Shallow water Mycedium can be fantastic!
16 Mar, 2023
I’m a big fan of Mycedium elephantotus (at times misspelled as Mycedium elephantotum, Mycedium elephantopus, or Mycedium elephantosus). Its color palette is insane. Almost every single specimen is unique. Usually, the ones we find in deeper water have the craziest colors, while those we find in the shallows tend to be a bit dull.
However, on a recent trip to North Sulawesi, in Indonesia, immediately to the south of the Philippines, right in the heart of the Coral Triangle, we discovered two insane, unique, brightly colored colonies, growing almost right on top of each other, and color-perfect candidates for reef tanks.
These Merulinid corals (family Merulinidae) are common and diverse on the reef. Mycedium colonies are typically found below 20 m (60ft), or in the shade, on drop-offs, under overhangs, nestled in cracks, and so on. But sometimes we find large colonies in shallow water, 12-15 m (36-45ft), which are only rarely brightly colored. On this particular reef, in the corner of a protected island of North Sulawesi, just next to each other sat two of the best-colored M. elephantotus I have ever seen. The location is protected from swell, but because it’s at the corner of an island, on a small cape, it regularly receives some intense tidal currents.
Space Invader Mycedium:
Aquarium corals are always very different from wild corals. And it’s almost impossible to know which natural color morph became a particular lineage of aquarium coral. We found that particular colony, lying down in between other coral boulders, 12 m (36ft) deep. The coral was slightly protected and shaded by bigger colonies of Porites lutea, Turbinaria peltata, but was still in a current-prone and very shallow location.
The natural-light coloration of this coral showcased bright green with bright orange polyp mouths, a coloration with affinity to the popular Space Invader Mycedium. But when examining the polyps close up, and illuminating them with a touch of blue light, the polyps showed some darker shades of red in the polyp’s oral disc. Perhaps if this coral could be kept under aquarium conditions, this coloration would be more pronounced, and the coral might look more like the Raja Rampage Mycedium.
Cherry Blossom Mycedium:
We were already feeling delighted to have discovered a wild Mycedium that shares an affinity with “Space Invader”, but as we swam upwards to finish the dive, just a couple of meters away, we found another, and perhaps the craziest colony ever.
In between two large rocks that were covered with leather corals (Sarcophyton sp.), and laying really low on the substrate to protect itself from intense flow and light, dwelled this crazy red-with-green-polyps colony Mycedium elephantotus. The coloration of this colony was even more fantastic than the “Space Invader” we had just encountered.
The coloration was not homogenous on the whole colony, and parts of the coral that were slightly shaded were brighter. I suspect this coral would look even better in deeper, shadowy water.
Mycedium, like the related Pectinia or the more distantly related Echinophyllia, harbor a dizzying, broad range of coloration. There is so much amazing diversity just within the genus that an aquarium filled only with the different lineages of Mycedium could be very attractive, in the mode of a reef filled with Chalices. Take notice, coral collectors among us!