Non Photosynthetic Coral Species and Care

Discussion in 'General Coral Care' started by Jaco Schoeman, 7 Dec 2010.

  1. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

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    Okey, have been wanting to do this for a long time now; so a cloudy day has arrived so here goes:

    PART 1:

    Introduction:

    This thread will give you a basic idea of what Non Photosynthetic Corals (NPS) are and what you need to know about keeping, feeding and caring for these stunning corals.

    What is a Non Photosyntehic Coral?

    Firstly we need to look at the most obvious attribute of these corals;

    NON-photosynthetic: This means that these corals lack the presence of zooxanthellae algae inside the coral tissue. This then means that, unlike other corals that can utlilize this algae to help feed the coral, NPS coral needs to hunt for their food and physically consume prey in order to survive.

    What's their natural habitat like?

    This then also brings us to the next point, which is the natural location of NPS coral. Having no need / benefit from light, but having to feed from live food, one can easily determine that NPS corals are generally found in deeper, darker waters, or on the edges of drop-offs and the bottom of caves and overhangs. There are the exception to this rule where NPS corals are found shallower in well lit areas, but the general rule is that they occur deeper.

    What do they eat in wild?

    Also the reason for being deeper, is the food sources they consume. The first point to note is that these corals are generally located in high Phyto Plankton areas. Many people believed (when NPS was first discovered) that the coral fed on the Phyto. This now seems to be less of the reason they are there... Even though the coral would consume some Phyto, they really do not benefit that much from it, as most NPS coral are predatory in nature, and not filter feeders. Phyto is merely an algae, so NPS coral cannot be kept by feeding on Phyto only.

    No, the main reason they are located in these phyto soups, is to harvest the stuff that eats the phyto. During the day, phytoplankton photosynthesises from sunlight, and at night the phyto settles into the depths. This then, is when the Zooplankton, Rottifier, Brine Shrimp, Mysis shrimp, pods and other little critters swim into open water and feed on the phyto. This is generally safer for these creatures as there are less active fish at this time - except for the NPS.

    Now starts the feeding frenzy for the NPS!!! They consume millions of bacteria, plankton and crustacians. I have heard that one suncoral polyp can consume up to 2000 brine shrimp nauplii in a day. The literally eat without end.

    Also, during the day, when the fish at the top of the reef is most active, busy feeding, the fish would also "poo". This "poo" then drops down to the depths, where it gets consumed by various bacteria, and also larger zooplankton, mysis and brine etc. These then die off as the fishpoo goes deeper, and this froms Reef Snow. Thus this also feeds the NPS's heavy appetite...

    What I have stated above is very important for us to keep in mind when we move towards keeping these corals in the aquarium, and you will see why...

    NPS INSIDE THE AQUARIUM:

    What impact does light have?

    Many reefers and LFS are under the impression that NPS coral has to be kept "in the dark", either in caves, under ledges or on drop-off walls. This is absolute rubbish!!! Why would you want to hide a stunning coral like a suncoral or dendronephtya, and how big cave should you have to fit a gorgonian in? Not all reefers have the facility to even build caves, ledges or overhangs.

    I think the misconception comes in where NPS coral (especially suncorals) withdraw their heads during daytime. This is then linked to lights that came on, and they make the assumption that light makes them withdraw.

    I have had the entire room dark, then used a Maglite Torch turn on above a suncoral, without it even flintching. Do this with a tube worm or clam for example, and you will see that sudden light does have an imapct on them.

    So, light, be it MH, T5 or T8 has no affect on whether they will be open or not.

    So why is your NPS then only opening up at night after the lights are off?

    Easy, refer to the begninning of this thread; at night, small little critters come to play, and eat detritus. Whether you want to believe it or not, you have millions of small pod larvae and bacteria in the tank. It does not mean that because you cannot see them, they are not there. Once your lights go off, these come out, and the NPS coral picks up on their presence. Then they extend and feed - simple.

    How do you get your NPS to open up while you are actually still awake?

    I have found that these coral can be "trained..." Every afternoon at 17h00 sharp, I can see my NPS corals starting to open up without me even "teazing" them with any food source. This is because they "know" that by around 18h00 I will be feeding them, so they anticipate food is coming. In the first few weeks from getting a NPS, this might not work, so you will need to be patient. But once trained, you have a stunning display in the evenings as your NPS opens up. They will still remain open throughout the night, as they will still feed on the aother nocturnal critters.

    Where should you place NPS?

