Yesterday’s post on the master list of rainbow corals in aquariums was started in part by our visit to the World Wide Corals Farm. But that write up got us asking coral people if there is such a thing as a “rainbow stylocoeniella” and the beginning of that story goes way back to MACNA in South Florida in 2013.
In case you haven’t heard of Stylocoeniella, don’t fret as it is not a common aquarium coral. Like Madracis it’s part of a group of cryptic species that are all but overshadowed by many other much more abundant groups of corals. Our first encounter with Stylocoeniella was nearly ten years ago, as a young coral marine scientist-in-training, we had our eyes out for trippy corals back when wysiwygs were the exception, not the norm.
It was around 2004 that Atlantis Aquarium procured three pieces of peculiar looking red “Porites” – a reefer friend aka Arkangelfish and I decided to buy a piece and when we got to see it in person it was clear that this coral was not a Porites, but in fact a nice red colony of the first aquarium coral to be positively identified as Stylocoeniella.
Fast forward a decade and we’ve come to learn a LOT more about this enigmatic genus, like its skeleton which can be grey and hard as marble, and its rare ability to produce polyp bail-outs like Pocillopora species. Jason Fox and Victor are two coral collectors who’ve spearheaded the captive culture of various Stylocoeniella color strains but it was yours truly that discovered the ultimate rainbow Stylocoeniella.
While walking the show floor of MACNA 2013 in Florida, we were perusing the insane amount of coral that was on offering that weekend, on the lookout for something weird, you know, as coral junkies are want to do. We came across a “normal looking” booth offering frags for sale and it was there among some colored-polyp montiporas that we spotted the best rough diamond ever.
The small $20-ish frags of a dark coral with slightly colored polyps were misidentified as a Montipora but we knew better, and knowing that Victor is a big fan of this genus, we casually suggested that this company give a piece of this overlooked Stylocoeniella to him as a random act of kindness. In the back of our minds we’re thinking that this coral had only the slightest shot of not getting lost in the MACNA shuffle but that it had a lot of potential should it actually make its way back to WWC HQ.
Wouldn’t you know it, during our visit last weekend Victor showed us the very same coral frag that we directed his way over a year ago which had now turned into the most amazing colored Stylocoeniella any of us have ever seen. This rainbow colored Stylocoeniella is now permanently in the coral farm where it is being cultured to eventually produce little bugger frags of this fast-encrusting coral and at which point it will be christened with the collector name of Looney Tunes Stylocoeniella.
Stylocoeniella can have incredibly colored polyps and tissue, but the vast majority of them are dark grey, off-green and most will never amount to a coral worth talking about. But if you’re looking for the next great frontier in uncovering a new colorful coral strain, we suggest you keep an eye out for the Styloceoniella and see if you can unlock its potential under ideal aquarium care.