Pocillopora Corals make a unique and colourful addition to a home aquarium. They are also known as Cauliflower coral due to their fuzzy appearance when their polyps are extended. They are sometimes confused with Stylophora but can be identified by their branches, which end in clustered ends rather than the rounded ends of Stylos. They are found in pink, purple, green and yellow colourations. Each specimen tends to be a single colour rather than a combination of colours. They grow as a branching colony, generally in a ball shape, and can become quite dense as the branches multiply.
Poncillipora are extensively aquacultured but are native to the reefs of Fiji, Tonga and the Great Barrier Reef. They are responsible for the second most reef building activity in the world’s oceans behind only Acropora. Poncillipora are found on shallow reefs at depths of between 1 and 20 meters. They generally also grow in areas exposed to high wave action. In a home aquarium they are adaptable to a wide variety of conditions but should be placed on exposed rock with high levels of light and flow. Because the colonies grow in response to lighting and water flow conditions, they tend to do better when introduced to a tank as a small frag and allowed to grow in accordance with tank conditions rather than being added as a mature colony.
While not as light demanding as Acropora, Pocillipora still require relatively high levels of light. They should receive enough light to maintain their colouration. Too much light will often turn an SPS coral white, and too little light may lead to a coral turning brown. They love flow and should receive enough indirect flow that their polyps are always moving. They are photosynthetic but can be fed SPS specific coral food if desired.
Poncillipora are unique in their ability to reproduce through “polyp bailout”. Usually, a coral will only expel polyps as a response to extreme stress and will generally not survive if this happens in a home aquarium. However, Poncillipora are different. Under favourable conditions, they will expel polyps that can attach themselves in the tank and begin new colonies. They can also be fragged in a more traditional manner through cutting off a branch and gluing it to a frag plug.
Poncillipora are easier to keep than Acropora and make a good first SPS coral. They still, however, require a mature tank with stable water conditions. It is also important to monitor calcium and alkalinity levels in the tank to enable healthy growth.