Coral of the Week ~ Cespitularia ~

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Anthony Calfo

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Joined
Feb 19, 2004
Messages
1,183
Location
Pennsylvania
RFCOW3
genus Cespitularia
…a magnificent non-pulsatile Xeniid!

Cheers, my friends. It has been several weeks since the last installment of COW ("Coral of the week"… rather ironic title at present :p). I promise you though that I have been keeping busy with our beloved hobby and not merely relaxing! I've been through five cities, two countries, given club lectures and made some big steps forward getting the next book to press.  The next few months may be a bit hectic for me and time shared, but I hope you will find it is worth it. I'm very excited to see how the next volume of the NMA series is turning out. It’s truly a pleasure to work with my friend/co-author Bob (Fenner), and his photography skills/archives are just a marvel! Anyways… onward to RFCOW3:

In this piece, we take a look at a Xeniid that has been known in the hobby for many years, yet is not often seen – Cespitularia. I recall first hearing of this coral about 15 years ago and it was even more of an elusive gem then! With the few scant specimens surviving import having magnificent colors in green, teal and blue hues, it quickly became dubbed the "Blue Xenia." In time however, with a better understanding that this Xeniid was, in fact, Cespitularia, and non-pulsatile at that, it was simply referred to by its genus name and a color-descriptive prefix (brown-, green-, or blue usually). Collections were said to occur in East Africa and sometimes from Indonesia. It made little difference, true or not. They almost never survived collection and still have a staggeringly dismal record of survival on import. It is so extreme that I rarely recommend anyone in the States import them as transshipped. It's just not a conscientious use of living resources.

No worries though! We can still be assured of enjoying this beauty in time. Each year, some aquarists traveling abroad manage to carry home (on their person) fragments of this coral, which is becoming increasingly better established in America. With recent and evolving endeavors in domestic coral farming, I have no doubt that this will be a staple offering by at least some growers in less than five year's time. Interestingly, European aquarists that do get at least somewhat faster and healthier imports from Africa, where many Cespitularia can be collected, have had little or no better luck finding this uncommon species in their markets. They only make sporadic appearances for sale (the coral… not the European aquarists ;))

In my opinion, this is largely due to the fact that Cespitularia is not only a very poor shipper, but is also more sensitive than most coral in captivity as well – it's truly not a beginner-suitable genus. Yet with very consistent handling and husbandry, it is actually a fast growing soft coral… doubling every 3-4 weeks in farming attempts like most other Xeniids. I kept this coral in my greenhouse about ten years ago and still enjoy the creature in my reef tanks and fishroom.

I can only offer advice based on my personal experiences, though, and a limited amount of anecdotal information from the few fellow aquarists. With more aquarists culturing this genus in time, however, we will develop a better idea overall for husbandry with Cespitularia.

Like many other Xeniids, I think you will find Cespitularia to be rather sensitive to flat or low pH (under 8.3). Be sure to monitor this parameter very carefully (noting day and night-time readings when pH is lowest) and support it with a very solid alkalinity. Frankly, I favor a nearly unwavering and stable pH of 8.4-8.6 for the focused culture of most Xeniiids and especially those in this genus. For farming attempts with Cespitularia, this is very important for success in my opinion! I have largely kept Cespitularia in systems through the years with little or no supplements or "magic potions" (snake oil products claiming to be coral stimulants and/or reduce the need for water changes). Those of you that know me well as friends or from my writings are not surprised to hear instead that I recommend large, regular water changes (weekly) for most mineral and trace element replacement. I firmly believe that "dilution is the solution to pollution", in our aquaria at least 

And so, with stable, reef quality water (350+ppm Calcium, 8-12 dKH Alkalinity, 78-80F water temperature) an no temptation to push such parameters to the extreme, high end that some aquarists errantly try to do (spiking water quality and stressing corals in the process), I have enjoyed consistent growth in Cespitularia and feel assured of its longevity in the aquarium. They also seem to be highly adaptable to a very wide range of light intensities, like most Xeniids, presuming extreme ends of the range are imposed gradually. Light spectrums favoring blue color seem to enhance the colors of some Cespitularia on display, although they are inherently a handsome color and possess the most amazing and reflective spicules naturally! [note: see the unaltered and magnificent blue-green, night-time picture of this coral with this passage]. Some have described the iridescent spicules of Cespitularia as reflective silver! It's really quite a sight to see by day and especially at night when a camera flash or flashlight hits it.

