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Mark Martin on Feeding Brain Corals
Mark Martin is Director of Marine Ornamental Research at Blue Zoo

A customer who was considering purchasing an open brain coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi) from us called me up to ask me if he would need to feed this animal. He said that he had seen a lot of contradictory information on the Internet about whether or not open brain corals need targeted supplemental feedings or not. Given our focus on brain corals this week, I am going to answer his question here so that everyone knows what it is we recommend.

First off, I thanked this customer for doing his research before acquiring the animal. I can’t emphasize how important it is that you research every animal thoroughly before you purchase it in order to make sure the animal is compatible with your set-up and that you are prepared to meet the animal’s needs in terms of husbandry. Regarding the feeding of open brain corals, you will see a variety of opinions ranging from “never feed an open brain coral directly” to “feed it daily.” We definitely recommend target feeding any brain coral. Whether you have one of the many Favia species or a colorful Trachophyllia, brain corals in general do much better in reef tanks with supplemental feedings.

But where is the mouth? “Wait a second,” you say. “Brains have mouths?”

While that sounds like a campy science fiction movie from the 50s, the take home point is valid. Brain corals do have mouths, and they do need to be fed. Most brain corals are nocturnal feeders, and they change their appearance dramatically at night by partially deflating their tissue and extending feeding tentacles located around each individual mouth. Some brain corals have many mouths while others are sold as pieces of a larger colony (e.g. Lobophyllia) and usually have only one mouth.

Regardless of the number of mouths, you want to target feed these animals two or three times per week. Try small pieces of meaty marine flesh, brine shrimp, baby brine shrimp, Cyclopeeze, or our own Blue Zoo Mix. You can soak the food in water with a vitamin supplement like Selcon and then use a turkey baster or the Kent Sea Squirt to target feed each open brain coral. After the coral gets acclimated to aquarium life, it will almost always extend its tentacles whenever these foods are present—even during the day.

With the proper husbandry, open brain corals will grow quickly and remain healthy in most systems.

Have a question for Mark? Please e-mail him at mark@bluezooaquatics.com.

Published 24 June 2008. © Blue Zoo Aquatics

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