Fancy Doughnut Coral

Artichoke Coral, Button Coral, Scolymia Brain Coral,
Button Scolymia Coral, Green Scolymia Brain Coral

Fancy Doughnut Coral, Scolymia vitiensis, also known as the Artichoke Coral, Button Coral, Flat Brain Coral, and Scolymia Brain CoralScolymia vitiensisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Carrie McBirney

   Though the Fancy Doughnut Coral can look just like a donut, it can also have 'fancier' shapes and more centers!

   The Fancy Doughnut Coral Scolymia vitiensis is one of several large polyp stony (LPS) corals that have a round donut-like appearance, hence the names doughnut / donut corals. But the Scolymia species can form more varied shapes than just a donut.Scolymia vitiensis tends to be dome shaped or flat, but can also be saucer-like or cup shaped.

   Just lIke other other single polyp doughnut type corals, such as the Cat's Eye Coral Cynarina lacrymalis, Scolymia corals can be free living or attached to the substrate. But unlike other donut types, the Scolymia corals are normally a solitary single polyp but can also develop multiple centers, and they can form colonies.

   As juveniles the Fancy Doughnut Coral S. vitiensis can be very difficult to distinguish from its cousin S. australis, but fortunately for identification, it is the most commonly available Scolymia species in the hobby. Scolymia corals can also be confused with relatives in the Cynarina genus, as well as juveniles in the Lobophyllia genus. In their skeletal structure, the Lobophyllia corals are distinguished by being flatter and they have less pronounced 'teeth'. The Cynarina corals differ too by having large bubbly translucent polyps over the large, toothy ridges (septa) in their skeleton, that can often be seen through this film-like tissue.

   Scolymia corals colors are generally a rather muted or dull dark green, red, cream, or blue. They can also have a mottling of several of these colors. The Fancy Doughnut Coral S. vitiensis, is usually a dark green in the wild, but has aquacultured specimens with many colors within each organism such as cream, red, blue, and green. Some other common names for the Fancy Doughnut Coral are Artichoke Coral, Button Coral, Scolymia Brain Coral, Button Scolymia Coral, Green Scolymia Brain, Red or Green Flat Brain Coral, and Meat Coral.

   The Fancy Doughnut Coral is a favorite for beginners due to its hardy and undemanding nature. Of the Scolymia corals, it is the easiest to maintain mostly because it is less sensitive to injury and not as susceptible to death from the stings of other corals. Only using low to moderate lighting is suggested, as well as lower water current to allow full expansion. Place them in the rock work rather than on the substrate, as they can be damaged if they get buried in sand. They are relatively slow growers so won't take over you tank anytime soon, but they do respond really well when being fed.


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Scientific name    Family: Mussidae
   Species: Scolymia vitiensis

Distribution / Background    Scolymia Coral Information: The Scolymia genus was described by Haime in 1852. According to author Vernon in his book "Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific" there are 8 nominal species. Six of these are from the Indo-Pacific with two being true species, Scolymia vitiensis, and Scolymia australis. The other two are from the Atlantic with Scolymia cubensis (also known as Scolymia wellsi) found in the Carribean, Florida, and around Brazil. The other one, called Scolymia lacera, is now believed to be a Mussa species (Fenner, 1993) and is named Mussa angulosa. Some of the common names these corals are known for are Doughnut Coral, Button Coral, Disk Coral, Mushroom Coral, Flat Brain Coral, Meat Coral, Atlantic Mushroom Coral, and Tooth Coral..

   The S. vitiensis was described by described by Bruggemann in 1877. Some common names these corals are know for are Artichoke Coral, Button Coral, Scolymia Brain Coral, Button Scolymia Coral, Green Scolymia Brain, Red or Green Flat Brain Coral, and Meat Coral.. The S. vitiensis has been propagated in captivity.

   Where Scolymia Corals Are Found: The Scolymia genus inhabit the Pacific as well as the Atlantic. They are found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean from Tahiti to Madagascar and Australia, then to Japan and the Ryukyu Islands at depths from 10 - 131 feet (3 - 40 m). In the Atlantic, some species can be found on the Western Atlantic coasts of the USA and Canada, and in the Tropical Atlantic, namely, the Gulf of Mexico, East Brazilian Shelf, and the Caribbean at depths down to 98 feet (30 m).

   The Scolymia vitiensis are found from Australia east to Fiji and the Marshall Islands. Around Australia they are found in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and south to Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs in the east, but are not found on the west coast.

   Scolymia Coral Habitat: The Scolymia vitiensis are found on a wide variety of reef habitats, with some being common in bays, outer reefs and reef slopes, and in shaded areas, usually under ledges. They range from 10-131 feet (3 - 40 m) in depth. They feed at night, extending tentacles.

