Purple Plume Sea Fan
Gorgonian Sea Fan Care
Gorgonians are often associated with the vision of graceful sea fans on the floor of the Caribbean. While many are fan-like in appearance, Gorgonians are a highly diverse Order that range from encrusting species resembling Xenia to rope-like species that grow in a single long strand. Care must be taken when shopping for Gorgonians because many of the spectacularly colored specimens are non-photosynthetic and require specialized husbandry. Please see below for additional care tips for sea fans as well as checking out our Top 5 Tips for setting up a reef.
Sea fans can be found in just about every coral reef. These Gorgonians in particular come from the Caribbean.
Intense lighting is recommended for best coloration and overall health. The Caribbean sea fans are photosynthetic and reside in shallow water. Use either Metal Halide lighting or similarly powered T5's or LED's. If you come across a non-photosynthetic sea fan (typically from the Pacific), understand that the care requirements go up dramatically as they require constant filter feeding for survival. Most expert hobbyists struggle to keep them alive.Low Light
Low light translates to about 30-50 PAR
Medium Light is between 50-150 PAR
High Light is anything over 150 PAR
Lighting is a loaded topic, so for a more in-depth discussion of lighting, please see our Deep Dive article.
Strong water movement is recommended. The best displays with Gorgonians I've seen use wave boxes or controlled powerheads that simulate a back and forth surge. Here at Tidal Gardens we like the flow patterns that Tunze Waveboxes produce. Take a look at my video taken on a dive trip in Mexico. You can see a large variety of Caribbean sea fans on the reefs.
Gorgonia relies heavily on the products of their zooxanthellae but also may feed on phytoplankton and similarly sized microfauna in the water column. There are many dry phytoplankton-based foods available now for filter feeding reef inhabitants which would be great for Gorgonians
This genus for the most part has been propagated extensively in captivity and is an excellent candidate for aquaculture. It is reasonable to believe that a sustainable harvest can be achieved in time. It is important to note however that while it is easy to cut Gorgonians, it can be a bit more of a challenge to stick them down to rocks because the sea fan does a good job of sloughing off its skin to get clean.
Proper acclimation is extremely important considering the stress imposed on the animals by the shipping process. Please take a moment to review our Acclimation Guide.
The images were taken with a Canon 5D mk II and 100mm macro lens under T5 Fluorescent lighting. Quite a lot goes into how we go about shooting the corals and anemones you see on Tidal Gardens. For an in-depth look at our methods, check out our comprehensive Reef Aquarium Photography FAQ.