Corals are not known to play nice. After all, survival is the name of the game when you’re an animal living in the ocean.
“It’s absolute warfare,” say Lee Newman of these unassuming invertebrates. The Vancouver Aquarium’s curator of tropical waters is being a bit facetious, of course, but corals are aggressive and will compete for space and light, using their stinging tentacles if their neighbour doesn’t quite get the message. But there’s lots of space for the corals to live in relative harmony in the Teck Connections Gallery.
The new coral reef exhibit, showcasing animals of the Red Sea, features a wall structure with lots of surface area for its new inhabitants. The main structure is made of ancient corals that are mined from the ground (not taken from the ocean). Lee says they still have the physical and chemical qualities that allow for corals to grow on them.
The wall will provide a home not only for the corals, but the fishes too. Lee says the coral rocks were arranged to make the habitat “complex enough that the fishes can find a place to hunker down at night.” In the wild, scalefin fairy basslets, threadfin anthias and raccoon butterflyfish have to avoid predators like bigger fishes, sharks and moray eels.
As the corals join the fishes, this exhibit will continue to grow. Lee says, “It will be a maturation process over the next couple of years. Every time a visitor comes back it’s going to look different.”
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.