Goniopora is a sensitive coral that when probed can sensitize and contract. Goniopora is a very difficult coral to keep alive in captivity and is not recommended for a novice reef aquarium hobbyist. In addition, the different types of this coral require different treatment, and some are almost impossible to grow in a captive environment. The short, greenish-colored species, for example, are less sturdy and durable than the pink or purple species. However, it is very seldom that any of these will survive longer than three months in an aquarium. There have been reports of success, but you must take many precautions to raise Goniopora coral successfully.

Identifying Goniopora

Goniopora may form massive branching or columnar colonies. These growth-forms are often masked by flower-like polyps that sit at the end of long wafting tubes, which results in an organism that looks more like a soft coral than the hard, solid looking appearance typical of scleractinians. The polyp mouths are ringed by a circle of 24 tentacles. The polyp shape, size, and color can be used to identify species. As a result, this is one of the few groupings that is easier to differentiate underwater than from the bleached skeleton.

Species of Goniopora in its natural state.

Species of Goniopora in its natural state.

Goniopora_sp_IMG_0576 Goniopora

A few species may be identified by external characteristics rather accurately, but most need a detailed inspection of the corallites with magnification. Corallites are the skeletal features associated with each polyp in the coral colony. Some imported colonies already have areas that have died back with the skeleton exposed. If these corallites are not eroded or grown over with organisms, you may be able to use them for identification.

Some grow quite large, and a mature colony may look like a colony of Porites from a distance. Others have short polyps and are encrusting. Still, others are free-living on soft substances. The genus Goniopora is in the family Poritidae. It seems one can connect the dots between the different species of Goniopora all the way to Porites. Goniopora stutchburyi with its small polyps and encrusting growth forms can be mistaken for Porites. The growth form and color of Goniopora changes over time.

Care of Goniopora 

This coral requires moderate to high lighting, depending on the species. It must also have some water movement so the polyps can move freely. However, the light shouldn’t be directed right at the polyps or else the movement might be too vigorous. The water temperature must remain between 77 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Goniopora in a 29 gallon tank surround by Red mushrooms.

Goniopora in a 29-gallon tank surrounded by red mushrooms. Photo courtesy of melevsreef.com

Feeding Your Goniopora

Goniopora is an avid feeder that is susceptible to death from nutrient deficiencies. There are many ways different ways to feed it, though. When trying foods, it is important to note the difference between a stress reaction and a feeding reaction.

A Red Goniopora mother during feeding.

A Red Goniopora mother during feeding.

If you target feed with a syringe and are too forceful with the flow, the coral will quickly retract its polyps in defense. A polyp retraction in response to stress is quick and fluid. It often spreads across the whole colony. However, polyp retraction for feeding is slower and jerky. Some polyps will bend toward the food, retracting one side of the polyp in rhythmic pulses. The polyp will then sit there with its mouth on the food and eventually fully retract. There is often active pronounced tentacle curling as they capture food particles. Food can also be sprinkled on the top of the tank for the Goniopora to reach on its own.

Last Words

Work is being done to create domesticated versions of Goniopora. This has been a success with other types of coral, so there is little doubt it will happen with this coral. Until then, you simply need to be patient and careful when trying to raise it in an aquarium. You also need to choose the right type of Goniopora. With the right level of care and attention, you can have an excellent experience.