Maldive Coral

Maldive's Coral, Pavona Coral, Pavona Maldive, Leaf Coral

Maldive Coral Pavona maldivensis, also known as Maldive's Coral, Pavona Coral, Pavona Maldive, and Leaf CoralPavona maldivensisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

   The Maldive Coral is a fast growing SPS that is not only easy to care for, but is one of the best beginner stony corals!

   The Pavona genus make excellent starter stony corals. They are hardier than most other small polyps stony (SPS) corals. They tend to be tolerant of most adequate aquarium reef habitats, thriving under less intense lighting and are fairly disease resistant. They have deeply embedded corallites that help protect their polyps from many environmental stresses and pathogens. The Pavona genus and Pachyseris genus are currently the only two genera regularly offered to aquarists from its family, Agariciidae.

   The Maldive Coral Pavona maldivensis is very handsome. It usually has a column growth form that looks like stubby fingers, yet it can also form thin horizontal plates. This coral can be bright orange, green, pale grayish brown or dark grayish brown. It is also known as Maldive's Coral, Pavona Coral, Pavona Maldive, and Leaf Coral.

   There are a couple unique characteristics found in the Pavona genus. One is that it contains some of the most autotrophic species known to science. Autotrophic is the ability to take simple inorganic substances (ie. carbon dioxide) and turn them into nutritional organic substances that they can then use for food. Pavona species make up for environments with less light by absorbing more nutrients, yet under bright light, they do well without direct feedings. Another characteristic is that they can form uncalcified tissue buds on the surface that look like prickly little balloons. Though these growths are decorative, their purpose is unknown. It is known that these buds are not a form of asexual reproduction.

   Numerous Pavona species are being propagated in captivity. They are hardy and easily fragmented for asexually propagation. They respond well to fragmentation with a very low mortality rate, and the mother colony regrows quickly.


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Scientific name    Family: Agariciidae
   Species: Pavona maldivensis

Distribution / Background    Pavona Coral Information: The Maldive Coral Pavona maldivensis was described by Gardiner in 1905. Pavona, as a genus, was described by Lamarck in 1801. There are over 50 species of Pavona. Some of the common names they are known for are Lettuce Coral, Potato Chip Coral, Cactus Coral, Leaf Coral, Star Coral, Frilly Coral, and Pavona Coral. They have been successfully propagated in captivity. Currently the Pavona genus and Pachyseris genus are the only 2 genera regularly offered to aquarists from this family, Agariciidae.

   Where Pavona Corals Are Found: The Pavona maldivensis are found around Australia in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and Lord Howe Island, as well as the Marshal Islands and west to Madagascar. Pavona, as a genus, from the east coast of Africa, up to the Mediterranean and Red Sea; then east, encompassing the west, north and east coasts of Australia and all tropical waters north of Australia to Japan. Continuing east from Australia, they are found all the way up toward the top part of the west coast of South America, all of Mexico's west coast, then ending with the warmer waters of Baja California.

   Pavona Coral Habitat: The Pavona genus primarily inhabit shallow waters, although they can be found in depths greater than 80 feet (25 m). They use photosynthesis for survival and autotrophic means when there is less light. P. maldivensis inhabit upper reef slopes and outer reef flats where there is medium to strong water movement at depths of 0 - 131 feet (0 - 40 m).

Status    The Pavona maldivensis is not on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.

Description    What do Pavona Corals look like: The Pavona genus are described as leafy and non-leafy as far as groupings and their different formations. These species have various shapes that can at times be affected by water flow and light. They can often be confused with each other in the wild.The leafy Pavona are also similar in appearance to the Leptoseris genus, but are distinguished from them by having corallites on both sides of their upward projecting fronds or 'leaves', while the Leptoseris species only have them on one side.

   Description of the Maldive Coral and some additional familiar Pavona Spp.:

  • Maldive Coral P. maldivensis has a column growth form that looks like stubby fingers, yet it can also form thin horizontal plates. This coral can be bright orange, green, pale grayish brown or dark grayish brown.
  • Cactus Coral or Lettuce Coral P. cactus has thin convoluted fronds that are flat and look like the tops of Romaine lettuce heads, thus the name lettuce coral. This species comes in brown, brownish-green, or green. They do not do as well with strong water movement, but do appreciate moderately a turbid water movement for their thin structure.
  • Leaf Coral P. decussata has flat, upright fronds that are much thicker and less convoluted than P. cactus. They are often what is usually sold under just Pavona sp.. The colors can be green, creamy yellow, or brown.
  • Star Column Coral P. clavus is known as the star column coral due to the almost perfect star shape pattern in the skeletal structure. The structure is usually columnar or laminar or a combination of the two. The colors can be cream, brown or pale gray, and they are monochromatic.

