Feather Gorgonian, Purple Frilly, Rough Sea Plume
Bottle-Brush Coral, Lamarck's Gorgonian
The Purple Bush is one of the better gorgonian choices for the reef aquarium, it is quite hardy and easy to propagate!
The Purple Bush Muriceopsis flavida is a photosynthetic gorgonian found in the Caribbean. It is a pretty gorgonian that forms tall colonies with round branches that point up, and it is pinnate. Pinnate means it has "pinnules" which are found on small side branches of the polyp tentacle, and give it a more gentle "feather-like" appearance. Thus the common names Rough Sea Plume, Feather Gorgonian, and Bottle-Brush Coral.
Other gorgonians with a plume-like form are the Pseudopterogorgia species. The Purple Bush sea fan can sometimes be confused with them but its branches are round and thicker. Its colors vary from purplish gray to yellow with similarly colored polyps, thus another common name is Purple Frilly.
The Muriceopsis genus can be easy to moderate to care for as long as you provide the necessary light and water movement. They have a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, and receive some of their nutrients from it. Although the Purple Bush needs light, it is easier to care for because it is less demanding as far as feeding is concerned. It still needs supplemental feeding, but unlike gorgonians without zooxanthellae, it will not quickly die if not fed. See Care of Photosynthetic Gorgonians.
They require strong currents and a good light source. The Purple Bush is semi-aggressive. It will sometimes produces sweeper tenacles to sting its neighbors, so be careful that it is not close enough to injure others. Other gorgonians can over take the Muriceopsis corals, so they will need to be kept at a distance as well.
To learn more about these fascinating Octocorals see:
What Are Gorgonians?
Types of Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea Whips
Distribution / Background Gorgonian Information: The Muriceopsis genus was described by Aurivillius in 1931. There are 4 species in this genus, being M. bayeri, M. flavida, M. petila, and M. sulphurea. M. petila is the deep water dwelling member of this genus. The Muriceopsis genus has been propagated in captivity. Some common names these corals are know for are Feather Gorgonian, Sea Plume, Bottle-Brush Coral, Feather Gorgonia, Sea Rod, and Candelabrum.
The Purple Bush M. flavida was described by Aurivillius in 1931. Some other common names it is known by are Purple Frilly, Rough Sea Plume, and Lamarck's Gorgonian.
Where Muriceopsis Corals Are Found: The Muriceopsis genus are found in the Western Atlantic near Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Muriceopsis Coral Habitat: The Muriceopsis genus inhabit shallow to mid level waters, and can be found in several different reef habitats. There are deep water varieties that can be found at 100 feet (30 m).
Description What do Muriceopsis Corals look like: Gorgonians in the Suborder Holaxonia have a rigid structure of branches that consist of a protein substance called gorgonin, thus the name. In this family, Plexauridae, there is a central "chord" that is the main branch from which the rest of the coral grows from. The structure is covered by a rind which is a tissue layer, and there are polyps on raised areas of the rind.
The Muriceopsis genus is the only other plume like gorgonian in the Atlantic besides the Pseudopterogorgia genus. Their growth formation is a lateral structure with simple extensions of cylindrical branchlet. These are feathery in appearance and grow from the main branch, which is located in the middle. The polyps are scattered about the branches. They are small and fuzzy, protruding out of small openings in the rind. The colors they can come in brown, yellow, red, purple and purplish gray.
- Purple Bush or Feather Gorgonian M. flavida
This species can vary from purplish gray to yellow with similarly colored polyps, and develop long sweeper tentacles. (Sprung and Delbeek, 1997) The formation almost looks like a bottle brush because the main branches will branch out and away from the center of the colony. They then form their own plume, making it look like someone glued a bunch of bottle brushes together at the base.
Depending on water movement, they can form different shapes. A bushy appearance occurs in turbulent waters. A flat fan shape occurs when the water current sways the gorgonian back and forth.
