Hammer coral (Euphyllia ancora) use long, stinging “sweeper” tentacles to attack neighboring coralsAt a casual glance, corals would appear to be an inoffensive lot, generally espousing a “live-and-let-live” philosophy. After all, when you’re firmly affixed to the substrate, how much trouble can you really cause for your neighbors? Plenty, as it turns out! Corals and other sessile invertebrates may seem harmless, but they actually take aggression to such a diabolical level that they make even the most pugnacious fish look like Ghandi with fins. They’re just much more sneaky and insidious about it. Depending on the species and particular circumstances, corals may employ one or more of the following aggressive mechanisms: Rapidly overgrowing neighboring invertebrates—i.e., actually growing directly onto the neighboring colony or extending over it and preventing it from receiving life-sustaining light Stinging neighbors with nematocyst-laden tentacles Extruding digestive organs (called mesenterial filaments) and essentially digesting the tissues of adjacent corals Exuding toxic chemicals (e.g., terpenoids) into the water to kill neighboring corals or impede their growth What can reefkeepers do to counteract these hostile tactics? #1 Research before you buy We’ve advised this time and time again here at Saltwater Smarts, but it bears repeating. A little modest research on the characteristics of different corals will reveal all kinds of vital information regarding their relative aggressiveness/noxiousness, for example the fact that Sarcophyton leather corals are notoriously toxic and that various Euphyllia spp. corals are known to produce long, stinging “sweeper” tentacles. More: 5 Ways to Counteract Coral Combat in the Marine Aquarium
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