A beautiful Flowerpot Coral is a tribute to the expert aquarist that can successfully keep it!
The Flowerpot Coral Goniopora stokesi has a very attractive and distinct appearance. They are hemispherical or grow in short thick columns. Their stalks are topped with a fringe of 24 polyps of mixed sizes surrounding the center, or mouth area. They look much like a cluster of potted flowers. The colors the Flowerpot Corals come in are generally green or brown, and at times have lighter polyp tips.
The G. stokesi extend their polyps during the day, yet are partially retracted at night. An interesting fact is that their nervous system is very intricate. If you touch one side of these corals, it sends impulses to the rest of the coral, and the other parts will pull in their tentacles! Currently the G. stokesi is the only free living Goniopora species, meaning it is not attached to the reef. They are found on soft substrates in calm waters.
The green Flowerpot Coral G. stokesi, along with the brown G. lobata are the most common Goniopora species found in aquaria. A newer Red Goniopora G. somaliensis has become popular due the fact that it is one of the hardiest Goniopora species. Some other common names they are known by are Daisy Coral, Ball Coral, Green Flowerpot Coral, Red Flowerpot Coral, Sunflower Coral, Goniopora Coral, Goni, Yoo-Hoo Coral, and Yoo Stone Coral.
The Goniopora species are a challenge to care for in captivity. This type of coral is not recommended for beginner aquarium keepers. Many find them don’t survive for more than a year, though some experienced aquarists have been successful at keeping them for three years or more. The loss of these corals usually occurs slowly, as sort of a wasting condition.
The G. stokesi (Green Flowerpot Coral) can fair better than many, and even be propagated under the right conditions. They need a moderate water flow, water changes, carbonate supplementation, and calcium. They also need to be monitored frequently and kept consistent. A sandy substrate and planted sea grass in the tank has been noted as helpful, possibly from a nutritional standpoint.
This Goniopora is one of the specimens that needs live phytoplankton and some live blood worms and live brine shrimp as well as decent lighting. They should be put in very slow moving water and out of the reach of other corals, as well as keeping other corals out of it’s reach! Supplementing with iron and manganese has been a promising “missing key” to keeping Goniopora.
Distribution / Background
Goniopora Coral Information: The Goniopora genus was described by de Blainville in 1830. The Flowerpot Coral Goniopora stokesi was described by Edwards and Haime in 1851. Other names this coral is known for are Daisy Coral, Green Flowerpot Coral, Sunflower Coral, Goni, and Yoo-Hoo Coral.
Where Goniopora Corals Are Found: The Goniopora genus spans across the Indian Ocean and most of the Pacific Ocean’s tropical waters including the Red Sea and the East, West and North Coasts of Australia. G. stokesi are found from the eastern Africa across to the the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. Around Australia in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, and Houtman Abrolhos Islands on the west coast.
Goniopora Coral Habitat: The Goniopora genus are found in a variety of areas of the reef; including low to moderate current, lower to stronger light, and clear to slightly clouded waters. The G. stokesi are usually found free living on sandy substrates.
What do Goniopora Corals look like: The Flowerpot Coral G. stokesi is, at this point, the only free living Goniopora that is not attached to the reef. They are found on soft substrate in calm waters. They are hemispherical or grow in short thick columns with mixed polyp sizes and are generally green or brown, at times with lighter tips to the polyp tips.
Goniopora corals have 24 tentacle tips and their corallites have 24 septa. The tentacles can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) or more. The polyps extend during the day, yet are partially retracted at night. Their appearance is similar to their close relatives the Branching Flowerpot Coral Alveopora sp., yet the Alveopora have only 12 polyps each. The polyps of Goniopora corals are also larger than Alveopora corals. Life span is unknown.
Difficulty of Care
Goniopora Coral Care: The Goniopora corals are very difficult to care for. There is a push to try and figure out the right “combination” of light, current, supplements and food needs for this coral due to its dismal record in captivity. It is near impossible to know the exact location from which your Goniopora was extracted, though that will give a clue as to that specific animal’s specific needs. This type of coral is not recommended for beginner aquarium keepers.
G. stokesi (Green Flowerpot Coral) can fair better than other species, and even be propagated under the right conditions. They can handle more light than G. lobata, in fact a photo time of 6-8 hours of 400 Watt 20k German brand Metal Halides was suggested by one aquarist. This has to be done with caution as they can bleach out if it is too much light.
The Flower Pot Coral needs a moderate water flow, water changes, carbonate supplementation, and calcium. They also need to be monitored frequently and kept consistent. A sandy substrate and plant sea grass in the tank has been noted as helpful, possibly from a nutritional standpoint. Stir up the detritus from your sand bed, since this seems to be another source of nutrition for them.
