The Trachyphyllia coral, commonly called a Trachy, of which there is one species, Trachyphyllia geoffroyi, is a vibrant and striking, free living, open brain coral. Trachyphyllia are popular pieces amongst beginner and seasoned hobbyists due to their unique morphology, bright colors, and ease of care.
All corals are currently undergoing a taxonomic reclassification. Many corals were thought to be close relatives due to their morphological similarities. Recent genetic and molecular techniques have revealed these, once thought, closely related species actually descended from multiple ancestors and their morphological similarities are due to evolving in similar environments.
Trachyphyllia and Wellsophyllia are such an example. Wellsophyllia radiata and Trachyphyllia radiata were both thought to be separate species in two separate genera. However, they have been reclassified as both being the same species, Trachyphyllia geoffroyi. There were thought to be seven different species within the Trachyphyllia genus over the years, but genetic testing has revealed there is just one, T. geoffroyi.
Trachyphyllia belongs to the family Merulinidae. There are 27 genera in this family including; Australogyra, Echinopora, Favites, Goniastrea, Pectina, and Platygyra. The genus Trachyphyllia was first described by Milne, Edwards, and Haime in 1849.
Trachyphyllia are classified as secondary free living corals. They don’t normally colonize, and exist as a single or multi-mouthed, large, fleshy polyp growing from one coralite. As secondary free living corals, Trachyphyllia usually begin their life attached to a rock or larger colony, then break off and use their inflated tissues to allow the current to carry them to more desirable locations.
Movement like this is uncommon in the aquarium as even high flow aquariums lack the force of currents found in natural reefs.
In rare cases, multi headed colonies will derive from daughter polyps (from bisexual reproduction) landing and growing into nearby colonies. These multi-headed colonies are not derived from asexual budding. This phenomenon is most common in the Western Australian reefs. The pattern of skeletal growth in Trachyphyllia can indicate from where an individual was imported.
Trachyphyllia can reach up to 20 cm (7.8 inches) and exhibit vibrant and striking colors from monochromatic metallic and lime green to striped rainbows with yellow, red, orange, pink, and green.
Trachyphyllia are found throughout the Red Sea, West African coasts and the Indo-Pacific from Australia to Southern Japan. They’re currently listed as a threatened species due to ocean acidification and overharvesting.
In the wild, Trachyphyllia are uncommon within large diverse reef communities. They prefer the isolated sandy reef slopes around continental islands and lagoons. They are comfortable up to 40 meters in depth.
Creating an appropriate habitat for your corals ensures a healthy individual with strong growth. If your lighting, flow, or water parameters are not ideal, corals can become stressed and begin to recede, bleach, or even die off.
Trachyphyllia prefer low to medium lighting at 50 to 100 PAR (photosynthetically active radiation). When your reef aquarium is properly lit, Trachyphyllia do best near the bottom or in the lowest 10-20% of the aquarium.
If Trachyphyllia sit under light above 150 PAR, they can burn. This will result in them expelling their zooxanthellae and turning white. They can recover, but it takes forever and their color will never be the same. If they are eating, feeding them can aid in recovery.
To avoid stressing your new Trachyphyllia, reduce your lights to 50% for 48 hours to acclimate them. This is good practice for all new corals as well.
Like with lighting, Trachyphyllia prefer low to medium flow. You want enough flow to keep the coral free of debris so it does not expend extra energy cleaning itself. Too much flow will whip the fleshy polyp around, causing it to rub and tear on the skeleton. Be sure to reduce flow to 10% or turn off your wavemakers and powerheads when feeding your Trachyphyllia.
Trachyphyllia are voracious feeders. Feeding more often gives them a more rapid response to food in the water in the future. Their feeding tentacles will be more frequently displayed the more often you feed them. Corals get a lot of their nutrients and trace elements from lighting through zooxanthellae, and the water column. They should only be fed a few times a week. This keeps the water clean, and allows time for the coral to expel waste. For details on how to feed your corals, check out his article.
There are many corals which prefer trace amounts of nitrates and phosphates in the water column. Trachyphyllia is one of them and likes between 5 - 10 ppm nitrates, and at most 0.5 ppm phosphates. All other parameters are the same as an average mixed reef aquarium.
8.1 - 8.4
1.022 - 1.025 sg
7.8 - 12 dKH
400 - 480 ppm
1300 - 1400 ppm
76 - 78 degrees Fahrenheit
Low - Moderate
Low - Moderate
20 + U.S. Gallons
Trachyphyllia are slow growers. Fragging them out and allowing them to grow takes years for them to take shape, leading to a high price tag. This is why most Trachyphyllia in the hobby are still harvested from the wild and imported.
The alternative to fragging is reproducing them sexually, which is also time and resource intensive. However, this form of reproduction can lead to new and diverse color morphs. Advances in this area are on the bleeding edge and happening all the time.
Acclimating New Corals
Trachyphyllia are relatively hardy and should do fine in a newer or established reef aquarium. It never hurts to take precautions and acclimate your new corals. Acclimating new corals involves dipping them, drip acclimation, and a period of light and sometimes flow acclimation as well.
Dipping corals removes unwanted parasites, bacteria, and protozoans which can cause damage to your new and already established corals.
Drip acclimating new corals lowers the stress put upon them and decreases the chances of them succumbing to an infection. Drip acclimation usually includes a 30 - 45 minute drip of your aquarium water into the water your coral was transported in. Check out this article on drip acclimation for how to perform one successfully.
Acclimation also includes keeping flow and light intensity turned down by 50% for several days after adding the coral to your aquarium. Slowly bring the intensities back to normal over the course of a week. If your coral reacts poorly to the lighting or flow (polyps recede, coral loses color), then find a new placement for them.
The most common health related issues with Trachyphyllia are excessive light and gall crabs.
Excessive light can be an issue with any coral, but Trachyphyllia prefer low to moderate lighting so it is easy to place them in too much light. Be sure to acclimate under 50% intensity at first and move the coral to a lower placement if you notice bleaching.
The most common pest that affects Trachyphyllia are gall crabs (Cryptochiridae). These crabs prefer Trachyphyllia as their host. The females will bore into the corals and form abnormal growths on the coral called galls. They will live inside the galls and feed on the coral's mucus and detritus. The males are free living and don’t bore.
The best way to get rid of gall crabs is to mechanically remove them with a needle (puncturing them in the hole), or by prying them out.
With 27 genera in the family Merulinidae, Trachyphyllia has many close genetic relatives. Oftentimes, you will see folded brain corals advertised as a “Wellso” or Wellsophyllia. Before genetic testing, Wellsophyllia radiata was its own species in its own genus. Now, There is only Trachyphyllia geoffroyi.
So whether advertised as a Trachy or a Wellso, know the care information is going to be very similar for both.
If you're interested in how to keep our corals happy, check out his article on proper reef aquarium water parameters.
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Indonesia exported over 60,000 species in 2005. Sheppard, C.; Turak, E.; Wood, E. (2008). "Trachyphyllia geoffroyi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008: e.T133260A3659374. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T133260A3659374.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.