Introduction to the Bubble Coral

The Bubble Coral, Plerogyra sinuosa, is a coral easily found and regularly seen in the aquarium trade. The Plerogyra spp. or “Grape Corals” will inflate and deflate their bubbles (vesicles) depending on how much lighting is available to them.

The Plerogyra genus is also found with some branching varieties. There can be little tips found on the ends of these bubbles, where one of its close relatives the Pearl Coral/Octobubble, Coral Plerogyra gets its name from.

Plate Coral in the wild

Plate Coral Quick Facts

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Hardiness: Moderate
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (190 L)
  • Lighting Needs: Mid – Strong
  • Temperature: 74° – 81° F (23° – 27° C)
  • Gravity: 1.023 – 1.026

These Plate Corals are very impressive animals that look amazing and hold characteristics of the Fungiidae family. They will be found in an array of colors that will catch the eye in your home aquarium. They are mostly seen in a purple or green color with the Fungia genus being seen in almost every color.

These Plate Corals have tentacles that are short and tapering which will retract in the day and only coming out at night. In an aquarium, they will generally stay slightly extended during the day but readily retracting fully if threatened. These small tentacles will be found nestled between the teeth that radiate out from the center, that are “blade like” in shape. Young Fungia spp. will be connected to the rockwork with a stalk, which gradually weakens over time and breaks leaving just a central scar as the coral develops. With time, this scar is eventually overgrown.

Fungia species all have wide mouths that are slit-like in appearance, often housing different types of parasites. One Gastropod, Faungiacava eilatensis, is actually a parasite that will live exclusively in the mouths of Fungia. Research is still to explain why the mouths of Fungia spp. are so large, but it could be due to the fact that some Plate Corals have been seen eating jellyfish- a possible main source of food for them.

The Plate Coral is known for being easy to look after in an aquarium, as long as it has the right conditions. It requires good lighting, proper water movement, substrate and the right placement. It also requires feeding daily. Water movement that is low-moderate is needed with some bright lights. The Plate Coral will send out feeder tentacles in the night. It will also go through a process of excreting a heavy mucus coat when it is being handled or in contact with other corals. This mucus excretion contains strong toxins that will seriously harm other corals that do not belong to the same family. Ensure handling and placement of this coral is done very carefully in order to prevent harm or fatal injury to other corals.

Description

This Place Coral is a free-living specimen with plenty of mobility as they travel using tissue that will inflate and allow them to move with the current. They will vary in shape from saucer-like structures to some being more dome shaped and dented. Fungia species all have wide mouths that are slit-like in appearance, often housing different types of parasites. They can be found with having a single mouth or multiple with long septa radiating from the center and down to the end.

These Plate Corals have tentacles that are short and tapering which will retract in the day and only coming out at night. In an aquarium, they will generally stay slightly extended during the day but readily retracting fully if threatened. These small tentacles will be found nestled between the teeth that radiate out from the center, that are “blade like” in shape. Young Fungia spp. will be connected to the rockwork with a stalk, which gradually weakens over time and breaks leaving just a central scar as the coral develops. With time, this scar is eventually overgrown.

Plate Coral in the wild

Aquarium

An established, well feed live rock or reef setup is needed to house these Plate Corals. The presence of fish will also be beneficial for them with the creation of some organic waste. You will need an open area of substrate that is soft or some rubble on the bottom for this coral. Do not place them on the rock work.

Plate Coral Aquarium & Parameter Checklist

  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (190 L)
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – Strong
  • Temperature: 74° – 81° F (23° – 27° C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023 – 1.026
  • Alkalinity Levels: 3.5 – 4.8 MEQ/L (8 – 11 dKh)
  • Calcium: 400 – 430 ppm
  • Phosphates: 0 (Avoid Phosphates)
  • Magnesium Levels: 1200 – 1350
  • Strontium Levels: 8 – 10
  • Water Movement: Low – Medium
  • Tank Region: Bottom

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Plate Coral with Clownfish

Difficulty

The Plate Coral is known for being easy to look after in an aquarium, as long as it has the right conditions. It requires good lighting, proper water movement, substrate and the right placement. It also requires feeding daily. Water movement that is low-moderate is needed with some bright lights. The Plate Coral will send out feeder tentacles in the night. It will also go through a process of excreting a heavy mucus coat when it is being handled or in contact with other corals.

This mucus excretion contains strong toxins that will seriously harm other corals that do not belong to the same family. Ensure handling and placement of this coral is done very carefully in order to prevent harm or fatal injury to other corals.

Foods and Feeding

The Plate Coral as seen in some LPS corals, have developed various feeding methods. Planktonic organisms and microscopic food particles will be captured from within the water column. Dissolved organic matter will be absorbed as well. They have a symbiotic relationship with marine algae, also called zooxanthellae from where they can source some of their nutrients as well.
In a home aquarium, they will need to be fed daily. This is especially important if they are being kept under low lighting conditions.

Their feeder tentacles will generally be seen at night. Fungiids will also form mucous nets, if this is seen, you can place small amounts of shredded meat onto this net for them to take directly.

Social

This is a peaceful coral with most of the other genus and species found in the Faviidae family. It can however be aggressive to other corals when their mucous net for feeding becomes a weapon and causes necrosis. Ensure to place your Plate Coral in an area that it cannot “walk” up to other substrate dwelling corals that are not found within the Fungiidae family.

Breeding – Reproduction

LPS corals are male and females and will reproduce both sexually and asexually. In the wild they will reproduce sexually by releasing sperm and eggs into the water, resulting in the eggs being fertilized which turn into free-swimming planula larva. These will eventually settle in a new area on some substrate, becoming plankters. These will then form tiny polyps that will excrete calcium carbonate as it develops into a coral. Unfortunately, Planula larvae are very vulnerable to predation and only a few of these end up surviving.

The Fungia genus also have the ability to reproduce asexually. Daughter colonies/polyps can often be formed from species that have broken off. These have then been seen to regenerate on skeletons that are presumably dead in the aquarium, producing daughter polyps. They can also bud new polyps called daughter polyps from their edge or even decalcify themselves in order to regenerate new offspring.

Propagation of Fungia spp. can be done in quite an interesting way. The creation of daughter colonies can be encouraged by scoring the tissue found between the corals “teeth” Ensure it has been well fed and is in very healthy condition before attempting this process. A more brute and harsh way is to cut the coral in half using a wedge and hammer (while wearing gloves). To ensure you get a more precise frag and cleaner frag, a dremel or another motorized saw will work well. Cutting a coral into pie segments can work well as long as they are placed into clean water to recover and fed well.

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