The flower pot coral plant has several common names, including daisy coral, sunflower coral, and yoo stone coral. Its scientific name is Goniopora iobata. Goniopora stands for the genus, and iobata represents the species. By definition, it is known as an LPS coral, meaning a large polyp stony coral.
While red is the most eye-catching color of flower pot coral, it actually forms in a number of colors, including brown, tan, white, yellow and green. Its official classification is as a member of the Animalia kingdom.
The beauty of the flower pot coral belies its aggressive nature. Its open polyps band together like a lovely bouquet of flowers. However, the nature of this coral is anything but tranquil. Each of its polyps has 12 tentacles, and the flower pot coral can develop long, "sweeper" tentacles that can inflict damage and destruction on other coral forms. The flower pot coral has some natural enemies that should not be placed in the same aquarium. They are the Bristle-worm and the Euphyllia coral.
Flower pot coral is native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from the Mozambique coast to the Red Sea, to Northern Australia, Japan and Hawaii. The structure of coral skeletons parallels that of human bones and it is also present in the biomedical field for bone graft purposes. Flower pot coral is very popular for use in aquariums and as decorative carvings. This is having an adverse effect on coral reefs in the South Pacific.
Microscopic algae (Zooxanthellae) live in the tissue of flower pot coral. Through the process of photosynthesis, this provides a source of nutrition for the coral polyps. However, the flower pot coral is not reliant on this source of nutrition to survive. Through its tentacles, it is able to capture plankton for its food.
It takes a great deal of experience to care successfully for flower pot coral, which demands all the right conditions to thrive. For example, the temperature of the aquarium water needs to be between 72 and 78 degrees F, and kept very clean to avoid bacterial or fungal infection to the coral. Additionally, the water current in the tank must be strong. The coral requires very good lighting, and should be placed in the center of the aquarium, with ample room all around. Calcium, strontium, and iodine are among the recommended supplements to add to the water.
This coral has a composition of male and female colonies, and when they release sperm and eggs, the fertilized eggs become larva, which eventually build new colonies.
Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists flower pot coral. Two countries that maintain export quotas for flower pot coral are Indonesia and Fiji.