In the recents months we’ve been seeing an increase in the availability of insane Australophyllia wilsoni coming from Western Australia. This species is an Indian Ocean endemic, and the only coral that can regularly be found growing among kelp forest.
This coral has been reclassified from Symphyllia (Which is now Lobophyllia) into its own genus, as it really is like nothing else on so many levels. Superficially, Asutralophyllia appears as some kind of lovechild between a Micromussa and a former Symphyllia, but not quite close either. We always loved this amazing coral, and that got us curious to try to find out more about them, as they are such a beautiful animals, and some colonies tend to struggle a bit in aquarium environments.
Our friend Keith Plant from Western Aquarium Fish, explained us that there are basically 2 different types of Wilsoni: The cold water one, and the warm water ones. Here you can see some pictures taken by Steven Marns and Derek Dufall in situ, of attached Australophyllia wilsoni in their natural environment.
The Wilsoni coralis found on the Western Australia coast from south of Perth, all the way north to around Port Hedland; from cold temperate water in the Southern end, to warm tropical water in the Northern end and there appears to be some significant differences between both, that’s why many peoples struggle with this particular species.
The wilsoni colonies from cold water are also the most colorful, so understandably they are also the most sought after. This is where the bright red, bright orange, and all the multicolor insane rainbow Australophyllia originate. The only catch is that they come from almost temperate waters, with temperature normally in the 21C (70F) but could go as low as 18C (64F) or even 15 C (59F) in winter. This is Northern hemisphere summer where the water is about its coldest right now so it’s to no surprise that many people experience difficulty with these ‘temperate’ Wilsoni colonies when they add them to their 25-27 C (77-81F) tropical reef tank.
But the tropical one, are far less colorful, but they do color up nicely in aquarium.
Here is a set of pictures 3 months apart of one in Keith tanks, nicely coloring up Australophyllia wilsoni.
So the point is, you can purchase a challenging colorful wilsoni, but knowing you will need to treat it differently to any other coral and put the extra work. You will especially need to slowly adapt it to warmer temperature, which can be very tricky and complicated. You should expect a high probablity of bleaching but there seems to be some aquarist that have held onto them for months and had them regain their color.
Otherwise you can buy a less colorful wilsoni, and color it up, which in my sense is so much easier to do. Except you can’t know exactly what to expect, your other and probably best option is to buy a frag of an already adapted one, which are yet difficult to find and it won’t be obvious if the frag is of a fresh cut colony or a well-healed strain so best to ask the history of the coral whoever you’re buying from.