This coral adds to all the differing shapes and colours of corals that could be added to the reef aquarium. It belongs to the stony or hard coral type.
Besides bubble coral other common names are octocoral, bladder and grape coral. The proper name is Plerogyra sinuosa. It is not difficult to obtain and if seen in a store is easily recognized, as the name implies it is covered in inflated fairly large bubbles (or bladders or grapes). On sight the coral appears to be delicate but they are fairly tough. Nevertheless, handling and placement need some care.
The coral is often roundish with the bubbles emerging from the upper surfaces. The bubbles are inflated and it is reported could expand up to around 500%, leaving the wall of the bubble the thickness of one zooxanthellae.* Quite thin then!
The coral is expanded during daylight hours. At night the bubbles retract and tentacles appear which are used for feeding.
As already said some care is needed with handling and placement. Though the coral is tougher than it looks, handling should be minimized (as with all corals) and the chosen place on the reef should not be close to sharp pointed or edged rocks in case of damage to the coral, the bubbles could rub against the adjacent rocks in seawater currents. Ensure the coral is secure; a fall could damage it and lead to infection. The coral can be placed nearly anywhere on the reef as it does not require powerful lighting, however strong lighting does not appear to cause any trouble once acclimatized. A newly purchased coral should not be immediately exposed to very powerful light as they may have been used to low light in the wild and the stronger light could shock and damage it, so it is best to keep overly powerful light off the coral anyway. Reef quality lighting (spectrum) is required because of the zooxanthellae, it could be possible that the size of the bubbles is controlled by it, the lower the lighting strength the larger the bubbles to ensure there is enough light. What does mainly limit potential position is the strength of the seawater current, this should not be strong or the bubbles will be too violently shaken or will not expand to their fullest. The best seawater current strength is low to moderate. A final point on placement – it is capable of extending quite potent sweeper tentacles which could attack and damage adjacent corals, so maintain a good space between it and any neighbours. This is good practice with corals anyway.
The coral is not overly striking in colour as some are; though the colours vary they are not bright. This is not to say the coral is not attractive, it certainly is. It could be green, ivory, cream or white and some have bubbles that have clear colourless narrow stripes on them.
This coral does not present any feeding problems; there isn’t any need for suspension feeding. A small piece of de-frosted fish or similar can be gently placed on the coral and will be taken in, what could be easier? The coral is easy to feed and sometimes is overfed because of it. One feeding every other day, or longer intervals according to experience should suffice.
The bubble coral should not present any difficulty even to a moderately experienced aquarist, provided that seawater quality is high and attention is given to proper placement on the reef with regard to seawater current strength, security and lighting. The coral is yet another variation that Mother Nature has evolved which can be an attractive and interesting addition to a reef aquarium.
(*Reference: Aquarium Corals. Eric H. Borneman)
The first link is to photographs, click on it to enlarge. The second is a short video.