of the Month
Bob Goemans photograph by the author
Common Name(s): Brain coral,
butterprint brain coral, maze coral
Range: Tropical West Atlantic, Gulf of
Mexico, and the Caribbean
Natural Environment: This
photosynthetic stony coral is usually
found in reef-like environments where
its colonies take on massive, columnar,
or free-living forms with meandroid
corallites. It is usually seen in light
brown or gray colors.
Captive Care: The specimen in the
photograph came into a local shop in
the western United States from a dealer
in the southern Florida area who ships
only Caribbean species. It was simply
labeled as “brain coral.” This rare species in the trade—which also has a somewhat rare column projection—is an
extremely hardy and disease-free stony coral. It would do best where it could receive good lighting, preferably from
metal halide lamps in the range of 4 to 6 watts per gallon, and moderate water movement.
There is not a lot of captive care advice about this photosynthetic stony coral species available yet. In the wild
it forms colonies with wavy corallites, often seen as thick plates covering rocky areas, which occur in clear waters
where currents keep the areas free from accumulating debris and/or sand particles. Based on this information, along
with the fact that it inhabits fairly shallow reef environments, it should be obvious that quality water, good lighting,
and fairly good water movement would enhance its survival rate in captivity. I would also think that it does not
require any special hand-feeding, and it would benefit from having sufficient space between it and other corals in
the aquarium, since its aggressiveness is not a widely determined factor.
As with many stony corals, water quality is an important issue; I highly recommend alkalinity and calcium levels
be carefully monitored and maintained near natural seawater levels, and that phosphate levels be kept near or below
the recommended levels.
Water Quality Requirements: Calcium 380 to 430 ppm, alkalinity 3. 5 meq/l, pH 8. 1 to 8. 2, specific gravity 1.024
to 1.026, NO3 < 15 ppm, Mg approx. 1272 ppm, phosphate < .015 ppm, and a temperature range of 75° to 83°F ( 24°