Yellow Cup Coral
Cup Coral, Disc Coral, Scroll Coral, Pagoda CoralTurbinaria frondensPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
A young Yellow Cup Coral looks just like its namesake... a beautiful bumpy yellowish cup!
The Yellow Cup Coral Turbinaria frondens is one good looking coral, both as a juvenile and as an adult. In the wild, young colonies start out in a cup shape. As they mature, the edges continue to grow upward on specimens living in shallower water, taking on more convoluted shapes like the "scroll" and vase shapes. The deeper dwelling specimens form horizontal plating to catch as much light as possible. These characteristic Turbinaria shapes are reflected in the Yellow Cup Coral's other common names; the Disc Coral, Cup Coral, Scroll Coral, and Pagoda Coral.
The Turbinaria species take on various characteristic shapes, depending on the depth at which they are found. Their shapes include vase, plate, and columnar, yet they are quite adaptable. They will robustly change shape with a change in environment. If one were to transplant a shallow dwelling species to deeper levels, or visa versa, they will actually change shape to make the most out of the lighting in each habitat.
Besides having various shapes, Turbinaria corals also have variations in their polyps. One side of any plate or column generally has polyps or at least tissue coverage. The color of the T. frondens can be yellowish brown, greenish brown, grayish green, tan, bluish-green, or cream.
The Turbinaria corals are much sought after for reef aquariums. Depending on the variety, Turbinaria species can be grouped as small polyp stony (SPS) corals or as large polyp stony (LPS) corals. The Yellow Cup Coral has small polyps with calices (opening of the corallite) that are only 1.5 to 2.5 mm in diameter. They are most often grouped as an SPS corals, though you can find it occasionally listed as an LPS coral. Yet others, such as the Scroll Coral Turbinaria reniformis which has even smaller polyps, with calices being only 1.5 to 2 mm, is often found grouped as an LPS coral, though again this can vary. Either way, the Turbinaria polyp expansion is a great indicator of the overall health of the aquarium, thus a great addition to most systems.
The Yellow Cup Coral is fairly easy to maintain in an aquarium with good lighting and water quality. They are mostly friendly towards other corals, making them a popular choice with all levels of reef enthusiasts. They do have polyps, that when irritated can produce a hefty mucus net. If this mucus comes in contact with other corals, it can damage them. They have been known to reproduce in captivity, and captive bred specimens are generally more healthy and easier to maintain than wild caught.
Distribution / Background Turbinaria Coral Information: The Turbinaria genus was described by Oken in 1815. According to author Vernon in his book "Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific", there are 80 nominal species, with 10 true species from Australia. There are currently 30 recognized species in this genus, yet the most commonly purchased and imported are the Scroll Coral T. reniformis, Yellow Cup Coral T. frondens, Pagoda Coral T. mesenterina, Cup Coral T. patula, Turban Coral T. peltata, and Disc Coral T. bifrons.
The Turbinaria genus is considered one of a few of the hermatypic or "reef building" corals, and are only one of the three reef-building genera in the Dendrophylliidae family. Turbinaria are also the only genus in this family that are symbiotic, meaning they live in symbiosis with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, from which they derive some of their nutrients.
Unique to Turbinaria is the ability to have a variety of shapes, depending on the depth at which they are found. They will actually change shape to make the most out of the lighting in each habitat. Specimens found at deeper levels have a different appearance than the same animal found in shallower water with brighter lighting. Consequently common names are sometimes used interchangeably between species. Common names the Turbinaria genus are known for are Turban Coral, Cup Coral, Scroll Coral, Yellow Scroll Coral, Yellow Cup Coral, Pagoda Coral, Vase Coral, and Chalice Coral.
The Yellow Cup Coral Turbinaria frondens was described by Dana in 1846. It does start out cup shaped, but as it grows, it tends to develop deep convoluted shapes or even irregular, vertical fronds, or columns. Other common names they are known for are Disc Coral, Cup Coral and Pagoda Coral. Turbinaria corals have been reproduced in captivity, and there are plenty of captive grown corals to choose from. Captive bred specimens are generally more healthy and easier to maintain than wild caught.
Where Turbinaria Corals Are Found: The T. frondens are found In Thailand to Japan, then East to Samoa and Fiji. It is also located around Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, Lord Howe Island and the Duke of Orleans Bay.
Turbinaria Coral Habitat: The T. frondens are found at depths from 0 to 131 feet (0 - 40 m) in shallow reefs, rocky foreshores, and lower reef slopes.
Description What do Turbinaria Corals look like: The T. frondens has a lightweight skeletal structure and there are a variety of shapes, depending on the depth where they are found. They start out in a cup shape when young. As they mature, the edges continue to grow upward on specimens living in shallower water. These corals also tend to be in areas of high water movement, causing convoluted shapes like the "scroll" and vase shapes. The deeper dwelling T. frondens are typically flat and plate like, so all available light is utilized.