    Anywhere you like IMO... There is no proof that any NPS coral has to be hung upside down to live. Again, a missconception of their natural habitat. The reason they "like" being upside down is purely the fact the water rushes under the cavewall or ledge, thus pushing food right into them. So if you are looking for a good spot in your tank, try and find a place where water will push food into their polyps.

    On this note, NPS actually alos likes a bit more linear flow. Remember that where they are found in the wild, tides come in a go out rises up the slopes, thus exposing them to quite a bit of linear flow.

    Too much chaotic flow will just swirl the food around them, and not push the food into the - remember this.

    How strong should flow be?

    This is a point that has been heavily researched by the Waikiki Aquarium in the US. I will not go into all the details and bore you with the flow rate vs. capture rate flow charts. So all you need to know, is that too heavy flow, and the polyps will physically not be able to catch the pray. Try and catch a cricket ball coming to you at 500km/h - even Jonty Rhodes would not be able to catch that!!!

    Too slow, and too little food gets to the polyps, are it will just push over the coral as the coral forms an eddie.

    Again, placement is key, and you can now see that the cave you built, might not be the best place taking flow into consideration...

    What whould you feed the coral?

    These coral will take most any meaty food. I have found Cyclop-Eeze to get the best response from NPS coral, but even better than cyclop eeze would be newly hatced brine shrimp (brine nauplii.) The coral get the most nutrition from live brine, as the brine is very rich in protein from the yolk sack it still carries. The problem with live food however is the effort you have to put in to grow them. Even though the thought of having to make live brine daily seems easy work, I can assure you a few months into it, it does become a chore.

    If you do not opt for live brine, then other food such as frozen brine, frozen mysis, rotifier, zooplankton, reef snow etc.

    What is the best way to feed NPS?

    One thing however to take into consideration with any food you feed, is that fish has the advantage of going to the food, where as coral has to wait for the food to come to it. In a mixed reef, target feeding NPS is a must. If you broadcast feed one block of mysis, the fish would consume it all long before any NPS coral could consume one shrimp. If you target feed, you basically squirt food right ontop of the coral with a syringe or turkey blaster, allowing the coral to get food first, and what ever is then "wasted" is consumed by the fish. The best way though, if space permits, is using the coke bottle technique. Here you cut a 2l coke bottle open, and place the bottle over the coral on the substrate. Then you add the food to the bottle and cap it. This then allows the coral to be in a soup of food, and eat without fish or flow taking any food from it. After 20 minutes the bottle is removed and all wasted food gets taken by fish. Again, this is the ultimate way to feed if space and placement allows for it.

    How often must you feed your NPS?

    This is in a way determined by what NPS we are talking about so the answer might be a bit broader than what I will post here.

    As with your own children, dogs, plants and fish, you do not just want them to survive, you want them to thrive. In my honest opinion, feeding NPS twice or three times a week will have them survive, but they will not thrive. Feed your child only three times a week, and you will see what I mean. Bakkies Botha was not fed three time a week - had he been, he would be called Conrad Jantjies... hehehe...

    Feed as much as you can, and as much as your filtration will allow you to feed without causing more harm by decreasing water quality.

    Just always keep in mind, these coral cannot photosynthesise for nutritional purposes, and in nature they have a 24/7 food source - so you decide.


    This then concludes Part 1 of my NPS report. In part two I will discuss the speices available currently, and look at their individual needs...

    Stay tuned... ;)
     
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  3. archiecrain

    archiecrain

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    Exellent guide you have started!! I look forward to the available species.....
     
  4. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Part 2

    PART 2

    Now we will get into specifics. I will give you information on the names, type, feeding etc. on each NPS coral that I know of. You are welcome to add more species that I might have left out.

    Let us start with the most common and known NPS:

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Tubastrea Sp.
    Common Name: Sun Coral
    Type: LPS
    Care Level: Beginner NPS
    Placement: See Part 1 on placement and flow
    Feeding: They love live food and cyclopeeze, but will also take mysis, brine, mussel, and other meaty food.
    Notes: This coral, as with any other LPS is quite sensitive to physical damage, so take care when handling it. Also note that branching black and orange suncoral are very sensitive to touch. Once you touch their body, there will be a stain on your hand and you'll note a fingerprint on the coral tissue. This then may allow bacterial infection that will eat away at the tisse so it is best to avoid contact with branching suncoral branches.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Dendrophyllia
    Common Name: Super Suncoral / Dendro Suncoral
    Type: LPS
    Care Level: Beginner NPS
    Placement: See Part 1 on placement and flow
    Feeding: They love live food and cyclopeeze, but will also take mysis, brine, mussel, and other meaty food.
    Notes: No specific notes that need attention that I know off.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Rhizotrochus Sp.
    Common Name: Rhizo
    Coral Type: LPS
    Care Level: Intermediate
    Placement: See Part 1 on placement and flow
    Feeding: They love live food and cyclopeeze, but will also take mysis, brine, mussel, and other meaty food.
    Notes: This is quite an expensive NPS, and some specimens I have seen sells for up to $1000 U.S!!! Also quite rare and comes mainly from the Japan islands. The are also single polyps, where as normal suncoral are collonial.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Alcyonium Sp.
    Common Name: Chili Coral
    Type: Soft Coral
    Care Level: Beginner
    Placement: See Part 1 on placement and flow however they appreciate a little more flow.
    Feeding: They adore live food like brine shrimp nauplii and cyclopeeze. Polyps are smallish so large meaty food like mysis is difficult to consume.
    Notes: From personal experience these corals like to be placed on ledges and underneath overhangs.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Dendronephtya Sp.
    Common Name: Carnation Tree Coral
    Coral Type: Soft Coral
    Care Level: Expert Only!!!
    Placement: They require good flow to keep them upright and has calcium spinicules inside their tissue to stay upright in good flow, but tipping the scales with flow means the polyps will not be able to grab food.
    Feeding: Polyps on Carnation Corals are very small. They prefer small live brine, small cyclopeeze, small zooplankton and rotifiers and also Reef Snow.
    Notes: This is the flagship of all NPS. Very few people have been able to keep them alive for long periods, and his really is not a coral for beginners or a mixed reef. A dedicated NPS tank with a very good feeding regime is an absolute must.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Sphaerella Sp.
    Common Name: Christmas Tree Coral
    Coral Type: Soft Coral
    Care Level: Intermediate
    Placement: This coral prefers to be "planted" in the substrate.
    Feeding: Micro Plankton, cyclop eeze or live brine shrimp.
    Notes: Nothing special except their prefference to be placed in substrate.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Balanophyllia Sp.
    Common Name: Orange Cup Coral
    Coral Type: LPS
    Care Level: Intermediate
    Placement: See Part 1 on placement and flow
    Feeding: Smaller in size than Suncoral, so smaller meaty foods like cyclopeeze, live brine, and chopped mysis. Micro Plankton also accepted.
    Notes: Similar to Dendrophyllia except this species has smaller oval shaped polyps and require much colder water.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Distichopora
    Common Name: Lace Stick Coral
    Coral Type: Hydrocoral yet considered a SPS
    Care Level: Advanced
    Placement: On rockwork with good strong flow
    Feeding: Micro plankon as it is mostly a filter feeder. Zooplankton and phyto plankton and reef snow is a good option.
    Notes: Quite rare to the hobby. They have a ridge on the edge of the coral where small tentacles are exposed whilst feeding on micro organisms. It looks alot like gorgonians, yet it is not.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Cerianthus
    Common Name: Tube Anemone
    Type: Invertebrate rather than a coral, and very far from actually being an anemone, in fact there are no relation to anemone's.
    Care Level: Beginner
    Placement: Like tube worms, tube anemone's live in a tube. They require deep substrate in which to grow this tube.
    Feeding: I have seen this coral eat anything from meaty food, hair algae, moths and even a Christmas Beetle... They devour live food with their tentacles and cyclopeeze is a good favorite.
    Notes: Amazing to see these creatures eat. They are wronlgfully labelled as a deadly creature that will kill all your fish, and your neighbours fish too, yet I have yet to experience this. I have had shrimp swimming through them, without being stung. Their aggressive reputation is in my opinion a bit over exagurated.


    I will do a new post that contains the Gorgonian species...
     
    Last edited: 7 Dec 2010
  5. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Do not forget the non-photosynthetic sponges.
     
  6. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Gorgonians

    Here is a list of a few NPS Gorgonians, there are surely more, so please feel free to add...

    Note that I have not added additional information other than naming and feeding. My experience is that all Gorgonians are more or less the same with regards to placement can care levels.

    Gorgonians can handle alot of flow, but again not too much for the polyps to handle. These are moderate care corals, and one must be careful to keep live gorgonians with seahorses, as the seahorse strips the polyps from the skeleton causing death to the gorgonian.