In general, as an aquarist and as a coral farmer, I strongly prefer to use heavy daylight colored lamps around 6,000 - 7,000 Kelvin for many of my photosynthetic reef creatures, with only occasional use of lamps near or exceeding 10,000 Kelvin [note: FWIW, 6500K Iwasaki lamps are one of my all-time favorites]. I do this because I feel I get better growth in most cases, and at least here with Cespitularia, the coral colors do not suffer at all for lack of excessive blue light. Still, for having made light and lamp color/brand recommendations, I must remind you, my friends, to only select your lamps after (!) you have selected your cnidarian species to be kept. There is no other way to do it. Hopefully, your choices will be of a natural and compatible mix, and you may indeed require a spectrum of light different for your species (selection) than the heavy daylight-weighted illumination that I describe and "recommend" above. [note an example: an aquarist that wishes to feature Euphyllids, Fungiids and perhaps some Blastomussa or Acanthastrea may very well want to employ a light spectrum that is "blue-weighted" at 10,000 – 20,000 Kelvin for aesthetics, if not display animal health].

For feeding Cespitularia, this is difficult for me to say as I have never made an effort to record or define my observations on its behavior. It seems to me that Cespitularia does not feed organismally to any appreciable extent, if at all, on prepared foods offered. I have always kept specimens from this genus, however, in systems with deep sand beds and mature, fishless refugiums. I firmly believe that these aspects provide various sources of nutrition (bacteria, dissolved organics, limited (nano)plankton, etc.). Indeed, many Xeniids do not have digestive structures evolved to be able to handle feedings on larger particulate or prey items. And since "form follows function", we can make some fair and reasonable assumptions at least about what such Xeniids do not eat.

In the wild, Cespitularia tend to occur in shallow, protected zones with variously turbid or clear waters. If you find yourself lucky enough to be keeping one of these corals, provide moderate to bright light, and moderate to strong water flow (never laminar). And above all, please protect this coral from even remotely aggressive neighbors or systems that are densely crowded with noxious tankmates (corals or excessive macroalgae). Cespitularia is only weakly aggressive and very poorly suited to defend itself. It will usually be one of the very first corals in your system to show signs of stress from allelopathy or declining water quality.

with kind regards, Anthony Calfo

* photos by Anthony Calfo… day-time image under compact fluorescent lights and night-time image with flash.
 

jks1

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Joined
Nov 29, 2003
Messages
179
Thanks for taking the time to post these Anthony, I will have to look for one of these. Any idea on a time frame for the book? Hurry up will ya!
 

Anthony Calfo

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Feb 19, 2004
Messages
1,183
Location
Pennsylvania
will do my friend :) I am trying to hunker down for most of the next month or two to finish the final edits on the main body of content for NMA vol 2 part 1 (the reef fishes volume needed to be split into two books... I was having trouble writing it in less than 1000 pages :D). The first part will hopefully be out before summer... perhaps earlier:p

thanks kindly,

Anthony
 

mojoreef

Reef Keeper
Joined
Jul 5, 2003
Messages
7,530
Location
Sumner
I was having trouble writing it in less than 1000 pages


now that is hard to believe, lol


Mike
 

Mauisreef

Rigameyer
Joined
Sep 29, 2004
Messages
460
Location
Sandpoint Idaho
Yes I think I'll need to set up a tank just for xeniid.
And one for those kine........And one for dat kine...........LOL!
Time and money. Sigh........
Come on Powerball!

Maui
 

algaeguy

Member
Joined
Nov 30, 2004
Messages
18
Location
Los Angeles
Antoine:

Wanna laugh?

A mutual friend (Lynne) had me "babysit" this "dying rock of some kind of Xenia" (and trust me- it looked pretty much like that- a dying rock rock), and, it turns out, I'm pretty sure it's a Cespitularia- a darn big colony, too. It's really starting to "bloom"...I'll try to get you a pic for positive ID at some point...

See ya!

