Staghorn Acropora corals include a large variety of coral species featuring lightweight, porous skeletons, as well as a varying number of colors and shapes.
From pale pink, blue and yellow shades to intense green and purple, these are among the most prevalent, as well as demanding types of corals on the planet, requiring significant amounts of sunlight and enough space to allow for free range considering their rapid growth cycles.
Also called branching corals, Staghorn Acropora species belong to the Scleractinia family and are considered to be semi-aggressive due to their fast growth properties. Colonies can reach heights of up to 60 cm, and for some of the species that expand to populations stacked in the shape of plates and tables, the diameter of the entire colony can increase to almost 300 cm.
One of the most important characteristics of this species that allows them to maintain and even increase their populations is the ability of taking over the space taken up by various other species of coral, enabling them to expand to significantly larger and often dominating populations.
The drawback of this rapid growth process, however, is also that Staghorn coral colonies tend to take up too many of their environment’s resources. This can and often does lead to significant stress and bleaching which makes some of the species prone to steep population declines, especially when growing in a more hostile environment or having to deal with rapidly fluctuating climate changes.
Also, since they get most of their nourishment from symbiotic algae, many of these species, although not all of them, require higher than average levels of sunlight to support their growth and allow them to thrive in a more stable fashion.
Unlike most types of Acropora coral colonies, Staghorn corals rely on a slightly higher temperature ranging between 77 and 82 F degrees. Also, they need fast water currents, and the pH of the water they thrive in has to remain constant around values of 8.3-8.4 for the species to survive.
While these highly specific requirements may suggest that they are unable to cope with most environments, this is not entirely so. There are numerous Staghorn species which can readily be located in the Indian and Pacific Ocean, as well as in the Red Sea.
Despite their somewhat frail skeleton structures and demanding environmental requirements, most Staghorn Acropora species feature a superior level of adaptability that allow them to survive quite well in hospitable environments and an active pigmentation process that allows for quick color changes to adapt to increased levels of UV rays.