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Related FAQs: The Fishes of the Red Sea

Related Articles: Reef Flats, Sandy Reef SlopeBiotopes, 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.2

 Red Sea Reef Slope  3 of 5


Bob Fenner


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Families Faviidae and Mussidae, the Honeycomb, Brain Corals. Generally can be found in most Red Sea reef environments and at times may dominate a given area. Faviids are represented here by the genera Caulastrea, Erythastrea, Favia, Favites, Goniastrea, Platygyra, Leptoria, Oulophyllia, Hydnophora, Diploastrea, Leptastrea, Cyphastrea, Echinopora, Plesiastrea. Mussids have four genera present in the Red Sea: Acanthastrea, Blastomussa, Cynarina and Lobophyllia. Some more prevalent species:

Favites abdita (Ellis and Solander 1876). Colonies massive, rounded or hillocky. Corallites likewise rounded, with thick walls. Septa straight, with exsert teeth. Bunaken, Sulawesi, Indonesia and Red Sea images where it is common. 

Favites halicora (Ehrenberg, 1834). Typically made up of irregular massive shapes. Corallites 11-13 mm in diameter. Yellow-tan to greenish color. Here in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea and Fiji.  

Goniastrea edwardsi Chevalier 1971. Corallites slightly angular, with thick, rounded walls. Irregular septa that taper toward the columella.  Thick paliform lobes. Tan to brown in color, possibly with orange centers. Red Sea image. Common, up to or more than a meter across.

Platygyra daedalea (Ellis & Solander 1786). Massive, encrusting to hemispherical colonies that are meandroid, with corallites that are thick-walled. Exsert septa that appear ragged. Color: Generally brown with green valleys. Common. Red Sea images. 
Echinopora lamellosa (Esper 1795). Thin, wavy laminar sheets. Small corallites (3-4mm.). Indo-Central Pacific including the Red Sea. Bunaken, Sulawesi, Indonesia image. 

Lobophyllia corymbosa (Forsskal 1775). Colonies flat to hemispherical, large in the Red Sea (up to six feet  in diameter). Well separated calices. High, blunt septal teeth. Colors are generally greenish brown with lighter oral discs. Red Sea broken colony and close-up in Fiji.

Lobophyllia hemprichii (Ehrenberg 1834). Flat to huge dome-shaped colonies of more than fifteen feet diameter. Elongate to irregular corallites, often with contrasting oral disc color. A common species where found. Easily kept in captivity and fragged. Aquarium colony and one in Pulau Redang, Malaysia.

Acanthastrea echinata (Dana 1846) Pineapple Coral. Circular colonies tat are typically boulder-like. Septa with long, pointed teeth (most easily seen in live specimens). Brown, green to brightly colored. The most common member of the genus, though this one not all that often seen. Maldives photo and close-up.

Symphyllia (Acanthastrea in older literature) erythraea (Klunzinger 1879). Massive hemispherical colonies. Septa in two orders. Well formed columellae. Waikiki Aquarium photo. 

Blastomussa merleti Wells 1961. Small corallites Under 7mm. in diameter). Septa in two cycles, the larger looking like white teeth. Mantles generally greatly expanded by day (tentacles out only at night). Aquarium images. Easily fragmented. A synonym of B. loyae according to Veron, 2000. 

Family Pectiniidae: Three genera in the Red Sea; Mycedium (one species), Echinophyllia (three spp.), Oxypora (four spp.). Again, conspicuous when present, but not often common species. 

Echinophyllia aspera (Ellis and Solander 1788). Common in all of its found regions, Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, east Africa to Tahiti. Below: Close up of  a day time retracted/skeleton image in the Red Sea. 

Mycedium elephantosus (Pallas 1776) Elephant Nose or Peacock Coral. Not commonly offered, though a hardy, interesting coral, sometimes of great colors. Appreciate bright lighting, mounting vertically or otherwise placed in areas of low siltation. Red Sea and Fiji images.

Oxypora lacera (Verrill 1864) Scroll or Chalice Coral. Composed of thin lamina that may be greatly thickened in areas of substantial water movement. Costae toothed (differentiating characteristic). Red Sea image.

Family Dendrophylliidae: Pagoda, Sun, Cup Corals; represented in the Red Sea by the distinctive species of the genera Tubastrea and Turbinaria in shallow waters, and three deeper water genera.

Tubastrea  faulkneri Variously sold as Sun, Orange Cup/Turret, Sunflower, Sun Polyps... Circumtropical distribution. A can-be kept species if you constantly feed its individual corallites, and can keep up with concurrent water quality maintenance from the feeding. A group in a typical reef lip setting in the Red Sea and in Australia's Great Barrier Reef during the night.

Tubastrea micracantha (Dana 1849), Black Sun Coral. External flesh (coenesteum) green to brown to blackish in color. Colonies are often tree-like, up to a meter in height. Also exceptional for the genus, T. micrantha is a poor captive survivor. Consummate with its feeding habits are good current, filtration to remove foods, wastes.. Generally found in areas of good current. Red Sea in ten feet of water 

Turbinaria mesenterina (Lamarck 1816). Pagoda Coral to hobbyists, Bowl, Cup, Lettuce, Scroll Coral to the trade. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to Polynesia. Colonies laminar, more convoluted in shallow waters to upright in deeper water (see below). Corallites crowded, about 2.5 mm across, stick out further than similar T. reniformis. Fiji images.

