MYSTERY SPECIES Answer: Lace “Coral”

17 Mar, 2022

It’s not even a “coral” yet that’s what we call it. Meet Distichopora sp.

While occasionally seen in the aquarium trade, “Lace Corals” aren’t even corals, but rather are hydrozoans more closely related to other “non-corals” like the notorious Fire Corals (Millepora spp.). There are two genera of Lace Corals encountered in the aquarium trade, Stylaster and Distichopora. Today’s mystery species belongs to the latter; this is a Distichopora sp Yellow Lace Coral.

Vincent Chalias, photographer and founder of coral farm and exporter Bali Aquarium, captured this amazing image of a wild Lace Coral growing on abandoned fishing line in the proximity of the mariculture farm.
Vincent Chalias, photographer and founder of coral farm and exporter Bali Aquarium, captured this amazing image of a wild Lace Coral growing on abandoned fishing line in the proximity of the mariculture farm.

CORAL Magazine readers gained insight into this basically “impossible” to keep alive coral in the REEF VISIONS column from March/April 2022. Here’s the synopsis, from the issue:

LACE CORAL
Distichopora sp.
Bali Aquarium
Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
baliaquarium.net
Geographic Origin: Bali, Indonesia
Light Level: Low
Flow Level: High
Care Level: Expert-Only (Impossible?)
Notes: Vincent Chalias shares this amazing photo of a Distichopora Lace Coral growing on a fishing line at the Bali Aquarium mariculture farm as a cautionary tale. Says Chalias, “This image illustrates two important things. The first is that these corals, given the right environment, actually grow pretty fast, but they like particular places with lots of food and flow. They grow so fast in the wild that I’ve found many growing on fishing lines. And second, this photo really shows that plastics are a plague that will take a long time to disappear.” Actually non-photosynthetic hydrozoans, lace corals are not currently exported by Bali Aquarium.

Best Avoided

While Chalias notes that these animals will grow rather fast if their needs are met, aquarium hobbyists have, by and large, failed to unravel the secrets of successful captive husbandry for these types of reef creatures. Lots of food, and lots of flow, are at least part of the puzzle based on observations in the wild, but the care of non-photosynthetic corals and similar organisms remains one of the more challenging projects for an aquarist to tackle. There is still some mystery left to be solved, at least when it comes to keeping Distochopora in the home aquarium.

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About the author

Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen is a Sr. Editor and Associate Publisher with Reef To Rainforest Media, LLC & CORAL Magazines, and is a Sr. Editor and Publishing Partner with Aquatic Media Press, LLC & AMAZONAS Magazine. Matt has kept aquariums for 38 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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