At S.E.A. Aquarium, there are so many fascinating displays that it can be a little difficult to notice them all. Guests get captivated by the large exhibits that sometimes they will overlook the smaller exhibits.
As a coral aquarist at heart, I am fascinated with the intricate invertebrate displays that we have in the Dry Experience and, by far, my favourite small exhibit is our Azooxanthellate exhibit called the Sun Coral, or Tubastrea, habitat.
Almost all reef-building corals require bright light to survive because they have a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae and this is the coral’s primary food source.
However, Sun Corals aren’t like other reef-building corals. They rely solely on external food for survival and do not need light to grow.
Believe it or not, this simple requirement can pose a huge obstacle for an aquarist to maintain. Food has to be provided throughout the day, most of which are various planktons and fish juices. This can compromise water quality and aquarists always need to conduct daily checks and tank maintenance.
This massive nutrient rich environment also can become a source of food for unwanted pests like the glass anemone, which sting these corals. We have had to carefully select natural predators to control these anemones and keep the Sun Coral thriving and sustaining.
There are more than four different species of Sun Coral within the habitat and the level of difficulty in keeping them varies. We have been able to reproduce these corals within the exhibit and if you look closely at the display, you will notice tiny little Sun Corals that have been sexually reproduced within the tank.
Sun Corals are hermaphroditic and can reproduce sexually – or asexually by the mother coral producing planulae larvae. This larvae is released and stays suspended until they find a suitable place to settle and attach, thus becoming a Sun Coral.
The time lapse above portrays how the Sun Coral comes out to feed and grab plankton. They have magnificent tentacles that extend to feed on particles in the water column and they look like mini anemones when they are feeding.
Come and see the display for yourself right here at S.E.A. Aquarium!