Corals are marine invertebrates within the class Anthozoa of the phylum Cnidaria.They typically live in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps.Coral species include the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.. A coral "group" is a colony of myriad genetically identical polyps. Each gorgonian polyp has eight tentacles, which catch plankton and particulate matter for consumption. The more fan-shaped and flexible gorgonians tend to populate shallower areas with strong currents, while the taller, thinner, and stiffer gorgonians can be found in deeper, calmer waters.. Requirements vary by coral species. Soft Corals which are also known as Alcyonacea, is an order of corals which do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons, but instead have spiny skeletal elements called sclerites which give these corals some degree of support while giving their exterior a grainy or spike like texture that deters potential predators. The soft coral species listed below are good choices for any reef keeper and are ideal for beginning reef keepers to start with. Soft corals, sea fans and gorgonians are common names for a group with the scientific name Octocorallia or Alcyonacea. Most corals can only be safely identified to species by microscopic examination of the skeleton. Other corals, like the dome and plate species, are more bulky and may only grow 0.3 to 2 cm per year. Common names include: finger leather coral and colt coral. These corals obtain much of their energy from active feeding, including trapping and consuming small fish. Beautiful, live soft corals can be easy to take care in reef aquariums. Nevertheless, home-grown specimens tend to be more adaptable to aquarium life and help conserve wild reefs.  The pygmy seahorse not only makes certain species of gorgonians its home, but also closely resembles its host, thus is well camouflaged. Pachyclavularia are sensitive to iodine additions (in the form of Lugol's solution) and aluminum oxide (found in many phosphate-removing sponges). For stony photosynthetic species, the lack of adequate lighting, as well as other environmental factors can result in coral bleaching. These corals do well in a reef tank with less-than-perfect water conditions and may suffer in water that has a majority of the dissolved organic compounds (DOCs) removed through protein skimming. However, most readily eat any free-floating food, such as zooplankton, out of the water column. Elkhorn Coral. Soft corals on the other hand are held together by a jelly-like mesoglea and rigid, spiny structures called sclerites hold together soft coral polyps. Beautiful, live soft corals can be easy to take care in reef aquariums. They produce a potent toxin called palytoxin. Wash your hands after handling them or working in the aquarium. Common names include: zoanthid, sea mat, and button polyps. This particular species of coral is also known as Round Starlet coral due to … Common names include: finger leather coral. Macro photographs of Blue ‘Anthelia’, a Sarcothelia sp., look great in pictures, but we wouldn’t recommend this coral for many aquariums. Read our, How to Feed Corals in a Saltwater Aquarium, How the Toadstool Mushroom Leather Coral Sheds Its Skin, Awesome Beginner Fish for a Saltwater Aquarium, Convert a Freshwater Aquarium to Saltwater Aquarium. Photo courtesy Paige Gill, Florida National Marine Sanctuary. Blue ‘Anthelia’, actually a Sarcothelia sp. Cladiella are hardy corals that adapt well to aquarium life. A tenfold increase in the number of protected coral species was announced this week, with 20 new corals added to the list of threatened species. Palytoxin Poisoning: Marine Aquarium Safety.  Bottlenose dolphins in the Red Sea have been observed swimming against these tissues, in what is thought to be an attempt to take advantage of the antimicrobial qualities of diterpenes. Tree Corals. In the past, soft corals were thought to be unable to lay new foundations for future corals, but recent findings suggest that colonies of the leather-coral genus Sinularia are able to cement sclerites and consolidate them at their base into alcyonarian spiculite, thus making them reef builders. They adapt well to many lighting levels and feed by taking nutrients directly into their cells from the sea water. Always handle these corals carefully, and wear gloves to protect your skin. Individual tiny polyps form colonies that are normally erect, flattened, branching, and reminiscent of a fan. Filter — Coral Type. Corals fall into two general categories: hard and soft coral. But many viewers might be surprised to learn that Australia’s Coral Sea houses an estimated 600 species of hard and soft coral, supporting about 1,500 species … These corals may overgrow other sessile animals. is very easy to find pet shops and on line. is a relatively new species of soft coral that can grow very well over rock and sand. Palytoxin Poisoning: Marine Aquarium Safety. Because they grow and reproduce so well, they may overgrow other sessile (stationary) reef animals in the aquarium. Staghorn Coral. Some gorgonians contain algae, or zooxanthellae. They thrive in moderate lighting and water movement conditions. Common names include: toadstool mushroom, mushroom leather, trough coral. Instead, they anchor themselves in mud or sand. One of the