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My Experience with Madracis pharensis – a Rare Beauty

A couple years ago I came across the most beautiful coral I’ve ever seen – Madracis pharensis.  When I purchased the coral, I was under the assumption it was an encrusting Goniopora and would do just fine with some extra care.  It wasn’t until a couple years later until I found out I was completely wrong.

 Madracis pharensis
When I purchased the coral, I found quite a number of pests, including the horrid and massive Polyclad flatworms.  In order to remove all the pests, I had to chop it up quite a bit as shown in the below photo.

After I purchased the coral for its incredible *true* rainbow coloration, I began to treat it like just any other coral.  I dipped it, placed it in quarantine, and fed it.  Initially, it grew well, but as I assumed it was fine, I stopped feeding it.  Once I stopped feeding it, it never seemed to regain strength even when I tried to feed it again.  In fact, it stopped eating entirely once it started losing color.

According to Veron’s Corals of the World, Madracis pharensis is usually azooxanthallae (non-photosynthetic).  This coral is considered rare as it is usually found in caves and/or deep water.  Veron also points out that the coral species is usually zooxanthellate (photosynthetic) on the American coast.

Given that the coral quickly started declining when I stopped feeding, it’s a fair guess that this was a non-photosynthetic coral.  It also probably did not come from the American coast.  Within a few short months, the coral lost coloration and turned to a bright yellow (definitely wasn’t complaining about the yellow as it was quite gorgeous still.)

Within about six months, the coral polyps receeded and eventually died.  Although I was successful at keeping many different types of coral, the improper identification and assumptions cost me the life of the coral.

With my experience, I recommend this coral for specialty non-photosynthetic aquariums only or until more is known about it.  Although it is an amazing specimen, it is one that should be left to experts for now.

Veron, Jen, Corals of the World Volume 2, Australian Institute of Marine Science, 2000.

Update 15 June 2012:  Someone pointed out that it was very irresponsible of me to continue to keep the coral when it started its decline and that I should’ve given it to someone with a NPS tank.  Unfortunately, this was a couple years ago when NPS tanks were not as popular as they are today.  In my local area, there was no one I knew with one (and I probably had the most NPS corals anyway.)  I tried lots of different foods, but the coral would not take anything once it faded to yellow.  Yes, I realize this post highlights my failure, and that’s the point.  We all need to learn from others’ mistakes and grow from them.

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