Button Coral

Meat Coral, Tooth Coral, Knob Coral
Open Meat Coral, Flat Cup Coral

Button Coral, Acanthophyllia deshayesiana, also known as the Meat Coral, Knob Coral, Tooth Coral, and Flat Cup CoralAcanthophyllia deshayesianaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I'm about to get one of these gorgeous corals next weekend @ the Fox Valley Reef Soc. meeting here in WI! I'm very happy to know that they are reputed as... (more)  Justin Dancing Hawk

   The Button Coral has several common names, but for the scientific name you've just had to follow the 'bounce'!

   The Button Coral is one of several large, single polyp stony corals with a round or doughnut shape. Just lIke other other single polyp doughnut type corals, such as the Cat's Eye Coral Cynarina lacrymalis and the Fancy Doughnut Coral Scolymia vitiensis, the Button Coral can be free living or attached to the substrate. They can be a solitary polyp or can grow in colonies with one or more centers.

   The Acanthophyllia genus currently has one species, the Button Coral Acanthophyllia deshayesiana. And what a journey the scientific classification of the Button Coral has been. This species has been bounced from genus to genus, and then finally to its own, Acanthophyllia.

   At one point, what is currently known now as Acanthophyllia deshayesiana used to be categorized as, and said to be, what was then Scolymia vitiensis. Then Scolymia vitiensis was changed to Cynarina deshayesiana, and thus put under the Cynarina genus. As more study on the skeletal structure and flesh of C. deshayesiana was done, it was established that it may not actually be in the Cynarina genus. So now, at least as of early 2009, the ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) has given this bouncing coral its own genus, Acanthophyllia.

   The color of the Button Coral A. deshayesiana is usually a dark red, dark green, or a combination of the two. Their skeletal structure is not quite round, but an irregular oval or circle that is flatter and larger than Scolymia corals. The septal teeth are strong and blunt, and they are not as "bubbly" or as fleshy as other species of this type, especially the Cynarina corals. Some of the names they are known for are Flat Cup Coral, Open Meat Coral, Knob Coral, Tooth Coral, and Meat Coral.

   The Button Coral is is easy to care for. It is a favorite for beginners due to its hardy and undemanding nature. In spite of the classification challenge, A. deshayesiana is still just hardy as the other corals in the Mussidae family, but with just a few variations on its care. Providing low to moderate lighting or indirect bright lighting is suggested, as well as a lower water current to allow for full expansion. Position the Button Coral in a mostly upright position since the weight of the flesh can tear against the skeleton if too much pressure is applied.

   This is probably the easiest species of this type to care for, since they are not as prone to tissue injury infections. They are relatively slow growers so won't take over you tank anytime soon, but they do respond really well when being fed. They have been propagated in captivity.


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Scientific name    Family: Mussidae
   Species: Acanthophyllia deshayesiana (previously Scolymia vitiensis, then Cynarina deshayesiana)

Distribution / Background    Acanthophyllia Coral Information: The Acanthophyllia genus was described by Wells in 1837. and Acanthophyllia deshayesiana was described by Michelin in 1850, and is the only species in this genus. Some of the common names these corals are known for are Flat Cup Coral, Open Meat Coral, Knob Coral, Tooth Coral, and Meat Coral. The A. deshayesiana has been propagated in captivity.

   At one point, what is currently known now as Acanthophyllia deshayesiana used to be categorized as, and said to be, what was then Scolymia vitiensis. Then Scolymia vitiensis was changed to Cynarina deshayesiana, and thus put under the Cynarina genus. As more study on the skeletal structure and flesh of C. deshayesiana was done, it was established that it may not actually be in the Cynarina genus. So now, at least as of early 2009, the ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System) has given this bouncing coral its own genus, Acanthophyllia.

   Where Acanthophyllia Corals Are Found: The A. deshayesiana is found in the central Indo-Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea.

   Acanthophyllia Coral Habitat: The A. deshayesiana inhabit protected reef environments, and are often found attached to rocks under overhangs, or at times can be found on soft substrates with gentle currents.

Status   The Acanthophyllia deshayesiana (referenced as previously named Scolymia vitiensis) is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as Near Threatened (NT).

Description    What do Acanthophyllia Corals look like: The skeletal structure of the Acanthophyllia deshayesiana is not quite round, but an irregular oval or circle that is flatter and larger than Scolymia. Their septal teeth are strong and blunt. They are not as "bubbly" or as fleshy as other donut type species of Mussids.