Classification of gorgonians in general is done by some simple visual clues such as colony size, shape, axis structure, color, polyp placement, and pattern of branches. Getting a little more technical, they also look to see if the polyp is autozooid or siphonozooid. Then there is the more exacting use of chemotaxonomy. This is being used to show the different terpenoids or other chemicals produced by each gorgonian species
Difficulty of Care Gorgonian Care: The Muriceopsis genus can be easy to moderate to care for. They are easier than other photosynthetic gorgonians as long as you provide necessary light and water movement.
The Purple Bush M. flavida will shed their outer layer and at times the branch tips look like a dead twig. Do not throw it away! This is common and will occur fairly regularly in reef tanks due to sediment and detritus build up.
Foods / Feeding Gorgonian Feeding: In the wild, Muriceopsis corals have developed several feeding strategies. They capture planktonic organisms and microscopic food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter. Unlike a lot of other Gorgonians, the Purple Bush M. flavida has a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, where they receive some of their nutrients.
In captivity, the Purple Bush can be fed enriched Artemia nauplii, rotifers, dust-sized pellet food, Cyclopeeze, daphnia, and other similar sized foods. Marine Snow many also be a good food source. Feed every other day depending on appearance.
Aquarium Care Stable tank conditions are needed to keep the Muriceopsis genus. Doing water changes of 20% a month or 10% biweekly is needed, although it is suggested that doing 5% water changes once a week will replenish many of the needed additives. Iodine, calcium, strontium, and other trace elements can be added.
Suggested levels for Muriceopsis species are:
- Calcium: 400 - 450 ppm
- Alkalinity: 3.2 - 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 11 dKh - 10 is recommended)
- Phosphates: 0, zero.
- Magnesium: 1200 - 1350 ppm.
- Strontium: 8 - 10
|Quick Reference Chart|
A typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Purple Bush or Feather Gorgonian, along with some fish for organic matter production. A mature tank (well over a year old) is advised to increase the successful keeping of Muriceopsis. The M. flavida needs a sandy bottom with good water flow.
Provide proper lighting and water movement. A strong water flow and a bright light source are required for the Purple Bush to do well. Provide enough water flow to avoid having cyanobacteria grow on them, and they must be anchored down. These Octocorals are a semi-aggressive species and can extend sweeper tentacles, so adequate space should be provided between them and other corals.
- Minimum Tank Size / Length: 50 gallon (190 L) or larger
- Marine Lighting: High
- Temperature: 68° - 79° F (20° - 26° C)
- Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 - 1.025
- Water Movement: Strong
- Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium
Compatibility and Social Behaviors The Purple Bush is semi-aggressive. It will sometimes produces sweeper tenacles to sting its neighbors, so be careful that it is not close enough to injure others. Other gorgonians can over take the Muriceopsis corals, so they will need to be kept at a distance as well.
Butterflyfish feed on gorgonian polyps or tissue. Butterfly fish will constantly chow, so they are not the best idea for a tank mate. Some angelfish will also pick at the polyps, but can be housed with them if the angelfish is well fed.
Propagation of gorgonians consists of using severing or clean cuts. Tearing the coral will result in infection. Be cautious with the use of glues, as many gorgonians react badly to the chemicals. However an underwater epoxy has been suggested by some. Containment is recommended if the frag survives. This involves keeping the frag in one spot, say a small piece of upright pvc, around the same height as the frag, with sand or rubble at the bottom. This will keep the frag from blowing over before it can take root. It is suggested to drill holes in the pvc to keep the water flowing.
Potential Problems The Muriceopsis genus, needing light, can get red band and black band infections that are caused by cyanobacteria. Keeping water flow strong will help prevent this. If your gorgonian does get this, you can at times cut off the bad part and hope the rest will recover. The Purple Bush or Feather Gorgonian is also a food source for Flamingo Tongue Snails Cyphoma spp.. These snails prey on many other photosynthetic gorgonians as well.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Eric Borneman, Aquarium Corals : Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History , TFH Publications, 2001
- Anthony Calfo, Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1 Edition 2: Reef Gardening for Aquarists, Reading Trees; 2nd edition, 2007
- Julian Sprung, Caribbean Gorgonians: Beauty in Motion, Advanced Aquarist's Online Magazine, Copyright 2003
- Bob Goemans, Feather Gorgonian, Muriceopsis flavida, Animal Library, Saltwatercorner.com