Echinomorpha nishihirai is a distinctive looking chalice coral which can be quite a showstopper. Often eclipsed by the much more readily available Echinophyllia, Oxypora and Mycedium chalice corals, Echinomorpha is distinguished by a prominent, large central corallite and very few, widely spaced peripheral corallites – if any.
Every time we see an Echinomorpha coral, we have to do a double take and cross check it with other species of chalice corals which also can have a large central corallite, such as Oxypora glabra and Echinophyllia echinata. Although Echinomorpha is a rarely seen coral which only sporadically appears in shipments of chalice corals, it seems that lately a sampling of stupendous colonies have appeared in the aquarium trade.
LiveAquaria, Cherry Corals and some European vendors recently too k advantage of imports of some Echinomorpha colonies. LiveAquaria listed an amazing two-polyp colony of Echinomorpha in the Diver’s Den for $379 – this specimen is blue grey, about 3.5 inches across and dominated by two, large corallites with red oral discs. Cherry Corals’ Echinomorpha individual is a single blue grey corallite surrounded by a wide perimeter of skeleton covered with a beautiful veneer of blue and green-splashed tissue.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the aquarium hobby hasn’t fully embraced and popularized the single species of Echinomorpha is that since it has very few corallites, the path to captive propagation is not as clear cut as with other chalice corals. With only a few single corallites per colony and a whole lotta tissue between them, it makes no sense to put an Echinomorpha nishihirai under the bandsaw since you can only realistically turn a single beautiful colony into three or four fresh-cut mini colonies. Because of its reduced propagation potential, Echinomorpha nishihirai is a unique coral colony which is truly for the chalice coral collector. [AIMS]