I am by no means an expert on the topic nor have any schooling on the subject. Quoting ‘The Sunscreen Song’ seems appropriate in that this article:
Originally Posted by The Sunscreen Songhas no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
None the less, I hope many will find this interesting!
Zoanthids/Palythoas/Proto-Palythoas (for simplification referred to simply as Zoas in this article) morph in just about every physically characteristic available to them. Some characteristics are easy to diagnose. For instance, a Zoa deprived of adequate light will typically extend it’s stalk and become ‘tall’ stretching for that extra bit of light. Another example is a Zoa placed in too high flow can grow very long skirts. So long in fact that the skirts can cover the rest of the Zoa making your colony have similar traits to a Chia Pet!
One of the most common morphs is caused by a change in lighting. The temperature of the bulb, intensity, height of Zoa in tank, or even changing out old bulbs for new can all attribute to a Zoa morph.
This article will pictorially demonstrate a dramatic morph that occurred from ‘the wild’, to a Power Compact lit tank, to Halide lit tank transition. A beauty to beast to beauty transition! All photos used in this article are taken by “Who Dah?” unless otherwise indicated.
Say hello to the ‘GI Joe’ Zoa. Named by the local reef club CVR for it’s camouflage like appearance. In it’s best form, IMHO, it morphed into this:
The above shot (Figure 1) was taken after they had been in the tank, 1/2 way up (or 1/2 way down for our pessimist friends ), under 14K Hamilton DE 250W Metal Halide bulbs with no actinics. But they hadn’t always looked this way…
Figure 2 below shows how they looked when acquired from a LFS. Unfortunately, the beginnings of fungus had set in before acquisition and I knew this going into the purchase. The colony started off with over 200 polyps! After dipping them, I immediately fragged them into many frags. Of the frags, only 1 survived the fungus. You’ll have to forgive the quality of the photo – my photo abilities have matured quite a bit since then!
Figure 2 is what drew me to the colony originally. I really liked the ‘white’ centers that they had! I had overlooked the green ‘ring’ and had imagined this splotch-of-white Zoa in my tank.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the sole survivor… I forgot that I had taken 1 frag and placed it in my ‘Contingency Tank’ – a small backup tank kept on my desk at work. Basically a frag tank, however I treat it more as a backup tank than a grow-out tank. At any rate, a second frag survived in there, but in the back. Still well lit even in the back, but under 50/50 PC lighting.
I watched the Zoa morph from Figure 2 to Figure 1 in my main tank at home under halides – what a transition! Part of me wishes that they didn’t morph as I really liked the original characteristics. Part of me is really glad they morphed into the camouflage state. MOST of me wishes I had ‘both’. Months later, I happened on the frag in my Contingency Tank that I had forgotten about. Not realizing at first what it was, I thought it was a hitchhiker. Cool! Not the best looking, but cool! A couple days later it hit me: I wonder if those are the same GI Joes?! Now it seems obvious, but at the time… Here’s what they looked like after being well lit under 50/50 PCs in my Contingency Tank (Figure 3).
At this point I had a pretty good idea that they were one in the same. But, to prove it, and to watch a PC to Halide transition, I fragged the PC morphed version and placed them in my home tank lit by the Halides. Here it is in Figure 4: Day 1 of the PC morphed version in the bottom of my home tank w/ 14K 250W DE Hamilton Metal Halides.
By day 10, I had moved them 1/2 way up in the tank. The transition had clearly already begun! Here they are in Figure 5:
By day 28 (Figure 6), the morph was nearly complete. Not identical to Figure 1 which had been in the same circumstances for months, but clearly the same Zoa and near it’s peak in beauty. So roughly 1 month later, this Zoa had morphed from a mediocre looking Zoa to the gorgeous looking Zoa. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you get the idea.