   Button Coral's are usually dark red, dark green, or a combination of the two. They can be a solitary polyp or can grow in colonies with one or more centers. It is possible that specimens found in cooler waters may be solitary and in tropical waters, colonial. Feeder tentacles come out at night.

Difficulty of Care    Acanthophyllia Coral Care: Like other Mussids, the A. deshayesiana is easy to care for. Only using low to moderate lighting is suggested, as well as lower water current to allow full expansion. Like other members of the Mussidae family, the polyps tentacles come out at night to feed.

Foods / Feeding    Acanthophyllia Coral Feeding: The A. deshayesiana, 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 some of their nutrients. They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.

   In captivity, A. deshayesiana does very well being be fed minced pieces of fish, shrimp, mysis, cyclopeeze, and rotifers. Feed at night when tentacles are present, or illicit a feeding response using shrimp or fish juice. Feeding once a week or more will help them grow faster, typical of the genus. They tend to morph into weird shapes when fed.

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 and it is ultimately cheaper than purchasing additives for the water. 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.

   The following water supplements are suggested for A. deshayesiana. Trace elements and iodine may also be added.:

  • Calcium:  400 to 430 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:  3.5 MEQ/L (8 to 11 dKh, 10 is recommended)
  • Phosphates:  0, zero.
  • 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 Button Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production, and dissolved organics. Position in a mostly upright position since the weight of the flesh can tear against the skeleton if too much pressure is applied. 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. Provide low to moderate lighting and a lower water flow for the best health and to allow for full expansion of the polyp. This is a peaceful species, though it does extend feeding sweeper tentacles at night. There needs to be plenty of space between it and other corals.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 50 gallon (190 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: Low to moderate
  • Temperature: 74° - 82° F (23° - 27° C) for warm tropical specimens
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.024 - 1.026
  • Water Movement: Low to Moderate / gentle
  • Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium if placed on substrate, top or middle if under a ledge

Compatibility and Social Behaviors   The A. deshayesiana are peaceful and they tolerate their own species. This coral needs to be kept away from other corals due to their non-aggressive nature. They can sting others, but more than likely are the ones that will be over taken.

   Like others in this family they may be affected by toxins from soft corals. In a tank with an abundance of soft corals, they may eventually perish. Lack of expansion is an indication something is wrong. Use of carbon may be helpful.

Sex - Sexual differences    Unknown.

Breeding and Reproduction   The large polyp stony (LPS) corals are hermaphrodites, male and female within the same organism, 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.

   The A. deshayesiana are hermaphrodites that use external fertilization in the wild. In captivity, the A. deshayesiana can be propagated with shading. When the animal is shaded its natural instinct is polyp bail-out or ejection, where it drops part of its fleshy middle with hopes of finding light elsewhere. Cutting is not recommended.

Potential Problems   The A. deshayesiana are attractive and durable when their needs are provided for and with proper handling. Filamentous algae can encroach around the outside of the tissue. Tissue is subject to tearing if not handled appropriately. When removing from water, gentle shake the coral until most of the tissue has retracted, or it can be torn from it's own weight when removed.

Availability    Acanthophyllia Corals for Sale: The A. deshayesiana is very easy to find at pet shops and on line. The cost for online stores is around $40.00 USD and up per polyp depending on size and color. Many retailers still have A. deshayesiana listed as Cynarina deshayesiana, so an online search can be done on both scientific names along with other common names such as Meat Coral or Tooth Coral.

References

Author: Carrie McBirney
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Lastest Animal Stories on Button Coral

Justin Dancing Hawk - 2011-08-14
I'm about to get one of these gorgeous corals next weekend @ the Fox Valley Reef Soc. meeting here in WI! I'm very happy to know that they are reputed as easy keepers! I just read on a forum where a guy got one & it was dead in 2 days! OMG he had to have handled it too roughly, or something! My 65G reef has an incredibly stable JAUBERT PLENUM system installed & I could not be happier with it! Filtration is handled by a MARINELAND 1800 / 475GPH pump & a 35 gal trash bin with sponge rubber & Poly fill for mechanical filtration & Activated Carbon in a DIY felt bag that I force the water through by plumbing the return line into it. I have plenty of live rock in my tank & at this point, I really could not hazard a guess as to the lbs of it! I'd certainly guess it's easily OVER 100! This is one of 4 tanks I'm building & use this technique on all of them! The plenum is approx. 7" deep total w/ about 1 1/2" space in the bottom & roughly 4" of course crushed coral above an egg crate / fiberglass screen plenum. I installed another layer of screen above that & finished with BLACK arogonite! It's stunning!

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