Tubastraea coral are widely recognized as you would be hard pressed not to find a picture of this vibrant and beautiful coral somewhere on a coffee table book, magazine, or guide/brochure for a Caribbean Island, especially where scuba diving and snorkeling are its main staple. Orange cup or sun coral as this coral is more commonly known as, is a breath taking display of color when fully opened and the polyps are fully stretched out to capture food most notable at nighttime.
The polyps of tubastraea tend to be either white or orange/yellow in color with the micrantha species polyps being black. This coral is ahermatypic in nature, meaning that it is not a reef building coral that precipitates a calcium carbonate skeleton. They do not contain zooxanthellae so the amount of light provided to this type of coral is a mute point. Normally occurring in reefs under overhangs or in caves, with subdued lighting, lighting doesn’t pose a problem if you do not have strong irradiance shinning in your tank in a particular area. Their skeletal make up is submassive or dendroid and is very lightweight as well as fragile in structure.
Because these corals don’t rely on their zooxanthellae for nutrient absorption, target feeding must be employed to ensure that they are fed daily. The amount of food being added to your tanks water, should be minimized, so that the quality of your water does not become exaggerated. The addition of such foodstuff as brine or mysis shrimp to tubastraea is best to be target fed so that you are guaranteed a small amount of food reaches the tubastraea colony so that starvation doesn’t result. The addition of food to your pelagic area of your tank, doesn’t ensure that your coral will get the necessary amount of food for their survival. Moreover, this would cause you to add considerable more food to your tank than you would otherwise, decreasing your water quality and adding nutrients to your tank increasing the phosphates and nitrates in your water. Ultimately, this will lead to unwanted nuisance algae growth and cyanobacteria. The nice thing about tubastraea, is that you can train the polyps to come out at a certain time, usually after your main lights go off. Feeding response is amazing, as their polyps will quickly come out with the introduction of food in the area, or after the lights go off. This is a learned response and their tubular corallites will extend to capture plankton like a dog at dinnertime, with the presence of food.
Without the proper amount of food, the coral colony will surely die. The thing to remember when feeding this type of coral, is that you must ensure that each individual polyp is fed. Not doing this will result in the death of the individual polyp not receiving the necessary nutrients. Tubastraea coral polyps are not reliant on each other for their survival, meaning that just because a few of the polyps are fed doesn’t mean the whole colony will flourish. Each polyp is a separate corallite, much in the same way that Caulastrea(trumpet coral) grows, that can also be removed, get infected with disease or parasite that has no effect on the colony as a whole. Tissue recession beginning at the corals coenosarc and rapidly spreads across its corallite if proper food is not available. A sure tell tale sign that your tubastraea coral is not doing well is if the polyps don’t come out.
The best placement for your tubastraea species is under a laminar water flow with moderate turbulence, this way it affords your coral a chance of capturing food and ridding waste/gasses and avoiding the chance of algae growing on the colony. With the proper nutrients being provided, tubastraea will grow exceptionally quick, often times rivaling that of hermatypic stony corals.
These corals are not without their predatory and parasitic hitchhikers. Wentletrap snails and some species of nudibranches will devour these corallites, so the inspection of your colony should be a given to aid in its success. This particular coral is an ease with regards to captive breeding as sexual reproduction is through asexual budding. With the proper food administered to tubastraea, a tank filled with vibrant color can be maintained like flowers in a garden. Taking these simple precautionary measures, will ensure your tubastraea grows, spreads and flourishes for many years to come.