SARCOPHYTON SOFT CORAL

GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

In this story the students are going to go visit the spooky swamp to learn about the coral farm in the spooky swamp. We are going to learn how this one cleans water and makes the water safe for the rest of the reef animals.

Mikey and the students are going to learn about Sarcophytons that are often called leather corals or toadstool corals. These corals can live in water that is little bit less clean. I think you'll be interested in finding out all about them.

There are different types of environments in the ocean, and the corals in this article can grow in the environments that have slower water movement and more nutrients. They help clean up the ocean or reef aquarium. In nature the wetlands and swamps are part of the cycle that cleans up the water. We need to protect them and make them thrive so that the rest of the coral reef animals will be okay.

GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

The students were afraid because they heard all about the spooky swamp and the animals that live there.

But they were to learn that swamp wasn't so spooky. When you know more about something like the wetlands it can be a nice place to visit. So learning about the animals and wetlands made it fun for the children to visit the swamp, and that's exactly what you will be learning about nature. The more you know about it the less spooky it is.

GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

This is an incredible animal to start off with in a salt water tank. It grows fast, ships well and adjusts to different tank conditions. They are very tank friendly meaning they do not sting other animals. One needs to remember to give them plenty of room to grow since they grow fast and can shade other animals from the light. In the wild these animals can get as big as a Volkswagen. These are very easy animals to propagate. We are seeing more and more of these animals on the market. Many of them are being tank raised and not brought in from the wild.

 

There are so many beautiful varieties of these animals. Some of them have different colors, some of them are frilly, some of them with longer polyps and we are seeing more and more varieties every day. This animal does great in most tank lighting does not like strong current that is hitting it constantly and needs plenty of room to grow. You can move this animal up and down in your tank until you get it positioned right. You can tell that your animal is happy where you placed him by watching the polyp extension. Remember that if a snail or hermit fall unto its head the polyps will not extend until you remove any item that is bothering it. You will see this animal listed in books as well as a pet store as a toad stool, gold crown but its true name is Sarcophyton. It is a very hardy soft coral and is one of the first corals a hobbyist should try. This coral will thrive in reefs with no skimmer. They live in water that is not as clean as reefs that are ready for small polyp stony corals.

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GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

GEOTHERMAL AQUACULTURE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

 

What you see in this next picture is what I described above. A hermit or snail has fallen on its head and thus the polyps have retracted. Remove the snail and in a short while you will see this animal fully extended and happy again. This is one of the most common varieties you see in this picture. It was the very first one I placed in my show tank. It grows faster than any other animal we have researched at the Foundation. It also was the very first one that I learned to propagate. LeRoy kept coming by my tank and saying you should cut that animals head off you are getting to much bio mass in your system. We were just around the corner from presenting our reef tour and this was the biggest animal in my tank. I was doing everything I could to make LeRoy forget about cutting its head off. Then one day he looked into my tank and once again said you need to cut the head off that animal, if you let me do that than just think you can have ten different animals to place in your system. He got me.  I allowed him to cut off its head and I pursued finding ten new tank mates for my show tank. The head grew back on the stock in A very short period of time. I have now cut this animal many many times over and believe it is one of the best corals to try your skills at propagation.

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This image shows a beautiful Sarcophyton that has a large flat crown with an odd green coloration. This Sarcophyton has been cut several times, and the cuttings from it attach to gravel very rapidly.
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When we cut this type of Sarcophyton we often remove one-third of the head. By selectively trimming this large flat Sarcophyton we can control the direction of its growth. This Sarcophyton arrived at our foundation as a trade, and we have been able to propagate it and send it to many other hobbyists.
The other corals the this image are a beautiful cream-colored Xenia in the upper left corner and several different Sinularia on the right side. There are two small photosynthetic Gorgonians in the lower left and center part of this picture. You can see that the front lobe of the Sarcophyton is shading several corals, and we will trim it off when we propagate.

