Goniopora Coral Care: Colors, Feeding, Fragging, Size and Mates

A Goniopora Coral enjoying the medium flow of saltwater

Welcome to the enchanting world of Goniopora coral care, where underwater gardening meets a splash of magic! If you’re ready to add some glamour to your reef tank, you’ve picked the perfect coral. 

Goniopora corals are like the underwater equivalent of a blooming flower garden. They’re a bit like the charming, slightly high-maintenance friend in your circle – needing a bit of extra love but oh-so-worth it. 

In the past, caring for these corals was even more difficult due to the lack of available information but as the years passed, it got a bit easier (not easy) with all the knowledge and experience being shared among coral enthusiasts.

So, grab your reef-keeping gloves, and let’s dive into the colorful and rewarding journey of caring for these stunning, flowy beauties.

Quick Facts

Scientific Name:Poritidae family
Other Names:Flowerpot Coral, Daisy Coral
Water Flow:Moderate and indirect flow between 20 and 40 times turnover
Compatibility:Invertebrates such as snails and shrimps. Bumblebee Snail and Cherry Shrimp
Size & Growth:Can reach 5.5 inches in diameter. Growth rate is 0.039in/month. 
Care Level:Medium to high, especially the Goniopora stokesi
Feeding:A mix of plankton, specifically phytoplankton and zooplankton
Water Parameters:1.023-1.025 SG, 75-80 F, 8-11 dKH, 8.1-8.4 pH, 400-450ppm Ca., 1250-1350ppm Mg., <10ppm Nitrates, .03-.1ppm Phosphates.
Tank Size:50 gallons
Lighting:50-150 PAR
Propagation & Fragging: Medium difficulty. Important to isolate the frag. 

Species Summary

Goniopora, commonly known as Flowerpot Coral or Daisy Coral, belongs to the stony coral family Poritidae. This genus includes numerous species distributed across various marine environments, most notably in shallow lagoons and regions with turbid water conditions.

Characteristics:

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  • They possess daisy-like polyps, each with 24 tentacles.
  • Calices (small, cup-shaped structures) of Goniopora are usually circular with thick walls.
  • Polyps tend to extend outward from the base, acting as indicators of health; they often retract during the day.

Habitat:

  • You will typically find Goniopora species in the Indo-Pacific region, including waters around Australia.
  • Their preferred habitats are lagoon environments and areas with complex water movements.

Appearance

Goniopora coral, often recognized for their distinct flower-like appearance, closely resembles a collection of underwater blossoms. Your Goniopora’s polyps are its most notable feature, typically long, with flowing tentacles that sway with the water current. Each polyp is tipped with 24 tentacles, which are not only visually striking but serve as the coral’s means of feeding and defense (they sting too!). 

The coloration of Goniopora can vary significantly throughout its colony. You might observe a myriad of hues ranging from pinks to greens, as well as creams, tans, and even grays. This broad palette allows your coral to be highly adaptable in appearance, capable of complementing a diverse array of reef tank environments.

Author Note: When observing your coral, take note of the size and shape of the polyps—this is often the best indicator of the coral’s health and well-being. Healthy Goniopora polyps will display their characteristic long and flowing tentacles, indicative not just of their beauty but of their overall vitality. If your Goniopora coral fails to extend its polyps, it could be due to several reasons including lack of enough food, too much or too little light, or poor water flow.

Remember, the richness of the colors your Goniopora exhibits can be influenced by various factors, including lighting and water parameters in your reef tank. For example, too much light will turn your coral white (commonly referred to as bleaching), while too little light will result in a brown or gray hue.

When you’re considering adding a Goniopora species to your reef aquarium, it’s important to distinguish between the different types as some are more adaptable to live in captivity than others. The Australian Goniopora—or flowerpot coral—is notable for its resilience, making it a frequent choice for aquarists.

Not all Goniopora corals are the same, let’s check some of the well known species.

  • Goniopora stokesi: Known for its demanding nature, typically hailing from turbid, nutrient-rich waters. It requires diligent feeding, often needing to be fed multiple times a week.
  • Goniopora lobata: Recognizable by its long polyps and preference for low to moderate lighting conditions, this species is less commonly found but admired for its distinctive appearance.
  • Goniopora pandoraensis: A hardy variant often recommended for those new to keeping Goniopora, this species endures a broader range of environmental conditions.

Goniopora Coral Care

Maintaining the proper environment and understanding the specific needs of Goniopora coral is crucial for its health and vitality. In this guide, you’ll learn about the ideal water parameters that are essential for fostering a thriving Goniopora coral in your aquarium.

Water Parameters

To ensure the best care level of your Goniopora coral, you must maintain stable and appropriate water chemistry. This includes:

PARAMETERGOAL
Salinity (Specific Gravity)Aim for a specific gravity between 1.023 and 1.025.
TemperatureKeep the water temperature consistent, ranging from 75 to 80°F (24 to 27°C).
pHThe pH level should be maintained between 8.1 and 8.4.
AlkalinityIdeal alkalinity levels for Goniopora are between 8 and 11 dKH (degrees of Carbonate Hardness).
CalciumA calcium concentration of 400 to 450 ppm (parts per million) is important for skeletal growth.
MagnesiumMagnesium levels should be maintained at 1250 to 1350 ppm.
NitratesKeep nitrate levels low, preferably below 10 ppm.
PhosphatesPhosphate levels should also be kept low, with an optimal range of 0.03 to 0.1 ppm.

Ensure that you have a reliable testing kit to regularly monitor these water parameters. Sudden changes in water chemistry can stress the coral or lead to potential health issues, such as brown jelly disease (which is extremely fatal to many coral species).

Tank Size

The minimum recommended tank size for your Goniopora coral to grow and accommodate its long term needs, is 50 gallons. Large tanks are more stable in maintaining ideal water conditions, which is beneficial for the health of your coral (as we explained in our 75 gallon tank guide).

Why is Tank Size Important?

A spacious tank ensures that Goniopora has enough room to expand without encroaching on neighboring corals. Overcrowding can lead to competition for resources, potentially causing stress and harm to your corals.

Tank Setup

Proper tank setup is imperative for the health and growth of Goniopora corals. You should pay attention to specific placement, lighting requirements, and water flow, as well as carefully acclimate your corals to their new environment.

Placement

Your Goniopora coral should be placed on stable substrate or rockwork where its base can rest securely. Position the coral so it has room to expand without contact from other corals or rock structures, which could cause stress or damage.

Lighting

Goniopora corals thrive under moderate lighting. LED or T5 lights with an output of 50-150 PAR is optimal. Place your coral in your tank based on these lighting conditions to meet its photosynthetic needs without causing bleaching or color loss.

Filtration and Water Flow

Utilize high-quality filtration systems to maintain pristine water conditions. One natural option (also called biological filtration) is live rock since it allows the helpful bacteria to live and reproduce. Two other options are mechanical and chemical filtration: one method traps and removes waste and the other uses chemical mixtures. 

Regarding water flow, moderate and indirect flow between 20 and 40 times turnover is necessary to simulate natural conditions and to assist in feeding and waste removal. Avoid strong direct currents which can damage the delicate polyps of your coral.

Acclimation

When introducing Goniopora coral to your tank, it’s crucial to acclimate it slowly to avoid shock. Gradually adjust it to the temperature, pH, and lighting of your tank over the course of an hour, allowing the coral to adapt safely.

A Goniopora Coral or Pink Flower Pot in a saltwater aquarium

Growth Rate and Size

When you choose to add a Goniopora, often referred to as a Flower Pot Coral, to your aquarium, understanding its potential growth rate and size is crucial. Goniopora is a genus belonging to the category of large polyp stony (LPS) corals, which are recognized for their substantially large polyp size relative to other corals.

Size Specifications:

  • Juveniles: New fragments, or “frags,” often appear small, with polyp extensions from the central skeleton typically around 1 inch in diameter.
  • Adult Corals: Mature Goniopora corals can reach a notable size of up to 5 ½ inches in diameter.
  • Growth rate: After mounting the coral tissue on a rock, the growth rate is about 1 mm or 0.039 inches a month. 

Author Note: It’s important to grant your Goniopora enough space in the aquarium to accommodate its growth. As a large polyp stony coral, it also contributes to the structural complexity and biodiversity of your reef ecosystem, both of which are imperative factors for the overall health of your aquarium.

Feeding

While Gonioporas are able to get nutrients from light through a photosynthetic algae that lives in their flesh known as zooxanthellae (they are buddies with a great symbiotic relationship), this coral still requires small food particles to thrive.

Target feeding your Goniopora, commonly known as flower pot corals is essential for their health and vitality. Your coral’s diet should contain a mix of plankton, specifically phytoplankton and zooplankton, to provide a comprehensive range of nutrients.

  • Phytoplankton: These are microscopic, photosynthetic organisms that act as a staple in your coral’s diet.
  • Zooplankton: These tiny, drifting animals are an excellent source of protein and essential amino acids for coral growth.

It is important to note that Goniopora corals employ a method known as broadcast feeding. Cool term huh? This involves dispersing food particles into the water column, allowing your corals to capture these foot particles suspended in the water and meet their nutritional requirements. To support this, you should:

  1. Feed small, appropriately sized particles that corals can easily capture.
  2. Ensure the current is moderate enough to allow the corals to catch food without it being swept away too quickly.

Author Note: Feedings should be regular and controlled to avoid overfeeding and limit any potential negative impact on water quality.

Monitoring amino acid levels can be beneficial as they are critical for coral health, aiding in tissue growth and recovery.

Remember:

  • A balanced diet promotes coloration, growth, and the overall well-being of the coral.
  • Consistency in feeding patterns helps maintain stable conditions in the aquarium.

Compatibility

When adding Goniopora corals to your reef aquarium, understanding their compatibility with other marine life is crucial. They are known for their distinct flower-like appearance and they have specific compatibility requirements to consider due to their aggression level.

Tank Mates:

  • Goniopora corals can exhibit aggressive behavior towards other corals (even its own kind) if not given ample space.
  • They are capable of extending sweeper tentacles at night, potentially harming nearby corals.
  • It’s advisable to keep them at a minimum distance of 6 inches from other corals.

Suitable Companions:

  • Invertebrates such as snails (try the Bumblebee Snail) and shrimps like the Cherry Shrimp are generally safe to cohabit with Goniopora.
  • Fish that do not pick at but instead coexist with corals, such as clownfish, chromis, and some tangs (check our 10 popular tangs guide), make suitable tank mates.

Incompatible Species:

  • Other Goniopora species can compete aggressively for space and resources.
  • Alveopora corals may look similar but can be adversely affected by close proximity to Goniopora.
  • Avoid pairing with aggressive LPS corals and anemones, to prevent competition and stress.

Keep these guidelines in mind to ensure a harmonious and healthy environment in your reef tank.

Propagation and Fragging

Propagating Goniopora corals is a task that requires patience and a gentle touch, as these corals can be a bit finicky. The most common process, known as fragging, involves carefully cutting a small piece from a healthy and mature specimen. This is typically done using a sharp, sterilized tool like bone cutters or a coral saw. 

The key is to make a clean cut to reduce stress on the coral. Once the frag is removed, it should be placed on a piece of reef-safe rock or plug using a reef-safe adhesive. This helps the frag to anchor itself and start growing independently. 

Author Note: During the initial phase after fragging, the new Goniopora frag requires a stable environment with ideal water parameters, moderate lighting, and gentle water flow to help it recover and start growing. It’s crucial to monitor the frag closely for signs of stress or disease. 

Successful propagation not only helps in expanding your coral collection but also plays a vital role in coral conservation, reducing the need to harvest wild corals from oceanic reefs. Remember, patience is key – Goniopora corals grow slowly and need time to establish themselves after fragging.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this Goniopora coral care guide. These stunning “flowerpot” corals are like the divas of the reef tank – they love attention and a bit of special care. But don’t let that intimidate you. With a little patience and some TLC, you’ll be rewarded with a flourishing, vibrant piece of the ocean right in your own home.   

Just remember that the Goniopora genus includes different species like the high maintenance/very demanding Goniopora stokesi, so always double check which species you are getting. 

Keep an eye on their needs, from the lighting to the water flow, and enjoy the dance of their delicate polyps in your aquarium. Most importantly, have fun with it! After all, keeping Goniopora is not just about the care; it’s about the joy and wonder they bring to your underwater world.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us and if you are looking for more coral guides check the Lobo Coral. Lastly, if you are sharing cool photos in social media don’t forget to tag us on Facebook!

FAQ

Why does my Goniopora Coral look like if it’s dying?

Due to bright light or bacteria the polyps of your Goniopora coral might start retracting and even develop a white film. Try Goniopower, Melafix and 40% to 50% water changes/week.

How to dip a Goniopora Coral?

Dipping Goniopora Coral in iodine is great for healing. Place your coral in a solution like Seachem Reef Dip for 10-15 min and then rinse with tank water. Make sure not to use in the aquarium.

Can a Torch Coral touch a Goniopora Coral?

No! They both sting but Torch Corals are stronger and they will create severe damage to your Goniopora Coral. Always make sure to keep them separated and account for their growth when they are young.

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