CORAL Excerpt: Best of Reef Visions 2016

03 Feb, 2017

This Peacock Coral, Mycedium elephantosus, by Cairns Marine was one of 9 finalist photos selected to be featured in the last Reef Visions column of 2016 (CORAL Magazine, Nov/Dec '16).

This Peacock Coral, Mycedium elephantosus, by Cairns Marine was one of 9 finalist photos selected to be featured in the year-ending Reef Visions column for 2016 (CORAL Magazine, Nov/Dec ’16).

I cannot remember exactly who said it, but a reader once messaged me with a poignant gripe, asking, “Where are all the corals in CORAL Magazine?!” To be fair, I felt he had a point, as the seemingly endless march of fish breeding accomplishments has arguably dominated a large portion of our attention because it is, simply, where the breakthroughs are being made.

That said, we know that new coral morphs and unique specimens continue to enter the aquarium trade. It could be that new collection locations are opened, or shifting tastes and trends bring greater attention to a group of corals that was otherwise generally overlooked. And even among the bread and butter that’s been around in the hobby for decades, nature still offers up true lucky finds and surprises. How could we bring this aspect of the aquarium trade to our readers, particularly when it’s not exactly appropriate to dedicate a 2-4–page article to simply showing off an exceptionally nice Torch Coral (Euphyllia glabrescens)?

The answer to that question took some time to materialize and find a home, but we finally settled on a format; a “best of the best,” selected from submissions from some of the premier coral exporters, importers, and vendors in the industry. Our first column can be found in the July/August 2016 issue, under the working title “Kaleidoscopic Coral Visions.”

Reef Visions Column, July/August 2016, CORAL Magazine

Our first opening spread of the column features this "Headsplitter Chalice" Coral from World Wide Corals in Orlando, FL.

Our first opening spread of the column features this “Headsplitter Chalice” Coral from World Wide Corals in Orlando, FL.

The incredible photo submission from World Wide Corals made a tremendous impression for the series. As with all our featured corals, we work with the vendors to provide coral information, from their point of view, in a succinct format that largely mirrors the generalized at-a-glance format used by most coral retailers to give the final caretaker a basic guideline to apply for the care of the coral.

HEADSPLITTER CHALICE
Echynophillia sp.
World Wide Corals
Orlando, Florida
worldwidecorals.com
Geographic Origin: Indo-Pacific
Light Level: Low
Flow Level: Moderate
Care Level: Intermediate

Another strong contender for the opening spread slot in our first installment was this incredible coral submitted by Carolina Aquatics:

Convict Maze Brain Coral, by Carolina Aquatics

Convict Maze Brain Coral, by Carolina Aquatics

CONVICT MAZE BRAIN
Platygyra sp.
Carolina Aquatics
Kernersville, North Carolina
carolinaaquatics.com
Geographic Origin: Mackay, Australia
Light Level: Low to Moderate
Flow Level: Low to Moderate
Care Level: Easy

Reef Visions Column, July/August 2016, CORAL Magazine

In our second run-through, the column gathered steam under the shortened title “Coral Visions.” With Carolina Aquatics’s submission of these beautiful multicolored Wellsophylllia claiming the opening spread, you could tell readers were in for a wild ride.

Wellsophyllia Brain Corals, by Carolina Aquatics, opened the September/October 2016 installment of the column

Wellsophyllia Brain Corals, by Carolina Aquatics, opened the September/October 2016 installment of the column

WELLSOPHYLLIA BRAIN CORAL
Trachyphyllia radiata
Carolina Aquatics
Kernersville, North Carolina
carolinaaquatics.com
Geographic Origin: Specimens from Jakarta and Bali
Light Level: Low to Moderate
Flow Level: Low to Moderate
Care Level: Easy

Of course, out of dozens of submissions, we never get to show them all. A few of the finalists that made it into print were truly stunners. Blastomussa spp. featured prominently in the submissions that came in during August, and while a proposed feature of them didn’t make the final cut, a pair of completely unique B. wellsi from World Wide Corals absolutely took our breath away in the final printed edition.

A nearly pink and lime green Blastomussa wellsi from World Wide Corals

A nearly pink and lime green Blastomussa wellsi from World Wide Corals

BLASTOMUSSA WELLSI
World Wide Corals
Orlando, Florida
worldwidecorals.com
Geographic Origin: Indonesia
Light Level: Low
Flow Level: Moderate
Care Level: Intermediate
Notes: Feed 2X/week

A blue Blastomussa wellsi with orange tentacles? Fans of the Chicago Bears should've been clamoring for this one!

A blue Blastomussa wellsi with orange tentacles? Fans of the Chicago Bears should’ve been clamoring for this one!

BLASTOMUSSA WELLSI
World Wide Corals
Orlando, Florida
worldwidecorals.com
Geographic Origin: Indonesia
Light Level: Low
Flow Level: Moderate
Care Level: Intermediate
Notes: Feed 2X/week

You might think Carolina Aquatics and World Wide Corals were the only contenders, given our first few highlights, but there is a lot more in store. The Blastomussas were truly captivating in this edition, and Eye Catching Corals fielded an incredibly strong contender.

Just when you thought you'd seen the Blastomussa to end all other Blastomussa, Eye Catching Corals submitted this whopper.

Just when you thought you’d seen the Blastomussa to end all other Blastomussa, Eye Catching Corals submitted this whopper.

