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dendro982 12/02/2007 05:54 PM

Non-photosynthetic gorgonians - ID and particular care
Got a new toy - probably non-photosynthetic gorgonian, may be you know what is it and its particular requirements, if you keep it - share experience.


The left one, compare size with Swiftia kofoidi on the right. And swiftia, in turn, with red finger gorgonian, likely Diodogorgia nodulifera, but wide form:


Was sold as Red whip gorgonian. Thin red gorgonian with transparent white polyps. Branches are ~1mm thick. Polyps are mostly on the sides of the branches:
Not like of the blue gorgonian with fine polyps, likely Guaiagorgia, where the polyps are covering all circumference of the branch (otherwise comparable by size and branching)):

Wide polyps remind chili coral polyps: red collar under the tentacles:
Chili coral, for comparison:

The closes thing, I found so far, is Leptogorgia punicea [url][/url]
"open pinnate branching and prominent calyces which are in double rows on two sides of the branches." "height of less than 10 cm, and the branches are 1mm wide exclusive of calyces."

The similar looking are Leptogorgia miniata and Lophogorgia ruberrima, but on photos they are covered by polyps everywhere, not just on sides.
Recognition for L. miniata: "Small openly pinnate branching colonies. Commonly branches in a single plane, but can be somewhat bushy. Low, blunt calyces in single rows along the two edges of outer branches" [url][/url]

ID, tips, experience - anything.

So far no problems with feeding of any of them, except the RIP damaged blueberry gorgonian. Just mouth-sized zooplankton few to several times daily, and skimmer and micron sock filtration for a water quality.

More troubles - in lighted tank - with algae (bryopsis), red slime on the branches, in unlit tank - strands of what looks like transparent bacterial cover. Some of these gorgonians are prone to one, other - to another.
Swiftia stands out so far as the most resistant to anything.

Jens Kallmeyer 12/03/2007 03:12 AM


That fine red Gorgonian with the white polyps could be an Elisella.
I have one of those as well, seems to be more problematic than other ones. If it stays closed for just more than a few days it will loose tissue. All you can do is to keep it rather dark to avoid any algae growth and food food food

Good luck

dendro982 12/03/2007 08:31 AM

Thank you, Jens! Will do.

Do you know, by any chance, is the blue with fine polyps the Guaiagorgia, as I thought?
Do you have the small-polyped red with yellow polyps gorgonian, how is it, comparative to the others?

And red finger gorgonian, Diodogorgia nodulifera, ID question:
I have 4 different kinds of it, 2 vertical and 2 - wide, tree shaped.

1. I thought, that the wide one is Siphonogorgia mutabilis, based on this description [url][/url] , but later found, that siphonogorgia hasn't the central core: [url][/url] , and mine has one, not too rigid, although.

2. Two vertical ones differ by shape:

One (on the right) is what is commonly shown as red (or yellow - the shape is the same) finger gorgonian:
Solid dark red color, hint on darker base of polyps.

Another (at the front) is different, by shape, and color - plain light red with dark base of polyps:

3. The thinner wide ones differ too: one is fluffier, higher density of the polyps, and the tentacles are very long and curved:
comparing to all the others. This is the plain wide one:

Could they be the different species, or just variation within Diodogorgia?


The food, you are giving to Elicella and other small-polyped gorgonians, is it Faun Marin and Oyster eggs-like based (I mean, high end specialized one)?

I'm giving readily available frozen rotifers and cyclops, and dried ZoPlan, but can't be sure that all of that is of saltwater origin.

And OOT question:

one of my orange scleronephthyas started to lose color (during intense growth/restoration, after being closed for some time).

Are you giving some additional food with pigments or pigment additives for yours?

aninjaatemyshoe 12/03/2007 11:25 PM

Dendro, have you ever checked out Fabricius and Alderslade's "Soft Corals and Sea Fans"? There is a lot of good info for identifying gorgonians. Personally, I'm not very good with IDing even when I have detailed information like this book gives. Even so, I'm kinda doubtful about the blue gorgonian you have being a Guaiagorgia. The only real similarity I see is that it is a blue gorg with blue polyps. The polyps on the Guaiagorgia are quite a bit smaller in relation to the thickness of the branches than the one in your picture. Also, the polyps are completely retractile, which doesn't appear to be the case for the one in your picture. However, I guess it is rather difficult to tell from such a small specimen. Again, I'm a novice at best at this.

ReefWreak 12/04/2007 12:31 AM

I've tried keeping the blue gorgonian before. Such a beautiful creature, and a local newb bought it by mistake and wanted to trade for it. I gave him some corals for it.

I fed it cyclopeeze nightly in my 120g reef, spot fed and some free floating from feeding corals at night.

He lasted about 2 weeks before polyps started shedding off, in about 1.5 months (6 weeks or so) it was a bare skeleton. Never had issues with algae growing on skeleton.

