconception that Atlantic corals are brown and drab and Pacific corals are all colorful...not quite. The corals we have in the hobby are cherry picked, the best of the best if you will, and then cultured under specially designed lighting to bring out the colors. Not quite apples to apples. But if you look at all corals in their natural colors and conditions, they are all quite drab. Check out this website for some real examples:
    https://coral.aims.gov.au/info/factsheets.jsp

    I thought about Pavona but my rock work is really steep and I wanted the LPS/favia coral cap, so I was really limited in what I could do with the other corals. I went with Leptoseris in orange shades to represent Agaricia instead. But your idea works really well too!

    I have experimented with Proties worm rock in past tanks and could never get it to survive. And I can keep hundreds of fan worms alive and porites corals alive...but something about worm rock makes it different. Not common enough to get help troubleshooting. And yea, its different. So I stick to the branching porites, favoring the yellows and I stick to the fan worms that come with the rock. Dosing phyto and oyster eggs really seems to bring them out.

    I have never been diving either, but I have done some snorkeling on shipwrecks and what not so I have seen a few corals in isolation. I have the Paul Human collection of books for coral pictures and ID as my time in the hobby predates internet forums LOL.

    By all means, start with that and have fun. There are no hard rules, only what you self-impose :)
     
  7. clsanchez77

    clsanchez77 Active Member Louisiana Reef Club

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    Took me some time to find this thread at Reef Central. The photos no longer live link (stupid subscription) but you can get the links and get the pictures indivually:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2469373

    What this guy did was basically go hand pick his live rock to get all the pieces with rose corals and some oculina on them. They are very colorful. Selling live rock specifically for the coral is probably a violation as you are circumventing the bam, but selling aquaculture rock *with* coral is perfectly legal. This guy took it to the next level. I am in Louisiana so hand picking the rock was not an option and purchasing several hundred pounds shipped to pick through it was just not going to happen.

    The tank was great. If I can find a photo, I will post it.
     
  8. TexasReefer82

    TexasReefer82 Member

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    I do wonder if collection of Caribbean stoney corals was allowed if they're done just as many "ultra" colored corals out there.

    The ricordea, palythoa, and flower anemones are spectacular. I see no reason it wouldn't extend to stoney corals as well.
     
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