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Branching Flowerpot Coral

Daisy Coral, Ball Coral, Flower Pot Coral, Alveopora Coral

Branching Flowerpot Coral, Alveopora sp. also known as Daisy Coral, Flowerpot Coral, Ball Coral and Alveopora CoralAlveopora Sp.Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

   The Branching Flowerpot Coral is a delicate beauty, but also quite rare both in nature and in captivity!

   The Branching Flowerpot Coral Alveopora sp. is a 'one-of-a-kind' genus in both looks and structure. In the wild their skeletal formations are massive, round or branching, yet are lightweight and porous. They have large corallites creating an interlocking network of rods and spines. However their most distinctive features are their large elongated polyps, which can extend up to 12 inches (30 cm) or more.

   The polyps of the Branching Flowerpot Coral can extend outward in a spray. They are topped with a fringe of tentacles surrounding a mouth area (oral discs) that often have knob-like swollen tips. The oral discs or tentacle tips can be white or green. The tentacles can have a contrasting color of the oral discs giving it that "daisy" appearance. They look much like a bunch of flowers. Hence the common names like Daisy Coral, Flowerpot Coral, Sunflower Coral, and Ball Coral.

   All the different Alveopora species have 12 polyps, but they are usually of different shapes and colors. The Branching Flowerpot Corals extend their polyps both during the day and partially at night. They will quickly retract them however, if disturbed. Their nervous system is very sensitive. If you touch one side of these corals, it sends impulses to the rest of the coral. It will quickly retract polyps across the coral in a wave reaction.

   The colors of the Branching Flowerpot coral are usually light brown, cream or green and can have shades of pale pink, yellow or blue. There are a lot of different color and growth forms, making for variety within the genus, yet not more than three species are ever found in the same local. The Alveopora genus is similar to its relatives, the Goniopora Corals including the Flowerpot Coral G. stokesi, but are just a little more durable. Currently the most common species found in aquaria are A. catalai, A. allingi, and A. gigas.

   Alveopora corals can be difficult to care for. Even though they are "easier" than Goniopora, this type of coral is not recommended for beginner aquarium keepers. For each species figuring out the right "combination" of light, current, supplements and food is a challenge, but important to care for them in captivity.

   The Alveopora should be kept in a reef that does not have excessive lighting, as it is damaging to their tissue. Although not aggressive, they can extend their polyps to a distance that is the same as the diameter of the main body in order to ward off encroaching corals. It is debated whether they starve to death if not well fed, since some have done well in a low nutrient system, and some in a high nutrient system. They may benefit from liquid nutrients like Marine Snow and Phytoplex, yet may enjoy target feedings of plankton, brine shrimp, or other similar sized foods on occasion.

   The Branching Flower Pot Coral tends to be a favorite for the Ocellaris Clownfish, also known as False Percula, if there is not a host anemone present.


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Scientific name    Family: Poritidae
   Species: Alveopora sp.

Distribution / Background    Alveopora Coral Information: The Alveopora genus was described by de Blainville in 1830. There are 27 nominal species and at least 16 of them are true species, 8 are from Australia. Some of the species are A. allingi, A. catalai, A. daedalea, A. excelsa, A. fenestrata, A. gigas, A. japonica, A. marionensis, A. minuta, A. ocellata, A. spongiosa, A. tizardi, A. verrilliana, and A. viridis. Common names they are known for are Branching Flower Pot Coral., Daisy Coral, Ball Coral, Flowerpot Coral, and Alveopora Coral.

   Currently the most common species found in aquaria are A. catalai, A. allingi, and A. gigas.

   Where Alveopora Corals Are Found: The Alveopora genus spans across the Indian Ocean and most of the Pacific Ocean's tropical waters including the Red Sea and the East, West and North Coasts of Australia.

   Alveopora Coral Habitat: The Alveopora genus are found in a variety of areas of the reef in low to moderate current. For example, A catalai and A. gigas are found in turbid water protected from waves while A. verrilliana is found in clear water on reef slopes.

Status       The following species from the Alveopora genus are on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species:

  • A. allingi: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. catalai: Near Threatened (NT)
  • A. daedalea: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. excelsa: Endangered (EN)
  • A. fenestrata: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. gigas: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. japonica: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. marionensis: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. minuta: Endangered (EN)
  • A. ocellata: Data Deficient (DD)
  • A. spongiosa: Near Threatened (NT)
  • A. tizardi: Least Concern (LC)
  • A. verrilliana: Vulnerable (VU)
  • A. viridis: Near Threatened (NT)

Description    What do Alveopora Corals look like: The Alveopora species form massive, round or branching skeletal formations, which are lightweight and porous. They are usually light brown, cream or green and can have shades of pale pink, yellow or blue. The oral discs or tentacle tips can be white or green. The tentacles can have the contrasting color of the oral discs give it that "daisy" appearance.

   Alveopora corals have 12 tentacle tips and their corallites have 12 septa, unlike Goniopora which have 24 each. The polyps can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) or more. The polyps extend during the day, yet are partially retracted at night. The tentacles are also shorter and smaller than on the Goniopora species. Life span is unknown.