I tried my best, but my best wasn't good enough, but I gave it a better try than the person who originally bought it.

I'll never EVER buy one or even bother trying to keep them alive. They're just not really suitable for a nutrient poor lighting intense SPS reef...

I wish you all luck with yours though. That dedicated nanocube is a great idea for growing them though! Very nice!

Jens Kallmeyer 12/04/2007 03:48 AM

HI Dendro

Sorry, but I have no clue what the blue one may be. It may well be a Guaiagorgina, but it could also be a Menella, they come mainly in Red with yellow polyps, but I've seen other colors, including purple and blue as well.
I can only recommend the Fabricius and Alderslate book, it is a goldmine for IDing Softies and Gorgonians. The Siphonogorgias are the link between softies and Gorgonians, their sclerites are so dense that they are pretty rigid, but still don't have the central axis. I've never seen one in the trade though, would love to have one.
The Diodogorgnia complex is a mess, I just can't believe that the orange and the red one are the same species, they are from the same genus, but that's about it. Also the different growth forms, bushy, fan-shaped, straight arms vs. curvy arms. I think it is time that somebody sits down and cleans up the taxonomy, would be a nice Masters or honors project....

Regarding the feeding, I feed a mix of different Fauna Marin Products (Ultramin S and F, Ultralive, UltraClam, UltraSeafan, UltraBooster) mixed with a lot of fine and coarse frozen food for the fishes (Cyclop eeze, Lobster Eggs, baby brine shrimp, adult brine shrimp, Mysis, Gammarus, Krill, etc). Everything is mixed together and fed in many small portions over the whole day.
As my partner does mainly home office he dumps in some food every time he passes the tank. I am currently working on a good automated feeder.

Best wishes


dendro982 12/04/2007 12:05 PM

Thank you, more is welcome, and bear with me:

[B]Gorgonians identification:[/B]
Unfortunately, this books is only about Great Barrier Reef corals, nothing about Caribbean, Atlantic, and out of range Indo-Pacific species, judging from the title and the downloadable .pdf file.

I had seen sample pages from this book, [url=]Elicella sp.[/URL] , and generally looking for opposite kind of information - visual recognition and the differential diagnostics from similar-looking species (if there are any), instead of all-inclusive short description.

Good book, a lot of work, but I'm thinking about something in depth, [url=]like this[/URL], about Leptogorgia punicea, or at least as a short Recognition section [url=]here[/URL].

Luckily, most gorgonians, available in LFS, are very unlike the others, and the visual recognition pages, like [url=][/URL], are sufficient to start a search.

We can't possibly know, how correct is this information, but anyway, this is much better, than nothing.

dendro982 12/04/2007 12:19 PM

Now, the [B]thin gorgonian with fine intense-blue polyps:[/B]

I spent a lot of time, trying to ID it from available sources for a following finding care information, Guaiagorgia was the closest guess. If you know any other small-polyped blue gorgonian of similar appearance, other, than Menella, please, let me know, and I'll check description and care.

Strange, that so unlike gorgonians, as this fine medium-blue polyped (on photos) and the big-polyped pale-blue blueberry gorgonians are frequently interchangeable named Guaiagorgia and Acalycigorgia, nothing in common at all.

[I]Size of polyps in relation to the thickness to branches and retractability:[/I]

As most of my gorgonians, this was acquired damaged and on sale (you see my reasons in the choice of corals - very few other non-photosynthetic corals are available), covered by red slime and the same color hard film - on the surface of branches. Tank, it was taken from, had (IMHO) dinoflagellates. red cyano and flatworms.
Only two ends of branches looked alive:
Had to clean and frag it. Shape of the bush and retractility of polyps during fragging:
BTW, it's how the core looks like (next days in the tank):
First days, relative size and contractility again:
In 2 weeks after fragging:
But, except the first days, the polyps became bigger, when food is available, just like Swiftia:

dendro982 12/04/2007 12:35 PM

I found on the web photo of blue [B]Menella[/B]
somehow branching differs, here - too

Does somebody keep Menella? I long time was thinking about getting the red with yellow polyps, but really wouldn't like to get involved with algae-prone species, like the blue one, and debris catching, like the smallest red one.
Any observations?

And I'm pleased with Swiftia - looks good, and no algae or dirt on it - in the same conditions.
What else is worth of acquiring?

Please, who is keeping non-photosynthetic corals - share the tips, observation and tank conditions.

dendro982 12/04/2007 12:47 PM

[B]Cyclop-eeze[/B] and [B]fine-polyped[/B] gorgonians:

You know, to be able to see, what going on in the tank, I did macro-shots with point and shoot camera, when corals were available for observations in small 6g Nano-cube.

