Making of a live Coral Christmas tree

Christmas trees are a sure sign that the Christmas holidays are around the corner. They spring up like mushrooms every year end, at shopping malls and in homes, and (in Singapore) are usually artificial trees that get decorated with lights, tinsels and everything nice.

Rare would you find an actual live tree, much less one made from corals – until now.

At S.E.A. Aquarium this year, the aquarists got together to bring you a 70cm-tall underwater Coral Christmas tree, made entirely from live corals, decorated with baubles and topped with a coral-encrusted star.

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Why build a tree out of corals?

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It makes sense. It fits the place, an aquarium, and it is something that, as far as the aquarists know, has not been done before.

But more than that, corals are an important cause for the aquarists and the aquarium. Through this, they hope to reach out to more people about the part corals play in the marine ecosystem, and why we should protect them.

Long considered the rainforest of the sea, coral reefs are actually animals which can also photosynthesise light into food. The stony frameworks they create provide habitats for diverse marine life forms to flourish.

The idea of creating a Coral Christmas Tree came from Aaron Brett, curator at S.E.A. Aquarium. The tree was designed by Senior Aquarist Jason Lim who was assisted in building the tree by three other aquarists.

Jason went through some of the challenges in bringing this feat to life in only three months.

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Where to place the Coral Christmas Tree?

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Jason had to find a spot in the aquarium that allows the tree to fit into the existing landscape, as well as has enough light and water flow for the live corals to survive.

With these in mind, he finally settled on a home for the Coral Christmas Tree: in the Coral Seas habitat, amongst other coral reefs.

How to make it look like a conical tree?

Jason needed an inner frame where the corals would be glued to. The inner frame needed to hold the corals together without breaking or bending.

The tree also need to be conical so the corals at the base has to spread in a wider circumference and shrink as it reaches the top.

After building the inner metal frame, the team wrapped it with wire mesh where the corals are glued to it. The team built the frame in two hours and glued the coral frags over a week’s time.

coral christmas tree wire frame

The star took longer to complete. The corals took months before they grew enough to cover the PVC material.

Which corals to use?

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Jason needed a hardy coral that grows quickly and is abundant in the aquarium.

He picked Guttatus Birdsnest Coral (Seriatopora guttatus) as it would be able to recover fast enough from the fragging process (the act of breaking off the coral for reproduction).

The star is covered with another type of coral, the finger coral (Montipora digitata) so there is a colour contrast between the two corals.

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Come to S.E.A. Aquarium and see the masterpiece for yourself.

Come see the Coral Christmas Tree and celebrate Merry Fishmas at S.E.A. Aquarium from 1 December 2015 to 3 January 2016.

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