Being a traveling fish geek/speaker, I probably get to see as many aquariums each month as some hobbyists do all year. In almost every city that I visit, I’m taken to amazing aquariums- some are huge, some are medium sized, and a few are “nano” systems of just a few gallons. And almost all are dominated by so-called “SPS” corals. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these collections of Â “fuzzy sticks”, but they seem to lack something. Oh yeah- MOVEMENT!! Sure, it’s cool to see the polyp extension of your Â Acropora chesterfieldensis flapping in the flow of your pricy German powerheads, but it doesn’t hold a flame to say, a neon green Sinularia or a fully opened bright yellow Sarcophyton from Tonga. These soft corals really move in the flow! SEXYYYYY!!!
Yet, somehow the softies seem relegated to the supporting role- the 40 gallon breeder at the side of the turbo charged “SPS” megalith in the living room. “Oh, yeah, that’s my old tank.”, most hobbyists will shyly confess. Â I say, why feel bad about it? The soft corals are COOL! Admit it…you like ’em, too! Don’t be afraid…
Not only do the soft corals provide movement, but they provide interest, with their unique growth patterns and varying morphologies. I’ll bet there’s a spot on your reef that would just look fantastic with a small stand of well-behaved, teal and beige Capnella, or even a patch of “Pom Pom” Xenia. Sure, there are some downsides to keeping soft corals, namely that many are highly toxic to other corals, grow rapidly, and become really, really large if you let them. However, this begs the question- why not just set up an aquarium just for them? Yup, a dedicated soft coral system. Neat. At the very least, it’s an excuse to set up another aquarium, right?
As a lifelong hobbyist who’s been around the block a few times, I know what most of you are groaning: “Soft corals are for beginners”…”They’re are too easy-no challenge”, they don’t carry the same cachet as that expensive “Acropora expensiva” that you can pay fifty bucks for a half -inch fragment of, etc. I say- ENOUGH!! Did it occur to you, Mr. or Ms. “Acan” Lover,Â that these corals are not only attractive and interesting, but they are among the most sustainable and easily -propagated animals in the ocean? This means that we won’t need to harvest wild stocks of them and deplete the world’s reefs in the process. Hmmm…
This means that we can be self-sufficient as a hobby, silencing the card-carrying eco-kooks who love to preach to us that the hobby is destroying the reefs. This means, Mr. or Ms. Capitalist, that you can make some MONEY off of them, and help preserve the reefs in the process. I don’t know about you, but I have never had a local fish store owner tell me that I’m providing him too many frags of Â bright yellow Toadstool Leathers or Â neon green Sinularia. It Â seems to me that the Xenia that you literally toss into the sump and can’t seem to give away at a frag swap can bring a pretty nice price on the open market. The little coral “that nobody wants” really delights new hobbyists, as well as experienced oncs who like the movement and interest they provide. My friend Anthony (Calfo) didn’t select Xenia as his bread-and-butter coral Â to work with all those years ago because it wasn’t profitable, trust me.
Still not convinced, you of the “My Acropora tortuosa is better than your Acropora tenuis” school? Need something sexy and worthy of more cachet? Tried Â pricing a colony of Â the beautiful xeniidÂ Cespitularia lately? Trust me, it will take your breath away just like your “designer” Acropora do! Propagate some of that coral and see what it does for your income!
In the end, it’s all about what we love, of course- and I am prodding you a bit here, but do take to heart this message: Soft corals are not the bastard children of the Cnidarian world…They are SEXY! Still sexy after all these years!