 

This next picture of a Sarcophyton was taken when we were visiting the marine club in Tulsa OK. This animal was found in Tom's tank and we do hope to get a cutting from it soon. Tom set up his tank to duplicate a ocean lagoon. He has one and one half watts of light per gallon in a 180 gallon built in the wall system. As you can see by the pictures there are many varieties and they truly are a great addition to any ones tank. This animal is one of the most common soft coral found in the Indo-Pacific. If you will look closely at the polyps you will notice eight feathery tentacles. You should be able to find these animals without a problem. We propagate many of them every week. As with all of our messages on any coral it is best to purchase a captive raised one versus a wild caught one.

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These two Clown Fish have accepted this small colony of Sarcophytons as their host. These Sarcophyton belongs to a group that we call the colonial Sarcophytons. These Clown Fish have lived with this Sarcophyton for well over year now, and they have spawned at least a dozen times.

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Sally Jo is currently raising three different batches of baby Clown Fish from this pair. It is an exciting time at GARF this week because Sally Jo's first batch of baby Clown Fish are large enough to put into the brood stock tanks.

We are able to move this batch of baby fish just-in-time, because Sally Jo now has 4 new 10 gal. brood stock tank sitting on her desk. I overheard telling someone that there was no room in her office so is good that we can reuse one of the brood stock tanks for the next batch of eggs.

We feel that feeding in the tank with a Sarcophyton is important to sustain its growth and to supplement nutrition for the zooxanthellae to metabolize. Our choice for supplementing food is rotifers and green water. It will also work by having some fish in your tank that the polyps can steal some of the scraps from fish food. These animals are often found in the Wild in more nutrient areas of the reef. Because this animal is heavy due to biomass it is best to find a location in your tank that can hold the weight of this animal. Gluing this animal works well but make sure you glue it to a rock that will sustain its growth as well as weight.

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In this picture you will notice a colony that is retracted. This is not a sign that this animal is dying. You may wonder why the snails or hermits are attracted to this animal. You must understand that this is a natural occurrence in nature. The Sarcophyton often sometimes weekly retract their polyps and become covered with what looks like a thin layer of plastic. This layer may stay on the animal until it covers with a light film of algae that is why the snails and hermits tend to work on this animal. They love to eat this film that consists of proteins and other compounds which are called Sarcophene.

Directing a power head at this animal for a short time is a great way to remove this film and allow the polyps to extend to their normal grace. It you do not remove this thin layer of mucus the coral will have to compete for oxygen and in the long run loose. We find that by placing the animal where it is happy they tend not secret this fine layer of Sarcophene. They use this as a defense and if not bothered you will never notice this situation to occur. This is also one reason we propagate them when they get to big otherwise they continue to fight for room to grow and indeed their biomass becomes great.

This is a picture of Sally Jo's third reef showing many different soft corals growing together. The largest coral is a beautiful green flat Sarcophyton. The smaller Sarcophyton below the larger one has beautiful white polyps. To the right of these two Sarcophytons there are four distinct colored Lobophytums. We will soon produce a slide show that shows all the different Lobophytums in our collection.

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This 55 gal. bulletproof reef with no sump , five florescent lights, and a small skimmer produces literally hundreds of beautiful Xenia each semester. You can see at least six different Xenia including the One Hundred Percent Pulsing POM-POM.

What you see in this next picture is two different kinds of Sarcophyton they do very well next to one another and will not sting or kill each other. We are now successfully propagating these animals with a 100% success rate. We have found that you can cut the animal directly in your tank or remove the animal outside of your tank and make the cut. You must remember that not all animals are that safe to cut directly inside of your tank.

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We have lost two of my most beautiful and healthy clams due to cutting Palythoa directly in my tank. They are so toxic that in less than 24 hours they killed two huge and healthy clams. This toxin released by the Palythoa is called Palytoxin. It is being used for treatments for people who are suffering from muscular dystrophy. In years past it was used for poison darts. I have heard yet not experienced that placing ones hand in a tank that has Palythoa in it can cause a reaction in the most sensitive people. Most certainly do not put your hand in the tank it you have a cut on it or you most certainly we feel the effect of its toxin. Also make sure that when cutting this animal you do not get sprayed in the eyes this has happened to both LeRoy and I and the result is a swollen eye that needs to be rinsed and eye drops used.