From what I had seen, Cyclop eeze (I'm using the dried kind), is the too big (at least the adult big crustaceans) for any or the gorgonians above, except Diodogorgia. Youngster - may be for Swiftia, but not for a fine polyped ones.

I have no photos of fine polyped, catching food, but their mouthes are comparable (blue one) with scleronephthya, and significantly less (the fine red, possibly Elicella) then sclero.

See Diodogorgia and sclero baby, with dried Cyclop-eeze. Diodogorgia:

And eating ZoPlan (dried crustaceans, different sizes, much smaller, that Cyclop-Eeze, somewhere were mentioned 10-250 micron, but only once), and finest particles after washing frozen mysis, Diodogorgia:

So, the finer zooplankton has more chances to be useful: frozen, rotifers, cyclops, baby brine, decapsulated brine shrimp eggs, Golden Pearls (small sizes), Oyster eggs, Fauna Marin specialized products.


This photos are possible, if the coral is such close to the glass (green - coraline on the glass):
In-house photomodel shows the process:
I really would like to see your photos of feeding too! It's easy: close to the glass - point and shoot.

End of long narrative :D
Your turn ;)

Jens Kallmeyer 12/06/2007 03:34 AM

HI Dendro

Regarding the Menella, I had them twice, in my last two tanks which I had to sell with all the lifestock because I moved from Germany to the US and back. You can find pictures of my old German tank [url=]here[/URL] , click on the word "vergrößern" to get a larger image. [url=]Here[/URL] is one picture of my old US tank.
IMO Menella is one of the easiest species to keep, given adequate feeding. They can easily handle baby brine shrimp or cyclop eeze.

Right now I have so much work to do that I hardly see my tank with lights on, but I will try to make some good photos over the weekend.

Best wishes


dendro982 12/06/2007 08:55 AM

Thank you, Jens! Very informative, as always, really appreciate this.

I see at the left on the photo yellow with red gorgonian - is it the yellow diodogorgia with red cyano on it? How to deal with it - I'm facing this issue right now, after I moved temporarily the diodogorgias to the big tank with a lot of debris. Blasting before powerhead and rubbing by fingers, but it grows again.
Nothing like this was in unlit or lower light tank, 18W/11" depth.

And cleaning all other small polyped from debris - how to do that better? Or just have the tank clean :D

Will get yellow menella, when the small ones will be available.
My blue one has too small polyps for the biggest from Cyclop-eeze, but the small particles from the same package are small enough.

What size of food will be suitable for Elisella (small red one)?
I received yesterday decapsulated brine brimp eggs - even they are big, frozen cyclops and Cyclop eeze too (at least the big individuals). So far - ZoPlan, frozen rotifers and particles from Mysis and Marine Cuisine.

Jens Kallmeyer 12/07/2007 03:44 AM

HI Dendro

Which gorgonia do you mean? This one?
The bright yellow gorgonia is a Menella
The Menellas can get quite large, mine were both around 25 cm (10") in diameter.

I don't have much issues with algae on the Gorgs, even when they are under 400W MH, but I have really low nutrient levels, a whole bunch of algae eaters as well as a pair of dragon gobies (Amblygobius phalaena) plus a Salarias segmentatus. If there is a slight overgrowth it will be eaten in a day or two. Very rarely do I have to remove algae by hand.
Food for Elisella is a pain, as I never had any long-term success with this species all I can tell you is what does not work, and that is cyclop eeze and the like. I just don't have a clue how to keep such fine Gorgonias over a longer period of time.


dendro982 12/07/2007 09:27 AM

My apologies for assumption about red cyano - I have a dirty tank with no accessible place to put additional powerheads behind the rock...
I meant the old US tank, at the left, where the 3 chromises are, between them - could be Menella.

Which other non-photosynthetic gorgonians are worth to try?

Food for Elicella:
Only rotifers seems to be of the suitable size.
Will try to order 50-100-150 micron Golden pearls, if the company answers.

Do you have any visible gorgonians growth?
I didn't counted branches, but looking good and always open Diodogorgia and Swiftia look the same, except the basal encrusting growth.

Someone had fast Swiftia growth.

Jens, if you will have time, can you post basics of keeping scleros in the "Scleronephthya - how to?" thread in Advanced topics, or start another scleronephthya thread?

What should be different from keeping other non-photosynthetics, like chilis, gorgonians, Christmas tree worms - these are doing better, that scleros in my tanks.

Thank you.

dannyfromholland 12/07/2007 02:02 PM

Hi Dendro

As Jenns already mentioned the Menella species are relatively easy to keep. I had good success with decapsulated brine shrimp eggs faunamarin products and Hatchfry grade 0 ( 30 micron ).

Another possible foodsource could be beside brachionis the brachionis eggs but I find it very hard to find data for those eggs being used as a food source.