The Yellow Cup Coral has polyps that can capture and eat larger foods. The polyps use mucus secretions to both capture food and get rid of waste. They sit on small corallites, with calices (opening of the corallite) that are only 1.5 to 2.5 mm in diameter. Depending on the form that the T. frondens has taken, the corallites can be flush against the coral or can be tubular. The tubular corallite is kind of an 'ant' hill shape which are close together on formations that are upright. Their colors can be yellowish brown, greenish brown, grayish green, tan, bluish-green, or cream.
The T. frondens can grow up to 3 feet (91 cm) across. Their life span is unknown.
Difficulty of Care Turbinaria Coral Care: The Turbinaria genus is fairly easy to maintain in an aquarium with good lighting and water quality. The T. frondens is one of the easier species to care for, as are most of the deeper dwelling Turbinaria, being less demanding of light and water movement. If they have any folds or curves, be sure to keep them free of debris. Also keep the spaces between the tubular corallites clean. You can use a turkey baster if needed. Their polyp expansion is a great indicator of the overall health of the aquarium.
Foods / Feeding Turbinaria Coral Feeding: The Turbinaria 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. Turbinaria are the only genus in the Dendrophylliidae family that are symbiotic.They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.
In captivity, although the Yellow Cup Coral relies on lighting for their zooxanthellae, they also need to be fed a variety of other foods. Feed such foods as mysis shrimp, enriched baby brine shrimp, cyclopeeze, and finely minced silversides or other fish from the ocean that you can get at your grocery store. They need to be fed several times a week. Use good sense in determining how often your particular animal needs food. If their polyps start to disappear, then you are not feeding them enough.
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. They also benefit from strontium and trace elements. Frequent water changes help to supply trace elements, but with higher concentrations of coral with calcareous skeletons, there may be a need put in additional additives to maintain proper levels for good growth.
The following water supplements are suggested for Turbinaria species:
- Calcium: 385 to 425 ppm. If a large poly stony (LPS) coral does not have enough calcium, it will not grow.
- Alkalinity: 8 to 12 dKh
- Phosphates: 0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
- Magnesium: 1350 minimum. Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.
- Strontium: 8 - 10
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Be sure to have proper water movement and provide sufficient lighting. Turbinaria species can be tolerant of several lighting conditions, though a moderate light is preferred. Along with adequate lighting, provide a moderate and turbid, or a surging water movement for the best health. This is a peaceful species, but other corals may not be, so provide adequate space between species.
- Minimum Tank Size / Length: 100 gallons (380 L) or larger
- Marine Lighting: Moderate
- Temperature: 74° - 83° F (23° - 28° C)
- Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 - 1.025
- Water Movement: Moderate and turbid, or surging
- Water Region: Bottom to middle of the aquarium
Compatibility and Social Behaviors The T. frondens is peaceful towards other corals. However, if their polyps become irritated, they can produce a hefty mucus net. If this mucus comes in contact with other corals, it can damage them. So they do need adequate space between themselves and other corals.
Yellow Cup Corals do well in a mixed reef, a small polyp stony (SPS) coral tank, or a large polyp stony (LPS) coral tank. They do need to be kept away from contact with polyps of Zoanthid corals, and away from the sweeper tentacles of other corals. They are safe with reef safe fish, yet do not like to be walked on, sat on, or otherwise pestered by any kind of crab.
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 Turbinaria genus can reproduce asexually as well, by fragmentation or extratentacular budding.
In captivity, propagating the T. frondens is fairly easy through fragmenting. Coral farmers may use sexual reproduction to propagate in the future, as it has been successful.
To frag, first start with a healthy coral. The best choice for cutting this coral is an electric saw. Once cut the frag should be left on its side, keeping the cut or wound completely open to water flow so it can heal. If the wound is face down, there would not be enough water flow and the cut area can get infected. They may not look pretty when you frag them, but they quickly start to grow into beautiful cups, scrolls, or whatever shape your environment encourages them to form. Give the frags a chance to heal before moving them to a new tank.
Potential Problems The T. frondens are attractive and durable when their needs are provided for. They have mucus secretions that they use to capture food or get rid of waste. The only time an aquarist should worry is if the actual tissue looks unhealthy under the mucus. The species from shallower areas that are scrolled and convoluted can be susceptible to black-band and white-band disease. Keep these free of detritus, food and algae with good water flow and a periodic blast of a turkey baster to get into the crevices.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Anthony Calfo, Book of Coral Propagation, Volume 1 Edition 2: Reef Gardening for Aquarists, Reading Trees; 2nd edition, 2007
- Ronald L. Shimek, Guide to Marine Invertebrates: 500+ Essential-to-Know Aquarium Species, Microcosm, 2005
- Harry Erhardt and Horst Moosleitner, Marine Atlas Volume 2, Invertebrates (Baensch Marine Atlas), Mergus Verlag GmbH, Revised edition, 2005
- Eric Borneman, Aquarium Corals : Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History , TFH Publications, 2001
- J.E.N. Veron, Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific , University of Hawaii Press; 2 Rev Ed edition, 1993
- Bob Goemans, Yellow Cup Coral, Animal Library, Saltwatercorner.com