The Goniopora Corals Goniopora sp. are very pretty with a distinctive appearance These corals have several common names that depict their appearance. In the wild they are mostly columnar or massive, but some can also be encrusting. Their skeletons are lightweight porous skeletons, but their distinctive features are the elongated polyps topped with a fringe of tentacles surrounding a mouth area. They look much like a ball or cluster of potted flowers. Hence the common names like Daisy Coral, Flowerpot Coral, Sunflower Coral, and Ball Coral.
All the different Goniopora species have 24 polyps, but they are usually of different shapes and colors. The Goniopora species 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!
Colors the Goniopora Coral come in are usually green or brown, but can be shades from brown to pink, red, cream, yellow or gray. 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 its pretty color, and the fact that it is one of the hardiest Goniopora species. They G. lobata are about half the price of G. stokesi, but are harder to care for.
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 G. lobata, G. somaliensis, and other species are not free living, but connected to the reef. Not being free living, these corals are broken from the reef. The G. lobata is the least hardy of these three. It is more likely to get infected because of this, and is generally more stressed from collection and shipment.
All the Goniopora species are a challenge to care for in captivity. This type of coral is not recommended for beginner aquarium keepers. They have a long a history of being difficult for the aquarist to keep successfully. 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. 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. Chances of success are greatly increased for the experienced aquarist that is dedicated to acquiring the specialized knowledge and skills, and providing the properly design system needed for its survival.
The G. stokesi (Green Flowerpot Coral) can fair better than many. They can handle more light than G. lobata and even be propagated under the right conditions. The newer Red Goniopora G. somaliensis seems to be a little more hardy than the other colors, yet still needs the correct environment to thrive. 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 plant sea grass in the tank has been noted as helpful, possibly from a nutritional standpoint.