I've had tree Menella species:

Danny Dame



dannyfromholland 12/07/2007 02:23 PM

Hi Dendro me again another tip keep the tank at a lower temperature than average 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. And try to keep it stable at those temperatures. As with certain types off fish like Antias these corals do better at lower temperatures as they come from deeper waters we're the temperature is lower.

Danny Dame

dendro982 12/07/2007 08:43 PM

Beautiful red Menella - I never seen like that here.

Decapsulated brine shrimp eggs:
mine are from Golden Pearls producers, should be 180-200 micron.

Temperature 73-75F:
the other corals in the same tank are: chili coral, tubastrea, scleronephthya, and gorgonians - Diodogorgia, Swiftia, Elicella (photo is above), and possibly blue Menella or Guaiagorgia. The only other inhabitant - blood shrimp.
May be you know, if all of them are able to live at such temperature?

Danny, I know that you are keeping dendros and scleros - my scleros are doing not so good, as all others non-photosyntetic corals.

Can you give basics of scleronephthya care, other than Fauna Marin food? (I'll try to get it in the spring.)

Thank you.

aninjaatemyshoe 12/07/2007 10:58 PM

My tank is currently in that temperature range. Everything in it is thriving, especially my frogspawn and tubastrea.

dendro982 12/08/2007 09:01 AM

More details, please: what else is there?

aninjaatemyshoe 12/08/2007 09:43 AM

Typically, my tank is at about 74-75 degrees.
I'm currently keeping the following corals:
-2 Neospongodes (or Lemnalia, I still can't seem to recognize the difference)
-Kenya Tree
-Tons of Actinodiscus mushrooms
-2 Diodogorgias (Red and Yellow, just got them)
-Tubastrea colony
-Encrusting Gorgonian
-Zoanthid colony
-Acanthastrea (don't know the species, it's from Australia)

My fishstock:
-2 Ocellaris clowns
-Yellow Watchman goby
-Scooter Blenny
-Algae Blenny

Other Inverts:
-Fromia sea star
-Longspine Urchin
-A bunch of snails; turbo, cerith, nassarius
-Hermit crabs
-Peppermint shrimps
-Blood shrimp

I can post some more details and a picture of my tank later.

As I mentioned above, everything in this tank is doing well. That is except for the sinularia, which I cannot get to attach anywhere even with superglue. I guess it is a bit too early to say that the diodogorgias are doing well as I just added them, but the red one already opened up the first day I got it.

dendro982 12/08/2007 09:57 AM

Thanks! Now I feel safe for my blood shrimp and tubastreas, and will start to lower temperature.

I hadn't problems with Diodogorgia, fed by Cyclop-eeze with some smaller food (for variety), in low light tank. It opens, eats well, but no significant growth in more, than year.

In dirtier tank (visible debris on the rock and bottom) with better water quality (nitrates and phosphates), it has red slime cover. Blowing it away under powerhead.

Unlikely, that this will ever happen in your tank, but rapid alkalinity change - 6 dKH to 10 dKH caused one Diodogorgia close for a week, then all returned to normal. Tubastreas, chili and scleros ignored this.

If you will have any bits of useful information - share too, please.

Whalehead9 12/08/2007 01:53 PM

Derdro982 Where did you pick up your New Menella? LFS or online?

dendro982 12/09/2007 12:02 AM

I have only the blue small-polyped gorgonian (on the photos), Menella or Guaiagorgia - can't be sure. Lesser density of polyps, and thinner at all, comparing to Menella photos above.

I picked mine in LFS during the summer, and the yellow miniature Menellas were also for sale during this time.

LFS have frequently rich choice of gorgonians - photosynthetic, Diodogorgias and Menellas, and, occasionally - blueberry and Elisella.

But, except different Tubastreas, palm-shaped chilis, orange scleros and sometimes so-so dendros - not much a choice of non-photosynthetic corals.

Does anybody keeping Tube Anemone (Cerianthus) in the same tank? It prefers the same lower temperature and is described as filter feeder. Just curious.

dendro982 12/09/2007 08:22 AM

Does anybody keeping [url=]Leptogorgia[/URL]? Anything specific about its keeping?

dannyfromholland 12/10/2007 02:17 AM


Danny, I know that you are keeping dendros and scleros - my scleros are doing not so good, as all others non-photosyntetic corals.

Can you give basics of scleronephthya care, other than Fauna Marin food? (I'll try to get it in the spring.)

Thank you. [/B][/QUOTE]

Some basics you probebly know

Very strong unidirectional flow otherwise they get problems shading skin and feeding offcourse.

Lower temeperature 73 - 75 F

Good water conditions ( same as SPS)

Besides Fauna Marin I was only feeding decapsulated brine shrimpeggs and Hatchfry grade 0. Hatchfry is a US product from d'argent (cyclop eeze) you should definatelly be able to get that in Canada.


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