I was at a local coral â€œchop shopâ€Â a while back (yeah, they exist here in SoCal), perusing the raceways chock full of Â½â€ frags of â€œLEâ€ corals , when I saw it: A brilliant, neon- green, orange-tingedÂ flash- a Trachyphilliaâ€¦that most common of the so called â€œLPSâ€ corals. Common- but stunning! And I wasnâ€™t the only one who noticed it. A couple of other Â â€œfrag hags”, perhaps somewhat jadedÂ by the now â€œtypicalâ€ selection of Â expensive and rare Micromussa, Scolymia, andÂ Acanthastrea., were ogling at this coral themselves. . I mean, this coral was positively outrageous– and only about $35.00! Imagine- a really beautiful coral that you could actually afford to buy and still make the mortgage payment next month! It certainly didnâ€™t carry the â€œcachetâ€ of those â€œAcansâ€, but who cared? It was HOT!! In fact, the coral was so alluring that these two hardcore reefers had to decide who would get to take it home! What a strange spectacle I was seeingâ€¦Or was it?
It got me thinking: What is more cool- a decent specimen of a really rare coral, like the Micromussa– or a stunning specimen of a common coral, like this â€œpedestrianâ€ Trachy?Â I mean, a coral does not have to be rare, scarce, or a â€œlimited editionâ€ to be desireable!Â It simply has to be attractive. So why not seek out amazing specimens ofÂ common corals? I know, I know. The first thing you think of when you hear the words â€œcommon coralsâ€ are those government-issueÂ translucent pink Caulastrea or boringÂ light green Star Polyps, or dull peach- colored Nemenzophyllia. Enough of the dirt- brown Palythoa, OD green Acropora gemmifora , andÂ puke-grey Sinularia! How about looking for those outrageous fluorescent colors and interesting growth morphologies in the most commonly available corals? They are out there- and they are rare, tooâ€¦Ya know why? Because there is a small subculture of hardcore reefers that is looking for them, too! Youâ€™ll have to go the extra mile to find them. You might have to do the same thing you do when you stumble on that specimen of ORA â€œMiami Orchidâ€ in your dealerâ€™s display tank- youâ€™ll have to beg for a frag! How funny it is to imagine a well-heeled collector of fuzzy sticks pleading with the kid behind the counter at his or her LFS for â€œjust a small fragâ€ of thatÂ teal- and -green Capnella he spied in the little nano tank on the check-out counter?Â But thatâ€™s the price of admission when you play the â€œcommon is amazingâ€ game. You have to be willing to put it all on the table!Â And these deals donâ€™t always come cheap or easy! Youâ€™d do it for a â€œLEâ€ zoanthid, right? Â Iâ€™ve known at least one local reefer that had to swap a sizeable Â frag of his prized Acropora hoeksemai for an amazing yellow-and chocolate-brown Caulastrea! Each side thought they got the better end of that deal, too (I know, because I heard it from both of â€˜em!)
What I have noticed about many excellent reef tanks that Iâ€™ve visited is that these aquariums almost always contain a coral or two that makes you think, â€œWow- what is that?â€. Inevitably, the owner points out that it was just a Â Montipora digitata or an Acropora chesterfieldensis that took on an aberrant color. It was the sharp eye and dedicated heart of the hobbyist that brought that coral into the fold. And the real beauty of that sort of thing is that the hobbyist put his/her prejudices aside and acquired the coral because he or she liked the way it look, not because it will make him/her cool at the next tank tour or frag swap! Itâ€™s this sort of mental stepÂ that takes a hobbyist to the next level, in my humble opinion. The willingness to walk oneâ€™s own path, defying the prevailing trends of the time! Â The sign of a true visionary.Â A rare hobbyist, indeed!
So the next time youâ€™re coral shopping and that beautiful orange Fungia screams at you from across the store to take it home, answer the call. Make it yours. Love it,. Own it. Treasure it. Share it.Â Because one day, that â€œcommon coralâ€ might just be banned from wild collection, or might be forgotten by the masses, leaving future generations of reefers without the opportunity to enjoy what was once a â€œcommonâ€ coral. A simple idea, perhaps- but thatâ€™s how the hobby progresses. Keep an eye outÂ and your mind open , because awesome things happen when â€œcommonâ€ is amazing!