The Finger Leather Coral Sinularia notanda is a pretty laid back coral. With its ease of care and good looks, it makes a great coral for the beginner. It’s a fast grower and an easy coral to propagate, which contributes to their predominating numbers in the ocean, but also means that it needs plenty of room in the reef aquarium.
Fingered Leather Corals are not as sensitive to handling during propagation as some corals and if you can get some of the vivid leathers, you can actually have a nice little income maker. Just follow simple guidelines to keep them healthy and they will grow quickly.
The range of colors this Finger Coral can be found in include purple, pink, gray, green, and yellow, but are usually brown to cream. They have stalks with tree-like branches, and from those form little branchlets. The branchlets have small autozooid (feeding) polyps which have the ability to retract fully. The tissue of S. notanda is dry and leathery to the touch, thus the term “leather coral”. It’s tissue is also tough, and not easily torn.
The Fingered Leather Coral is known by many common names including Finger Leather Coral, Rasta Leather, Green Finger Leather Coral, Pink Finger Leather Coral, Yellow Finger Leather Coral, Green Fiji, and Sinularis Finger Leather . Because it is similar in form to other leathers, many of the same common names are used interchangeably such as Leather Coral, Finger Leather, Knobby Leather Coral, and Flexible Leather Coral. When ordering this or any other leather coral, its best to make sure you use the scientific name.
An attractive easy care Sinularia species, the Finger Leather Coral is easy to keep and a great beginner soft coral. Like all of its genus, the S. notanda is one of the the most forgiving as far as light and water flow is concerned, and it is an easy coral to propagate. That being said, it does like a moderate water flow and a high direct lighting. They are fast growing, and they are toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons used to ward off encroaching corals), so give them plenty of room.
To learn about other types of soft corals, see:
Soft Coral Facts
The Finger Leather Coral can grow a foot or more, though it depends on the other softies in the tank. They can stunt the corals growth and if the coral grows too tall, it can be easily trimmed, propagated and sold for a profit! They have lobes, fingers or crests with polyps that siphon food from the water. Do not house with stony corals unless the tank is very large or your softie is small.
Species: Sinularia notanda
Distribution / Background
Leather Coral Information: The Sinularia genus was described by May in 1898. They belong to the family Alcyoniidae, which are referred to as octocorals. There are around 138 species and subspecies of Sinularia (this number will grow over time). Some of their common names are Leather Coral, Finger Leather, Ruffled Leather Coral, Finger Leather Coral, Finger Leather Coral, Knobby Leather Coral, Scalloped Leather Coral, Green Fiji, Sinularis Finger Leather, Rasta Leather Coral, Flexible Leather Coral, and Knobby Leather Coral.
The Fingered Leather Coral S. notanda was described by Tixier-Durivault in 1966. It is also known as Finger Leather Coral, Rasta Leather, Green Finger Leather Coral, Pink Finger Leather Coral, Yellow Finger Leather Coral, Green Fiji, and Sinularis Finger Leather. It also known by many names similar to other leathers such as Leather Coral, Finger Leather, Knobby Leather Coral, and Flexible Leather Coral. They have been propagated in captivity. Sometimes Sinularia corals are dyed because the areas some come from have been bleached due to pollution and weather patterns. Or they are dyed to get brighter colors, like fluorescent greens, but dyed corals tend to not do as well.
Where Sinularia Corals Are Found: The S. notanda are found in the Indo-Pacific.
Sinularia Coral Habitat: Most S. notanda are found on vertical walls and reef slopes, attached to rubble. They can thrive in the turbid waters within large colonies, due to their thick bases.
The Sinularia notanda is not listed on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species.
What do Sinularia Corals look like: The Finger Leather Coral S. notanda form colonies, sometimes quite massive, on hard substrates such as rubble and dead corals, and on vertical walls. They have stalks with tree-like branches, and from those form little branchlets. The branchlets have small autozooid (feeding) polyps which have the ability to retract fully. Its colors can be purple, pink, gray, green, and yellow, but are usually brown to cream. The tissue of S. notanda is dry and leathery to the touch, thus the term “leather coral”. It’s tissue is tough and not easily torn, so they are not as sensitive to handling as other soft corals, especially when propagation is done.
The Sinularia genus is the most predominant genus of soft corals. Several species of Sinularia are considered to be hermatypic or “reef building”. This is because they will encrust over most surfaces and the sclerites (tiny spiny skeletal elements embedded in their tissue that help to support their structure) will fuse together near their base. These often form massive accretions of several meters across in older colonies (over 100 years old) and can have a greater density than many of the stony corals. When Sinularia sp. degenerate they shed these tiny sclerites, making them look like they are releasing snowflakes.
Difficulty of Care
Leather Coral Care: The Finger Leather Coral S. notanda is easy to keep, making it a great soft coral for the beginner. They like a moderate water flow and a high direct lighting. They are not as sensitive to handling as other soft corals, especially when propagation is done. But they are toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons used to ward off encroaching corals), and they do grow large, so they need plenty of space. They also regularly shed their top layers.
Foods / Feeding
Leather Coral Feeding: In the wild, Sinularia corals have developed several feeding strategies. They capture microscopic food particles from the water column and can absorb dissolved organic matter. They are also photosynthetic, having a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae known as zooxanthellae, where they also receive some of their nutrients.
In captivity, they may be fed microplankton. This is especially important if the light is not on the higher end to support the zooxanthellae. When feeding the polyps are out, and as nutrients are captured, the polyps retract.