  • A. catalai are only found on soft substrates in deep water or shallow turbulent water. They form stands that can grow to over 33 feet (10 cm) in diameter. They are typically pale brownish-pink when retracted and amber or yellowish with white oral discs when extended. Mature colonies form gnarled branches.
  • A. allingi have knobs on their tentacle's tips and are usually green, brown or yellow with white bases. The tentacles are thinner, and more tubular in shape with a blunt end. The oral disc has dots around a central dot.
  • A gigas is the largest of the Australian Alveopora, with tentacles similar to A. catalai. But the tentacles have white tips and white bases, with the rest of the polyp being brown or greenish-brown.
  • A. spongiosa has a very delicate skeleton, so much so that it can be cut with a knife. The tentacles are all very closely spaced and touching, forming what looks like a more solid surface. They are usually pale or dark brown and at times the polyps can have a white or greenish color on the tips. The colonies form thick plates or pillow-like appearances.
  • A. tizardi is very similar to A. spongiosa, but has smaller corallites. It is pale pinkish-brown to bright pink with gray tentacle tips and oral discs, unlike the usually brown color of A. spongiosa.
  • A. verrilliana is found in Hawaii and is dark green-brown, gray or chocolate brown with white centers. The tentacles taper to more of a point, as opposed to a blunt end.

Difficulty of Care    Alveopora Coral Care: The Alveopora can be difficult to care for, even though they are "easier" than Goniopora. It is still debatable that they starve to death if not well fed, since some have done well in a low nutrient system, and some in a high nutrient system. Finding where your Alveopora species is generally found may be a key it it's food requirements. These corals are best left to experts.

Foods / Feeding    Alveopora Coral Feeding: The Alveopora corals, like other large polyp stony (LPS) corals, have developed several feeding strategies. Through a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae, known as zooxanthellae, they receive many of their nutrients. They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.

   In captivity, they may benefit from liquid nutrients like Marine Snow, Phytoplex, etc., yet may enjoy target feedings of plankton, brine shrimp, or other similar sized foods on occasion.

Aquarium Care    Typical water changes of 20% a month, 10% biweekly, or 5% weekly are needed. It has been noted that 5% weekly water changes replenish many of the needed additives. With higher concentrations of coral with calcareous skeletons though, there may be a need put in additional additives to maintain proper levels for good growth. It has been noted that Iron and Manganese helps with degenerated tentacles, thus indicating a possible need for these supplements in captivity on a regular basis.

   The following water supplements are suggested for Alveopora species:

  • Calcium:  400 to 450 ppm. If a large poly stony (LPS) coral does not have enough calcium, it will not grow. (Seachem makes a calcium additive that states 385 as sufficient)
  • Alkalinity:  3.2 TO 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 11 dKh, 10 is recommended)
  • Phosphates:  0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
  • Magnesium:  1200 - 1350. Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.
  • Strontium:  8 - 10

Aquarium Parameters   A well-feed live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Branching Flowerpot Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. A mature tank is recommended.

Quick Reference Chart
Lighting: Prefers Low Lighting Levels Prefers Medium Lighting Levels Prefers High Lighting Levels
Water Flow: Prefers Low Water Flow Levels Prefers Medium Water Flow Levels Prefers High Water Flow Levels
Temperament: Peaceful Temperament Semi-Aggressive Temperament Aggressive Temperament

   Be sure to have proper water movement and lighting. They should be kept in a reef that does not have excessive lighting, as it is damaging to their tissue. It has been noted that fluorescent lighting that has the blue end spectrum with high PAR value does seem to be enjoyed by Alveopora corals. This is an semi-peaceful genus.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 50 gallons (190 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Temperature: 72° - 80° F (22° - 26° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 - 1.025
  • Water Movement: low to moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium

Compatibility and Social Behaviors   Alveopora corals, although not aggressive, they can extend their polyps to the distance that is the same as the diameter of the main body, in order to ward off encroaching corals. The Branching Flower Pot Coral tends to be a favorite for Ocellaris Clownfish, also known as False Percula, if there is not a host anemone present.

Sex - Sexual differences    Unknown.

Breeding and Reproduction   The large polyp stony (LPS) corals are male and female and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. In the wild they reproduce sexually by releasing eggs and sperm at the same time, resulting in a fertilized egg which then forms into a free-swimming planula larva. Eventually the planula larvae settles onto the substrate, becoming plankters. This then forms a tiny polyp which begins to excrete calcium carbonate and develops into a coral. Planula larvae are extremely vulnerable to predation, and very few survive.

   Alveopora genus are gonochoristic. They will broadcast their spawn after a period of internal fertilization where they brood larvae internally. In captivity, propagation is only recommended once the Alveopora has been displaying normal behavior for at least 4 months. Use of an electric saw through the bone of the coral is the preferred method.

Potential Problems   The Alveopora genus is susceptible to brown jelly or protozoan infections, bleaching, and high water flow.

  • Brown Jelly
       Brown jelly or protozoan infections can occur if there is any air trapped in the skeleton, so keep them away from bubbles of any kind. This brown jelly looks exactly like it sounds, and can infect the rest of the colony if not treated. This condition can be caused by poor water quality and/or tissue damage. Symptoms are polyp retraction and a white film covering areas of the colony with necrosis of the tissue. Death usually happens within a few days.
       You can try to treat this by removing the coral to a container with water from the main display, then brush or siphon off any visible brown jelly. Give the coral a freshwater dip in water with the same pH and temperature as the main tank for several minutes to kill a lot of the microorganisms.
       Use an antibiotic paste on the infect areas and/or a Lugol's dip. Cyanobacteria and brown jelly infections can be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics. The pill can be pulverized into a fine powder, mixed with sea water to make a paste, and then applied to the wound, or affected site of the coral with a simple artists brush.
       Try to treat the coral with the least stressful method first. Place in a quarantine tank until coral recovers.
  • Bleaching
       Bleaching is common because of the over use of light in most aquariums. Metal Halides are very harsh and cause this to happen quite frequently.
  • High Water Flow
       High light and water flow will kill your Alveopora within a few months.

Availability    Alveopora Corals for Sale: The Branching Flowerpot Coral Alveopora sp. are very easy to find at pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $60.00 to $80.00 USD or more depending on size and/or color.

References

Author: Carrie McBirney, Clarice Brough, CRS
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