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

  • Scolymia vitiensis: Near Threatened (NT)
  • Scolymia australis: Least Concerned (LC)
  • Scolymia cubensi (Scolymia wellsi): Least Concerned (LC)
  • Scolymia lacera (Mussa angulosa): Least Concerned (LC)

Description    What do Scolymia Corals look like: The skeletal structure of the Scolymia genus can be cup shaped, saucer shaped, flat or dome shaped. They have similarities to the Cynarina Genus except their septa slope outward, are not as pronounced (tall and tooth like), and are more closely spaced. The septa is spiny around the outer rim and their skeleton is larger, denser and heavier than Cynarina. It has been observed with the Atlantic species, that specimens with septa that is rougher and larger tend to be the more dominant.

   Scolymia corals are usually solitary, but can be colonial, depending on the species. They have an oral disc with usually one mouth, but at times there may be a few more openings. Their flesh is heavier and more opaque (not clear) than the Cynarina species, and the tissue conforms to the shape of the skeleton. It can make small pimpled bumps on the surface, instead of exaggerated bubbled formations like that of the Cynarina genus. Lobophyllia corals are flatter than Scolymia corals. Feeder tentacles come out at night.

   Individual Scolymia species:

  • S. vitiensis: Fancy Doughnut Coral
    The Septa-costae (teeth shaped ridges) on this species slop upward from the center mouth to an indistinct wall, and then downward to the outer margin.This is one of the Scolymia species that can be colonial. In temperate environments it is usually solitary and saucer shaped, reaching less than 2.35" (6 cm) in diameter. In tropical habitats it tends to be colonial, and may have openings or 'centers' near the main mouth and/or around the periphery. It is usually a dark green in the wild, but aquacultured specimens come with many colors within each organism such as cream, red, blue, and green.
  • S. australis:
    This coral has only been found in Australia on the eastern and southern coast, and at Rottnest Island. They are solitary with two to four mouths. They are just under 2 1/2" in diameter (6 cm) and form a saucer-shaped skeletal structure. Their septa, or teeth are blunt and they have many colors within each organism such as cream, red, blue and green.
  • S. cubensis: Artichoke Coral
    This coral is found in the Atlantic waters in deeper habitats. They are solitary and grow up to 3" (7.5 cm) in diameter, and form a saucer shape. They have a smoother surface than S. lacera and is a solid green, red or brown with very little of any other colors. This species is peaceful.
  • S. lacera: Atlantic Mushroom Coral
    This is another Atlantic Ocean species. They have a saucer shape as well, but a rougher surface due to large, triangular septal teeth. Their margin has spiny teeth that give it a rugged edged appearance. They can grow up to 6 - 8" (15 - 20 cm), as far as the skeleton goes, but with the tissue, can expand to 10" (25 cm). The colors are muted gray, green and red. They are found attached to vertical reef faces, and this species is more aggressive than S. cubensis. S. lacera is now believed to be a Mussa species (Fenner, 1993) and is named Mussa angulosa.

Difficulty of Care    Scolymia Coral Care: Like other Mussids, the S. vitiensis 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    Scolymia Coral Feeding: The Scolymia genus, 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,S. vitiensis does very well being be fed minced 1/4" pieces shrimp, cyclopeeze, pellet food, and mysis. Feed at night when tentacles are present. Feeding several times a week will help them grow faster, and keep them healthy. In a colony, remember each polyp is its own animal, so make sure you are feeding all the polyps.

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 Scolymia species. 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 Scolymia Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production, and dissolved organics. Cement in place on rock work, since they are easily injured by falls. Don't place them In the sand as they can be buried by burrowing creatures and damaged. 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° - 83° F (23° - 28° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.024 - 1.026
  • Water Movement: Low to Moderate / turbulent
  • Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium, but on rock work.

Compatibility and Social Behaviors   The Scolymia genus from the Pacific Oceans are peaceful and they tolerate their own species. The Atlantic species are more aggressive. The S. vitiensis will tolerate their same species, but they do need to be kept some way from other corals. They have feeder tentacles that come out at night. But due to their non-aggressive nature, they can sting others but more than likely they are the ones that will be over taken.

  Like others in their genus, Scolymia corals may be affected by toxins from soft corals, including mushrooms. In a tank with an abundance of soft corals, they could 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 Scolymia genus are hermaphrodites that use external fertilization in the wild. In captivity, the S. vitiensis 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 S. vitiensis are attractive and durable when their needs are provided for and with proper handling. Most tissue lacerations from falls leads to the death of the polyp. Filamentous algae can encroach on this coral, along with cyanobacteria, especially near the mouth. They will recede from the outside in if their conditions are not ideal, and may die from subsequent infections. When removing from water, gentle shake the coral until most of the tissue has retracted, or it can be torn from its own weight when removed.

Availability    Scolymia Corals for Sale: The S. vitiensis is very easy to find at pet shops and on line. The cost for online stores is around $40.00 USD to $150.00 USD per polyp depending on size and color.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CRS, Carrie McBirney
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