Difficulty of Care    Pavona Coral Care: The P. maldivensis is a very easy coral to care for, and is usually a first small polyp stony (SPS) coral for beginner aquarists. They tend to be tolerant of most adequate aquarium reef habitats, thriving under less intense lighting and are fairly disease resistant.

Foods / Feeding    Pavona Coral Feeding: In the wild, small polyp stony (SPS) corals have developed several feeding strategies. Through a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae, known as zooxanthellae, they receive the majority of their nutrients. They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.

   In captivity, like other SPS, the Pavona corals use their zooxanthellae for nutrition and it is also an autotrophic species. Autotrophic is the ability to take simple inorganic substances (ie. carbon dioxide) and turn them into nutritional organic substances that they can then use for food. Pavona species make up for environments with less light by absorbing more nutrients, yet under bright light, they do well without direct feedings. If moderate lighting is used, then microplankton can be fed in the evening or when their tentacles are extended. Feed as needed.

Aquarium Care    Pristine tank conditions are typically needed to keep all SPS corals. Keep the nitrate levels low, and maintaining calcium and alkalinity levels. Typically you can do water changes of 20% to 30% a month, 15% every 2 weeks, or 5% a week for SPS corals. The 5% a week also seems to really make a big difference in other SPS corals health.

   The following water supplements are suggested for Pavona species:

  • Calcium:  385 to 425 ppm. If a small poly stony (SPS) coral does not have enough calcium, it will not grow.
  • Alkalinity:  3.2 TO 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 12 dKh)
  • Phosphates:  0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
  • Magnesium:  1350-1500. Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.
  • Strontium:  Strontium (10 for most SPS Corals), and trace Elements are also suggested.

Aquarium Parameters

   A well-feed live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Maldive Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. These corals are usually hardy and fast-growing, however 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

   When positioning your Pavona, keep in mind that lighting rather than food is more important to them. Surging water movement is also needed for a healthy Pavona. Make sure that no other corals can come in contact with your specimen. Pavona spp. are very aggressive and can extend sweeper polyps, stinging other corals.

  • Minimum Tank Size / Length: 50 to 100 gallons (190 - 380 L) or larger
  • Marine Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Temperature: 74° - 83° F (23° - 28° C)
  • Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 - 1.025
  • Water Movement: Strong, intermediate current
  • Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium

Compatibility and Social Behaviors   The Pavona genus are very aggressive and can extend sweeper tentacles which will sting any other coral it touches. The Leaf Coral P. decussata has been known to extend its sweeper tentacles up to 6" (2.36 cm). Care needs to be taken when placing them in the tank, even with other Pavona. This genus will basically win any fight with other corals, so keep them well away from other corals in the tank. They are fine with fish that are considered reef safe.

Sex - Sexual differences    No sexual difference in appearance is known.

Breeding and Reproduction   The small polyp stony (SPS) 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. The Pavona genus reproduce asexually as well. In the wild Pavonas spread from breakage due to storms and fragmentation. They have also been known to use asexual fragmentation with the help of a boring sponge (Cliona sp.).

   Propagation is very easy for Pavona corals. First you need to choose a healthy coral that is not showing any signs of distress. The best choice for Pavona with dense structures is to use an electric saw. Those with thinner structures can be scored and broke with razors, knives, or bone cutters. Pavona heal very quickly and the mother colony regrows quickly. Allow the frags to heal before moving them to a new tank. Give the frags ample water flow.

Potential Problems   The Pavona spp. are hardy and generally disease resistant. They have deeply embedded corallites that help protect their polyps from many environmental stresses and pathogens. If you have problems with cyanobacteria or algae, keeping moderate to strong water movement will prevent them from attaching to your Pavona.

Availability    Pavona Corals for Sale: The Maldive Coral P. maldivensis is moderately hard to find at pet shops, but can be found online at times. Online they can run about $29.00 USD or more depending on size and/or color. Other species of Pavona start at about $39.00 USD.

References

Author: Clarice Brough, CRS, Carrie McBirney

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