At this point, I switched to Phoenix 14K DE 250W Metal Halide bulbs. The morph from Figure 1 began to change again – but not as dramatically. I also had a Spaghetti Worm get in there and start agitating my colony. Lost about 1/2 of them before realizing how detrimental Spaghetti Worms can be to Zoas. I’ve since added a used CBBF which makes short work of Spaghetti Worms. I more-so took this picture to show what a Spaghetti Worm can do to a Zoa colony, but as it turns out, it helped document the continual morph of this Zoa! Figure 7 shows how they looked under the 14K Phoenix Bulbs.
Figure 8 demonstrates what I believe to be near their final morph under the 14K Phoenix bulbs. In this case, VHO Actinics have been in place for 6 to 8 weeks as well.
Lastly, Figure 9 demonstrates what I believe their final morph under the 14K Phoenix bulbs. In this case, VHO Actinics have been in place for ~4 months as well.
Note: it should be noted that the zoanthid’s tank condition changes discussed in this article were not exclusively limited to lighting. They were in fact moved from one tank to another which had it’s own chemistry, flow patterns, etc.. Although not pictured, the PC lit tank has been changed over to a 150W DE Phoenix light for several months as of the date of this article. The remaining zoanthids morphed to the ‘same’ appearance under the newly halide lit tank – but they significantly shrank in physical size.
Now it should be added that none of these photos were photo-chopped (even Figure 1) and are incredibly close to how they look/looked to the naked eye. It should also be said that not all Zoas react ‘better’ to more/brighter light. I’ve personally not seen a Zoa that doesn’t react to such a light change, but not always for the better. Red Wine Zoas for instance look ‘worse’ under more light – if you like that sparkly red/orange color at least…
Here are a few more examples of some pretty amazing morphs in action – although not primarily light based. Figure 10, 11, and 12 are “Armageddons” from the same stock. These too were in Who Dah?’s tank and a frag was given to weatherson. The morph had already started to take place prior to weatherson’s acceptance of the frag, however it continued down this path and Figure 12 was taken in weatherson’s tank. The stock in Who Dah?’s tank to this day is in-line with Figure 10 and Figure 11. The lighting between Who Dah? and weatherson’s tank was:
- Who Dah? = 4 x 250W Hamilton DE
- weatherson = 4 x 250W Hamilton DE and 8 x 110W VHO.
Again, forgive the crudeness of my shots here as my photo taking skills were still juvenile!
And lastly, another major morph: the “Enigma” zoanthid. Unfortunately, I did not capture this morph near as well as the GI Joe. The best advice I can give to someone reading this article is to shoot shots often and in high quantity. After-all, ‘Film’ is ‘Free’ these days!
These are a Floridian zoanthid and are one of my most favorite zoanthids of all time. The detail is incredible, as are the colors when you look closely. The Enigma started off ‘messy’ and morphed into a clean cut zoanthid in a similar fashion to myself pre and post marriage!
Figure 13 and Figure 14 demonstrate this in their initial and final state:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo log of a Zoa morphing in action! If you’d like to comment on this article, please use the ‘Contact Us’ link at the right. Be sure to indicate if you’d like it appended to this article.
- Date: 2006.03.17
- By: Who Dah?
- Subject: Additional Morphing example – PHE
- Message: Here is an additional example of a Zoanthid morphing. In this case, a PHE developing it’s soft Red Ring. Same lights the entire time: Phoenix 14K MH DE, VHO Acinic. Same tank the entire time.
my PHE ‘day 1’ directly from hellraiser30:
few days latter, top down:
5 months latter, again – acquired straight from hellraiser30 himself:
- Date: 2006.03.17
- By: Scott
- Subject: morphing zoas
- Message: These are the same zoas, same camera and same lights: 2×65 watt current orbit pc, 1 x 10K and 1 X dual actinic
- Date: 2006.11.23
- By: mfinn
- Subject: bleached zoas
- Message: These are the same zoas, the bleached shot was taken when first acquired, the following shots latter under 3x 250 watt mh 14k Hamiltons 3×160 watt VHO actinic 1×160 50/50 VHO.
- Date: 2009.07.11
- By: Grace
- Subject: Metal Halide to T5 transition
- Message: This is a transition of PPE from Metal Halide to 6×39 watt T5 bulbs.