most colorful and diverse groups of invertebrates found on coral reefs are soft corals (known scientifically as Alcyonaceans). Wild soft corals may also attract tourism in the form of dive and snorkeling operations. On Florida’s reefs, soft corals are common in various forms ranging from encrusting mats to large sea fans. The branches of the elkhorn coral are flat and broad, resembling the antlers of elk or moose. to lump a bunch of related and unrelated coral species into a simple bucket, defined primarily by what they are (soft, with the absence of a major stony external skeleton) and what they are not (they are not mushrooms or zoanthids).. The subclass Octocorallia consists of the soft corals including gorgonians. Government of South Australia. Soft Coral: A soft coral colony has the growth potential of two … There are approximately 6,000 species of anthozoans classified in several orders and subclasses, including hard and soft corals, sea whips, fans, antipatharians, sea pens, zooantharians and sea anemones. The suborder Scleraxonia species are supported by a skeleton of tightly grouped calcareous spicules. This symbiotic relationship assists in giving the gorgonian nutrition by photosynthesis. Photosynthetic gorgonians can be successfully kept in captive aquaria. Protopalythoa corals are tolerant of many lighting conditions but prefer bright light, which may produce fluorescent highlights. Mobile Version. In our first Caribbean coral identification story, we talked about 10 common stony corals.Today we’ll cover 10 common soft corals. In total, 22 coral species … A beginner aquarium soft coral will grow into a beautiful, impressive specimen in the reef tank. Sarcophyton are hardy corals that prefer low to moderate current, which helps to keep its surface free of parasites and predators. Online they can run about $20.00 to $50.00 USD and up, depending on size and/or color. These corals contain zooxanthellae, but do need to be fed. In an aquarium, they will also consume uneaten food and detritus that is deposited on them by water currents or sand sifting fish. This process, called filter feeding, is facilitated when the "fan" is oriented across the prevailing current to maximise water flow to the gorgonian, hence food supply. Obviously, soft corals are soft; however, you may look at an Acanthophyllia and assume that is a soft coral as well. Common names include: sea mat and button polyps. It is very important to learn about the soft coral species you keep for a successful reef aquarium. And since many corals derive a substantial portion of their nutrition through absorption of nutrients from the water, they actually survive in less-than-perfect water conditions. However, unlike their stony coral relatives, soft corals do not build an internal skeleton that alters the structure of the reef. Others may be whiplike, bushy, or even encrusting. Hard corals like lobed star coral and pillar coral are reef-building corals. Watch soft and hard corals video on youtube.com… Alcyonacea, or soft corals, are an order of corals that do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons. They form colonies of densely crowded polyps attached in a common tissue at the base. They may require phytoplankton for best growth, while consumption of zooplankton is reported to be rare. These corals are tolerant of both low-level and bright lighting, as well as varied water currents, and are capable of reproducing and spreading quite rapidly in an aquarium, to the point where it can overgrow other corals. Soft corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Octocorallia) often equal or exceed the total coverage of scleractinian corals in coral reef ecosystems –, and as dominant space-occupiers, important structural components of coral reef communities, and contributors to coral reef biomass , , have been the subjects of biological studies since the nineteenth century. They may be brightly coloured, often purple, red, or yellow. H. bargibanti is limited to two species in the single genus Muricella. Price. Elkhorn coral. Black corals COB 7 Groups that can be confused with black corals 8 Soft corals SOC 9 Gorgonian corals GOC 10 Bamboo corals 10 Bubblegum corals 11 Golden corals 12 Sea fans 13 Sea pens PTU 14 Hydrocorals (stylasterid hydroids) HDR 15 Hydroids 16 Groups that can be … Dr. Saint-Erne is is part of The Spruce Pets' veterinary review board. In the suborder Holaxonia, skeletons are formed from a flexible, horny substance called gorgonin. , Measurements of the gorgonin and calcite within several long-lived species of gorgonians can be useful in paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, as their skeletal growth rate and composition are highly correlated with seasonal and climatic variation.. photo by sarsifa on flickr. If so, soft corals are an excellent group of corals that are easy to care for and are pleasing to the eye.  Despite these chemical defenses, the tissues of gorgonians are prey for flamingo tongue snails of the genus Cyphoma, the fireworm Hermodice spp., and their polyps are food for butterflyfishes. Soft corals grow quickly in captivity and are easily divided into new individuals, and so those grown by aquaculture are often hardier and less expensive than imported corals from the wild. Fused Staghorn Coral. Common names include: sea mat and button polyps. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Inves These cnidarians are related to stony (scleractinian) corals, but they lack a massive, calcified skeleton and have eight hollow feather-like tentacles instead of 6 or multiples of six found in stony corals. Introduction. Soft corals contain minute, spiny skeletal elements called sclerites, useful in species identification.  A colony can be several feet high and across, but only a few inches thick.  These compounds may be part of the chemical defenses produced by gorgonians to render their tissue distasteful to potential predators. Most soft corals grow rapidly in reef aquariums, and are relatively hardy corals for the inexperienced reef aquarist. (15 May 2011), "Sclerite calcification and reef-building in the fleshy octocoral genus Sinularia (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea)", "A reappraisal of the chemical and physical defenses of Caribbean gorgonian corals against predatory fishes", "WoRMS - World Register of Marine Species - Alcyonacea", The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Alcyonacea&oldid=991806650, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles with unsourced statements from February 2020, Taxonbars using multiple manual Wikidata items, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 1 December 2020, at 22:36. I am still working on adding more species, but on this page you will find the most common and interesting species in the Caribbean. The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. All Species List; Log-Blog; SOFT CORAL (OCTOCORALS) IDENTIFICATION . Gorgonians produce unusual organic compounds in their tissues, particularly diterpenes, and some of these are important candidates for new drugs. , The World Register of Marine Species lists these suborders and families:, An order of octocorals that do not produce massive calcium carbonate skeletons. A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. Colt coral. Octocorals are ecologically important components of the coral reef landscape, and being beautiful and colourful, are an attraction for divers. Always handle these corals carefully, and wear gloves to protect your skin. Palythoa do well in areas of rapid water movement. Alcyonium are hardy corals that do well in aquariums, but should be provided with bright lighting and good water movement. Soft corals are in the order Alcyonacea which differ from the stony corals in the order Scleractinia. Availability Soft Corals for Sale: The Pulse Coral Xenia sp. Secondly, hard coral polyps are built on a six-fold symmetry, while soft coral polyps are built on an eight-fold symmetry. Home / All Livestock / Colonies / Soft Coral. Learn how to create a happy, healthy home for your pet. The biggest difference between them is that stony corals have a hard calcium-carbonate skeleton while soft corals are flexible. , The structure of a gorgonian colony varies. Online they can run about $20.00 to $50.00 USD and up, depending on size and/or color. They produce a potent toxin called palytoxin. Common names include: mushroom coral, and disc anemones. This soft coral species is extremely variable in coloration, ranging from red, pink, and purple to orange, yellow, or white, with the same colony often exhibiting more than one color or combination. The kenya tree coral, colt coral, or any of the several different species of very similar branching, tree-like corals kept in the hobby today are another great, bulletproof soft corals for a beginner saltwater tank.They grow very rapidly. Threats include human disturbance (through humans stepping on corals or dropping anchors on them), overharvesting, pollution, and habitat destruction. Almost all use symbiotic photosynthetic zooxanthella as a major energy source. The northern Gulf of Mexico has only a few species, but what we have are just as equally brilliant. Exporter of Premium and Ultra Corals, Invertebrates and Live Rock and we are AKKII member (Indonesian Coral, Shell and fish association), and also CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to deliver corals to all countries in America, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. Many of the soft corals are quite hardy and some of the easiest corals to keep.  Most of the Holaxonia and Scleraxonia, however, do not attach themselves to a hard substrate. Sclerites give these corals some degree of support and give their flesh a spiky, grainy texture that deters predators. Gorgonians possessing zooxanthellae are usually characterized by brownish polyps. Consequently not all soft corals are easy keepers. Corals are diverse groups of invertebrate animals. Acropora cervicornis. Compounds within the tissues of soft corals may be used for medicines. Unlike stony corals, most soft corals thrive in nutrient-rich waters with less intense light. They are integral members of the reef ecosystem and provide habitat for fish, snails, algae, and a diversity of other marine species. Soft Corals In reef aquariums, it is important to leave adequate space between different species of hard and soft corals to avoid problems with growth or aggression. Different species of coral are found in different habitats and different locations around the world. The staghorn coral is listed as a candidate species for the Endangered Species Act of 1973 due to its recent decrease in range. For a given soft coral species maintained under a constant environmental condition, all metrics can be proxies for biomass and colony size. About 500 different species of gorgonians are found in the oceans of the world, but they are particularly abundant in the shallow waters of the Western Atlantic, including Florida, Bermuda, and the West Indies. These can be found in suborders Holaxonia, Scleraxonia, and Stolonifera. Kenji Konishi, "Alcyonarian spiculite: the limestone of soft corals", 1981; M.