BLASTOMUSSA WELLSI
Eye Catching Corals
Vienna, Ohio
eyecatchingcoral.com
Geographic Origin: Indonesia
Light Level: Moderate
Flow Level: Low
Care Level: Easy

Reef Visions Column, November/December 2016, CORAL Magazine

By our third installment, we called it Reef Visions, due at least in part to the inclusion of a non-coral invertebrate (Carolina Aquatic’s Harlequin Serpent Starfish). A few additional vendors saw the awesome potential for our printed showcase of truly exceptional corals and made first-time contributions. Rookie contributors Cairns Marine probably had no idea that they were going to blow the doors off everyone else with a blue and lime green Platygyra brain coral. I literally had dreams about this coral.

The simple title of "Maze Brain" lets you truly admire this amazing Platygyra from Cairns Marine.

The simple title of “Maze Brain” lets you truly admire this amazing Platygyra from Cairns Marine.

MAZE BRAIN
Platygyra sp.
Cairns Marine
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
cairnsmarine.com
Geographic Origin: Great Barrier Reef, North Queensland, Australia
Light Level: Low to Moderate
Flow Level: Moderate
Care Level: Easy

At this point, you’re probably thinking that the only things we feature in this column are LPS corals, and we could see how you’d think that. Of course, the bulk of the vendor submissions are LPS types, and this is at least in part due to the truly singular nature of some of the best morphs that get imported. While a hot Acropora variant can spread like wildfire in just a couple years, something like Cairns Marine’s Maze Brain is going to take its time, and who knows if there will ever be another one quite like it.

Still, it hasn’t been all LPS, and it’s not always something you’ve never seen. Consider the timeless beauty of one of Unique Corals’ first submissions:

Bam Bams, by Unique Corals

Bam Bams, by Unique Corals

BAM BAMS
Zoanthus sp.
Unique Corals
Van Nuys, California
uniquecorals.com
Geographic Origin: Australia
Light Level: Moderate to High
Flow Level: Low to Moderate
Care Level: Easy

Fans of coralimorphs absolutely get some love in the column. How could we not share these stunners from Aqua Medic Live?

Jakarta Ultra Mushrooms, from Aqua Medic Live

Jakarta Ultra Mushrooms, from Aqua Medic Live

AML ULTRA MUSHROOM
Rhodactis sp.
Aqua Medic Live
Loveland, Colorado
aquamedicusalive.com
Geographic Origin: Jakarta
Light Level: Low to Moderate
Flow Level: Low to Moderate
Care Level: Easy

What’s Next for Reef Visions?

Readers of the January/February 2017 edition of CORAL Magazine enjoyed another sumptuous visual feast. We kept the opening title as “Reef Visions,” and it includes more submissions from first-time participants. Yes, LPS continue to dominate the spreads for the moment, but when you have corals like the Solar Flare Micromussa from first-timer Cherry Corals, I might have to say, “Look Acropora, Montipora, Seriatpora, and Pocillopora: it’s time to step up your games!”

The current issue's Reef Visions features this beautiful CC SOLAR FLARE Micromussa lordhowensis, from Cherry Corals.

The current issue’s “Reef Visions” features this beautiful CC SOLAR FLARE Micromussa lordhowensis, from Cherry Corals.

CC SOLAR FLARE
Micromussa lordhowensis
Cherry Corals
Livonia, MI
cherrycorals.com
Geographic Origin: Australia
Light Level: Low to Moderate
Flow Level: Low to Moderate
Care Level: Easy
Notes: Aquacultured since 2012 under ATI T5 and Reefbright LED. Most polyps are a mix of red and yellow, with occasional streaks of green, purple and even white.

Some real eye-popping submissions are already rolling in from our contributors for the March/April 2017 edition of the column, and it’s our plan to bring even more coral eye candy to you as 2017 progresses.

For every printed image you saw in this column in 2016, there were many more stunners that didn’t make the cut. Between Aqua Medic Live, Carolina Aquatics, Cairns Marine, Eye Catching Corals, Unique Corals, and World Wide Corals, just for the first three installments, an overwhelming 233 images were offered for consideration. And with Quality Marine, Cherry Corals, Jason Fox Signature Corals, and now Tidal Gardens already added to the mix in 2017, the ratio of submissions to final selections is only going to get larger.

For such amazing partners who work so hard to bring us their best-of-the-best, and then to entrust the CORAL Magazine staff to go through two additional rounds of selections to make our final cuts, we first owe a great thanks. But we also see an opportunity. It’s our intention to bring an honorable mention column here to the Reef To Rainforest website, where another selection of images from each issue that didn’t make the final cut for print might have a second chance to shine online!

And to the SPS lovers out there who are possibly feeling slighted at the moment: we did publish a few great representatives in the first four columns; pick up a back issue or log into the digital edition to see what battled its way into the column’s printed pages. Maybe one of our amazing partners will submit something from the SPS genre so mind-bending that it will steal the show and make our 2017 “Best of the Best” recap!

We’d love to hear what you think. Have you enjoyed the column? Do you agree with our year-end selections, or do you feel we missed the mark? Which coral from 2016 literally caused palpitations when you turned the page and saw it for the first time? Did you buy a coral you saw in the column? What are you hoping to see in the year ahead?

Tell us in the comments below!

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About the author

Matt Pedersen
Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen is a Sr. Editor and Associate Publisher with Reef To Rainforest Media, LLC, including AMAZONAS & CORAL Magazines. Matt has kept aquariums for 35 years, has worked in most facets of the aquarium trade, is an active aquarist and fish breeder (both marine and freshwater), and was recognized with the 2009 MASNA Award as the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.

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