News / Species Spotlight / The Genus Ricordea (05/26/15)

The Genus Ricordea

by Alex Oliver

Taxonomy:

  • Class: Anthozoa
  • Order: Corallimorpharia
  • Family: Ricordeidae
  • Genus: Ricordea
Description:

Ricordea are in the Corallimorpharia order, being related to the Discosoma, Rhodactis, Actinodiscus, and several other mushroom genera. These soft corals are very popular due to their vibrant and varied color types. They are relatively slow growing corals that are far less territorially invasive compared to most other mushroom species. As such they make great additions to reef aquariums with soft and stony coral species. Ricordea are classified as having two species: Ricordea florida and Ricordea yuma. Ricordea florida are found in tropical Western Atlantic and Caribbean waters, while Ricordea yuma are found in the tropical Pacific. The two corals are best distinguished by observing the characteristics of the mouth. Ricordea florida has a smooth area of tissue beyond the radial spirocysts (bubbles) that extends to the mouth, while yuma has spirocysts that extend centrally towards the near edges of the mouth. Additionally, the full adult size of florida is normally smaller than their Indo Pacific relative. Both species have their own distinct colors and patterns although yuma is known to have a wider variety of color patterns.

Natural Habitat:

Both species are found in varied locations and are not highly specific in habitat requirements. They are collected primarily on rock structure and found in almost all areas of shallow and medium depth reefs. Established areas are commonly blanketed with this coral making a very nice colorful mat. Many of the more colorful yuma are collected in deeper water were there is much less visible light.

Aquarium Suitability:

Ricordea are a good choice for beginner aquarists as the husbandry requirements are fairly basic. In general the genus is very hardy, with most problems stemming from poor collection. Ricordea yuma are very often imported with cuts around their feet, due to collectors trying to ship them with as little rock as possible. While Ricordea is not CITES restricted, collectors must not have any substrate attached to the Ricordea that exceeds 3 cm in diameter (CITES Conf. 11-10). If the coral gets cut, it becomes more susceptible to bacterial infections which are known to melt Ricordea overnight. Due to the typically shorter transportation times and the fact that most are tank raised, florida have an easer time in shipping than the yuma, which take an average of 40 hours of shipping time from point of export to import. We advise aquarists and businesses to be cautious if presented with the opportunity to purchase anything other than a very small rock less than 3 cm in diameter with no more than one or two tightly packed florida. Anything larger may be illegal as the rock on which the Ricordea is harvested is classified as Scleractinia and is CITES II restricted, meaning that the collector needs a CITES certificate in order to collect the rock. Collection of any rock from the ocean, classified as Scleractinia, in the waters of the United States or its territories is illegal. It is in these waters where the majority of the more colorful Ricordea florida is found. We recommend that aquarists be wary of vendors carrying wild collected Ricordea on larger rocks, as it is very likely that the corals were collected illegally.

Acclimation/Placement:

Ricordea are medium to highly aggressive, stinging most other corals that they may come in contact with. Although due to their slow growth and lack of aggression Ricordea are easily contained in a reef tank with other sensitive species. Ricordea are primarily photosynthetic, deriving most of their nutrition through light as they contain small symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae. Ricordea also occasionally feed on Artemia and Mysis shrimp as well as other small zooplankton-like foods. They have a limited prey capture response, meaning they don't react quickly to food that falls or gets caught on them. If they do not capture offered foods, it should not be of concern to the aquarist. Both species of Ricordea thrive in high light intensity environments (metal halide/T5/PC/VHO) but will also tolerate fairly low light, albeit with less vivid coloration and slower growth. It is always best to slowly acclimate Ricordea to higher light levels, especially the yuma species. Good water quality is also a must as small changes can quickly lead to their demise. These corals require low to medium current and stable temperatures between 76-82F.

Propagation:

Natural propagation is a very easy way to propagate Ricordea although it may take a long time to occur. The two means by which they reproduce are pedal laceration and fission. In pedal laceration, the mushroom gradually moves to one side, leaving small pieces of its basal attachment behind that develop into baby mushrooms. In fission, the mushroom divides itself into two or more pieces. Both species of Ricordea are very easy to manually propagate. The most common tools needed are a clean plastic cutting board, a clean hand towel and clean sharp blade like a razor blade, scalpel, or a very fine pair of scissors. One of the most important things when propagating coral is that your hands are clean (without using soap) and that you handle the coral as little as possible. By keeping hands and equipment clean, the chances of infecting the coral with some sort of bacteria are less likely.

Before propagation, swirl the coral around while it's still in the aquarium so that the Ricordea expels as much water as possible. Place the coral face up on the cutting board and using a sharp blade cut down through the center of the foot into equal halves. If possible, we recommend that if the coral is on a rock at the time of propagation, the rock should also be cut or cracked in the same place that the coral is cut. If the rock is not cut, the Ricordea halves will often fuse back together to become one again. In good water quality Ricordea recover and heal very fast with full recovery within a couple of weeks. If good care is exercised through the propagation process and only healthy specimens are used, the Ricordea fragments will recover almost 100% of the time.

After being cut, the Ricordea should be placed in an area of low flow and low light with medium sized rubble substrate. In a matter of days, the freshly cut coral, if already unattached from rock, will re-attach itself to the substrate. This rubble may then be glued or placed in the desired location for the coral. When applying any glue or adhesive to the rubble, be careful that it does not come in contact with the highly sensitive tissue of the coral. Such interactions are known to often cause bacterial infections which can damage or even kill the coral.

Another technique used by aquarists to create smaller Ricordea is to make a small slice on the side of the foot of the mushroom. In the right conditions these little pieces of the foot of the mushroom will soon evolve and morph into baby Ricordea.

















References:

Trade in Stony Corals. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Conf. 11.10 (Rev. CoP12). Retrieved July 18, 2007 from http://www.cites.org/eng/res/11/11-10.shtml.