-S. Jeng, H.-D. Huang, C.-F. Dai, Y.-C. Hsiao and Y. Benayahu. The term soft coral is used broadly and relatively unscientifically (is that even a word?) Common names for subset of this order are sea fans and sea whips; they are similar to the sea pens of related order Pennatulacea. Formerly known as gorgonians, they are sessile colonial cnidarians that are found throughout the oceans of the world, especially in the tropics and subtropics. Sclerites give these corals some degree of support and give their flesh a spiky, grainy texture that deters predators. Corals in this genus are slimy to touch rather than having the dry, leathery feel of most leather corals, yet they are not as sensitive to handling as many soft corals, and are easy to propagate. Soft Coral Care. About 100 genera in 23 families are known to occur in shallow Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Soft corals, also called Alcyonacea, are a favorite among beginners and new hobbyists due to their ease of care and spectacular, colorful structures. Soft corals generally require less light, while those hard corals that live by photosynthesis need more intense light. Zoantharia – stony coralsAnthozoans include soft corals, gorgonians, stony corals, and anemones. Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms that are related to jellyfish and sea anemones. Requirements vary by coral species. Octocorallia – soft corals 2. .  The size, shape, and appearance of gorgonians can be correlated with their location. Soft Corals. The soft coral species listed below are good choices for any reef keeper and are ideal for beginning reef keepers to start with. Stan and Debbie have worked in the aquarium fish field for over three decades and written 300+ articles about pet fish. Elkhorn Coral – Acropora palmata. Showing 1–24 of 38 results. Zoanthus corals greatly prefer bright light, as they depend on their zooxanthellae for nutrition. Soft corals contain minute, spiny skeletal elements called sclerites, useful in species identification. Some of these corals are active feeders, feeding on large food items, rapidly engulfing and consuming them. Their placement in an aquarium should be considered carefully, as they will overgrow most other corals. Gorgonians are found primarily in shallow waters, though some have been found at depths of several thousand feet. Despite being dominated by "soft corals", the order Alcyonacea now contains all species known as "gorgonian corals", that produce a more or less hard skeleton, though quite different from "true" corals (Scleractinia). These are hardy varieties that typically adapt well to aquarium life and don't require intense light; most do best with low to moderate lighting and water movement or similar reef tank conditions. Wash your hands after handling them or working in your aquarium. Calcium carbonate sclerites visible inside Sinularia dura soft coral. In the past, soft corals were thought to be unable to lay new foundations for future corals, but recent findings suggest that colonies of the leather-coral genus Sinularia are able to cement sclerites and consolidate them at their base into alcyonarian spiculite, thus making them reef builders. Filter. Tree Corals (family-Nephtheidae): These flowery soft corals … Also, some species encrust like coral. Other fauna, such as hydrozoa, bryozoa, and brittle stars, are known to dwell within the branches of gorgonian colonies. Variable Soft Coral via easterncapescubadiving.co.za. Each image is linked to an article about the coral species. Most varieties of discosoma require little light and may, in fact, do poorly under bright lights. Anthozoans consist of several subclasses including: 1. These are hardy varieties that typically adapt well to aquarium life and don't require intense light; most do best with low to moderate lighting and water movement or similar reef tank conditions. Dr. Nick Saint-Erne has worked in veterinary hospitals treating a variety of animals, including zoo animals and exotic pets for over 35 years. These corals are low light-tolerant but will grow quite rapidly under bright lighting. The species is most common along the Cape Peninsula of the South African coastline. Common names include: star polyps, green star polyps, daisy polyps. Massive Starlet Coral. Acropora palmata.  Two species of pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti and Hippocampus denise, are obligate residents on gorgonians. Results obtained with H. fuscescens indeed exhibit significant linear relationships between total DW and body … They also feed on bacteria, algae, and DOCs. Many soft corals are easily collected in the wild for the reef aquarium hobby, as small cuttings are less prone to infection or damage during shipping than stony corals.