Stable tank conditions are needed to keep the Sinularia genus. A water change that is a standard for any reef system, not to exceed 30% is needed. In general, a typical water change of 20% a month or 10% biweekly, depending on the bio load, is sufficient. Some have found success by doing a 5% water change once a week, keeping water quality high and reducing the need for most additives. Soft corals do need to have proper chemical levels for good growth.
Iodine is used up quickly in captive environments, and does need to be added to the top off water or to the tank regularly. Make sure you have a test to make sure your levels are sufficient. Frequent water changes are preferred over adding extra supplements.
Suggested levels for Sinularia species are:
- Calcium: 385 – 450 ppm (Seachem makes a calcium additive that states 385 as sufficient. Anything over 400 tends to wear on pumps and other moving parts.)
- Alkalinity: 3.2 – 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 12 dKh – 10 is recommended)
- Phosphates: 0, zero.
- Magnesium: 1200 – 1350 ppm. (Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.)
- Strontium: 8 – 10. Strontium levels are suggested to keep the coral happy, and a kit for testing proper levels is suggested.
|Quick Reference Chart|
A typical live rock/reef environment is what is needed for your Finger Leather Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production and plenty of room to grow.
Provide proper lighting and water movement. They need a moderate water flow and high direct lighting. Make sure the water flow does not shoot a straight hard stream directly at the coral, only random water current. The Sinularia genus is very aggressive toward other corals so be sure to provide plenty of room between species, and they can be toxic to stony corals
- Minimum Tank Size / Length:50 gallon (190 L) or larger
- Marine Lighting: High and direct
- Temperature: 68Â° – 83Â° F (20Â° – 28Â° C)
- Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 – 1.025
- Water Movement: Low to moderate, with a random flow is suggested.
- Water Region: Middle to low areas of the aquarium
Compatibility and Social Behaviors
The Finger Leather Coral is very aggressive. The S. notanda is toxic toward other corals due to their release of terpenes (poisons to ward off encroaching corals). They have been known to harm some stony coral species of Acropora like the Staghorn Acropora A. formosa, some species of Porites like P andrewsii, as well as the death of Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, and Plerogyra species.
Sex – Sexual differences
Specifically, the Sinularia polydactyla have females that remain erect and males retract and become flaccid during spawning. Other species are still being studied in this regard.
Breeding and Reproduction
In the wild, the Sinularia genus use several different forms of reproduction, such as fission, fragmenting and/or branch dropping.
The Finger Leather Coral is easy to propagate. In general, the Sinularia species can be fragged for just a small piece or for a large frag, but with a few variations in procedure. Using either procedure, the coral will more than likely deflate, but with good water flow it will recover. Corals can emit a nasty and at times noxious odor, so be sure there is good ventilation. Clean up any mucous when finished to prevent any possible health problems.
To frag a small piece:
- Make sure your leather is healthy.
- You may use a pair of very sharp scissors or a scalpel.
- Simply cut a small frag away from the mother colony while still in the tank. Segments of 3″ have the best survivability while those under 1/2″ have the lowest record of survivability.
- Constricting slowly with rubber bands, tighter fitting as the separation continues, is another method.
- Loosely rubber band the frag between branches and affix to a small piece of rubble that has a natural indent or a plug.
For larger fragging:
- The leather coral should have all polyps retracted before proceeding.
- Remove the coral from the tank, and quickly perform the fragmentation from a mother colony with a clean razor, scalpel, or knife. (scissors can damage tissue from larger fragging cuts.)
- Provide a bath of clean, temperature and salinity adjusted, water (same as main tank) with a little iodine before returning to the tank. This bath will help clear out the mucous that the leather will produce from this procedure.
- The frag can be glued, tied, sewn to a rock or plug, or just set on rubble where the current will not take them away, but will help them heal. This depends on the size and shape of the frag.
- Return the leather to the same spot it was in before fragging and discard bath water. This placement will depend on the size and shape of the frag.
The Sinularia genus is generally very hardy and adaptable, but can contract disease. Coral diseases are commonly caused by stress, shock (like pouring freshwater into the tank and it coming in contact with the leather), and incompatible tank mates including specific fish, or pests.
Some diseases and treatments include:
- Flatworms, Brown Jelly Infections, cyanobacteria
Treat with a freshwater dip of 1 to 3 minutes in chlorine free freshwater of the same temperature and pH as the main display.
- Cyanobacteria, Brown Jelly Infections
These can also be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics. The pill can be pulverised into a fine powder, mixed with sea water to make a paste, and then applied to the wound or affected site of the coral with a simple artists brush.
- Necrosis, Black Band Disease
To prevent necrosis, and fight black band disease, according to one author the corals can be treated with Tetracycline at 10 mg per quart/liter.
- Lugol’s Solution (as a preventative/cure)
Use a Lugol’s dip at 5-10 drops of 5% Lugol’s solution per quart/liter of newly mixed sea water that has been mixing for 10-20 minutes. Start with a 10 minute dip and observe the reaction of the coral. A daily dip can be done until the coral is cured.
One procedure that can save a coral’s life if nothing else is working is amputation of the affected area. This must be done in a separate container consisting of some of the tank’s water. Cut slightly into healthy tissue surrounding the diseased flesh then reattach the coral to the substrate with the open wound cemented on part of the reef structure.
- “Liquid Band Aid”
For wounds that are on the side or top, some have used “liquid band aid” or super glue to seal the wound.
Soft Corals for Sale: The Finger Leather Coral S. notanda is very easy to find pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $39.00 to $49.00 USD, or more, depending on size and/or color.
- 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
- Eric Borneman, Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History , TFH Publications, 2001
- Bob Goemans, Fingered Leather Coral, Animal Library, Saltwatercorner.com