Leptoseris is a genus of coral that has absolutely blown up in the marine aquarium hobby in the last few years. Notable efforts to collect rare and unusual strains of Leptos, especially by Fox and Worldwide, have led to more varieties of this group of corals in the aquarium hobby than ever before.
However, there are still a few notable absentees in our aquarium representation of Leptoseris. We’ve seen the branching Leptoseris gardineri arrive in pale brown and pale green, but we’ve still yet to witness another branching species of Lepto grace our captive home aquarium environments.
Leptoseris papyracea is one of the most delicate-looking species of stony coral that we’ve ever seen. This coral is not particularly rare, per se; you can often find small pieces and mini colonies tucked into various parts of the reef, or sometimes growing loosely on large coral rubble.
However, due to its delicate nature extreme care needs to be taken in the collection and handling of this species if it is to arrive somewhat intact in a home aquarium. In images you might believe that L. papyracea and L. gardineri are somewhat similar, but they are both very different in appearance, and in the ‘scale’ of their branching pattern.
Leptoseris gardineri forms very even, flat bladed branches that all emanate from a central point, making for a very attractive coral colony overall. Meanwhile, most pieces of L. papyracea look like tangles of branches, which contort and twist upon themselves with no central point of origin to give the colony a well put together look.
It’s one thing to study corals in pictures, and it’s another experience altogether to be able to study corals in person, especially in-situ in their native environment. We’ve seen the paper-like L. papyracea many times in the wild, but earlier this year we saw some of the best representative colonies of this coral species, the likes of which we’ve never even seen in photographs.
Most colonies of ‘Paper Lepto’ are small, fist sized pieces which are generally unattached from the reef. However while in the Solomon Islands this summer we spotted a “huge” colony of Paper Lepto which was bordering on two feet long.
This particularly grandiose colony of Paper Lepto was able to grow to this unusually large size because it happened to have partnered up with a massive colony of Pavona cactus which was dang near 30 feet across, and nearly just as tall!!!
In the shelter of the superficially similar Pavona cactus, this Paper Lepto colony showed a rare mature growth form with branches which sometimes formed neat rows, and larger yet similar branches of the P. cactus periodically erupting from the mass of thin stony coral branches. Paper Lepto has not been found in any colorful strains that we know of, but nevertheless is still is an interesting and little known species of coral which would do great in some of the lower light reef aquarium set ups.