Scolymia australis: The Forbidden (Bleeding) Apple?
Feast your eyes on this Eastern Australian Scolymia sold by German high-end retailer whitecorals.com. Tell me it isn't intoxicating. Tell me you don't want it.
Reefkeepers are rightfully attracted to the beauty of Scolymia australis; There are few (if any) corals that can challenge a Scolymia's color palette and patterns. Aquarists have demonstrated ongoing willingness to pay beau coup dollars for the top specimens. whitecorals.com sold their Scolymia for $1,000, and I can personally recall no fewer than two dozen Scolymia which sold for well over $500 USD.
But are Scolymia australis suitable for captivity? Are they smart or ethical choices for our aquariums? We have read far too many reports of Scolymia doing well (great polyp extension and active feeding) for many months only for them to slowly whither away for no apparent reason. And this experience is repeated by many seasoned reefkeepers with thriving aquariums. A few long-term success stories exist, but they currently seem the exception rather than the rule.
Is there a secret to the husbandry for Scolymia australis, or are they "Flowerpot 2.0" - a species that fares poorly in captivity for unknown reasons? As conscientious aquarists, these are vital questions we need to honestly address. Scolymia australis is a slow growing LPS coral that reproduces sexually. As such, they are under real threat from over-collection. We need to pool information and educate the hobby on what it takes to keep these corals in captivity for the long term (e.g. specific dietary requirements or water parameters), or else we need to acknowledge the non-sustainability of this species and teach hobbyists to resist the temptation of purchasing Scolymia australis (like we did with Flowerpots), at least until we've developed a broader knowledge base for their long-term care.