We have found that the Sarcophyton is safe to cut inside the tank but if you can remove it to the outside of your tank it will be better for the fish and corals. I always dip my fresh cut corals in a bowl of salt water before placing them back in the tank. When braving the waters to begin your propagation of the Sarcophyton you need a sharp scissors, glue and a rock to attach the new baby to. We perform this procedure two different ways. I tend to cut the head right off of the stock and then cut the head into as many pieces as I desire. The stock which is now your mother colony will grow a new head.

You will see the beginning formation of polyps on the stock in a two week period. In less than a one month period you will hardly be able to tell that you cut this animal. The babies generated from the mother colony can be glued directly to the rock and will grow its own stock in a very short period of time. A head like you see in the above picture can easily be made into twenty babies. LeRoy likes to cut the head into many pieces and let them fall to the sand bed of the cutting tank. He then waits for the cuts to heal. The waiting period is about two weeks then he glues them directly to a plug. Once glued these animals are ready to ship in about one month.

These animals are easy to ship and will adjust well to almost any tank. If you are not brave enough to cut the whole head off the stock you can make pie cuts on the existing animal but it is not necessary. Believe me when I say the head will always grow back and I have found mine to even grow little arms that develop off of the stock that can also be propagated.

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Once the animal is glued like you see in this picture it does not take them long to grow over the glue and become a healthy tank mate with your other corals. You can hardly tell that this animal was a cutting made by our staff only a month ago. If you have a rare green polyped one like the one seen in this picture it would be a great asset to the hobby to propagate this animal and share it with others in the hobby.

We will always trade for this type of live stock. There was a time not so long ago that these animals were very hard to find in the hobby. Due to their adaptability we find them in many hobbyist tanks. They are one of the corals we recommend for the beginners and even the experts are found keeping this specimen in their tanks.

If you have strong lighting make sure you place this animal more towards the lower end of your system. Move it up gradually to secure its new place in your system. They do not like a strong current directed at them all the time if you have a wave maker they will love the indirect water movement. If you do not have a wave maker you can do what I do and change the water current by changing the direction of your power head these animals will be happy for a long time. I do this for about an hour and then position the power head in a different direction. I also have some of my power heads on timers they are on for fifteen minutes and off for fifteen minutes.

We are seeing more and more varieties of this animal and are keeping over 6 different kinds very successfully at the Foundation. This animal likes its temperature to be no greater then 80 degrees. When purchasing your new Sarcophyton make sure you give it a couple of days to extend it polyps fully. This will happen for the most part every time you move this animal. It is a natural defense mechanism to retract is polyps when bothered.

There is absolutely no reason to take these animals from the ocean any more they are so easy to propagate. The rare colors of these corals will be a good product for ocean based aquaculture. The only reason I could agree upon purchasing one that comes from the wild is if it is one that has never been in the hobby and can be shard with other hobbyist. These animal have a leather feel to them and are not slimy like the other soft corals that need to be netted when trying to get them to attach.

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If you are interested in one of these animals please give our office a call we always have many of these ready to go to a new home. Call Matt at 1-800-600-6163. If you are like Tom in Tulsa, keeping one that our Foundation does not have, please give us a call we will be more than willing to trade to add to our genetic bank. If for any reason you are scared to propagate this animal please e-mail us or call us on our free reef help line at 208-344-6163 and we will walk you through the steps.

I will never forget my first experience with propagating this animal. It was wonderful seeing the new babies attach and form and the mother became more beautiful in such a short period of time. As with all of our research we share this information freely with you so that you will add to our efforts to not take anything from the ocean. It is our hope you will share this information with others and more importantly provide us with your results so that all research can be shared. Save a reef grow your own take pride in what you are doing remembering you are making this a better place for future generations!!!!
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