Scott
 

thetedinator

Apolemichthys xanthopunct
Joined
Nov 30, 2004
Messages
162
Location
California
algaeguy said:
Antoine:

Wanna laugh?

A mutual friend (Lynne) had me "babysit" this "dying rock of some kind of Xenia" (and trust me- it looked pretty much like that- a dying rock rock), and, it turns out, I'm pretty sure it's a Cespitularia- a darn big colony, too. It's really starting to "bloom"...I'll try to get you a pic for positive ID at some point...

See ya!

Scott
Scott,

If babysitting means you have to return it, keep me in mind if a piece should "accidentally" frag off. I'm sure Lynne would understand.....

BTW, I was wrong. I'll see you in December at the next board meeting, I just won't be at Xmas get together.



Ted
 

algaeguy

Member
Joined
Nov 30, 2004
Messages
18
Location
Los Angeles
Yep- accidents happen!

I'm sure that you'll struggle diving in Sunny Tropical Mexico!

Have a great trip; stay under the water- but don't drink it!

Scott
 

WAVESHAUN

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2004
Messages
10
Location
Lake Oswego, OR (Portland Burb)
Anthony-

I have imported this softie a few times from africa. I can keep it(blue morph) for 3 maybe 4 weeks before it goes south. My guess is I am lacking some trace in the water, as all other parameters are correct. One thing I have always overlooked is Fe - until now. What does your cesptularia water test for iron? What lighting is this cespit being kept under.

TIA,
 

Anthony Calfo

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Feb 19, 2004
Messages
1,183
Location
Pennsylvania
no way Shaun... 3-4 weeks is hardly a test of time or even fair "establishment" of these colonies (particularly with Xeniids at large).

Yours are simply suffering as most do... shipping duress. They struggle for days/weeks and then dwindle.

I highly doubt your water is deficient. Likely quite fine.

For perspective... I have colonies under 10k K MH from 4" below the surface to 16" below the surface... and I have them lit as dim as 6" below 36 watts of daylight pc! Ironically... they are growing the fastest in the dim mini-reef (the specimens in the picture BTW).

I dont attribute that to a lighting issue... Cespitularia like so many Xeniidae are very adaptable over a wide range of light.

What I do attribute to the fast growth I get is weekly water changes (75-100%). Superb water quality, no need for excessive supplements, dilution of intangibles (allelopathic inhibitors), etc... and all much cheaper (the sea salt in one year) than top-shelf hardware and operational costs to do so (reactors, metering pumps, overengineered $600+ skimmers, etc).

FWIW :)

Anthony
 

WAVESHAUN

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2004
Messages
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Location
Lake Oswego, OR (Portland Burb)
Anthony Calfo said:
no way Shaun... 3-4 weeks is hardly a test of time or even fair "establishment" of these colonies (particularly with Xeniids at large).
Whoa.... my post was in no way to suggest that I am having success with these corals. Hence my questions.

I am however looking for a parameter that I my be missing, like iron. I wonder what your system tests for iron. Or if you even bother since you are constantly flushing your water via water changes.

I have spent a great deal of time and $$ on these corals trying to get one to make the transition. Any suggestions you can offer would be of great help.

I will try your flushing method.

Again, thank you-
 

Anthony Calfo

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Joined
Feb 19, 2004
Messages
1,183
Location
Pennsylvania
understood... the word choice tripped me: "can keep for 3-4 weeks"

I read to much into it. I'm thinking that the matter is out of your hands from your suppliers to date - the animals just did not come in healthy enough for you to have a good chance from the start. I fear if/when folks are transhipping... if so, this is a horrible choice IMO for WA state... as in, not a responsible use/purchase of living resources. Its unrealistic for this sensitive species to make it that distance.

Your best bet is to pay a premium IMo from a private aquarist with the species established when/if you find them... or, pay a cherry picker/jobber to look out for you in LA for a more stable specimen (my apologies if you are already doing this... have to guess for lack of info in text messages).

As for iron, I do not test for it weekly in my tanks under 50 galls with large (weekly) water changes. And I can assure you that there is not magic bullet like "iron deficiency" that is holding us back from importing these Xeniids healthier. Wild Cespitularia simply ships dismally :p

once enough aquarists get it established domestically, though, it grows like a weed and will be moved about commonly like Xenia.
 
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