Turbinaria reniformis Bernard 1896. Yellow Scroll to aquarists (aka Yellow Turbinaria, Yellow Lettuce to the trade). A hardy aquarium species. Typically yellow with distinct colored margins. 

Worms of Many Kinds, but particularly the Polychaete Annelids mainly knowns as "bristleworms" to aquarium hobbyists exist in good numbers of individuals and species in the Red Sea. Vine (1986) cites a study of a 4.7 kg lump of Pocillopora damicornis in which 1,441 polychaetes were extracted, belonging to 103 species. Most families of polychaetes have representatives here, but enthusiasts are generally only interested in ones that are ornamental; Featherduster/Fanworms of the families Sabellidae and Serpulidae. These can/do occur in both the rocky and sandy reef slope environments.

Sabellastarte indica (Savigny 1818), the Magnificent Banded Fanworm. Cosmopolitan; all tropical seas. To four inches in diameter (coronal head). The most common "Feather Duster Worm" sold in the pet trade. These two off of Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. 

Sabellastarte sanctijosephi (Gravier 1908). Indo-Pacific; Eastern Africa to the Cook Islands. Image shot off of Pulau Redang, Malaysia. Characterized by their two tentacular crown head. 

Spirobranchus giganteus Pallas 1766, Horned Christmas Tree, aka Bisma Rock Worms. Cosmopolitan; all tropical seas. Most often found in association (burrowed in) Porites and Millepora. To an inch in diameter. Hard to maintain in captivity over any period of time. Need frequent particulate feedings, low light. Pulau Redang, Malaysia photo.

Crustaceans: The Red Sea is host to all the world's tropical marine arthropod groups. Here we will (must) deal with those groups and individuals most likely to be encountered. Principally the Shrimps that are commensals with fishes and invertebrates that are sold as such in the interest.

Lysmata amboinensis (De Man 1888), the Indo-Pacific White-Striped Cleaner Shrimp or Ambon Shrimp. Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific and Red Sea. Can be kept singly or in groups. A hardy Cleaner. Need hiding places to avoid predators during molting periods. Conds: temp. 20-27 C.

Saron marmoratus (Olivier 1811), Marble or Saron Shrimp. Found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. Usually collected out of Hawai'i for the U.S., the Red Sea for European markets. Usually found in pairs in the wild. Will fight to the death if same sex individuals are placed together. Males with much longer first pair of walking/fighting legs.  Get along fine with fishes, other crustaceans. Female shown. Eat all types of food, reclusive, nocturnal. 

Rhynchocinetes durbanensis Gordon 1936, the Durban Dancing Shrimp. Indo-West Pacific; Red Sea to the Philippines. Need reef tank conditions, but not with much light, lots of hiding spaces.  In the wild live in large associations within rocky caves.

Stenopus hispidus Olivier 1811, the Coral Banded Boxing Shrimp. Worldwide tropical distribution. Males smaller, more slender than females. Keep in reef settings with a cave of their own. May consume small fishes, other crustaceans. Eat most all meaty foods.  

Panulirus penicillatus ( Olivier 1791), the "Hawaiian" Blue Lobster, typically collected out of Hawai'i for the trade, also found in the Eastern Pacific. Conspicuous yellow white lines on brown to green legs. No stripes on back. Dark green tail fan. To about sixteen inches in length. A notorious non-scavenger amongst aquarium lobsters. 

Sea Pens,  Order Pennatulacea, Sea Fans, Order Gorgonacea and Sea Mats, Order Zoanthidea, occur in the Red Sea, but not in large numbers of species of use, availability to aquarists.

Molluscs: Giant Clams, family Tridacnidae are also found on Red Sea Reef Slopes (mainly T. maxima). There are a few other  notable, common bivalves here as well:

Lopha cristagalli (Linnaeus 1758), the Cock's Comb Oyster. Indo-West Pacific; including the Red Sea. Characteristic "zig zag" shells. Can be kept in aquariums lacking predatory starfishes. Filter feeders that can be serviced by utilizing timers to shut off filter pumps temporarily. Attach to hard substrates. Red Sea image. 

Pedum spongyloideum (Gmelin 1791), the Iridescent Scallop. Red Sea, Indo-Pacific. Live embedded in various corals, usually Porites spp. Grow to a couple of inches across. Not boring organisms, but preclude growth where they attach. Red Sea image.

Pteria aegyptica (Chemnitz 1782), Egyptian Wing-Oyster. Indo-Pacific; including Red Sea. Found attached to gorgonians (as here), stony corals, soft corals, hydrozoans. Needs strong current, moderate light and very small (less than 15 millimicron diameter) for food. To 8 cm. in length.

Tridacna maxima (Roding 1798), the Large Giant Clam. Has well-developed concentric growth folds. South Africa to the Red Sea out to the Line Islands, but not in Hawai'i. Common in its range.  To about sixteen inches in diameter.  Characterized by elongate, triagonal shells, dense, narrow-spaced folds on the shells (wavy appearance). Red Sea and image.

Tridacna squamosa Lamarck 1819, the Fluted Giant Clam. Distinguished by the presence of large leaf-like fluted edges on its shell. South Africa to the Red Sea to the Marshall Islands. To sixteen inches across.  Relies on photosynthesis for a major part of its nutrition. Red Sea image.

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