News / Species Spotlight / Trachyphyllia geoffroyi (07/04/18)

Trachyphyllia geoffroyi

Species Spotlight - Trachyphyllia geoffroyi
Trachyphyllia is beautiful and unique among Indo-Pacific stony corals, and worthy of a bit of discussion. As far as common names go, this genus is often regarded as one of the open brains due to its convoluted colony morphology (versus a closed brain like Favites, where the individual polyps are all closely set onto a single boulder-like or encrusting colony).

Historically, Trachyphyllia geoffroyi (the only recognized species) had been treated as belonging to its own family, the Trachyphylliidae. Its not hard to see why this might be, as this coral really looks little like anything else. Its closest comparison would have to be with the large corals in the genus Lobophyllia. Mature colonies of these two can often looks confusingly alike, but the skeletons have some striking differences when it comes to the ornamentation of the septae.

It was with the use of genetic study that it was finally shown that Trachyphyllia is actually one of the merulinid corals, with an especially close relationship with the corals aquarists know under the name Favia (which are now mostly placed in the genus Dipsastraea). Its hard to look at these two groups and see much in the way of similarity, but this is a common theme among stony corals. These are highly malleable creatures, which has sometimes resulted in closely related groups evolving into highly dissimilar shapes.

Trachyphyllia come in an immense variety of colors, from neon green to those that beautifully mix red & teal. Its hard to find a bad looking colony. Most imported individuals are fairly small, but with growth the shape becomes increasingly complex and wavy, creating an almost fractal-like outline to the skeleton. After years of growth, they can easily grow to the size of a volleyball (though this is nothing compared to the ultimate size of most Lobophyllia species).

Aquarium care is undemanding. Nearly any amount of light will prove adequate, and specimens can be fed regularly to encourage increased growth. The polyps here are sizable, so pieces of mysis, krill or chopped silversides are ideal, as are any pelleted food. Unfortunately, Trachyphyllia is often one of the first corals to be harassed by hungry corallivores, and sometimes even non-corallivores will join in on the action. Rabbitfishes are especially prone to this behavior, along with angelfishes, butterflyfishes, and even the occasional rogue surgeonfish. Lastly, heavy water flow is the bane of this corals existence, so be sure to find a quiet nook with plenty of room.