Chalice corals hit the scene in a huge way and now have been popular for quite a while, but since the Indonesian Coral ban, some corals we took for granted have nearly disappeared. Australian Chalice corals are pretty nice, but much different than the colors we see from indonesia and the Solomon Islands.
Most Indonesian chalices are Echinophyllia aspera as most Australian one are E. orpheensis. The Australian species are usually much thicker, denser, and as we found out, grow in a different habitat of the Indonesian one we were used to. Also until recently, gold chalice corals were almost gone, and very rarely appeared on the reef scene anymore.
Why are Gold Chalices so rare?
It took Nic from Ultra Coral Australia, over 25 years of cruising the Great Barrier Reef to find the sweet spot for these 24 Karat chalices. The reason, as we found out, is that they are found in a very particular place. There are quite a few places were the cryptic Echinophyllia are found by the thousands but among these, only in very rare cases, in the right habitat, the perfect genetic pool mixing give way to the gold lineage.
And the remarkable thing is that when you find one gold Echinophyllia, you know that on the same ridge, you will probably find several more. Not many, there are probably one of a thousand Echinophyllia that is a gold one on these particular reef. This explains the rarity and the high price tag of this particular coral.
What is the Echinophyllia orpheensis Chalice coral habitat?
This species of chalice is basically a cryptic coral, filling up cavity on the reef, where food gets trapped. You really have to visually dig for them as they settle in a cavity and just grow in between the rocks and other coral. Actively participating into the hardening of the reef, cementing all the holes that make the reef, these oceanic chalice corals are often hidden under other corals.
We start to spot this species from around 10 m (30ft) and they become more abundant along ridges in at least 20 m (60 ft) of water. And you have to come from the right angle to just even see them. The gold color, if it’s not well lit with direct sunlight, looks pretty much brown in the shade so spotting them isn’t actually very easy. But as soon as you light them up, here comes the explosion of color. Most of them are deep orange/gold color, but then they often get some streak of blue, radiating from the center and if they have some additional green and red markings, then you have a master grade!
Chalices in Aquarium:
Echinophyllia Chalices are a cryptic coral which live deep; deep in the water but more importantly deep into the reef. They rely on scraps; scraps of light, scraps of flow, and scraps of food. So when they are given plenty of each of these, which is what we try to do in our aquariums, they tend to do pretty well. They grow faster, color up, with very low light, moderate flow, and regular feeding.
Because they are found in a very restricted area, and come in such a small number in order to spread the love to all corners, Ultra Coral Australia culture all their Gold Chalices. They are the ultimate perfect aquarium coral basically the opposite of our precious Acros, but they can still be very rewarding.