Please visit our Sponsors

Related FAQs : The Fishes of the Red Sea

Related Articles: Reef Slope, Sandy Slope, Biotopes, Fishwatcher's Guide to the Red Sea, Triggerfishes of the Red Sea, Butterflyfishes of the Red Sea, Angelfishes of the Red Sea,  

Marine Aquarium Biotopes: Pt.1

 Red Sea Reef Flats/Plateaus 2 of 2

Bob Fenner

Typical Red Sea Reef Flat Scene

Back to: Part 1 Red Sea Reef Flat Biotopes

Genus Montipora: Again fifteen nominal species are described for the Red Sea. Of these only a couple are commonly found on the reef flats.

Montipora meandrina (Ehrenberg 1834). Colonies made up of irregular surface verrucae that aren't fused into a pattern. Shallow reef edge. Red Sea images.

Montipora monasteriata (Forsskal 1775). Colonies as massive encrusting forms or uni- or bifacial plates. Most corallites immersed; coenosteum covered with tuberculae or papillae. Light brown or blue in color with white margins. Common on upper reef slopes in its range. Red Sea images. 

Family Pocilloporidae:

Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus 1758), Cauliflower Coral. The most common member of the family offered to the aquarium trade. Compact clumps of up to a few meters height. Verrucae and branches blend together. Of varying branch thickness (thinner in greater depths, less water motion areas). Several colors: overall brown, pink cream, greenish. Red Sea colony.

Pocillopora verrucosa (Ellis & Solander 1796), Cauliflower Coral.  More blunt, bump-like branches and much more common than P. damicornis here. Red Sea images. 

Genus Stylophora of the four genera of pocilloporids found in the Red Sea is the most common on the reef flat; particularly S. pistillata (shown in higher water circulation and deeper water morph) which occurs down the slope to about 25m in depth. S. wellsi is common on the flats but not very beautiful; being more encrusting in appearance. S. subseriata is also found here,  is similar in appearance.

Family Poritidae: Porites, is especially important at the reef crest of the slope as a principal reef  builder. The genus is typified by having small (1-2 mm.) honeycomb-like corallites that assemble as fine to the point of smooth boulders of tan, brown to pink color. Ten plus species here.

Porites solida (Forsskal 1775). Massive, generally hemispherical boulders of up to meters across. Smooth to undulating surface appearance. Large polyps for the genus. Very common in the Red Sea, so much so that in calmer waters the reef crest is often termed the "Porites Zone" of this species. One inch macro framer and small colony in the Red Sea.

Porites rus Forsskal 1775, Plate and Pillar Coral. Variable in shape as its common name points to. Upright columns more shallow to gorgeous plates deeper, more calm waters. Gray to brown in color, often with yellow polyps that have wider spaced calyces, raised areas between polyps. Red Sea images. 

Other Stony Coral Families: Less common but periodically dominant are other scleractinian families members.

Goniastrea retiformis (Lamarck 1816), family Faviidae. Common species in its wide range. Colonies encrusting to hilly to columnar to boulder-like. To over a meter in diameter. Corallites four to six sided, with alternating series of septa that are thin-walled and straight. Fiji images.

Spiny-Skinned Animals, phylum Echinodermata. About the only echinoderm species that regularly brave the vicissitudes of the Red Sea Reef Flat are Pencil Urchins, that hunker down in rocky crags during the day and emerge to scrape algae by night. 

Heterocentrotus mammillatus (Linnaeus 1758), the (Red) Pencil Urchin. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Hawai'i. Nocturnal, hiding in crevices by day in depths to thirty feet, emerging at night to rasp rocks. To one foot overall diameter. Hawai'i picture. 

Principal Fishes of the Red Sea Sandy Reef Slopes:  (Species commonly available, and useful for aquariums.)

Surgeonfishes, family Acanthuridae: There are 15 species in the Red Sea. The Sohal is the undisputed "King" of fishes of the reef flat, occasionally found with the most common Naso and Purple Tangs in "supporting" (but subdominant) temporary roles. See the Reef Slope section for more.

Acanthurus sohal (Forsskal 1775), the Red Sea Clown or Sohal Tang. One of the best Surgeonfish of the genus Acanthurus for very large systems, though some individuals get quite aggressive with age and size. As long as they're "Kingfish", problems are few. Red Sea image.

Naso lituratus, the Naso Tang to most aquarists; it is also known as the tricolor or lipstick tang. There are some who claim that "blonde" and "streamer" versions are different species; they're all Naso lituratus. To eighteen inches in the wild. Below, a Naso in the Red Sea.

Zebrasoma xanthurum (Blyth 1852), the Yellowtail or Purple (though more blue than violet) Sailfin Tang. Collected from the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, this is a supreme aquarium fish. Hardy and gorgeously bluish purple with yellow pectoral and caudal fin highlights. A 2 inch juvenile and adult couple in the Red Sea and an exemplary aquarium specimen  shown.

Damselfishes, family Pomacentridae: Of the forty species of pomacentrid species found in the Red Sea, a couple spend almost all their time between the reef side edge of the Flat/Plateau and just "over the edge" of the reef slope.

Abudefduf vaigiensis (Quoy & Gaimard 1825), the Indo-Pacific Sergeant Major. Eastern coast of Africa and Red Sea out to the Line and Tuamotu Islands. To six inches long. Fourth black body bar originates after hard dorsal fin. Individuals and their group pictured on the reef flat/slope border. 

Pomacentrus sufureus Klunzinger 1871, the Sulphur Damsel. Western Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea. To three inches overall length. This fish has become a steady offering in the pet trade. It's a gorgeous golden yellow overall as an adult and only slightly less so as juveniles. Red Sea image.

Wrasses, family Labridae: Of the sixty nine species of Red Sea wrasses, only a few are "resident" on the reef flat, though a dozen or more do visit here.

Gomphosus caeruleus Lacepede 1801, the Blue, or Red Sea Bird Wrasse (1) is found in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. Males are dark azure blue, and females white to yellow below and dark greenish blue above. To one foot in length. Below: two inch juvenile, four inch female, seven inch male. Images made in the Red Sea.

Thalassoma rueppellii (Klunzinger 1871), Klunzinger's Wrasse. To eight inches maximum length. Formerly and often still misidentified as T. klunzingeri.

Back to: Part 1 Red Sea Reef Flat Biotopes

Or on to/down to the next level: The Red Sea Reef Slope

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: