Prior to traveling to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, we read a report citing the occurrence of huge tree-like old-growth stands of Acropora tortuosa that were discovered at Rongelap Atoll several hundred miles north of Kwajalein. We didn’t expect to see such huge colonies of Acropora tortuosa in Kwajalein but we did hold out hope of seeing this great aquarium coral in the wild.
The first colony of Acropora tortuosa we sighted in the Marshalls was an unexpected find, near shore where the water was turbid and fairly nutrient rich with plenty of sedimentation to irritate corals in this habitat. Nevertheless, this particular growth of Tortuosa was stout in its growth form, resembling the classic Oregon Tort save for the blue-purple color being restricted to the tips.
Only a couple more sightings of Acropora tortuosa were made at Kwajalein Atoll and these much larger colonies were growing more staghorn in appearance in clear nutrient poor waters and looking a lot more pale. In this more coral-friendly habitat the blue-tip tort was nearly all white, with a hint of yellow base color and these beautiful distinct blue tips all along the colony and a more open growth form that more closely resembles the California tortuosa, which is also an aquarium classic.
We can’t tell you what a treat it is to encounter corals we’ve worked with in aquariums for all of our aquaristic lives, and then to not only see the species growing in the wild, but also seeing the variability in colonies, and a unique color form to boot! It’s also quite interesting to be diving underwater, seeing corals in the cleanest possible water in super bright full sunlight, noticing how the environment grows the heck out of the corals but it doesn’t necessarily produce the most colorful corals.
Everytime a familiar coral like the Acropora tortuosa was sighted we imagined what this particular strain would look like when kept and grown under captive conditions. We have no doubt that under expert aquarium care the Kwajalein blue-tip Tort would be a brilliant white coral with rich blue tips, not unlike the screaming bright “Ice Fire” Acropora echinata strains we now enjoy aplenty from Australia.