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BUBBLE CORALS..HARD TO KEEP?

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BUBBLE CORALS..HARD TO KEEP?

Post by Shannon *Admin* on Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:20 am

There are three species of coral that are referred to as "bubble coral" in the marine aquarium trade. These are: Plerogyra sinuosa, usually known simply as bubble coral, Plerogyra sp., known as pearl bubble coral, and Physogyra lichtensteini, which is often referred to as grape bubble coral. Because P. sinuosa is the most commonly encountered species, we will limit our discussion to it, although its care requirements are similar to the other two species.

In P. sinuosa the polyp consists of numerous grape-like vesicles that can be light green, light brown, bluish-gray or white. These bladders can retract into a skeleton that is equipped with sharp, blade-like walls (known as septa). These structures can easily cut the polyp if the coral is jostled about in a plastic bag while in transit or if it is manipulated by the hand of a careless aquarist. Bacterial and protozoan infections can occur as a result of this tissue damage.

One way to facilitate the healing process is to feed the injured specimen some freeze-dried krill or a small piece of fresh shrimp that has been soaked in Selcon (from American Marine). When purchasing a specimen, examine it carefully to make sure the polyp is not already damaged.

The bubble coral has long sweeper tentacles that, like the vesicles, are armed with stinging cells, called nematocysts. In most cases these structures are retracted until nightfall, at which time they are extended for feeding. The tentacles will also sting neighboring corals, so it is important not to place your bubble coral too close to other corals, zoanthids or mushroom anemones. There should be at least 6 inches between your Plerogyra sinuosa and its nearest cnidarian neighbor. If you notice that a coral is starting to develop necrotic tissue on the side nearest a bubble coral it may be getting stung by the bubble coral at night.

In its natural environment P. sinuosa often occurs in microhabitats that receive limited amounts of direct sunlight, such as under ledges, on the sides of steep walls and coral heads, in crevices and in shaded areas of ship and airplane wreckages. It is not uncommon to find bubble coral in turbid conditions, which reduces the amount of light it receives. But in certain locations, P. sinuosa is prevalent in exposed areas in shallow, clear waters. For example, in the Egyptian Red Sea huge colonies (some more than 5 feet across) grow on fore reef slopes in 20 feet of water.

So, what kind of lighting conditions should we provide the bubble coral in the aquarium? It seems to consistently do best in brightly lit aquariums. However, it will also survive in relatively low-light conditions. For example,It can possibly* thrive for years in aquariums equipped with four standard fluorescent tubes.

In an aquarium with intense lighting, the bubble coral can be placed anywhere in the tank, but in an aquarium with standard fluorescent lights it should be placed nearer the surface. If you are keeping bubble coral in a brightly lit tank, it should initially be placed on the bottom first and gradually moved up toward the light — if that's where you want it to end up.

This species prefers areas of low to moderate water movement. In the aquarium it should not placed in a direct current, such as in front of a powerhead. If it is, the vesicles will remain closed as result of the buffeting they receive and the coral will eventually die.

It is a good idea to feed your bubble coral small pieces of fresh shrimp or clam on occasion (once or twice a week). Just gently place one of these morsels onto the polyp. A bubble coral colony has many mouths that will eagerly accept any food that is captured by the tentacles or among the vesicles.

One pest that may potentially cause the demise of your bubble coral is filamentous algae. It is often seen this type of algae growing on the base of bubble coral skeletons, which can irritate the polyps and cause them to remain partially closed.

Bubble corals are sometimes the hosts of flat worms, which can be brown or greenish-gray. These worms are easily seen, appearing as oval spots on the coral's vesicles. Although a large population of these worms may kill their hosts by inhibiting light from reaching the symbiotic algae that lives in the coral's tissue, in most cases, however, they appear to do little, if any, harm.
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