Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I've got White Syndrome!


The other day I came home oblivious, to my well off, half dead Tri Color Acropora.

In doing my daily routine of maintenance and strict husbandry, an utterly hideous white blotch, appeared out of the corner of my eye. Behind the rock scape was one of my favorite tri color Acropora’s, which was located in the back corner of my tank, with moderate oscillating flow, and adequate light.

You would figure, that would be prime conditions for this specific coral, well it was for the most part, being that it had thrived there for the past year and half, until this day everything was going good.

As I peered closer to that unsightly and obvious deteriorating bleaching blotch, it appeared as if the tissue had just diminished. As the panic began to sink in, all measures and realizations of my husbandry came into play. “What is that? What did I do wrong? What did my roommate do? What did I forget to do? GOD?”

Well, that last one was a little extreme, but anything is possible in this hobby!

In continuing my routine, and staring at this half-bleached Acropora, I began hunting for ideas for salvation and to preserve this coral, before complete annihilation. My first thought was to go ahead and frag what is left, of this decaying organism, but I was afraid of shocking it even more. I had already come to the conclusion of RTN (Rapid Tissue Necrosis). I have never encountered this wretched and devious disease, which in reality has no real diagnosis or scientific description as why this occurs.

Rapid Tissue Necrosis (RTN) can be best described as a term that is used for the occurrence of tissue sloughing in captive corals (i.e. laboratory and aquarium corals). Neither a cause nor the mechanisms involved in tissue loss has been determined, but two hypotheses have been proposed by Borneman (2002).

“In the first, a pathogenic agent causes RTN. In the second, RTN is solely a response to an external stress, such as physical damage, nutritional deficiencies, or high temperatures, that results in autolysis or a breakdown in the immune system functioning. A third hypothesis should also be considered, in which a potentially pathogenic agent normally present in coral mucus or tissue becomes infectious when a coral’s immune system is weakened by stress.”

I believe that corals can become weak due to lack of supplements; necessary elements that are rapidly consumed in a closed body of water leading to the slow degeneration of a corals immune system. Once at this point, coral mucus, which is commonly acquired in moderate to heavily stocked coral tanks, can become toxic to corals that are weak and deficient in many aspects of health and immunity. Which may lead to what we call “RTN,” or in my case the “white plague.”

The truth is that many reef diseases are still in the shadows of science and marine biology.

The need for knowledge and understanding or reef related diseases and treatment is far greater than one can comprehend. To understand these reef related diseases, implementation of different types of investigation needs to be done. Ecological, microbiological and histological methods of investigation need to be performed in order to understand this disease and many other types of reef “killers”.

Whether intervening with Mother Nature is a good thing or not, understanding and treating it in your aquarium is the main concern here as well as my concern.

I am not saying go out and find the cure for this and treat the infected reefs. I am saying lets find out what is going on to better equip reefers and understand this “white plague” and effectively treat the issue.

That way we can preserve the corals in our aquariums for many “ooh’s and ahhh’s” still to come.