Foods / Feeding
Goniopora Coral Feeding: The Goniopora corals, 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 many of their nutrients. They also capture planktonic organisms, food particles from the water column, and can absorb dissolved organic matter.
In captivity, they may benefit from liquid nutrients like Marine Snow, Phytoplex, and lipid-rich phytoplankton substitutes. Zooplankton will be accepted, but is not the main food source for them in the wild. Phytoplankton seems to be what 1/2 of their diet consists of. With all of the new plankton cultures that can be purchased, this could be a promising help to keeping them alive.
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. 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. It has been noted that Iron and Manganese helps with degenerated tentacles, thus indicating a possible need for these supplements in captivity on a regular basis.
The following water supplements are suggested for Goniopora species:
- Calcium: 400 to 450 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: 3.2 TO 4.8 MEQ/L (8 to 11 dKh, 10 is recommended)
- Phosphates: 0, zero. Phosphates are the worst of all and all corals hate them.
- 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
A well-feed live rock/reef environment with a sandy substrate is what is needed for your Flowerpot Coral, along with some fish for organic matter production. A mature tank is recommended. It has been suggested that tanks without protein skimmers, that do not take out suspended matter or plankton, may be a clue to helping with the Goniopora’s survival. Algae turf scrubbers also seem to be a benefit due to the increased micro fauna that results from this type of environment.
|Quick Reference Chart
Be sure to have proper water movement and lighting. Provide a moderate to high lighting and a moderate water flow for the best health of the G. stokesi. Plant sea grass in the tank, as it has been noted as helpful, possibly from a nutritional standpoint. Make sure they are anchored down well. Falls can also cause injury to the skeleton, and eventually death as well. This is an aggressive species, and should not be kept in a mixed reef.
- Minimum Tank Size / Length:50 gallons (190 L) or larger
- Marine Lighting: Moderate to strong
- Temperature: 72Â° – 80Â° F (22Â° – 26Â° C)
- Salinity / Specific Gravity: 1.023 – 1.025
- Water Movement: low to moderate
- Water Region: Bottom of the aquarium
Compatibility and Social Behaviors
Goniopora corals should not be kept in a mixed reef garden. They are aggressive and will sting nearby corals. It is not wise to have more than one species of Goniopora in the same tank since that species will release a bio-active chemical that is toxic to other species of Goniopora. The Goniopora may, depending on the specimen, may accept clown fish. Or on the other hand, they can slowly recede and die from the constant irritation of a clown fish.
Sex – Sexual differences
Breeding and Reproduction
The large polyp stony (LPS) 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.
Goniopora genus will reproduce asexually as well, by budding off a daughter colony. The parent is incused (impressed) with a calcareous nodule that grows until the weight of it causes it to break off from the parent. In captivity, propagation is not suggested. Rather just allowing the asexual production is the most effective and recommended method of propagation.
- Brown Jelly
Brown jelly or protozoan infections can occur if there is any air trapped in the skeleton, so keep them away from bubbles of any kind. This brown jelly looks exactly like it sounds, and can infect the rest of the colony if not treated. This condition can be caused by poor water quality and/or tissue damage. Symptoms are polyp retraction and a white film covering areas of the colony with necrosis of the tissue. Death usually happens within a few days.
You can try to treat this by removing the coral to a container with water from the main display, then brush or siphon off any visible brown jelly. Give the coral a freshwater dip in water with the same pH and temperature as the main tank for several minutes to kill a lot of the microorganisms.
Use an antibiotic paste on the infect areas and/or a Lugol’s dip. Cyanobacteria and brown jelly infections can be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics. The pill can be pulverized 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.
Try to treat the coral with the least stressful method first. Place in a quarantine tank until coral recovers.
Bleaching is common when some of the Goniopora species, mostly G. Stokesi, start to decline. Move them away from the bright light when this happens since they become even more sensitive to the intensity of the light at this point.
- High Water Flow
High water flow will kill your Goniopora within a few months.
Goniopora Corals for Sale: Goniopora species, including the Flowerpot Coral G. stokesi are very easy to find at pet shops and on line. Online they can run about $60.00 to $80.00 USD or more depending on size and/or color.
- 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
- J.E.N. Veron, Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific , University of Hawaii Press; 2 Rev Ed edition, 1993
- Julian Sprung, Captive husbandry of G., spp. with remarks about the similar genus Alveopora, Advanced Aquarist’s Online Magazine, Copyright 2003
- John Kelly on Goniopora, Interview with John Kelly by Blue Zoo Aquatics Resources