    There are a alot of species and colours available, and a very nice addition to any reef aquarium.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Diodogorghia
    Common Name: Yellow / Red Finger Gorgonian
    Feeding: Cycop-eeze, live brine and other micro planktonic foods.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Cirrhipathes Spiralis
    Common Name: Whip Gorgonian
    Feeding: Cycop-eeze, live brine and other micro planktonic foods.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Menella Sp.
    Common Name: Gorgonian
    Feeding: Cycop-eeze, live brine and other micro planktonic foods.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Swiftia sp.
    Common Name: Gorgonian
    Feeding: Much smaller polyps than other gorgonians, so micro plantonic foods are accepted.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Astrogorgia sp.
    Common Name: Gorgonian
    Feeding: Much smaller polyps than other gorgonians, so micro plantonic foods are accepted.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Acabaria Delicata
    Common Name: Gorgonian
    Feeding: Much smaller polyps than other gorgonians, so micro plantonic foods are accepted.

    [​IMG]

    Scientific Name: Ptilosarcus sp.
    Common Name: Sea Pen
    Feeding: Micro Plankton and cycop-eeze will be taken
     
  7. Dewald@Dorry

    Dewald@Dorry

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    Nice thread Jaco!! Loads of research and now you are the NPS Guru!!;)
     
  8. archiecrain

    archiecrain

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    One question about the sun corals....How often do they require feeding?
     
  9. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Please see the very first post on this thread, the last question. ;)
     
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  10. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Thank you. I now just have to get my arse off my chair and post some images of my NPS tank huh? :p

    Proof that I am not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk... :yeahdude:
     
  11. Dewald@Dorry

    Dewald@Dorry

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    Minimum Once a Day!;)
     
  12. Slagter

    Slagter MASA Contributor

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    Awesome thread Jaco! It was a great read! I am paying attention and taking notes on how best to care for my coral!!!
     
  13. archiecrain

    archiecrain

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    As much as that? Could a shedule of every 2cnd to 3rd day work? I ask because I would like a sun coral in the future, but certainly wont be able to feed every day, simply time wise and dont think my small tank could handle that.....
     
  14. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Reality is this, these corals needs food, and lots of it. If you feed every second day it should be fine. Many petshops try and keep these corals in mixed reefs, and think that by feeding the coral once a week will keep it alive, or that the millions of fish in the tank will feed it, but then just look at the condition of those suncorals, and you will soon understand this is not enough.

    Try and feed as often as you possibly can. There is no other way they can stay alive. You try eating every three days and see how long you will survive - same thing. :razz:

    If you say your tank is very small and it will not be able to handle the feeding, then I would advise you not to go with NPS at all. The feeding is the most important aspect of the upkeep and that puts alot of pressure on your filtration.

    What is you tank specs by the way? Maybe you think your tank will not be able to sustain it, and it will. Please supply more info on your tank. ;)
     
  15. archiecrain

    archiecrain

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    Its a 45cm x 30cm x30 cm.......its real small.....I think at this stage this coral is still way beyond what Im able to handle....but maybe in the future an open sun coral has got to be one of the best looking corals around

    This is my tank
    My tiny nano cube - Marine Aquariums of South Africa
     
  16. sihaya

    sihaya

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    I think this is a nice guide for things like sun corals that are not so picky eaters. However, things like carnation corals are nearly impossible to feed in an aquarium. It's important to keep in mind that some of these corals have VERY specific food needs (with regards to particle size). For some nonphotosynthetic corals, there's just no way to get adequate amounts of the right sized bits to feed them well enough (without completely spoiling your water).
     
  17. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    It is not impossible to keep a suncoral in such a small tank, but it will take some knowhow to keep the water nice and clean. Water changes is one way, but in so little volume things go wrong quickly.
     
  18. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Absolutely Sihaya... ESPECIALLY dendronepthya is particularly difficult to keep, and as you rightly state - particle size comes to play heavily.
     
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  19. viper357

    viper357 Admin MASA Contributor

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    Excellent thread Jaco, thanks for taking the time to do this. :thumbup:
     
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  20. magman

    magman

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    Jaco, have you ever checked the local sun corals? They don't look as nice as the ones in the avatar, but we got 4 species here that I have seen, there is the fat pink one, grows usually in 4-5 heads, the fat orange one, usually 4-5 heads also, then the small yellows, they encrust the rocks and everything. There is also the small black one too, that also encrusts the rocks. I have always seen them under caves/ledges where there is always a surge, hence with the surge they feed during the day, but they do not open up nearly as much as the one's in your pic, maybe cause they feed 24/7
     
  21. greenie

    greenie

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    Thanks for this! a question - does Candy Cane also falls in this group?
     
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